‘The Orville’ Episode 2 Review: Paying Homage to Scifi Classics

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FOX

FOX’s newest hit, The Orville, is far more than a Star Trek parody, and simply referring to it that way doesn’t even begin to capture the essence of this new science fiction show. The show borrows heavily from Star Trek in many ways, but it stands all on its own. It’s a science fiction comedy that takes itself seriously and brings intriguing plotlines and twists. Episode 2 was no exception. A couple twists caught fans by surprise, and one in particular payed homage to a classic science fiction plot device.

This post has spoilers for Episode 2 of The Orville. Don’t read on unless you’ve seen the episode. 

This week’s latest episode of The Orville starts out with a witty dialogue among Captain Ed Mercer, his ex-wife and First Officer Kelly Grayson, and Ed’s parents, played by Emmy winners Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor. The dialogue probably reminded many people of their own parental interactions, and it was perfectly on point. But once we realized the whole thing was a trap just to lure Mercer and Grayson into an alien zoo, I was left wondering if those really were his parents talking to him. Are they OK? Were they ever even on that ship? Or did the highly intelligent alien species The Calivon somehow manage to perfectly imitate his parents and expose personal details about his life? Unless I missed something, I’m guessing those were his parents and the aliens set up the trap later, after monitoring the ship’s channels.

The “B Plot” of the episode actually got the most attention, as Security Officer Alara Kitan was forced to take command and she was completely unprepared. I loved the character development: how she was terrified, turned to alcohol for help, overcompensated at first, and slowly found her balance with the help of Dr. Finn. (And yes, in case you noticed, Alara does look different; she has eyebrows now. In the pilot she didn’t. TV shows often film the pilot quite a bit ahead of the rest of the series and may make some costume changes between the pilot and episode 2.)

I’m also really enjoying Dr. Finn, played by Penny Johnson Jerald (she’ll always be Captain Sisko’s wife on Deep Space Nine to me), and the rest of the crew. I loved how Alara told her that she had bad news for Dr. Finn when she temporarily gave her command of the ship.

But back to the zoo… Seeing Grayson and Mercer adjust to living together again — and not doing such a great job at it — was very entertaining. After what Grayson did to Mercer, I really don’t want to see an easy resolution. In fact, I’m hoping this show avoids the trope of putting the obvious characters together romantically, and allows them to be “just friends” instead. (Remember how everyone thought Picard and Crusher would get together but they never did? Although I was rooting for that couple, I do like it when scifi shows surprise me and avoid the obvious pairings.)

The zoo itself was interesting to watch. It was a quick way to give us a glimpse at some of the other species in this universe. This was also a fitting way to pay homage to other scifi classics early in the show’s life. We’ve seen the zoo/menagerie storyline used in multiple favorites, including The Next Generation’s “The Most Toys” (with Data), Star Trek: The Original Series‘ “The Menagerie” and “The Cage,” and Twilight Zone‘s “People Are Alike All Over.”

The resolution was entertaining and surprising. It turns out that reality TV was the best audience draw that the Calivon could have hoped for.

When they returned to the ship, I expected something surprising to happen with the baby that Grayson rescued. In fact, I’m still wondering if a scene was deleted there.

And the twist at the end with Bortus was absolutely perfect. First, we saw his husband/mate for the first time, and I loved the casual way they were introduced. And every single scene where Bortus was sitting on the egg was perfectly awkward and ridiculous — just the right dose of humor at unexpected times. But then at the end, we learned that Bortus’ baby is a female… They’re not a single-gender species after all.

I can’t wait to find out what this means on Thursday.

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