‘The Orville’ has definitely been more “hit” than “miss” in its last few episodes, and this fifth episode brings some serious sci-fi cred to the table, in the form of not only long-time Star Trek actor/director Jonathan Frakes guiding the episode, but also as ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and ‘Atomic Blonde’ star Charlize Theron stops by to guest-star. Let’s dive in and talk all about it!
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: Things open with yet another current-day pop-culture reference: the crew is eating popcorn and watching ‘Seinfeld’ on the main viewscreen. Isaac, being the robotic-hybrid species that he is, doesn’t get the humor; Malloy tries to explain how practical jokes work, even going so far later in the episode as to put Mr. Potato Head accouterments on Isaac while he’s recharging, and encouraging Issac to “get me back” by pulling a practical joke on him.
Before all this, though: the Orville intercepts a distress call from a mining ship trapped on an asteroid that’s falling into a star. After a heroic rescue, Ed and crew welcome on-board Pria Lavesque, captain of the mining ship. Or so she says; even though she is charming and likable, Kelly has her doubts that Pria is truly on the level. Is her concern justified, or is she just jealous because Pria and Ed seem to be hitting it off?
It turns out Kelly’s distrust is justified: Pria has a strange, unscannable item in her quarters, which she soon attaches to the ship’s helm and propulsion control. The device knocks out Isaac as he attempts to remove it – but not before Isaac does get Malloy with a “practical joke” of surgically amputating his leg while he sleeps – and Pria reveals her true self: she is a time-traveler from the 29th Century, who has come back in time to bring the Orville into the future and sell it as a rare artifact to a buyer.
Pria, now in control of the Orville, takes it into a wormhole and into the 29th Century… where she lets her guard down just long enough for Kelly to beat her up and Isaac, who discreetly downloaded his consciousness into the ship’s computer, to regain control and take the Orville back through the wormhole to their own time. Ed orders the destruction of the wormhole, which causes Pria to be erased from existence.
- Try as I might, I am having some difficulty getting behind all of the current-day pop-culture references that are made on a starship 400 years in our future. I mean, I completely understand why it’s being done – it’s infinitely more relatable to the viewer than having the characters reference some 24th-Century comedian who we have no frame of reference for.
- This episode really brought the heat in terms of sci-fi storylines, and it largely succeeded. Time-travel stories are always a mental quandary in terms of how they’re supposed to work, what actions impact which characters’ past and futures, etc. – but on the whole, this story made sense to me. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Pria was a “temporal collector” that is smart enough to only take ships, people, and things who were supposed to be destroyed in her timeline’s past regardless, so no future events are majorly affected by the past-to-future disappearance. And, Pria didn’t have to kill all the crew of the Orville or something too sinister – she would just let them live in the future, no big deal. A smuggler with a heart of gold, who can’t get behind that?
- I also applaud the show for actually taking the Orville into the 29th Century and showing us a glimpse of some future aliens and tech. Too many times, time-travel is used as a “golden egg” in a sci-fi story without ever giving the audience an actual payoff, but the Orville went there, and I liked it. For a brief moment, I had a flash of the Orville potentially getting stuck in the 29th Century and spending several episodes there before working out how to get back – and I thought that would have been a magical, bold move. But alas, the creative team didn’t take it quite to that extreme, which is totally okay.
- Coincidence or intentional, you decide: at the beginning of the episode, right as the words “Directed by Jonathan Frakes” came on the screen, Alara utters the line “Why do I have a bad feeling about this?” Am I alone here, or can we say that this is Frakes and MacFarlane (writer of the episode) making a direct winky-nod thing to the oft-uttered ‘Star Wars’ line “I’ve got a bad feeling about this?”
CLOSING THOUGHTS: ‘The Orville’ keeps drawing me closer and closer to giving it the official “thumbs-up” as a series, and I suspect there are many other “Classic Star Trek yay, new ‘Discovery’ boo” fans that are feeling the same vibe. As a sci-fi fan in general, I’m just geeked that two major outer-space properties are being actively produced by two major networks at the same time – more science fiction for everyone, whoo-hoo!
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.