With “Mad Idolatry,” the first season of the Great Seth MacFarlane Live-Action Sci-Fi TV Show Experiment officially draws to a close. It was a season with some ups and downs, as many first seasons tend to be, but on the whole, I found the show to be significantly much more “up” than “down,” and this bodes well for what may come our way in the second season. But before we get there – let’s dive in and take a look at this finale episode.
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: While investigating strange readings near an uncharted star, an Orville shuttlecraft is suddenly thrown into the atmosphere of a planet that seemingly appears out of nowhere. After a short stint on the surface for repairs – during which, Kelly accidentally exposes herself to the local primitive (pre-technology) culture – the shuttle rejoins the starship, and the crew (okay, just Isaac) deduces that the planet exists in a “multi-phasic orbit,” meaning that it spends most of its time in another universe in a different dimension but passes into our universe for a short period every 11 days. The planet phases out as scheduled, and when it comes back 11 days later, the inhabitants of the surface have progressed 700 years, as time obviously flows very differently in their “home universe.”
That’s not all, though: when Kelly interacted with the locals and helped save a young girl’s life, they adopted her as a god-like figure, and now the society on the planet worships her image as a deity! Disobeying orders from the Planetary Union, Ed and Kelly go to the surface to try and explain things to the locals and right their inadvertent wrong. They make a valiant effort, but when the planet phases out and then back in 11 days later, it’s a society much like ours of today – social-tech heavy, but at war with itself, largely “in the name of Kelly.”
Kelly wants to go to the planet and spend more time explaining why she’s not a God, but to do so would doom her to live the rest of her life there before the planet comes back to her home universe in 700-odd years. Only one crewman could survive a journey that long: Isaac, as the android himself points out while offering to take on the mission. He does, and another 11 days later, the planet phases back into our universe featuring a full-fledged spacefaring society. They happily return Isaac, and tell Ed and the crew that their society appreciated his help, and were able to sort their own issues out largely without any significant input from the robot.
Through this all, Kelly has come to a decision: even though she and Ed were attempting to see if they could rekindle their romance, that’s not something she believes should happen, as the preferential treatment that Ed may look to grant her could cause other issues like what they just endured to occur.
- The “time moving at different rates” is an intriguing concept, and certainly one that’s been done in sci-fi before, but here with some unique points, including some fairly spot-on social commentary about our real-life current societal issues and how we’ll hopefully be able to work out our own “growing pains” sooner rather than later.
- Admiral Ozawa is back! Kelly Hu returns to play the Planetary Union top brass that we met in an episode earlier in the season – and I’m sticking to my theory that her name is a direct link to ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ character Alyssa Ogawa.
- As fun as this story is, there are lots of logistical misses in this episode. I doubt a statue of a religious deity, made 700 years after the religion begins in a pre-writing society, would have every detail of Kelly right – including the PU Command logo on her chest badge…
- Also, the Orville is at the planet for three consecutive “multi-phasic jumps” that encompass a total of 33 days after Ozawa reprimands Ed and tells him not to have any further contact with the society on the surface – shouldn’t she have followed up with him in the meantime, or the PU get updates on where the ship is and what it’s doing all that time?
- Also also (yes, two alsos, I’m on a roll here), Ozawa says that the Planetary Union will be sending a science ship for further study… is that not what the Orville is? Compared to the other PU ships we’ve seen and heard about, she’s a tiny little lady, definitely not a warship – I just assumed she was designated as a science vessel or an explorer-class, perhaps.
- The Orville shuttle cloaks, what the heck? They have cloak technology but not transporters? Where is the “that’s too fantastical sci-fi for us” line drawn in this series?
- Nerd Alert here: when the planet comes back to our universe in its “21st-Century” equivalent, Ed has the crew scan their society’s TV-news broadcasts, and one of the segments shown features a bombing of a city being narrated by a reporter. That reporter, although only on screen for about 5 seconds, was clearly Jay Jackson – or at least “clearly” to me, as he is infinitely recognizable to those who watched the NBC sitcom ‘Parks and Recreation’ as Pawnee’s favorite newscaster, Perd Hapley! No one probably cares about this but me, but I thought it was very cool.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: “Mad Idolatry” is a good episode – not a great one, and was certainly lacking some of the “high-stakes” punch that viewers have come to expect in a season finale. Still, overall ‘The Orville’ has trended very positively in the right direction since its debut, minimizing the focus on toilet humor and upping the “bigger” sci-fi ideas into play. Of the two higher-profile science fiction TV series that debuted this Fall, I personally have enjoyed this show infinitely more than I have ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ and I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing what the second season has in store for Captain Mercer and his Planetary Union crew!
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