‘The Orville’ continues to bring in the ratings for Fox, with the first two episodes garnering a total of over 16 million viewers. And now, fans of the series can rejoice even more, as the third episode, “About a Girl,” brought us our second brand-new episode in four days (the show made the jump from Sunday nights to Thursday nights this week, presumably to get out of the way of having to go head-to-head with this coming Sunday’s impending ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ premiere).
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘The Orville’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: Picking up right where the previous episode left off, the Moclan mates Bortas and Klyden have just hatched a brand-new baby girl – and the “hatched” part is only the second-most shocking part of that sentence, as the all-male race rarely sees a female birth (once every 25-75 years or so, judging by info garnered throughout the episode). Bortas and Klyden are in agreement: the child will have a medical procedure to alter its gender. Dr. Finn, however, refuses, on the grounds of medical ethics; likewise, Captain Mercer also declines Bortas’ request for him to order Finn to perform the operation… and off into the quagmire of gender association and cultural norms we go!
Bortas puts in a call to Moclas, and they send a ship to ferry the child back to the homeworld for the procedure. Before the ship can rendezvous with the Orville, however, Bortas has a change of heart, largely spurred by a “guy’s night” viewing of ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ with Malloy and LaMarr. With the parents at odds, the Moclans decide to hold a tribunal legal council in order to determine the correct course of action. Arguments are heard, legal demonstrations are made, and a surprise witness comes in at the last moment! Suspense! Intrigue! Legal drama! It all works surprisingly well in the episode’s context – but the verdict is rendered, and the child’s gender shall indeed be changed. Finding his own personal silver lining, Bortas commits to staying with his mate Klyden and raising their baby boy as best they can.
- As I mentioned in my Closing Thoughts from last week’s review, I believe this series will start to show its true colors when it puts the focus on its supporting characters, and ‘The Orville’ did just that, with flying colors, in this episode. It was refreshing to not have a “super mega alien space battle!” shoehorned into “About a Girl,” with the action instead resting solely on the timely topics of cultural sensitivity and gender association. This episode also was a great opportunity for every member of the supporting cast to have one or more truly character-building moments – heck, even the Norm McDonald-voiced weird gelatinous blob Yaphit got a scene! We haven’t seen him since his one-line introduction in the first episode – welcome back, fella!
- The comedy is much more sparse in this episode – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. In my opinion, this allowed the jokes, when they did come, to land that much more effectively, and there were some really funny moments spread throughout the episode – I particularly enjoyed the Monopoly jokes, even if – as was the case in last week’s episode as well – it’s odd that the crew talks so much about pop-culture references from 400 years in their past.
- This episode more than any so far will bear the biggest fan comparisons to ‘Star Trek,’ as it almost felt like you could have substituted the Enterprise-D and its crew for The Orville and hers, and still had largely the same episode. It’s important to note – this is not necessarily a criticism of this series.
- Speaking of ‘Star Trek’: immediately after the episode’s airing, I saw some viewers online decrying the merits of the Prime Directive, a classic Trek trope. I don’t quite see the parallels they are trying to draw; the Prime Directive forbids Starfleet officers from interfering in the natural development of alien societies, but in this instance, Moclas is not some “primitive” planet, but a willing member of the Planetary Union, which seems to make “interference” in their society largely moot, from the standpoint that Moclas has chosen to join this interstellar group and therefore must understand that there will be inter-species interactions, to a point.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: “About a Girl” seems to be a positive step in the right direction for a series that has been primarily criticized for trying to be “too funny” and “not enough sci-fi.” In two weeks, it seems ‘The Orville’ will truly be put to the Trek Litmus test, as none other than Commander Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes steps behind the camera to direct. If that’s not “The Best of Both Worlds,” then I don’t know what is! *rimshot* Thank you, I’ll be here all week, be sure to tip your TenForward waitress.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Seth MacFarlane as Ed Mercer
Adrianne Palicki as Kelly Grayson
Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn
Scott Grimes as Gordon Malloy
Peter Macon as Lt. Commander Bortus
Halston Sage as Alara Kitan
J. Lee as John LaMarr
Mark Jackson as Isaac
‘The Orville’ features new episodes Thursday nights on Fox.