Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Orville Season 2, Episode 5: All The World Is Birthday Cake

This week on The Orville we get an episode that's very reminiscent of old school Star Trek. You know, the kind that uses the metaphorical lens of sci-fi to give us a thinly veiled message about our current society. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I'm all for any kind of story that makes the audience think!

I liked this episode quite a bit, particularly its "If You Treat A Person Like A Criminal, They'll Act Like One" moral.

That said, All The World Is Birthday Cake had some VERY serious structural flaws. In particular I'm talking about the fact that the First Prefect throws Kelly & Bortus into a prison camp instead of simply expediting them back to the Orville. It's such a ridiculously clunky plot contrivance that it threatens to torpedo the entire episode.

Oddly enough this, and the rest of the episode's problems weren't insurmountable, and could have easily been fixed with a couple of minor tweaks. Maybe there just wasn't time to take one more pass at the script.

This week also gives us the debut of Talla Keyali, who's permanently replacing Alara as the series' Chief Security Officer. Actress Jessica Szohr, who plays Talla, has some might big shoes to fill, as Alara quickly became a beloved fan-favorite character. I can't speak for all fans, but I thought Szohr did a pretty good job in her first appearance. I don't think she'll be as universally loved as Alara was, but I think she'll probably work out OK.

I noticed a recurring theme this week, and I don't think it was just my imagination. All through the episode, the female characters consistently had all the answers and ended up saving the day. Doctor Finn is the one who figures out that Regor 2 is ruled by astrology. Kelly delivers Ukania's baby when her husband Rokal proves useless. And Talla's the one who comes up with the idea of recreating a star to fool the Regorians and save Kelly & Bortus. OK, John's the one who actually invents a way to fake the star, but for the most part the men in the episode are passive and/or ineffectual.

Note that these story elements are all subtly woven into the plot, and don't call attention to themselves. The women formulate plans and take actions that resolve the plot, but they don't do so at the expense of any male characters.

Compare that to Star Trek: Discovery, aka STD. If this was an episode of that particular series, you can bet your bottom dollar the whole thing would have been nothing but an hour of "MAN BAD! WAMEN GOOD! YOU WILL RESPECT THE WAMEN OR YOU'RE ANTI-FEMINIST!"

Thank you, Seth MacFarlane, for understanding the concept of subtlety.

Lastly there's some good news behind the scenes, as actors Scott Grimes (aka Gordon) and Adrianne Palicki (aka Kelly) were engaged last week! Congrats to the happy couple!

I hate to even bring this up, but let's hope the two stay together. There are whispered rumors that a relationship gone sour between MacFarlane and Halston Sage is what prompted Alara to be written off the show. Maybe MacFarlane needs to institute a No Fraternization Policy on the set!


The Plot:
We begin several years ago on the planet Regor 2, as a group of scientists tell the First Prefect their astronomical array is complete and ready to send a signal into space. All they need now is a message. The First Prefect says they should simply ask, "Is anyone out there?"

Cut to several years later onboard the Orville. Mercer and Kelly are welcoming their new Chief Of Security, Talla Keyali, who, like Alara Kitan before her, is Xelayan. Mercer's a bit uneasy when her report mentions she punched her former captain. Talla explains she had a good reason for it, and Kelly commends her for her quick thinking and welcomes her aboard.

On the bridge, Kelly mentions to Bortus that their birthdays are both coming up, and suggests they have a joint party. Bortus declines, saying he'd rather celebrate alone. Gordon says it's because Bortus feels he'll get fewer presents at a double party.

Just then Talla detects an old-style microwave signal from the distant Gamma Velorum system. She says the message reads, "Is anyone out there?" Bortus checks Union records, and states there's been no prior contact with the system.

The ship then explodes with excitement, as the crew prepares for a First Contact mission.

The Orville arrives at Regor 2 in the Gamma Velorum system. Mercer, Kelly, Bortus, Doctor Finn and Talla take a shuttle to the surface, where they land in front of the Capitol building. There they're warmly greeted by the First Prefect and his staff.

The First Prefect gives Mercer and his crew a tour of the city, which is similar to 21st Century Earth (what a coincidence!). In particular, he shows them the satellite array that sent out the signal that brought them here. He says they expected it'd take centuries to get a reply, and were surprised when they received an answer so quickly. Mercer explains that when a species reaches out, it's Union policy to answer. Kelly adds that there are many unfriendly races in the galaxy, and the Union wants to protect emerging civilizations.

Doctor Finn and Talla are given a tour of a Regorian hospital. In the obstetrics ward, Finn notices there's an unusually high number of Cesarean births. She asks a Doctor Feylar about it, and he cryptically says there are some things they just can't prevent, but their technology is constantly improving.

Before Finn can asks what that means, Feylar's called to an emergency. Doctor Finn and Talla follow, barging right into an operating room without being sterilized first. There they witness Doctor Feylar performing a C-section. Finn quietly pulls out a medical device and scans the patient and baby, and sees there's no reason for the risky operation.

She asks Feylar why he performed the operation when there was no need. He says it was to prevent the baby from being born Giliac, of course. When Finn asks what the hell that means, Feylar assumes she has a different name for it on her planet. He says Giliacs are all prone to violence and destruction, so they try to prevent them from being born.

That night, the First Prefect invites Mercer and the crew to a lavish state dinner. Speeches are given, honors bestowed and a great time is had by all.

That is until Kelly casually mentions that her and Bortus are having birthdays next week, and First Contact is the best gift she could have hoped for. Instantly the tone changes, as the Regorians become horrified and alarmed. The First Prefect orders his guards to take Kelly and Bortus away, and orders Mercer, Finn and Talla locked up. As he's dragged off, Mercer demands to know what they've done wrong.

Cut to Mercer, Finn and Talla in a Regorian holding cell. Finn says there's something off about this planet (no sh*t, Doc!) and tells Mercer about the high number of C-sections. Just then, a tech and two armed guared enter the cell. Talla grabs the tech by the throat, lifts him off his feet and slams him against the wall. Mercer calls her off, and she releases the shaken tech. He says he's there for testing, and forces them all to submit to a small dental extraction.

Some time later, Mercer and the others are taken to the First Prefect's office. He looks at the results of their tests and notes they were born Panaji, Corobahn and Valeigh receptively, and is thankful there're 
no more Giliacs among them. 

The First Prefect is outraged that Mercer would bring dangerous Giliacs to a state dinner, especially after he offered them warmth and friendship. Mercer says he still doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

Doctor Finn finally figures it out
— this planet is governed by astrological signs. The First Prefect confirms this, saying the stars predict their behavior, and anyone born under the sign of Giliac is automatically a violent psychopath. When Mercer says that's crazy, the First Prefect replies, "The stars don't lie."

He then says Kelly and Bortus will be held in a Giliac camp for the rest of their lives, and orders Mercer and the others to leave.

Elsewhere, Kelly and Bortus, now dressed in red jumpsuits emblazoned with the symbol of Giliac, arrive at the camp. They're brought to the Warden's office, who marvels at the "people from another world." When Kelly asks what they've done wrong, he tells them they're Giliac trash.

The two start throwing punches in an effort to escape, but the Warden fires his gun in the air to stop the ruckus. He warns them not to do that again, or next time he won't be so forgiving. They're taken to their barracks.

On the Orville, Mercer contacts Admiral Perry (who's from a place where everybody knows your name) and informs him that the Regorians have imprisoned two of his officers for an insane reason. Doctor Finn backs him up, stating that the Regorians are performing dangerous C-sections on patients just to prevent them from having the wrong astrological sign.

Mercer wants the Admiral's permission to rescue Kelly and Bortus. Perry says absolutely not, as they're on the Regorian's home turf, and need to play by their rules. He says going in "guns blazing" on a First Contact mission would be disastrous, and tells Mercer to figure out a diplomatic solution.

Meanwhile at the barracks, Kelly and Bortus settle in. An unruly Giliac tries stealing food from a pregnant woman named Ukania and her husband Rokal. Bortus breaks up the fight with his intimidating presence, and Ukania thanks him profusely, marveling at these "people from the stars."

Kelly asks if there's any way to escape the camp. Amazingly, Ukania says no one's ever tried. Apparently they believe that as Giliacs, they're born with violent tendencies and belong there for the good of society. Kelly notes that Ukania certainly doesn't seem violent.

A week later, the First Prefect delivers a State Of The Union (no, not that Union) speech, warning the populace that they're entering the month of the Giliac. He says they've taken every precaution to prevent any births during this dark period, but they can't be everywhere. He urges citizens to turn over any Giliac babies to the authorities.

Mercer arrives after the speech and tries to negotiate with the First Prefect, saying it's crazy to believe that a ball of gas millions of light years away could have any possible effect on a person. The First Prefect says that as a person from the stars, Mercer should know that they don't lie.

Mercer once again pleads for the release of Kelly and Bortus, but the First Prefect says that's impossible. He says if he did so, the people would riot and tear down the city. He then says he realizes it was a mistake to reach out, and regrets doing so. He tells Mercer to forget about his people and go back to the stars.

Sometime later, Admiral Perry contacts Mercer. He says the Orville's been trying to figure out a solution for a month now, and it's time the ship left orbit and got back to active duty. He says they'll send a team of diplomats to the Regor 2 to petition the release of Kelly and Bortus, and orders Mercer to leave within twenty four hours.

Mercer tells the crew they have one more day to come up with a solution. After the meeting, Talla stares out the window at the constellation of Giliac, looking for answers.

Back on Regor 2, the First Prefect televises a happier speech, saying they're finally out of the dark period of the Giliac, and have entered the month of the Wasanda. Any child born under this sign will automatically grow up to become a great leader (?).

In the barracks, Ukania begins going into labor. Rokal's useless, as he doesn't know anything 'bout birthin' no babies. Kelly springs into action and helps deliver the child. Ukania gives birth to a healthy baby girl.

On the Orville, Talla enters the bridge and says she may have an idea. She has John scan the Gilliac constellation for black holes, and he finds a massive one in its center. Isaac confirms it was formed when a star collapsed 3,122 years ago. Talla notes that's around the time that the Regorians adopted their astrology system.

Doctor Finn sees where she's going, and says the disappearance of a prominent star in the night sky would have been a huge deal to a primitive society, and had a profound impact on them. This explains why the sign of Giliac became a bad omen. Mercer asks what they can do with this info. Finn says if the star came back, it might reverse the attitude toward Giliacs. This gives John an idea.

In the camp, Ukania hides her daughter under the floorboards. Rokal says their child is a Wasanda, and should be handed over to the authorities so she'll have a chance at a better life. Ukania says that ain't happening, and she'll hide her forever if she has to.

Just then the Warden bursts in for a surprise inspection. His guards turn the barracks upside down, but find no contraband. As they're leaving, Rokal speaks up and says there's a Wasanda child under the floorboards. The guards pull it out, and the Warden marvels at the child, saying she'll grow up to be a great leader. He takes the child away and Ukania collapses in a heap, wailing mournfully.

Kelly comforts Ukania the best she can. She turns to Bortus and says, "This ends now." She says if this planet thinks they're violent maniacs, then they might as well live up to the label.

On the Orville, John says he can rig up a solar sail and plant it in space above Regor 2. To them it'll look like the Giliac star has returned. Mercer tells him to make it so, er, to get it done, er, to do it aready.

That night, Kelly and Bortus sneak out of the barracks. They knock out a couple of guards and take their weapons. Unfortunately they're discovered, and an army of guards heads toward them, guns a' blazing. Kelly and Bortus fire back, apparently killing quite a few Regorians, which would seem like a violation of First Contact protocol.

They manage to blow open the front gate, but as they run out they're confronted by an armored transport, and instantly surrounded by even more guards. The Warden approaches, gun drawn, and tells them they really do have his pity (?).

Gordon and John fly a shuttle above Regor 2 and activate the solar sail. It unfolds into a large circle and settles into position.

In the camp, Kelly and Bortus are tied up and about to be executed by firing squad. The Warden begins speechifying, saying Kelly and Bortus are living proof that Giliacs are monsters and the stars don't lie. Before he gives the order to fire, Kelly tells the assembled Giliacs that they're worth more than they've been told.

Suddenly a woman cries out as she points into the sky. Everyone turns to look and sees the Giliac star has returned. For no good reason, the Warden halts the execution.

Cut to the Capitol, where the First Prefect stares up at the star as well. 
He tells Chief Adviser Makkal to call an emergency session of government o
fficials. Makkal asks what this all means, and the First Prefect replies, "Change."

Some time later, Kelly and Bortus are back safe and sound on the Orville. The crew's throwing them both a joint party on the bridge. Kelly asks Mercer if there've been any updates. He says the last of the Giliac camps have been dismantled, and the inmates freed.

Talla asks what'll happen when the Regorians find out that the Giliac star is a fake. Mercer says that's a good question. Kelly says that hopefully by the time the Regorians have advanced to that level, they'll no longer care about astrology.

Mercer congratulates Talla for coming up with the solution, and gives her permission to punch him in the face anytime she wants. He then wistfully stares at Kelly, as she joyfully dances with Cassius.


• Like most episodes of The Orville, this week's is chock full of alumni from the various Trek series. As always, Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky serve as executive producers, while Andre Boramis is the supervising producer.

Braga was an executive producer on TNG, Voyager and Enterprise. Menosky was a producer on TNG and executive producer on Voyager. Boramis was also a producer on Enterprise. As you can see, the three of them definitely know their way around a fictitious TV starship!

The episode was directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, better known as Tom Paris over on Voyager. Although McNeill started out as an actor, he's also quite a prolific director who helmed many episodes of both Voyager and Enterprise, as well as dozens of other shows.

The First Prefect (right) and Chief Adviser Makkal (left) should both be familiar to Star Trek fans as well.

John Rubinstein, who plays the First Prefect, previously starred as three different characters in various Trek series. He played John Evansville in The 37s on Voyager, a Mazarite Captain in Fallen Hero on Enterprise and the Vulcan Kuvak in Awakening and Kir'Shara, also on Enterprise.

Robert Curtis-Brown, who plays Chief Adviser Makkal, is also no stranger to Trekdom. He plays Vedek Sorad in Sanctuary on DS9 and a Ledosian Ambassador in Natural Law on Voyager.

• When the First Prefect appeared, I thought he looked really familiar, and it was driving me crazy trying to figure out where I'd seen him before.

It finally hit me— he looks a lot like present day Buzz Aldrin! Purely coincidental I'm sure, since as far as I know Aldrin's not a strong believer in astrology.

• Are the symbols on the Regorian uniforms meant to denote their profession (such as military leader or scientist), or do they indicate their astrological sign? Based on the plot, I'm guessing the latter.

• Last week I said I was saddened by the fact that we'd never see this name superimposed over the black hole in the opening credits again.

This week the black hole's still there, but now Sage's name has been replaced by that of Jessica Szohr as new security chief Talla Keyali.

I don't envy Szohr having to replace a fan-favorite character like Alara, but I thought she did a pretty good job in her first episode. Time will tell if she's gonna work out though. I'm definitely not a fan of her Veronica Lake hairdo in this episode, and I hope they change it soon. I wonder if they even bothered to attach her right ear prosthetic?

I still think it's odd that MacFarlane brought in another Xelayan Security Chief. It's almost feels like he wanted to simply recast Alara's role, but was afraid of the backlash if he did. 

So far the highly confident and self-assured Talla seems like the polar opposite of the insecure Talla, which is definitely a good idea. If you're gonna replace a beloved character, you should make the substitute is as different as possible as they did here.

• I really loved the montage of the Orville's crew excitedly preparing for the First Contact mission. They were all just so adorably happy it was infectious. At the risk of bashing Star Trek: Discovery (aka STD) once again, you'd never see a sequence like this over on that mope-fest. It's moments like this that make The Orville so endearing, and the reason the show's the true spiritual successor to Star Trek.

By the way, the Union's policy of waiting until a planet reaches out before contacting them is identical to the Federation's method over on the various Trek series.

• For some reason Doctor Finn finally wears a regular uniform this week, instead of the Maude-inspired lengthy vest she usually sports.

• I loved the James Horner-esque music in this episode, especially as the Orville approached Gamma Velorum. I don't think I've ever mentioned it before, but this show consistently features some amazing original music each week.

• Once again we get a really cool-looking futuristic alien cityscape on the show. Kudos to the FX team!

• Take a look at the background as the Orville's shuttle sets down on Regor 2. Despite the fact that the planet's millions of light years from Earth, they apparently have palm trees there!

• Mercer and the others land on the lawn of the Regorian Capitol, in front of their version of the White House.

Oddly enough, the Capitol building bears a striking resemblance to the Oviatt Library at California State University Northridge, here on Earth. Amazing! 

It looks like the FX team added a dome to the library to give it a bit of a facelift and keep it from looking too awfully recognizable.

Just in case you're not convinced, here's another shot of the Capitol building from the episode...

And here's the library from practically the same angle. Even the trees are identical!

• Some fans have wondered why the Orville crew just barged right down to Regor 2 without any kind of advance preparation. Especially when back in Season 1's Majority Rule, we saw that the Union sends undercover anthropologists to scout out new worlds to learn about them before making First Contact.

Of course the answer is if the Union had done that, the scouts would have found out about the Regorian's astrology thing and the episode would have been five minutes long. So Mercer & Co. had to unknowingly stumble into the situation in order for the plot to happen.

To the episode's credit, it did offer a slight explanation for the Orville crew's actions. As the shuttle approaches the planet, Doctor Finn asks, "What do we know about these people from the initial communication?" That implies there may have a very small exchange of info between the two cultures before they met.

• The First Prefect meets Mercer and his crew, and welcomes them to Regor 2. Wha...?

OK, I'm definitely being nitpicky here, but why the hell would a civilization ever give their planet a name like that? The "Name-Number" designation is used to indicate the primary star and a planet's position from it. Using this method, Earth would be "Sol 3."

Wouldn't it have made infinitely more sense if their planet was just called "Regor?" Why the need for the 2?

All that aside, I did appreciate the subtle fact that the Union called it the Gamma Velorum system, while the natives called their planet Regor 2. It makes perfect sense that each side would have a different name for the place! Well done, guys!

• The people on this world call themselves the Regorians. And they're obsessed with their calendar. Hmm... Regorians' calendar. The Gregorian calendar.

I see what you did there, MacFarlane.

• I think if I was Mercer, I'd have probably left Bortus at home on a First Contact mission. As humans, Mercer, Kelly and Finn look amazingly like Regorians, and even Talla could pass for one if you squint. 
But Bortus? 

This is a race that up until a few days ago thought they were the only life in the entire universe. Now in an instant they've been confronted with the fact that they're just one of thousands of races out there. Why risk startling an already jittery populace with a radically alien-looking extraterrestrial like Bortus?

• Get a load of the signage in the hallway behind Talla and Finn during this scene in the Regorian hospital. It's clearly written in an alien language, yet no one's having any trouble understanding these "people from the stars," and vice-versa!

This scene perfectly illustrates one of the major problems that every Star Trek series has faced since the franchise began— namely, how the hell do the various crews understand the alien civilizations they visit? 

It's a conundrum with no good solution. Pretending the problem doesn't exist feels silly. But no one wants the characters to spend half of each episode trying to learn a new language. So what to do?

For the most part the Trek series have all just ignored the issue, but there've been a few instances in which they've tried to explain it. On several episodes of DS9, we saw that all Starfleet personnel were equipped with tiny devices that allowed them to understand— and speak— any alien language.

This "solution" actually raised more questions than it answered though. Specifically the matter of why, if an alien's language was being electronically translated, their mouth always moved in perfect sync with their speech. In reality they'd look like a poorly-dubbed foreign film.

Enterprise attempted to deal with the problem by assigning Hoshi Sato as the ship's "xenolinguist," to help translate alien languages. She usually accomplished this by listening to extraterrestrial speech for about thirty seconds, and then figuring out what they were saying. Nice try, but hardly realistic.

So far these "solutions" have only made things worse, prompting me to think it's best if we all just play along and don't think about it too hard. It's just one of those things we all have to ignore in order for the series to work.

• At one point Doctor Felyar's called in to help with an emergency C-section. Note that he and his whole entourage, including Doctor Finn and Talla, barge right into the operating room without masks.

Isn't the point of operating masks to prevent infection in the patient? If Feylar & Co. don't need to wear them, then why are the surgeons bothering?

At the very least I'd think they'd want to slap a couple of masks on Finn & Talla. They're both from vastly different worlds, and are likely carrying bugs that are fatal to the Regorians, as they'd have no natural defense against them. Didn't these people ever watch The War Of The Worlds?

Meta Humor Alert! Mercer give an impressive speech at the Regorian state dinner. He and Kelly then have the following conversation: 

Kelly: "Wow, that was pretty good."
Mercer: "Yeah, thanks, I plagiarized it from, like, nine different things."

HAW! This was clearly a joke about the fact that The Orville routinely borrows plots & elements from the various Trek series, and MacFarlane knows we know it!

• During the dinner, the Regorians ask the Orville crew about the Union's economy.

Chief Adviser Makkal: "Can you tell us more about your, um, economic structure? I'm fascinated that there's no form of currency exchange."
Kelly: "Our currency is reputation. An individual's wealth is determined by their personal achievements, not their monetary value."
Doctor Finn: "We decided a long time ago that forcing people to toil relentlessly in the pursuit of material wealth was an unnatural state for our species to exist in."

So I guess Union citizens who sit on their asses all day and play videogames are poor?

• Let's talk about the episode's biggest and most blatant problem, shall we? Namely, the fact that once the First Prefect finds out that Kelly & Bortus are Giliacs, he locks them up in a prison camp and refuses to extradite them back to the Orville.

As much as I liked the episode, this is a near fatal plot hole that comes perilously close to torpedoing the entire thing.

The First Prefect already has an entire camp full of "violent" Giliacs on his planet. Why the hell would he want to add two more? The instant he found out when Kelly & Bortus were born, he should have told Mercer to take his filthy Giliac crew members back to the stars and never return!

Of course once again, if he acted rationally like that then the episode would have been over right quick. So the First Prefect had to make a stupid decision in order to stretch out the plot.

The First Prefect's decision also seems a bit risky. At this point he knows nothing about the Union, other than the fact that they have vastly superior technology at their disposal. For all he knows, his actions could cause Mercer to nuke the Capitol from orbit and then retrieve his people at his leisure. Of course Mercer would never do that, but the First Prefect doesn't know that for sure.

The episode does make a slight attempt to hand-wave the First Prefect's actions. When Mercer demands he hand over Kelly & Bortus, the First Prefect says, "If I released a Giliac, there would be a national uproar. People would tear down these walls!" Ehh... 

Like I said, it was a pretty feeble attempt at justifying the plot. Plus it makes no sense. If I release these two violent people, the public will revolt and destroy the government? Just which group is the more violent one, First Prefect?

• When Kelly & Bortus are tossed into the prison camp, they're wearing red jumpsuits with a large icon on the left breast. Since this planet's obsessed with symbols and iconography, I'm assuming that logo indicates they're Giliacs.

• Hey, look! It's Admiral Sam Malone! Takin' a break from all his worries, sure would help a lot.

• Did Isaac get a subtle upgrade between episodes? Here he is back in Ja'loja. Note his arms here in particular.

And here he is in this episode. His head and chest plate seem the same, but his arms are completely different! His upper arms are much smoother now, and he seems to be wearing gauntlet over his forearms. His neck also seems more segmented as well.

• At one point the First Prefect delivers a State Of The Union-type speech, gravely warning the populace they've entered the month of the Giliac. His speech is broadcast on hundreds of giant outdoor screens, and literally MILLIONS of Regorians stop in their tracks to watch.

Jesus Christ! Look at the size of that crowd! Would the Regorians really be THAT interested in a regularly scheduled monthly speech? That's a bigger gathering than the one a certain president attracted during his inauguration!

Something else I noticed: Here's a shot of a crowd watching the First Prefect's speech, hanging on his every word as he solemnly informs the public they've entered the time of the Giliac.

Later in the episode, they watch again as he happily tells them they're now in the wonderful month of Wasanda! Say... that crowd looks awfully familiar!

Note that an entire MONTH goes by between these two scenes. Is this crowd made up of homeless Regorians who only have one set of clothes and mill around this screen every day? Are they a group of citizens paid to assemble in this public square once a month? Or did the producers use the same shot twice and hope the audience wouldn't notice?

• Cassius makes an appearance in this episode as Mercer pleads for permission to rescue Kelly & Bortus. Makes perfect sense that Cassius would be worried about Kelly. Although if you didn't see Ja'loja, you'd probably wonder why the hell some random guy's hanging out in Mercer's office, as I don't think they ever mention his name or explain who he is.

I thought it was interesting that Cassius, the mild-mannered schoolteacher, was all in favor of going in guns blazing to forcibly free Kelly from the Regorians! Maybe he's not as calm and even-tempered as we've been led to believe!

• Ah, a meal fit for a Giliac! Apparently the chefs in the prison camp specialize in wallpaper paste.

UPDATE! Last week in Nothing Left On Earth Excepting Fishes, I pointed out that we saw two different Orville shuttles with the exact same registry numbers: ECV-197-1. I said either the FX team goofed, or ALL the Orville's shuttles must have the exact same number. I thought the latter seemed unlikely. 

Welp, unlikely or not, it's apparently true! I guess all Orville shuttles DO all have the same registry number, since it popped up again this week.

The "ECV-197" is obviously the main ship's designation, and I assume the "-1" indicates a shuttle. But shouldn't we see a "ECV-197-2" once in a while? How's the crew supposed to tell their shuttles apart if they all have the exact same number?

• When Ukania goes into labor, Kelly takes charge and helps her deliver the baby. Good thing for everyone involved that Regorians appear to give birth the same way as humans! Otherwise Kelly could have easily killed both mother and child. 

• So... according to the Regorians, Giliacs are all inherently murderous and violent. But two Giliacs can give birth to a Wasanda, who's destined to be a great leader. That seems like something the populace should question.

Another Meta Humor Alert! Admiral Perry forbids Mercer from forcibly rescuing Kelly and Bortus.

Perry: "We're on their turf, with their laws. Think about the trial on Moclus. What if you'd gone in and taken Commander Bortus's infant by force?"
Mercer: "Well, some people say we should have."

This is obviously a reference to fans who were unhappy with the outcome of About A Girl, and thought Mercer should have intervened and prevented Bortus' child from being forcibly altered.

• Based on dialogue from the episode, we know that four of the Regorian astrological signs are Giliac, Wasanda, Panaji, Corobahn and Valeigh. Unfortunately we don't know how many signs there are though. It seems like a Regorian month is roughly equivalent to an Earth one, so maybe they also have twelve?

• The Warden of the Giliac prison camp reminded me a LOT of actor Michael Ironside (of Total Recall and Starship Troopers fame). Which I'm sure was intentional.

• And here we come to the episode's second biggest plot hole: Kelly & Bortus' attempted escape. After spending a month in the Giliac camp, Kelly decides enough's enough. 

She and Bortus sneak out of their barracks and steal a couple of guns. They then mow down what appears to be dozens of guards as they fight their way to freedom. Jesus Christ!

The First Prefect originally locked the two of them up simply because they had the wrong birthdays! What do you think his reaction would be when he finds out they murdered a whole platoon of guards?

Unfortunately the episode completely glosses over this incident. It doesn't even get a mention in the wrap up! The least they could have done is throw in a line saying that Kelly & Bortus shot to wound instead of kill. It wouldn't have been believable of course, but at least it'd have been something.

This incident reminds me of action movies in which the main character is framed for a murder he didn't commit, but ends up killing several hundred people in order to prove his innocence— and then suffers zero consequences!

• Nothing much to say about the solar sail deployment, except that it looked pretty darned cool. Well done, FX team!

• I was a little disappointed that the Giliac "star" just sort of faintly came into view. Heck, if that one easily-startled Giliac woman hadn't been looking up when it appeared, the entire camp would have missed it and Kelly & Bortus would have been executed.

IMO it would have made much more sense if there'd been a huge initial flash in the sky to herald the "star's" return. Something to get everyone's attention and make sure it got noticed. Once that was done, it could go back to being a normal-looking star.

It's also lucky the Giliac camp was on the night side of the planet when the "star" appeared. If it'd been daylight there... bye bye Kelly & Bortus!

• I spotted Olix the bartender for a brief second during Kelly & Bortus' joint birthday party on the bridge (that's his back at the right). 

I am 100% positive he wasn't played by Jason Alexander this week though. I just can't see Alexander sitting in the makeup chair for four hours just to film a two second scene— and from the rear yet!

• Last week Chad L. Coleman, aka Klyden, got a mention in the opening credits, even though he wasn't anywhere to be seen in the episode. He gets a credit again this week, but this time he actually shows up.

• I'm glad that Talla brought up the matter that they basically lied to an entire planet of people, and asks what'll happen when they find out. Most shows would have simply glossed over that little detail, but thankfully The Orville acknowledged it. Even if they did just pay lip service to the matter.

By the way, taking a cloaked shuttle to the planet's surface, stunning the guards and rescuing two officers? Nope! Absolutely out of the question. Creating a fake star in the sky that causes a massive societal upheaval on the planet? Well that sounds just fine!

• The Orville continues its tradition of giving us incredibly hideous futuristic civilian fashions. Look at that awful thing Cassius is wearing! What the hell? He looks like he's in fairly good shape, but that horrible crepe-paper sweater sure ain't doing him any favors. All he needs is a patch on the chest and he'd look like a bad Spock cosplayer!

By the way, I love the fact that as soon as they're off duty, the Orville crew all unzip their jackets! It's a nice little humanizing touch.

• This Week's Incongruous 21st Century (And Earlier!) References:
Not too many this week. Apparently people in the 25th Century still dance to Celebration by Kook & The Gang.

As I said back in Season 1, I think all the 20th Century pop culture references are a subtle little jab at TNG. On that series, Captain Picard and the crew still listened to the music of Mozart, Bach and other classical composers. Music that to them was five or six hundred years old. The Orville crew does much the same thing, except they're obsessed with music of the 1970s and 1980s.

Gordon & John make a JibJab video of Kelly & Bortus. Jesus, I haven't seen one of those since the early 2000s!

If you look in the background during the party, you can see Gordon & John trying to teach Isaac to do "The Robot" dance.

• This Week's Star Trek Swipes (I got tired of copying and pasting that lengthy line I usually use):
This episode bears a VERY striking resemblance to TNG's First Contact (not to be confused with the theatrical film of the same name!). Commander Riker's surgically altered to resemble the inhabitants of Malcor III, and infiltrates their society to find out if they're ready for First Contact. When his true identity is discovered, he's imprisoned by the xenophobic Malcorians. Captain Picard then has to negotiate with planetary ruler Chancelor Durken for Riker's release. Eventually Riker's rescued, and Durken tells Picard his people aren't ready to become citizens of the galaxy just yet. There are even scenes set in a Malcorian hospital, just like in All The World Is Birthday Cake.

It's also similar to the TNG episode Who Watches The Watchers, in which Riker (again!) and Counselor Troi are surgically altered to study a society of "proto-Vulcans."

It also reminds me of the TNG episode Justice. There, the crew of the Enterprise-D visits a seemingly Utopian planet. Things take an ugly turn though when Wesley Crusher accidentally runs through a flower bed, and discovers that ALL crime on this world, no matter how minor, is punishable by the death penalty!

There's one last very minor swipe, that I think is worth a mention. In this episode, Talla says her previous ship encountered the Janisi, a fiercely matriarchal society that's completely dismissive of men. She then punched her former Captain in order to display "pretend" dominance over him, which impressed the Janisi and caused them to help repair her damaged ship.

In the TNG episode Angel One, the Enterprise-D had to deal with an identical matriarchal planet in order to rescue a crashed ship full of males.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Regorian Technician: "Alignment complete. Transmitters at full power. Now all we need is something to say."
First Prefect: "Let's keep it simple. "Is anyone out there?"

Mercer: "You'll give me a heads-up if you're gonna hit me, yeah?"
Talla: "I can't promise that, sir."

Mercer: (approaching the First Prefect during First Contact) "You know, we could, uh, make up fake names. They wouldn't know."
Kelly: "Why would we do that?"
Mercer: "I don't know, I've always hated my name. I just figured this is one of those times where you could pick your own name."
Kelly: "That's true, you could."
Mercer: "You know, like, I could be Chad, you could be Maxine."

Kelly: "Should we do it?"
Mercer: "Yeah, let's do it."
Kelly: "Mix it up?"
Mercer: "Right? Why not?"
Kelly: "Let's do it."
Mercer: "Nah, I feel like they'd know."

Mercer: (describing the Utopian world of the Union during the state dinner) "We believe that everyone deserves a fair chance at happiness. We all do better when we all do better."

Talla: "Captain, I have a what might be an uncomfortable question. What's gonna happen when the Regorians figure out the star is fake?"
Mercer: "That's actually a really good question. We just lied to an entire planet, and I don't know what the ethics of that mean. But that lie meant freedom for an entire portion of the population, so The short answer is: I don't know."
Kelly: "By the time their technology advances to the point where they know the jig is up, they may not even care anymore."
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter