Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Orville Season 2, Episode 14: The Road Not Taken

This week on The Orville, it's the big Season 2 finale!

The Road Not Taken is the "unofficial" second half of a two part story begun last week in Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow. It takes place in a hellish, alternate timeline generated by a seemingly unimportant decision Kelly made at the end of the previous episode.

Overall it's not a bad episode, but it's marred by a couple of issues. First of all, the plot is extreeeemely predictable, as it hits all the familiar beats found in virtually every alternate timeline story every written. We all know the crew's going to fix the timeline by the end of the episode— the only question is how. But even the how presented here is straightforward and pedestrian, and any obstacles that pop up are dealt with swiftly and easily. 

The other main problem are the numerous and sundry fan-servicy references to various sci-fi movies and TV shows, particularly Star Wars, Star Trek and the ALIEN films. Holy crap, are there references here. 

The Orville's never shied away from borrowing plots and elements from other series—particularly Trek— but this episode takes it to an entirely new level. Virtually EVERY scene is a shout out to some sci-fi franchise. It was extremely distracting, as I ended up compiling a list of the references instead of paying attention to the plot. I'm sure these nods were meant to amuse and delight, but after a while they ended up annoying and detracting.

Once again, this is my main beef about the series. As much as I've enjoyed it, I can't help but with they'd stop relying so much on the various Trek series for inspiration. This season is proof that Seth MacFarlane's capable of writing compelling and thought-provoking sci-fi. If he could just cast aside his TNG crutch and give us some original stories, there'd be no stopping this show!

That hiccup aside, this season has been a massive improvement over the first. It's as if the series finally discovered its footing in Season 2, delivering many highly emotional and surprisingly heartfelt episodes. Somehow the characters, who all started out as little more than archetypes, have grown into fully realized and complex people! Every single character on the show feels absolutely real, which makes it easy for the audience to become invested in what happens to them. Compare this to the real Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery, whose characters are thin as cardboard and little more than ciphers. 

I was also surprised to see the humor was toned down quite a bit this year. Back in Season 1 it was much more prevalent, as the series would often undercut a serious scene with an ill-timed joke. There's much less of that in Season 2, as the show seems to have found a balance between the serious and the funny. 

Once again, my theory is that this is what MacFarlane intended all along. He likely had to inject more humor into the show when it started in order to get it off the ground, because that's what people would be expecting from the creator of Family Guy.

Sadly, so far there's been no official word on whether The Orville's been renewed for Season 3 or not, much to the fans' dismay. For some reason Fox is playing coy, refusing to comment either way. It'd be a real shame to cut down the show just as it's hit its stride. I've noticed a few pieces of merchandise beginning to trickle out, which is a good sign— surely they wouldn't waste time selling Orville merch if they planned to cancel it. Here's hoping for an official announcement soon!


The Plot:
Two figures dressed in cold weather gear trudge across the snowy landscape of Sarin IV. They make their way to an abandoned Union listening post, where they scrounge for supplies. They find a Food Synthesizer, grab it and leave. As they make their way through the snow, a Kaylon Sphere lands nearby. It opens up, and three red-eyed Kaylon drones emerge. Their heads detach (!) and fly after the two men, firing on them.

The two make it to a Union shuttle and remove their hats and scarves. To absolutely no one's surprise, they turn out to be Mercer and Gordon. They take off in the shuttle, but are soon pursued by another Kaylon Sphere. The Sphere fires on the shuttle, preventing it from going to quantum speed. Gordon spots an ice moon nearby and heads for it, hoping to lose the Kaylons there.

He flies the shuttle through a narrow icy canyon, but can't shake the Sphere. Mercer spots a cavern ahead, and they fly into it. He fires on the ceiling of the cavern, causing tons of frozen stalactites to crash down on top of the Sphere, destroying it. The shuttle flies into space and goes to quantum.

Gordon says it's getting harder and harder to find systems that haven't been taken over by the Kaylons. Mercer says that's because they've wiped out half the known galaxy. He suggests they head for the Calivon system, as it hasn't yet been invaded. Gordon says the Calivons are just as bad as the Kaylons, but Mercer hopes they can hide out on the edge of their system.

Just then the shuttle drops out of quantum. Gordon checks the instrument panel, and says their computer's been hacked. Suddenly a large ship comes into view and locks a tractor beam on them. Mercer recognizes it as a scavenger ship. It pulls them into its docking bay.

Mercer and Gordon arm themselves, preparing to make a last stand. The shuttle door opens, and Kelly, Claire, John and Talla enter, all wearing standard sci-fi rebellion clothing. Mercer recognizes Kelly, telling Gordon he dated her once seven years ago.

Kelly meets with everyone in the Conference Room, which is apparently a thing on scavenger ships. She tells Mercer that they're all living in an alternate timeline, and he's supposed to be the captain of the Orville and everyone else in the room is his crew. Mercer's dubious of course, saying there's no way he could ever be a captain.

Kelly explains that seven years ago she was accidentally brought to the future on the Orville. There she met Mercer, her older self and the rest of the crew. Eventually they found a way to send her back to her own time, but worried she was armed with too much knowledge about the future. In order to solve this problem, Claire gave her a mind wipe before sending her home. Unfortunately it didn't take, and Kelly remembered everything. This caused her to make a small change which radically altered the timeline.

Kelly says because she refused a second date with Mercer, they never married and she never cheated on him. She then never felt guilty and got him his captaincy. Because of Mercer's absence, Claire and her kids never came on board and struck up a relationship with Isaac. Without their influence, Isaac never turned against his own people, and the Kaylons won the Battle Of Earth.

John and Talla, who both served on the Orville with a Captain Griffith, back up the Isaac part of her story.

Mercer says even if all that's true, what good does it do them? Kelly has a plan— she wants to send Claire back in time to redo the memory wipe, so she'll agree to a second date with Mercer, which should restore the proper timeline. 

Claire explains that Kelly's brain has a low level of beta secretase, which is why the memory wipe didn't work. She says with the right protein she could compensate and make sure it takes this time. Unfortunately every Union Sickbay's been destroyed by the Kaylons, so there's nowhere to get the protein. John suggests they contact one of the Resistance cells scattered around the galaxy. Kelly agrees and tells John to set a course for the nearest Resistance base.

Kelly apologizes to Mercer for blowing off their second date, saying she was only trying to spare them both a lot of heartache. He tells her he was deeply hurt by their breakup, and it was a dangerous decision to make on her own.

The ship drops out of quantum and approaches an asteroid field. John says the debris used to be a planet, and points out a nearby black hole that's slowly sucking in the remains (Plot Point!). They locate the Resistance Base on a planet ahead. Mercer, Kelly, Claire and John fly down on the shuttle.

They land on the planet and trudge through a forest, eventually coming to a fortified bunker. John knocks, and Yaphit sticks a pseudopod through the peephole and asks for ID. He doesn't recognize John right off, because according to him, a piece of him that contained part of his memory was blown off recently.
The group enters the base, where they're met by the Resistance Leader, who's none other than Alara Kitan. John, who seems to know Alara, introduces her to Mercer, saying she used to be the Orville's Security Chief. John asks if she has what they're after, and she hands the protein to Claire. She checks it out and says it'll work.

Just then an alarm sounds, and Alara says the Kaylons are attacking. She tells John and the others to exit the back way, while she and her Resistance troops hold off the Kaylons. Three columns of Kaylons march toward the bunker, as the Resistance begins firing on them. The Kaylons detach their heads and fire back.

Mercer and the others make it back to the shuttle, only to find a Kaylon waiting for them inside. Mercer and Kelly blast it before it can react (?), and the shuttle takes off. 

Meanwhile in space, the scavenger ship is attacked by several Kaylon Spheres. Gordon sees the approaching shuttle and captures it with a tractor beam, reeling it into the Landing Bay. Unfortunately the ship can't go to quantum with all the Spheres firing at it. 

With nowhere else to go, the ship flees into the asteroid field, hoping the Kaylons won't pursue. Unfortunately the Spheres follow them in, seemingly unaffected by the space rocks glancing off them. John suggests an idea that's so crazy it just might work— hiding inside the nearby black hole. The others are aghast, saying they'll be crushed by the massive gravitational forces inside. John says they'll be OK as long as they hide just inside the event horizon. Gordon flies the ship into the black hole, and they're plunged into instant darkness.

They turn the ship around, and see the Kaylons frantically searching for them. Eventually they give up and leave and Gordon flies the ship out of the black hole. Due to the time dilation effect, they only spent a few minutes in the black hole while two whole days passed outside it. 

Kelly tells Gordon to set a course for Earth. Mercer reminds her that the planet was destroyed by the Kaylons. She says they need to activate the Time Cone that Isaac built, which is on the Orville. John says that during the Battle Of Earth, the Orville took a hit and plunged into the ocean, sinking to the bottom.

On the way to Earth, John examines the "dead" Kaylon from the shuttle. He discovers their all linked by a "Connectome Network," which is sort of like a futuristic wifi. He thinks he may be able to use that to their advantage. Meanwhile, Mercer invites Kelly to his quarters (how long have they been on this ship that they need their own accommodations?) for their second date.

Mercer tells Kelly that he was just about to get his own command when the Kaylons attacked. He asks her about their relationship in the alternate timeline. She says their "other" selves both still care about one another, and regret the breakup.

The ship arrives at the lifeless husk of Earth, which somehow still has an extensive ocean (more on that below!). Gordon notes that the moon's been shattered and half destroyed as well. He detects the Orville at the bottom of the Mariana Trench (of course), seven miles below the surface. John says the scavenger ship could never survive the pressure at that depth, but a Union shuttle with full shields might.

The crew boards the shuttle, and Gordon flies it straight into the ocean. The ship slowly descends, creaking and groaning all the way. Eventually they spot the derelict Orville and enter its Shuttle Bay. They pump out the water and exit.

The crew makes their way through the spooky, darkened corridors to the Bridge. As they enter, Mercer's punched in the nose by none other than... Bortus! He explains that Captain Griffith and his First Officer were killed when the ship was attacked, so he stayed aboard to make sure all the escape pods were launched.

The crew asks how long he's been down here, and Bortus replies nine months. He says the only thing keeping him going was the thought of reuniting with his mate Klyden and son Topa on Moclus. Talla informs Bortus that Moclus was destroyed by the Kaylons some time ago.

The crew get busy to power up the ship and launch it back into space, for some reason. Kelly tells Mercer to take the Captain's chair, but he refuses, saying he's not worthy. She assures him he's ready, and he tentatively sits in the chair, and orders Gordon to fire up the engines.

The ship stubbornly stays put for a few seconds, until Gordon increases the power. It finally breaks free of the surrounding rocks, and slowly climbs toward the surface. It crashes out of the water and flies into space.

John examines the Time Cone, but unfortunately finds that Isaac's notes are incomplete. He says there's no way he can activate it without him. Bortus says Isaac was disassembled when they returned him to Kaylon-1. John has another insane idea. He says Isaac's memory was probably uploaded into the Connectome Network. If he can tap into the system, he might be able to find Isaac's brain inside it and download the info he needs to activate the Cone.

Meanwhile, Mercer and Kelly share a drink in the Mess Hall and talk about their "what if" relationship yet again. She asks if she's a terrible person for wanting this timeline— in which they have a second chance at love— to continue. He says if this plan doesn't work, they could find a deserted planet, build a farm and start a family.

John uses the dead Kaylon's decapitated head to access the network, and locates Isaac's mind. The head's eyes being glowing blue, as Isaac's voice warns John that whatever he's trying, he will fail. John manages to download the info, and deactivates the head.

John meets with the crew and says he's figured out how to activate the Time Cone and send Claire back. Unfortunately it'll take all the ship's power, which will leave them sitting ducks. It'll also alert the Kaylons to their presence, meaning they'll only have a couple of minutes to act before they're intercepted.

John activates the Time Cone in the Lab, then goes to Engineering to monitor the power. Claire says goodbye to her kids, and climbs onto a table under the Cone. Bortus reports four Kaylon ships have detected them and are on an intercept course.

John says the quantum engines aren't producing enough juice, so Mercer orders Bortus to divert all power— including life support
— to the Lab. As the Time Cone begins glowing, Mercer asks Kelly to marry him. Jesus Christ! Is this really the best time for that?

Bortus announces the Kaylon Spheres are only seconds away. Just then the quantum drive overloads, causing the Time Cone to fill the lab with a blinding white light. The Orville explodes.

Seven years in the past, Kelly wakes in her apartment. She synthesizes a cup of coffee and sips it. Suddenly she disappears as she's pulled seven years into the future. A few seconds later she reappears, lying on the floor. She gets up and looks confused, as she clearly remembers everything about her time jaunt.

Suddenly Claire appears behind her. Kelly asks her what's going on, and Claire tells her the memory wipe didn't work and she's there to fix it. She injects Kelly with the beta secretase protein, then administers the memory wipe again. Claire fades out of existence.

Kelly's awakened by her phone. She answers it, and sees it's Mercer. He tells her he had a great time on their date the night before, and says he'd like to take her out again. She pauses for effect, and happy accepts.

• Filming for this episode wrapped on February 26, 2019— slightly less than two months before it aired!

• For the second week in a row we get a truncated, five second opening title sequence. Once again, I assume they needed an extra thirty seconds or so for episode content. Hopefully this isn't a permanent thing, as I like the titles and music!

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #1: As I mentioned above, this episode is packed to the rafters with nods and homages to various sci-fi movie and TV franchises. There were so many of them it honestly became distracting after a while.

The episode opens with a shot of two lone figures trudging across a desolate, snowy landscape. This echoes the opening shot of The Empire Strikes Back, as Luke Skywalker rides his Taun Taun across the icy plains of Hoth.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #2: We cut to a closeup of two masked figures in cold weather gear. The Season 5 Voyager episode Timeless started out EXACTLY like this. In that episode we saw two masked, bundled figures searching an ice planet for the wreck of the starship Voyager.

Note that the identity of these two figures is supposed to be a mystery at this point, but based on their heights and body language, it's beyond obvious that this is Gordon and Mercer. The same thing happened in Timeless, as the masked figures turned out to be Harry Kim and Chakotay!

• As is standard operating procedure in sci-fi movies and TV shows, Mercer and Gordon park their shuttle at least a mile away from their destination. Why the hell didn't they just land next to the listening post? Not only does this force them to slog through knee-deep snow and bitter cold for thousands of feet, it almost gets them killed! When the Kaylons attack, they have to run a mile back to their shuttle, dodging laser blasts all the way.

They do it again a bit later in the episode, as John lands the shuttle miles away from the Resistance bunker.

Despite the fact that it makes absolutely no sense, I see this trope constantly in sci-fi media. They did it in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, among many, many others.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #3: OK, this one's a little iffy, but what the heck. Mercer and Gordon scrounge through the listening post, and discover a working Food Synthesizer. Mercer grabs it and runs out of the post with it.

This scene seemed a lot like the one in The Empire Strikes Back, in which a character in an orange jumpsuit carries a piece of "high tech" equipment as he runs through the corridors of Cloud City on Bespin.

Fans dubbed this character "Willrow Hood" for some reason, and also pointed out that the futuristic item he's carrying is actually an ice cream maker!

Do I think this scene was really an homage to Willrow Hood in Empire? Eh, probably not. But you gotta admit, it does look fairly similar!

• Back in Identity, Part 1 we got our first ever look at a Kaylon spaceship. At the time I wondered how the ships worked— were there actually Kaylons inside piloting them, or were they simply automated drones?

Welp, now we know the answer. There are indeed Kaylons piloting the Spheres. Three, in fact! So much for the Kaylon's "far superior intellect!" It only takes ONE guy to pilot a Union shuttle!

• So the Kaylons can now detach their heads, which are capable of flying around like drones. That's new!

Do ALL Kaylons have flying heads? Or just the ones in this alternate timeline? I wonder if Isaac can detach his head and fly it up and down the corridors of the Orville?

• Mercer and Gordon head for an ice moon to try and lose the pursuing Kaylon ship.

Can we just take a moment to enjoy this amazing sequence? It rivals anything I've seen in any major theatrical blockbuster, but was somehow created on a TV budget! Kudos to the FX team that somehow managed to pull this off!

Can you imagine the reaction if you could somehow show this scene to fans watching Star Trek back in 1966? Their heads would likely explode!

• I love this shot as well, as the Union shuttle jumps to quantum and speeds away from the ice moon. 99% of the time a ship goes to quantum, we just see it zoom away from the camera. It was cool to see the jump from the ship's point of view. It's amazing how big a difference a simple POV change can make!

• After they lose the Kaylons, Gordon tries out the scavenged Food Synthesizer and conjures up a Twinkie. Mercer then acts envious, and asks for half.

Um... if he was really that hungry, why didn't he just order up a Twinkie for himself? He's literally sitting right in front of the Synthesizer. Is it low on power or something? Does Alt-Mercer not know how to use it?

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #4: Kelly rounds up the former Orville crew with her stolen (I guess?) scavenger ship— a large, utilitarian vessel that's seen better days.

As soon as I saw her ship, I realized it was a pretty close match to the Nostromo from ALIEN! Right down to the bank of engines in back and the way they glowed. This had to be a conscious design decision, and not just a coincidence.

• It's taking nearly all my strength, but I'm not going to comment on the distractingly low-cut top that Kelly wears all through this episode.

• At first glance it seems crazy that something as minor as a rejected second date could have such a catastrophic effect on the timeline. But Kelly's explanation actually makes perfect sense!

By rejecting a second date with Mercer, the two of them never got married. Kelly then never cheated on him, and never felt so guilty she pulled a few strings to get him his captaincy. So right there, her seemingly innocent rejection has already removed Mercer from the Orville

In Old Wounds, Claire said she requested a posting on the Orville because she "liked to go where she was needed," and thought a new captain like Mercer would need her help. So Claire never came on board and brought her sons Marcus and Ty with her. There's another major change.

With Claire and her kids out of the picture, they never began a relationship with Isaac. Without their influence on him, he never developed the Kaylon equivalent of emotions. Without those feelings, Isaac never turned against his own people and saved the day at the Battle Of Earth!

See? Kelly's ostensibly unimportant little decision started a domino effect that ultimately had enormous consequences.

Kudos to writer David A. Goodman for taking these seemingly random events and tying them all together in a way that makes perfect sense. The whole explanation is perfectly logical and flawlessly executed.

• In this alternate timeline, John and Talla both served onboard the Orville with Captain Griffith, before the ship was lost. John I can see, but Talla's presence seems a bit iffy. In the prime timeline, Alara left the Orville to spend time with her family on Xelaya. Mercer then specifically requested Talla, because he wanted another super-strong Xelayan Security Officer. 

So the only way Talla could be onboard is if Captain Griffith made the exact same request!

• Kelly meets with Mercer and the others in the conference room of her scavenger vessel. Keep in mind this is basically a pirate ship in space. Would such a craft reeeeeally contain a conference room? Apparently so.

Anyway, take a good look at the red chairs everyone's sitting in...

They look a LOT like Maximilian, the evil robot from Disney's 1979 sci-fi flop The Black Hole! 

I'm not counting this as a reference, because I can't imagine the producers would go to the trouble to make a half dozen customized chairs for such an obscure reference. It is pretty funny though, once you know to look for it.

• Hats off once again to the FX team for creating another amazing shot. At one point the shuttle flies through the sky, slowly touches down on the planet and the crew then exits out the back— all in one continuous unbroken shot.

Obviously they used a CGI model when the shuttle's flying, but somehow they seamlessly matched it to the full-sized prop ship that was parked on location in the woods. It's an impressive scene that's flawlessly executed! Cheers to whoever put it together!

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #5: When John knocks on the door of the Resistance bunker (!), we see Yaphit extend his mouth through the peephole to ask who it is. 

This is an obvious callback to The Return Of The Jedi, in which C-3PO knocked on the door of Jabba's Palace, and a robotic eyeball shot out of a similar peephole to see who was there.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #6: Mercer and the gang land on a planet and enter a bunker, which leads to an underground Resistance base. 

This is virtually identical to a shot in 1984's The Terminator, in which Kyle Reese enters a similar subterranean bunker.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #7: The lit displays in the Resistance bunker are very reminiscent to the ones inside Echo Base in The Empire Strikes Back.

• I was both surprised and delighted to see Alara back, even if it was only in an alternate timeline that was ultimately wiped out.

Earlier this season in Home, the prevailing theory was that actress Halston Sage left the series to star in a film. I was unconvinced, as actors generally sign contracts to prevent them from jumping ship when a better gig comes along. 

There were other rumors that Sage and MacFarlane were romantically involved, then had a bad breakup that forced her off the show. I said that seemed much more likely than the movie explanation.

Her presence in this episode pretty much invalidates my theory though, since I doubt she'd come back if there was any bad blood between the two of them. 

I still have my doubts about the "left for a movie" excuse though, so who knows why the hell she quit? We may never know the real story.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #8: When John first sees Alara he says, "Well, well. Long time no see." 

I was honestly surprised he didn't say, "Alara Kitan, you son of a bitch! I never thought our paths would cross again!" This is a HUGE cliche in sci-fi and action films, seen whenever two partners meet after a falling out. See 1987's Predator movie for a prime example.

• Based on their interaction in the bunker, it appears that at some point in the past Alt-John and Alt-Alara had a romantic relationship that ended badly. Note her line "I've already learned not to believe anything you say."

Nothing stopping the two of them from pairing up, although they never expressed any interest in one another in the prime timeline.

• When John asks Alara how she's doing, she says, "Gravity treatments are kicking my ass, but other than that, pretty good." This is a reference to Home, in which she began losing her superstrength in an Earth-normal environment, and went back to her high-gravity planet of Xeleya to recover. 

• If nothing else, it was nice to see a Xelayan with two ears! Talla's worn her lopsided ponytail so often I'm starting to wonder if she's actually missing her right ear or not.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #9: The Kaylons discover the Resistance base, and send three columns of drones tromping through the woods toward it.

This shot is similar of many scenes of the evil Cybermen doing the same thing over on Doctor Who. Check out the episode Earthshock for a prime example.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #10: The design of the Resistance bunker is practically identical to the one seen on Endor in The Return Of The Jedi.

Heck, this one even blows up real good just like the one in Jedi!

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #11: After Mercer and the others rendezvous with the scavenger ship, they try to lose the pursuing Kaylons in a nearby asteroid field.

If you don't realize what this scene's referencing, then you're just not trying. It's practically a shot for shot remake of the asteroid sequence from The Empire Strikes Back. A scene which still holds up today, by the way!

Incidentally, the music in this scene is even similar to Empire's, full of urgent horns and trilling flutes.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #12: Unable to outrun the Kaylons, Mercer suggests hiding the scavenger ship inside a black hole. 

Note that the black hole shown here looks identical to the one seen in 2014's
 Interstellar. At the time that film came out, much was made of the fact that it was the most scientifically accurate depiction of a black hole ever committed to film. Apparently The Orville's FX team figured why fix something that ain't broke, and used a similar image.

• I'm extremely suspicious as to the ease in which the shuttle flies in and out of the black hole. I'm not a physicist though, so I'll have to take their word for it and give 'em this one. I still have my doubts about the scene though...

• After escaping the Kaylons, Mercer & Co. approach the remains of Earth. We then see the planet appears to be a lifeless, arid husk of its former self. In fact, based on this shot, it looks for all the world like the oceans have even been boiled away.

Yet just a few seconds later the shuttle heads toward a bright blue ocean, covered by wispy clouds. Whaaa...?

Was there some miscommunication between the FX guys? Did someone not get the memo that the wide shot of the Earth should show prominent oceans? I dunno, but something's off in these two shots.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #13: As the ship enters Earth orbit, Gordon points out the shattered remains of the moon.

This is reeeeeally reaching, but that scene reminded me of the 1980s cartoon Thundarr The Barbarian. In that series, a runaway planet passed close to Earth, nearly destroying the planet and causing the moon to split in half.

Do I really think the producers had Thundarr in mind when they wrote this scene? Doubtful. But I'm including it for my own amusement.

• The crew locates the wreckage of the Orville at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, seven miles beneath the ocean. I checked, and the Trench is indeed around seven miles deep! Well done, guys!

I guess when the Kaylons destroyed all life in the ocean, they left the water level intact!

• The shuttle plunges into the ocean and heads toward the bottom. As is does so, Gordon announces their descent in miles. Later when they fire up the Orville and it rises from the bottom, he marks its ascent in meters. ???

• Many, many fans have pointed out the impossibility of the Orville being able to survive the crushing depths found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. After all, the Orville's a space ship, and as such is designed to withstand one atmosphere of pressure (meaning its hull keeps the air inside from exploding outward into the vacuum of space).

The pressure at the bottom of the Trench is supposedly a thousand times that of sea level. There's no reason for the Orville to be able to withstand such extremes.

But you know what? I'm gonna give this one to 'em. The show takes place five hundred years from now. Who knows what the ship's hull's made of? Maybe it's some exotic material that can withstand thousands of atmospheres of pressure. Or maybe it's got a "structural integrity field" that protects the ship and holds it together, like the Enterprise-D on TNG.

Sure it's unlikely it would survive, but I don't see why it has to be impossible.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #14: The crew enters the sunken Orville, and waves their flashlights around in the darkened, spooky corridors. 

This shot is a dead ringer for similar scenes in ALIEN and ALIENS (the only two films in the franchise). Once again, even the music is identical, full of short, ominous and mournful tones. Fox (make that Disney now) owns all three properties, so it very well may be the same music and not a reasonable facsimile!

• Mercer and the others reach the Bridge of the submerged Orville. Unable to budge the door, Mercer says, "Talla, you want to open this jar of pickles?"

This of course was Mercer's signature line when Alara was still on the show and he needed something heavy moved or opened. While it was a fun little bit of fan service to hear the line again, part of me can't help but feel a little put out by it. That's Alara's line! He's not supposed to say it to anyone but her!

• For those of you keeping score, this is now the third time that Dr. Aranov's Time Cone has driven the plot of an episode. The original device was destroyed at the end of Old Wounds, which means Isaac must have built a duplicate to use in Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow.

Apparently the Isaac in this alternate timeline decided to build one as well!

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #15: John downloads Isaac's brain into the decapitated head of a Kaylon drone. Isaac then taunts John, saying whatever he's planning is doomed to fail.

The EXACT same thing happened in ALIEN, when Ash the android lost his head, and told the crew of the Nostromo they were all going to die.

• Sci-Fi Movie & TV Reference #16: The destruction of the alt-Orville is pretty much identical to similar ship explosions in the Star Wars, Star Trek and ALIEN franchises, as well as Babylon 5 TV series and dozens of others I can't think of right now.

• Just as we saw in Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, Younger Kelly wakes in her apartment, synthesizes a cup of coffee and stares out the window.

Suddenly Younger Kelly winks out of existence as she's pulled seven years into the future by the Aronov Device. Oddly enough, Younger Kelly's clothing makes the trip with her, but her coffee mug doesn't, as it falls to the floor and shatters. Weird. Why the clothes but not the cup? Both were in contact with her body.

• Time rewinds, and Younger Kelly wakes up again. This time as she blearily toddles out of her bedroom, we see her framed copy of the Escape album by Journey on her wall.

This is the exact same cover she has hanging in her office on the Orville, first seen (I think) back in the Season 1 episode New DimensionsApparently when she was posted to the Orville she either brought the cover with her, or synthesized a new one.

• This Week's Incongruous 21st Century (And Earlier!) References:

I only noticed one this week. Apparently Twinkies are still a thing in the 25th Century! Not bad for a company that went bankrupt a few years back.

• This Week's Star Trek Swipes:
I already listed this episode's many, many references and homages above. Those were superficial elements though, and had nothing to do with the actual story.

There've been many "We Have To Fix The Timeline" plots in the various Trek series over the years, and The Road Not Taken manages to crib bits and pieces from nearly all of them.

Plot-wise, it's somewhat similar to TNG's Yesterday's Enterprise. In that episode, the Enterprise-C was helping protect a Klingon colony from a Romulan attack, when it was accidentally yanked several decades into the future. This changed the future for Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D, which now found itself in a hellish timeline in which the Federation was getting their butts whooped by the Klingons. Picard then helped the Enterprise-C return to their own time, to save the Klingon colony and prevent the war.

The Road Not Taken bears and even stronger resemblance to two different Voyager episodes, which oddly enough featured variations on the exact same plot!

In the Season 5 episode Timeless, Harry Kim and Chakotay are the only survivors of a disaster that destroyed Voyager and its crew fifteen years ago. Harry then becomes obsessed with finding a way to prevent the accident, going so far as to steal a piece of Borg tech that can send a message back in time to Seven Of Nine. Eventually he succeeds, and the accident is prevented, wiping out Future Harry's grim timeline. So, pretty much the exact same plot as The Road Not Taken.

And then there's Endgame, the series finale of Voyager. In that episode it takes the crew twenty three years to return to the Alpha Quadrant. Unfortunately the lengthy trip resulted in the deaths of many crewmen, including Chakotay and Seven Of Nine. In addition, Tuvok is now suffering some sort of Vulcan dementia because no cure was available in the Delta Quadrant. Janeway, who's now an admiral, becomes obsessed with traveling back through time to help the ship return home before the various disasters occur. Again, pretty darned close to this episode.

• This Week's Best Lines:
(Gordon attempts to lose the lose the Kaylon ship by flying inside an ice moon.)
Mercer: "You ever flown inside one of these?"

Gordon: "Nope."
Mercer: "Should I be worried?"

Gordon: "Yup."

(Mercer & Gordon's shuttle is captured by a scavenger ship.)
Mercer: "Okay, um, don't panic."
Gordon: "Don't panic? They're gonna cut off our skin and wear it like a suit!"

Kelly: "Out of guilt, I helped get you command of the Orville, and because you were captain, the Kaylon were defeated."
Mercer: "Because I was captain?"

Kelly: "Yes."
Mercer: "I stopped the Kaylon?"

Kelly: "Right."
Mercer: "I had to swim with my shirt on until I was twenty!"

(The crew returns to the shuttle, where a Kaylon drone is waiting inside.)

Kaylon: "You will surrender."
Mercer: "You want the top or the bottom?"

Kelly: "I like to be on top."
(Oh, double entendre humor! You are hiLARious! When Kelly said this line, I honestly expected to hear a studio audience shout, "WOOOOOOOOO!" like they used to do on Married: With Children!)

(The crew hides out inside a black hole until the Kaylon search party gives up. When they emerge, they discover the time-dilation effect.)

Talla: "According to the chronometers, two full days have passed."
Gordon: "Man. How was your weekend?"

Kelly: "Am I a terrible person that part of me wants this timeline to continue?"

Mercer: "You're asking the wrong guy."
Kelly: "In the middle of this nightmare universe, I've felt this weird sense of comfort being with you."
Mercer: "Well, maybe we'll fail. Have to go find someplace to live in secret."
Kelly: "Some nice little house on a deserted planet. We could have a couple kids boy and a girl."
Mercer: "We'd have to learn how to farm, how to cook."
Kelly: "Look at the sunset every night."
Mercer: "Look at you every morning."

(They kiss.)
Mercer: "You know, Gordon's probably gonna have to live with us."
Gordon: "Shut up, you're ruining it."

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