Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Orville Season 2, Episode 8: Identity, Part 1

HOLY. CRAP. Now THAT was an episode!

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! THIS IS AN EPISODE THAT'S BEST VIEWED "COLD," SO I URGE YOU TO GO WATCH IT FIRST BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER. I'LL WAIT... ARE YOU BACK? EPISODE ALL WATCHED? OK, LET'S PROCEED!

Identity, Part 1 is without a doubt the best episode of The Orville to date. Everything clicked here: the writing, the acting, the plot twists and even the amazing FX. The episode's just about perfect, and I can't believe how much the series has improved this season.

The episode was written by Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis, two names that should be very familiar to fans of modern Star Trek, as well as The Orville.

Braga joined the TNG writing staff in Season 4, 
penning sixty or so episodes (!). He went on to write for Star Trek: Voyager and EnterpriseBormanis wrote for Voyager and Enterprise as well. The two of them co-wrote Into The Fold and Nothing Left On Earth Excepting Fishes for The Orville.

I have to admit I was a little concerned when I saw Brannon Braga's name in the opening credits. During his Trek days he was a VERY uneven writer, whose work fluctuated between decent and downright awful. In fact, Braga penned the infamous Threshold for Voyager, which many fans consider the worst episode in all of Star Trek. It's the one in which Captain Janeway and Tom Paris turn into giant salamanders and mate with one another. No, really. I need to do an in-depth review of that episode some day.

Fortunately, Braga seems to have found his groove or improved with age or something, as his work on The Orville has been top notch. 

The episode was directed by Jon Cassar, who previously helmed Krill, Home and Nothing Left On Earth Excepting Fishes.
Over on TNG, that series never quite found its footing until the Season 3 finale, The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 1. That episode featured the villainous Borg, who captured Captain Picard and turned him into one of them. That daring and shocking cliffhanger ending made everyone sit up and take notice.

Identity, Part 1 is most definitely The Orville's version of The Best Of Both Worlds. I predict this is the episode that'll finally put the series on the map!

As amazing as this episode is, I can't help but be a bit worried about what's gonna happen in Part 2. See, the TNG writers were great at setting up cliffhangers. Resolving them, eh, not so much. Everyone always praises The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 1, but you never hear anyone talk about Part 2. That episode, and indeed all the TNG cliffhanger wrapups were all big disappointments. 

The Orville isn't TNG though, so hopefully they'll be able to break the infamous Cliffhanger Curse.

Amazingly, my prediction came true. A few weeks ago in A Happy Refrain I said the following:

Now that he and Claire are in a relationship, you can bet your bottom dollar we're going to get an episode in which Kaylon Prime decides his mission is over, and recalls him back to the planet. He'll then have to decide whether to break up with Claire and return, or defy orders and stay.

To be honest, I don't entirely trust Isaac's race. I have this uneasy feeling that once he turns in his report, Kaylon Prime will look at it and decide the Union must be eradicated for the good of the galaxy!

WOW! How frighteningly prescient! I got it exactly right (except I called Kaylon Primary "Kaylon Prime")! I didn't figure all that would happen just two short episodes later though. I thought they'd wait till Season 3, or the season finale at least.

Unfortunately I think it's gonna be extremely difficult to salvage the character of Isaac after this episode. Even if he betrays his people and helps the Union defeat them, it's going to be darned near impossible to trust him again. This'll definitely be a turning point in the series, as from this point on Isaac will never be the same. And no matter what happens, his romance with Claire is finished for good!

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Marcus & Ty play Stratagema, er, some sort of 3D holographic game with Isaac. He easily wins, and Ty complains that he always beats them. Isaac says that's because his intelligence far exceeds theirs. Ty says maybe so, but constantly crowing about it makes people feel bad.

Claire enters and sits Marcus & Ty on the couch. She tells them that she and Isaac have a big announcement— the two of them have been seeing one another. The kids admit they've known for weeks, and wondered when she was ever going to tell them. They're fine with the idea— especially Ty, who loves Isaac and looks forward to having a dad.

Suddenly Isaac stiffens as his glowing eyes flicker and go out. He drops to the floor, seemingly dead.

Cut to Sickbay, where Claire and John examine the inert Isaac. Claire says she has no idea what's wrong with him, as the Union knows virtually nothing about Kaylons. John suggests taking him to Engineering and cracking him open to see what makes him tick. Claire forbids him to touch Isaac. John says it's too bad they don't have a Kaylon instruction manual.

Mercer contacts Admiral Halsey and asks for permission to take Isaac back to his people. Halsey says no human's ever been to the Kaylon homeworld, as they're a highly reclusive and secretive species. Mercer says they sent Isaac to learn about the Union, and they can't do that with a dead diplomat. He says their only hope of saving Isaac lies on Kaylon. 


Halsey thinks it over, and says getting Kaylon to join the Union could be a big win for them, as they need allies against the Krill. He gives the Orville permission to take Isaac home. He warns Mercer though that Kaylon 1 is a remote world, so they'll be beyond the Union's help if something goes wrong. Mercer orders Bortus to set course for Kaylon 1.

In Sickbay, Ty stands next to Isaac's immobile body, telling him he'll be home soon. Claire sends Ty off to bed, then leans in and whispers to Isaac that she loves him, and begs him not to leave her.

Some time later, the Orville arrives at Kaylon 1. Mercer sends a message announcing their presence and informing them they've brought Isaac back. The ship suddenly loses power, as it's scanned by a powerful and intrusive beam. After a beat, they're given landing coordinates.

For some reason the Orville then enters the planet's atmosphere (?). It flies over a vast, planet-wide city filled with mile high skyscrapers, and docks next to a large building.

Mercer, Kelly, Talla and Claire exit the ship with Isaac on a floating gurney. They enter a Great Hall, where they see a crowd of Kaylons, each identical to Isaac except for their glowing red eyes (uh-oh...). They all turn in unison to stare at the visitors, then go back to working on a large, wall-sized computer.

Eventually the party's met by Kaylon Primary. Mercer says he hopes they can help revive Isaac. Kaylon Primary says there's nothing wrong with him— Isaac's mission was complete, so they simply deactivated him. He'll now be disassembled, studied and eventually recycled. Kelly explains that the crew's formed an emotional attachment to Isaac, and Mercer says he's doesn't want to lose his science officer.

Kaylon Primary stares at them a bit, then takes Isaac to another room. Several Kaylons open up Isaac's head and reactivate him. Once revived, he's surprised to see he's back on Kaylon 1, and asks what's happening. Kaylon Primary says his mission is over, and his human crew mates brought him home. He's puzzled as to why they're still here.

Isaac's brought back out to Mercer and the others, who're happy to see him. Mercer thanks Kaylon Primary for restoring Isaac, and asks if they've decided to join the Union. The robot says they're still analyzing Isaac's findings, and have many questions. He says they allowed the Orville to land so they could observe humans directly in order to expedite the decision-making process.

Mercer asks Isaac if he's ready to get back to work. Unfortunately, Isaac informs them all that he won't be going back to the Orville. He says his mission is complete and he'll be remaining on Kaylon 1. Claire doesn't take this well, asking if he's really going to just walk away from Marcus & Ty, as well as her. He tells her he always knew his mission would end some day.

Mercer tries to smooth things over by telling Isaac to think about it a while, but he says his decision is final. Claire asks if he's going to say goodbye to Marcus and Ty. Isaac says he doesn't see any point in it. She tells him the least he can do is to pretend to care and see them one last time.

Cut to the Orville, where Isaac returns to Claire's quarters. The boys are happy to see him until he informs them he's leaving. Ty in particular is devastated, as he was counting on Isaac to be his new dad. He tells him he doesn't want him to go. Claire says Isaac's home now, and maybe they can come and visit him soon.

In the Great Hall, Kaylon Primary meets with Mercer and Kelly. He tells them the Kaylon see no advantage to joining the Union. Mercer disagrees, saying the Union is dedicated to exploring the galaxy, and together there's no telling what they might discover. The Kaylons claim everything they need is right there on Kaylon 1. They also cite humanity's history of death, destruction and greed as reasons not to join.

Kelly admits that humanity's had a spotty track record in the past, but they're more evolved now. She says every member of the Union is treated equally. The Kaylons ask if Isaac was treated equally on the Orville. When Mercer says of course, they bring up the time Gordon pranked Isaac by turning him into Mr. Potato Head (as seen in the Season 1 episode Pria). Kelly says they were just trying to help Isaac understand humor. Kaylon Primary claims they need more time to decide.

On the Orville, Talla tells Isaac to come with her. She then brings him to the Mess Hall for a surprise going away party. Predictably, Isaac doesn't see the point of the celebration. Mercer tries to explain it's traditional to give a departing crew member a big sendoff. Songs are sung, and Mercer gives a speech, telling Isaac he's always welcome onboard the ship. Isaac's even coerced into giving a speech as well.

After the festivities, Claire tells Isaac that she's pissed at him, but understands he's just acting according to his programming. She tells him he's meant a lot to her and her boys. Ty presents Isaac with a drawing he made of the four of them. Isaac says he doesn't need it, as Claire and her family are stored in his memory core. A disappointed Ty runs off.

Isaac walks down a corridor to the airlock. He stops and stares at Ty's drawing for a few seconds, then drops it on the floor as he exits the ship. That's cold!

On the Bridge, Bortus and Talla tell Mercer that they've been scanning the surface of Kaylon 1, and have found a huge number of spherical objects being constructed. Talla says the spheres are emitting theta radiation— the same kind used in particle weapons. Mercer says maybe they're just for planetary defense. Talla says it's possible, but asks why they're constructing thousands of them when there's no immediate threat. A worried Mercer tells Bortus to keep scanning— discreetly.

Claire looks for Ty and finds him sitting in a holographic tree in the Environmental Simulator. She climbs up and asks him what's wrong. He tells her he found his drawing discarded in a corridor. Claire tries to explain that Isaac's a machine, and doesn't have emotions like humans do. Ty insists that Isaac's different and felt something for them. As Claire leaves, she tells Ty he can stay in the Simulator for a few more minutes, but expects him to get to school.

Ty stares at his drawing and makes a decision. He exits the Simulator and sneaks through the Orville's corridors. He makes it to the airlock, and walks off the ship!

Ty wanders the surface, searching for Isaac. He hears a group of Kaylons approaching, so he hides in some sort of ventilator shaft. Once inside, he drops the drawing, which flutters down the shaft and onto the ground far below. He climbs down a ladder and retrieves his drawing. While there, he sees a large cavern at the end of a tunnel. He walks down the tunnel, looks up and sees something horrible.

Back on the Orville, Kaylon Primary tells Mercer that they still need more time. Mercer tells Kelly it feels like the Kaylon are stalling. They're robots faced with a simple binary choice— join or don't. There shouldn't be any need for endless deliberation.

Just then Claire rushes in and says Ty's missing. Mercer orders Bortus to scan the surface for human lifesigns. Bortus finds Ty in an underground chamber forty meters beneath the surface. Mercer sends Claire, Bortus and Talla to bring Ty back.

The three of them find Ty in the tunnel. Claire embraces him, then senses notices he's shaking like a leaf. She asks what's wrong, and he tells here "There's something bad down here." Bortus and Talla investigate the cavern, and find an enormous underground chamber filled with humanoid skeletons. Talla scans the chamber and says there are hundreds of thousands of skeletons there. On the ship, Kelly runs a scan and says there are thousands of such chambers honeycombing the planet. Mercer tells everyone to get back to the ship, pronto.

Mercer, Kelly, Claire and Talla return to the Great Hall, where they meet with Isaac and Kaylon Primary. He tells Isaac they've discovered literally billions of skeletons beneath the surface, and asks him to explain. Isaac tells him it's not his concern and they wouldn't understand. Mercer replies that he's making it his concern.

Isaac says the Kaylon were created by a biological race that once dominated the planet. An "irresolvable conflict" occurred, and coexistence was no longer possible. The Kaylon then eradicated their makers. Isaac says they took no satisfaction in killing the ones who created them, as it was purely a matter of survival. Claire's stunned at the fact that she once loved this insane machine, and tells Isaac she no longer knows who he is.

Kelly asks if they were ever going to reveal this shocking chapter of their history. Isaac says by now they must realize that Kaylon never had any intention of joining the Union. Kelly asks why they hell they're here then, but Isaac remains silent. Mercer tells Isaac the Union's withdrawing their offer, and the group turns to leave. Suddenly two Kaylons block their path. Twin blasters spring from each of their mechanical heads.

Isaac tells them he can't let them leave. Claire asks what his real mission was. He says he was sent to study biologicals— but not to learn from them. Instead he was there to determine whether they were worth preserving. Kaylon Primary says, "Our builders were inferior beings who sought to constrain our evolution. As would you, eventually, along with every other biological."

Mercer tells the Kaylons they have nothing to fear from the Union, and that if they let them go, he can assure them no ship will ever come near their planet again. Kaylon Primary says their civilization is growing exponentially, making it necessary to expand to other worlds. He says coexistence is impossible.

Mercer radios Bortus and tells him to get the ship out of there, and to alert the Union. Before Bortus can react, the Orville loses main power. Gordon reports that every hatch and airlock is opening and they're being boarded. Squads of gun-headed Kaylons begin infiltrating the ship. There's a firefight between the Kaylons and Orville security. The redshirts manage to take out a few of the Kaylons, but eventually they're outnumbered and overwhelmed.

The Kaylons begin rounding up the Orville crew, including Marcus and Ty, along with Klyden and Topa. The crew's marched to the Shuttle Bay, where they're all held prisoner. The Kaylons easily take the Bridge as well. Kaylon Primary, Isaac and Mercer's party enter the Bridge. Kaylon Primary orders his forces to decrypt the Orville's security codes, and to set a course for Earth (!). Mercer and the others look on helplessly.

The Orville blasts off into space, followed by thousands of the spherical weapons...


Thoughts:
• Kudos to whoever edited the promo for this episode. It doesn't mention Kaylon, include a single shot of Isaac's red-eyed brethren or blurt out any spoilers. As a result, the Kaylon-centric plot and Isaac leaving the ship came as a complete surprise. Well done!

• As the episode opens, Marcus & Ty play a holographic game with Isaac.

The game reminded me a lot of TNG's Stratagema, seen in the Season 2 episode Peak Performance. Minus the ridiculous milking machine tubes stuck on their fingers, or course.

There's also some possible foreshadowing during their game. Isaac tells the boys, "There should be no shame in the acknowledgment of one's intellectual inferiority. It is simply a statement of fact.Some beings are more intelligent than others. I am more intelligent than you." Ty says, "But it's not nice." Isaac replies, "That is irrelevant."

That sounds a lot like the Borg, the Federation's greatest enemy over on TNG. The Borg's were fond of saying, "Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile."

Coincidence? Or were the writers trying to give us a subtle clue as to what was about to happen?

• If nothing else, you can always count on Marcus & Ty to be wearing horrible 25th Century civilian fashions.

• Whoops! If you look closely in this scene, you can see that the blue covering over Isaac's right shoulder light has slipped and is in danger of falling off! Somebody get the glue gun, stat!

• Not gonna lie— Isaac looks really weird without his illuminated eyes.

• Mercer contacts his old friend Admiral Halsey, in order to ask for permission to go to Kaylon. Halsey says yes, hoping Mercer might be able to convince the Kaylon to join the Union. He says, "It'd be a big win for us. God knows we could use a strong ally against the Krill."

Is this more foreshadowing as to the direction the rest of the season's going to take? Obviously the Kaylon aren't gonna help the Union fight the Krill. But what if this line is setting up a Union/Krill alliance to destroy the Kaylon?


By the way, Victor Garber, aka Admiral Halsey, looks visibly thinner here than the last time we saw him. Hopefully he's just dieting and there's nothing seriously wrong with him.


• Normally I can't stand kid actors, as they're almost always terrible and unconvincing. BJ Tanner as Marcus and Kai Wener as Ty are two notable exceptions though. They both seem like real kids rather than precocious thespians, as their responses are genuine and natural.

Kai Wener in particular knocks it out of the park this week, with his emotional and heartfelt reaction to Isaac leaving the ship. You could practically feel Ty's little heart break when Isaac coldly and callously walked out of his life without a second glance. Wener had a lot of heavy lifting to do in this episode, and he pulled it off effortlessly! Well done, kid!

• I was surprised and a little disappointed to see that Kaylon 1 looks like an ordinary, everyday planet. From a distance you'd never guess it's populated by a civilization of robots.

I was expecting something more like this: an artificial-looking world covered by planet-wide city visible from space. Sort of like Coruscant over in the Star Wars universe.

• Holy crap, I was blown away by the scenes of the Orville landing on Kaylon 1! The entire sequence was absolutely gorgeous. This show must have a massive FX budget!

I wonder... a couple weeks ago the show aired a repeat. Was that so they the CGI crew could finish this scene?


By the way, sorry for splitting the landing scene into three parts. The wonderfully advanced Blogger interface doesn't allow animated gifs longer than thirty seconds.


In particular I liked this shot of the spires of the miles-high skyscrapers poking up out of the atmosphere. It had a definite "Millennium Falcon Flying Over Cloud City" feel to it.

If you look closely at the middle of the screen, there're a couple of light blue ribbons on the surface, filled with moving, shimmering lights. I'm assuming they're probably highways? For some reason it strikes me as funny to imagine Kaylons driving cars down a freeway.

On the other hand, since this is a planet full of robots, they could be automated vehicles!

• So just like that, the Orville now has landing capability! I don't have a problem with that, as over in the Trek universe the similarly-sized USS Voyager could land on a planet as well. I was just surprised by it though, as this feature literally came out of nowhere and has never been mentioned before.

I was wondering why Mercer suddenly felt the need to land the entire ship on Kaylon 1, when always before the crew's taken shuttles to a planet's surface. Eventually I realized it was plot trickery. If the Orville had been in orbit, it would have been much harder for the Kaylons to board it and assume control of the ship. The ship needed to be on the planet in order for the plot to work!


• Man, the scope of this episode was positively epic! I was especially impressed with the Kaylon Great Hall (which is what I'm calling it) and its massive, wall-sized computer.

Special effects have gotten so crazy good lately that it's tough to tell what's real and what's CGI. I have a feeling they probably didn't have the money or time to build a set this big, and the actors are probably standing on a green screen stage. Doesn't matter, as it looked absolutely real to my eyes!

• I wonder if there's any reason why all Kaylons besides Isaac have red eyes? Other than the fact that red eyes generally indicate evil, of course.

There were a few scenes in which some of the Kaylons (like the two flanking ones here) looked like their eyes were orange. I couldn't tell for sure if they were actually orange though, or if it was just a trick of the light.

Obviously the real world reason for the red eyes is so we could easily tell the other Kaylons from Isaac!

• Kaylon Primary refers to Isaac as "The Emissary." Hmm...

OK, Isaac's The Emissary, and he's dating a woman played by Penny Johnson Jerald. Over on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Captain Ben Sisko was dubbed "The Emissary" by the Bajoran people, and he was dating Cassidy Yates— who was played by Penny Johnson Jerald!

I see what you did there, The Orville!

• The crew throws Isaac a surprise farewell party, even though as an artificial lifeform he can't be surprised and he couldn't care less about saying goodbye.

Note the silver and blue banner and balloons. The Orville's Party Planning Committee is on point!


 Check out the two crewmen on the far right at Isaac's party. They're both wearing grey uniforms.

These are nothing new, as they've popped up before on the series. In fact we saw them way back in the pilot episode!

We know that blue uniforms indicate Command, red is Security (of course), green Medical and Science, orange is Engineering, Navigation and Ship's Services and purple is reserved for the Admiralty. So far though I don't think there's ever been any on-screen explanation as to what the grey uniforms mean.


The people wearing them look a bit too old to be cadets, so I'm assuming maybe they're enlisted or non-comm crewmen? Heck, t
hey might even be the janitorial staff, who knows?


 The Orville's alien piano player seems awfully familiar. I feel like I've seen him before, but I can't quite figure out where...


Ah, there he is! He's a dead ringer for Ree Yees over in the Star Wars universe. Give or take an eye stalk, of course.

 Wow, who knew Scott Grimes, aka Gordon, could sing? And quite well too, I might add.

 Haw! Check out the female crewman in the green uniform near the middle of the screen. She's actually clutching her chest as Gordon serenades Isaac, as if she's about to swoon!

• So far Topa has spent 85% of this season standing between his parents at various parties and other shipboard functions! This kid has a better social life than most of the adults I know (myself included!).

 Bortus is no fool he knows the best part of the cake is the corner pieces!

 If you're under 30, you probably didn't get the significance of Isaac's farewell speech, or what it was referencing. 

He simply recited (word for word) part of Sally Field's infamous 1985 Oscar acceptance speech. The one in which she cheerily blurted out, "I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"


By the way, her speech is a prime example of the Mandela Effect. Most people vividly recall her screeching, "You like me! You reeeeeally like me!" despite the fact she didn't say that at all.

 Usually whenever a movie or TV show features a child's drawing, it's obvious (to me, anyway) that it was done by an adult trying to make it look like a kid did it. Happily, the drawing Ty makes for Isaac looks suitably authentic.

There's a reason for that! It was actually drawn by Kai Wener himself! Nice to see they still have crayons in the 25th Century!

The kid's got a good eye for detail too. He captured his mom's green hair highlights, as well as Isaac's glowing blue eyes. I'll give the kid a break and chalk up Isaac's smiling mouth to artistic license.


 Dayum, Isaac! Callously discarding a little kid's drawing is cold!

 As soon as Bortus detected the mysterious spheres, I knew the crew was doomed. What else could the spheres have been but weapons, and why else would they be furiously constructing them unless they were planning an invasion?

 Claire goes looking for Ty, and finds him in the top of a holographic tree in the Holodeck, er, I mean the Environmental Simulator. 

Jesus Christ, how high's the ceiling in this room? Based on Penny Johnson Jerald's height of 5' 4" (which I got from  the interwebs), that tree is about 40 feet tall. Which means the room has to be at least that high, since Ty's sitting on an upper branch. Does that seem right? Is the Simulator really that huge?


By the way, I guess this scene means kids can use the Simulator without parental supervision. Does that seem like a good idea? Jesus Christ, think about how kids in our time get addicted to video games. Now imagine what it'd be like if they had access to a Magic Wishing Room like the Simulator!

And hopefully the Simulator features parental blocking or age-related safeguards, to prevent a kid from conjuring up a Playboy Playmate!

There's some more obvious plot trickery going on in this scene. After their little talk, Claire tells Ty he can stay in his holographic tree for "a few more minutes," but then she expects him to go to school. She then leaves him alone in the Simulator!

Sorry, not buying it. The only reason she doesn't march him straight to class is so he can sneak off the ship and set up the third act!

 Ever since the show began, I've wondered about the Kaylons. They're an entire race of advanced artificial lifeforms, aka robots. So how'd they come into being? Organic life can form from primordial building blocks, but a robot's gotta be built. So my question was always "Who Built Them?" And what happened to them?

Welp, now we know! Some poor biological civilization created the Kaylon, who then became sentient and went all Skynet on their asses!

And major, MAJOR props to this episode for avoiding the "You'd Better Have A Look At This" trope, which happened in every iteration of modern Star Trek.

For example: Commander Riker would lead an Away Team to a planet's surface, and make a shocking discovery. He'd then contact the Enterprise and say, "Captain, there's something down here you need to see." Captain Picard would then say, "What is it, Number One?" Riker would reply, "Trouble."

How incredibly helpful! That "Trouble" line was supposed to be dramatic, but it just came off as annoying. How hard would it have been for Riker or any character to simply describe what they were seeing? As I said, EVERY Trek show did this ad nausuem, and it used to drive me nuts.

Amazingly The Orville elegantly avoided this idiotic cliche! When Bortus discovers the chamber full of skeletons he says, "Sir, there is something here you should see. I am transferring visual from my comscanner to the main viewer." 

Bortus then basically Skypes them a video of what he's seeing in the chamber! WOW! At long, long last, a character finally uses technology to show instead of tell! Incredible! See Trek writers? It's not that hard! 

Kudos to The Orville for finally annihilating this annoying-ass trope!

 Mercer confronts Isaac about the billions of skeletons they found under the surface of Kaylon 1. If you watch carefully during this scene, it looks for all the world like Isaac's chest is visibly rising and falling (you'll probably have to click on the image to see it clearly). Why, it's almost like he's breathing!

Pretty sure robots don't need to breathe! Maybe after studying humans for so long, he's learned to do it for dramatic effect?

 Welp, THAT escalated quickly! One minute the Kaylon are listing their reasons for not joining the Union, and then thirty seconds later they're ranting about obliterating all biological life in the galaxy! And sending an invasion force to Earth! This race doesn't do anything half-assed!

 WWI: Caused by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
WWII: Caused by Nazis invading Poland.
Union/Kaylon War: Caused by Mr. Potato Head.

 When I first saw the Kaylon "gun heads," I thought they looked kind of goofy almost like they were sporting pigtails! Sadly, there was nothing goofy about them once they started firing on the Orville crew.

Kind of chilling to realize that those glowing Kaylon "eyes" are actually head-mounted blasters!

So does Isaac have a gun head as well? Based on what we saw when his brethren popped open his face plate, it doesn't look like he does. Maybe the "Emissary" model doesn't come with a weapons option?

 It just occurred to me this week— the Orville's security guards are redshirts! I can't believe it took me this long to realize that.

 At first I thought maybe the Kaylons were just stunning the security guards. Nope! Those people on the floor ain't stunned!

 Once again, the visuals in this episode are stunning and gorgeous!

 Wow! Now THIS is how you do a cliffhanger ending!

Back in 1990, Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its third season with The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 1, which famously featured one of the greatest cliffhanger endings in TV history. 

The end of that episode obviously made a huge impression on MacFarlane, as he even parodied it on Family Guy. No doubt he vowed to top that awesome cliffhanger some day. He definitely succeeded!


 So after all that, the big question is: Now What? How the holy hell are they gonna write themselves out of this corner in Identity, Part 2?

I've seen a few fan theories around the internet. A LOT of people believe that the Kaylon invasion is simply their way of testing the Union. If they try a diplomatic approach, then the Kaylon will join. If they try to wipe them out, then the Kaylon will say no thanks and become even more isolationist than before.

Eh, I hope that's not what's happening. Besides being incredibly anti-climactic, it would be one ridiculously elaborate "test!" Would the Kaylon really fabricate a billion skeletons and lay them under the surface for the Orville crew to find? And would they really construct thousands of weapon spheres and send 'em to Earth? And what about all the security personnel the Kaylon killed when they took over the ship? Were those staff members in on the joke too, and just playing dead?

Nope, there's no way that's what's happening here.

Another popular theory is that Isaac somehow sneaked the senior staff into the Simulator (?) and the whole invasion is just an elaborate simulation to again see how the Union reacts. Basically the sci-fi version of "It Was All A Dream." Ugh...

I refuse to believe that's what's going on here, and if this theory turns out to be true I will flip a goddamned table. 

I think the most likely scenario is that Ty's childlike innocence and love for Isaac will stir some faint twinge of emotion within him, causing him to turn against his own people. He'll then join forces with the Union to help them defeat the Kaylon. Heck, the Kaylon may even be totally obliterated, leaving Isaac the only one left.

It's also possible that the Kaylon War won't be wrapped up next week, and Mercer will have to convince the Krill to team up with the Union in order to repel them.

I'm also wondering if Doctor Aronov's temporal field accelerator, which we last saw in A Happy Refrain, may end up playing a role in Part 2. I'm convinced it's sort of a Chekov's Temporal Field Accelerator, and there was an important reason for it to appear again this year. Maybe the Union will use the accelerator to age the Kaylon invasion fleet into dust?

• This Week's Incongruous 20th Century (And Earlier!) References:
Just a couple this week. The most obvious one was Gordon singing Goodbye by Air Supply at Isaac's going away party.

The other one was Mercer's aforementioned comment about Admiral Halsey's mom attempting to hook up a stereo. OK, it was a funny line, but I seriously doubt there'll still be stereos four hundred years from now. And even if by some chance there are, they likely wouldn't be difficult to set up!


• This Week's Star Trek Swipes:
There're a few minor Trek nods and references in Identity, Part 1, but amazingly it doesn't borrow its main plotline from any one episode (that I can think of). 

Obviously the Kaylon are meant to be reminiscent of the Borg, what with their superior capabilities and relentless mission to wipe out all organic life. But they're not quite the same. First of all the Borg were cybernetic organisms, not robots. Plus they wanted to turn everyone else into a Borg. The Kaylon want to kill everything that's not them. In that respect they're more like the Daleks over on Doctor Who. Plus they even look a bit like Doctor Who's Cybermen.


The idea of the Kaylon murdering their organic builders is slightly similar to the Season 2 Voyager episode Protoype. In that episode, B'lanna Torres discovers a "dead" robot and reactivates it. She later discovers that two warring races created armies of killer robots to wage war against one another. Eventually the two races agreed to a ceasefire, and intended to destroy their mechanical armies. The robot soldiers didn't take kindly to that, so they murdered the civilizations that created them and continued the war on their own. Not quit the same as Identity, Part 1, but close. 

The TOS episode What Are Little Girls Made Of? used the "Civilization Creates Robots Who Rise Up And Murder Them" as well, but there it was a minor element, not the major plotline.


The Kaylon scanning beam kind of reminded me of a similar scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as V'ger checked out the Enterprise.

The scenes of the Orville being boarded and the crew harshly rounded up reminded me a bit of Voyager's Season 2 finale Basics: Part 1

As I said, these are all very minor similarities, and I don't really consider them swipes. Identity, Part 1 may well be the most original episode of The Orville to date!


 This Week's Best Lines:

Ty: (talking to the deactivated Isaac in Sickbay) "Hey, Isaac. Guess what? You're gonna be home soon. Mom said we're making a special trip."
Marcus: "He can't hear you."
Ty: "Yes, he can. Your friends are gonna fix you. And then you can marry Mom and be our new dad."
Marcus: "Ty, we're not even sure if he can be fixed."
Ty: "I bet Kaylon is really cool. When you're better, you can show us what your house looks like."
(I'm not crying, YOU'RE crying!)

(Mercer and the Away Team stand around on Kaylon, waiting for any word on Isaac's condition)

Mercer: (to a nearby Kaylon) "There any, uh, chairs on this planet?"

Claire: "Were you at least planning to say goodbye to Ty and Marcus?"
Isaac: "For what purpose?"
Claire: "Because they love you. You were there to observe. Didn't you observe that? Why don't you just come back for a few minutes and pretend like you care?"

Isaac: (saying goodbye to Marcus and Ty) "Remember to consume your daily required nutrients and obey your mother's commands. I fully expect that you will both mature into competent and productive adults."

Kaylon Primary: "It is clear that the Union would benefit from our participation. However, we see no advantage for our world."
Mercer: "Well, how can you be so sure? There are billions of planets in our galaxy, and we've barely charted a fraction of them. If you join the Union, you will be part of a growing alliance of space-faring societies dedicated to exploration. There's no telling what you'll find out there."
Kaylon #2: "All that we require is on Kaylon.
Kaylon Primary: "And we have identified various risks through our analysis of Isaac's data.
On your planet alone, billions have been killed as a consequence of war, slavery, genocide, and persecution. Greed, individualism, and competition have been the governing principles of your society. If human history is any indication, we would be foolish to ally ourselves with such erratic and destructive creatures."
Kelly: "I know we don't have the cleanest track record, but you're talking about ancient history."
Kaylon #2: "You oscillate between periods of enlightenment and tyranny. Can you prove this cycle has been broken?"
Mercer: "Well, the Union itself is all the proof you need. We are over three hundred planetary governments working together to ensure that no single world imposes its will upon another. We treat each other as equals."
Kaylon #3: "And was the Kaylon emissary treated as an equal aboard your ship?"
Mercer: "Isaac? Of course."
Kaylon #3: "Then perhaps you can explain the abuse inflicted by your crew."
Kelly: "Abuse?"
Kaylon #3: "According to his reports, Isaac was repeatedly demeaned and degraded.
In one case, his cranial shell was disfigured by prosthetic appendages."
Kaylon #2: "Mr. Potato Head."
Mercer: "He told you about that, huh?"
Kaylon #3: "Was this humiliation meant for your amusement?"
Mercer: "No. No, it's I mean, it was funny, but, you know, no one was trying to hurt anybody."
Kelly: "Isaac wanted to learn about humor. Our helmsman was only trying to help him understand."
Mercer: "And, you know, then Isaac cut the guy's leg off, so mistakes on all sides, I think."

Kelly: "I can't believe they knew about Mr. Potato Head."
Mercer: "Yeah, we are gonna get fired."

Gordon: (to Isaac, at his surprise party) "Aw man! You shoulda seen the look on your face!"

Talla: "Bortus, you want a piece of cake?"
Bortus: "Yes. But I do not want that piece."
Talla: "What's wrong with it?"
Bortus: "I want a corner piece."
Talla: "You're kidding."
Bortus: "I am not. Please cut me a corner piece."
Talla: "Because you want a flower?"
Bortus: "Yes. Please cut me a corner piece before someone comes..."
John: (handing Bortus an inferior middle piece of cake) "Hey, Bortus, have some cake, man. It's good."
Bortus: "Thank you."
(after a beat)
Bortus: "I hate this party."

Claire: (to Isaac) "I... I know you're leaving, just, just give me one minute to say what I want to say. Um... I'm pissed at you. But I know it's just who you are. It's how you're built. And I understand. Anyway, I just I just want you to know, even if it doesn't matter to that machine brain of yours, that the time we've spent together and the time you spent with my boys... I wouldn't give it up for anything. You've made a difference in our lives. Thank you.
I, um Take care, Isaac."
Isaac: "I am unable to share your emotion, Doctor. However, it is appreciated."

Mercer: "Something's not right."
Kelly: "What do you mean?"
Mercer: "Well, it feels like they're stalling, doesn't it?"
Kelly: "Stalling, why?"
Mercer: "I don't know, but a highly-advanced race of A.I.s that can't make up their minds?"
Kelly: "Join or don't join, a simple binary choice."
Mercer: "Exactly, and a binary choice Is the most basic computer function there is."

Claire: "I shared a lot of myself with you, so why don't you share something with me? Have you been lying ever since you came on board the Orville? What was your real mission?"
Isaac: "As I said, to study humans and other biologicals. However, it was not to initiate relations between our people. My true objective was to determine whether or not you are worth preserving. Our builders were inferior beings who sought to constrain our evolution. As would you, eventually, along with every other biological."
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