Friday, September 29, 2017

The Orville Season 1, Episode 1: Old Wounds

It's the first ever episode of The Orville!

OK, full disclosure here: Regular readers of my blog (both of you!) may remember that I already covered this episode a few weeks ago and gave it a very scathing review. 

I won't rehash all the details, but long story short— I wasn't impressed with the series, as I was shocked and appalled by how thoroughly it aped Star Trek: The Next Generation. It went way beyond "blatant ripoff," as it literally was TNG with the serial numbers filed off. I couldn't understand how series "creator" Seth MacFarlane managed to get away with such an obvious copy. 

I decided then and there that I didn't much care for the show and wasn't going to waste my time reviewing it.

Then a curious thing happened. For reasons I don't yet understand, I kept on watching the show. I found myself warming up to it, and by Episode 3 I was actually starting to like it and care for the characters. So I started reviewing it with About A Girl. I'm now working my way backwards and retro-reviewing the first two episodes.

Old Wounds was written by Seth MacFarlane (natch) and directed by Jon Favreau.

We all know MacFarlane's credentials, so let's talk about Favreau a minute. Although he started out as an actor, he quickly branched out into writing and directing. Favreau's a perfect choice for this project, as he's no stranger to directing genre projects filled with special effects. He previously helmed big-budget projects such as Elf (the only Will Ferrell movie I can stand to watch), Zathura: A Space Adventure, Cowboys & Aliens and The Jungle Book.

He also kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, directing Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Yes, I'm aware that Kevin Feige's the highly successful and talented architect of the MCU, but Favreau most definitely laid the groundwork for it.

Pilot episodes can often be awkward and ponderous, as the writers are still figuring out the tone and direction of the show and the actors are attempting to find their characters. It often takes several episodes before the production team hits their stride.

Not so with Old Wounds. It's the perfect pilot episode, as it hits the ground running. Somehow it manages to effortlessly set up the world of the 25th Century, as well as introducing all the main characters and displaying their personalities and quirks— while still telling a compelling story. And all in just forty four short minutes! It's actually quite impressive. Kudos to MacFarlane for writing such a competent pilot.


The Plot:
It's the year 2418. Planetary Union Commander Ed Mercer comes home early to the New York apartment he shares with his wife Kelly. 
As he enters his bedroom, he's surpsided to see Kelly cheating on him with a blue-skinned Retepsian named Darulio. Stunned and hurt, Mercer walks out.

Cut to one year later. Mercer's now divorced and having a hard time focusing on his career. He's called to Planetary Union HQ, where Admiral Halsey (get it?) offers him the captaincy of the Orville, a mid-level exploratory ship. Mercer's elated and impressed that Halsey chose him for command. His joy evaporates when Halsey tells him there are three thousand ships in the fleet, and the Union desperately needs to fill them with captains. Any captains. 

Halsey brings up Mercer's many screw-ups over the past year, stating he was nobody's first choice. He ominously warns Mercer that this is his last chance. Mercer gleefully accepts the offer, assuring Halsey he won't let him down.

Halsey says the Orville's ready to go, but it's missing a First Officer and a helmsman. Mercer immediately recruits his best friend, Lt. Gordon Malloy, to fill the helmsman spot. Gordon's a reckless, hard-drinking, emotionally arrested man-child, but is supposedly the best pilot in the fleet.

Mercer meets with Gordon in a holodeck, er, I mean Environmental Simulator located... somewhere. On Earth, I guess? Anyway, he tells Gordon the good news about his captaincy, and offers him the job of helmsman. Gordon enthusiastically accepts.

We then see Gordon flying Mercer through the fleet yards in a shuttle. Mercer's appalled to see Gordon drinking a beer while he's piloting, and orders him to put it away. Just then they see the Orville for the first time. Mercer beams proudly at it.

Mercer assembles the entire crew in the Orville's shuttle bay and gives them an inspirational welcome speech. 
He then meets with his officers, including Chief Of Security Lt. Alara Kitan (a member of the Xelayan race, who all  have higher than normal strength), Second Officer Lt. Commander Bortus (from the planet Moclas, whose inhabitants are all male), Navigator Lt. John LaMarr (a laid-back human), Chief Medical Officer Doctor Claire Finn (another human) and Science/Engineering Officer Isaac (a cybernetic lifeform from the planet Kaylon-1). 

Admiral Halsey comes on board to give Mercer his first assignment— delivering supplies to the science station on Epsilon II. He tells him his new First Officer should arrive shortly and then leaves.

Mercer orders the Orville underway, and we're treated to numerous majestic and expensive SFX shots of the ship slowly pulling away from spacedock. Once it's clear, it goes to warp, er, I mean they engage the quantum drive.

Shortly afterward, Halsey sends a message saying a replacement First Officer's been found. Unfortunately it's Commander Kelly Grayson, aka Mercer's cheating ex-wife. Mercer quite rightly flips his lid and calls Halsey, demanding he undo the transfer. Halsey says that making a big stink one day into his first command won't look good, and suggests he be professional about it. Besides, he tells him that Kelly herself requested the posting herself (!).

Kelly rendezvouses with the ship and reports to Mercer's office. They immediately have a huge argument, as the bridge crew listens in. Mercer says he's dreamed of having his own command his entire life, and wants to know why Kelly's trying to sabotage it. She says she realizes she wronged him horribly and wants to make it up to him. She says she'll request a transfer as soon as a position opens on another ship.

The Orville arrives at Epsion II, where they're contacted by Doctor Aranov, a nervous man who says they don't really need supplies. When Mercer says he doesn't understand, Aranov asks him to come down to the surface so he can explain. Mercer leaves Bortus in command, and takes Kelly (why?), Alara and Doctor Finn down to the planet.

There they're greeted by Aranov, who introduces them to his assistant, Doctor Janice Lee. She demonstrates what the station's been working on— a temporal field device that can speed up time inside a quantum bubble. Aranov 
gushes that the device could end hunger by growing entire crops overnight. He then takes great pains to show them a tiny, genetically modified redwood seed, and says the temporal device could make it grow to full size in seconds. Mercer absentmindedly takes a handful of the seeds and puts them in his pocket. Plot Point!

Mercer's mildly impressed, but still doesn't understand why they were called. Aranov warns that the device could also be perverted into a horrible weapon, as it could age an army into old men instantly. He wants The Orville to protect the station and the device from the villainous alien Krill, who I guess are the equivalent of the Klingons in this universe.

Suddenly a lab tech named Derrick Ashton pulls out a blaster and tells everyone to freeze. Janice tries to stop him, but he shoves her into the temporal field, instantly aging her over a hundred years. Derrick radios the Krill and tells them it's time. A Krill Destroyer then comes out of warp, er, quantum space and faces the Orville.

Several Krill shuttles head down to the science station. Bortus sees the Destroyer and contacts Mercer, asking what's going on. Derrick orders Mercer to lie and say everything's OK. In the confusion, Alara rips off a piece of the wall and hurls it at Derrick, knocking him out.

The Destroyer begins firing on the Orville. Bortus shoots back, but the ship is no match for the much larger and more powerful Krill vessel.

Mercer disconnects the temporal device, and he and the others, including Doctor Aranov, make a run for a hidden corridor. Mercer's wounded by a Krill laser, and Kelly helps him along.

Meanwhile, the Orville's taking a pounding from the Krill ship. As the deflector shields are drained, Gordon says he can buy them some time by "hugging the donkey." No, it's not a sexual position, it's a maneuver in which he flies around and around the larger ship, skimming its surface and thus staying out of its weapons range. Bortus tells him to go for it.

Mercer and the others are pinned down by Krill soldiers. He hands the device to Alara, ordering her to get it back to the shuttle. She uses her superstrength to leap over the Krill and readies the shuttle for takeoff. Mercer and the others blast their way through the Krill squad, killing (or maybe just stunning?) them all.

The crew makes it to the shuttle and they're all very careful to announce they're fastening their seat belts before blasting off. 
Another Plot Point! Once they're in space, a Krill steps out from behind a panel (?) and orders them to hand over the device. Thinking quickly, Mercer slams on the brakes, throwing the Krill into the windshield and knocking him out. Told you the seat belts were a Plot Point!

Just then the Orville's deflectors are completely drained. The Krill fire on the defenseless ship, destroying the upper engine ring. Debris slams into the approaching shuttle, knocking out its navigational system. It spins helplessly out of control on a collision course with the Orville.

Bortus orders Gordon to align the ship's cargo bay to match the shuttle's trajectory, so they can fly harmlessly inside. Amazingly he's able to do so, and the shuttle's saved. Even more amazingly, the Krill Destroyer politely stops firing while Gordon's performing this delicate maneuver. Once the shuttle's inside, they begin their assault again, destroying the Orville's middle engine ring this time.

Mercer and the others race to the bridge. The Krill Captain hails the Orville, demanding Mercer hand over the device or he'll destroy them. Kelly tells Mercer she has an idea. She takes one of the redwood seeds from Mercer's pocket, and glues it to the tip of the temporal device. They then place it inside a shuttle and remotely pilot it over to the Krill ship.

Once the shuttle's inside, Aranov sends a signal to the device, activating it. The seed instantly grows into a fully mature redwood tree, hundreds of feet high, completely destroying the Krill ship.

The Orville limps back to Earth, where it undergoes repairs. Kelly meets with Mercer, saying a new first officer is available and she's leaving the ship. Mercer changes his mind and asks her to stay, saying that despite their differences, they still make a great team.

Later Kelly meets with Admiral Halsey in his office. She thanks him for taking her advice and giving Mercer his own command. She asks Halsey not to tell Mercer it was her idea, which I'm sure will never, ever come back to bite her in the ass.


• In the original script, Mercer's name was Ed Stevens. No idea why it was changed, but I'll admit I like "Mercer" better.

• As the episode opens, we see a panoramic shot of futuristic New York City. Apparently the Statue Of Liberty is still a thing in the 25th Century. Also, I believe that's the Freedom Tower in the center of the screen. Note the many other buildings dwarfing it!

We then get a very prominent shot of the Brooklyn Bridge. I wonder if this was a subtle Star Trek homage? In the Trek films, Starfleet Headquarters is located in San Francisco. Every time the crew returns to Earth visits Starfleet, we always see a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

• Mercer flies home in a tiny shuttle and lands it at his apartment. Take a look behind the seat of his shuttle. Uh-oh! Looks like his little ship's got the X-Box's infamous Red Ring Of Death!

• This is some Heavy Duty Nitpicking (you'll hear that phrase a lot around here), but whatever. When Mercer comes home, he hears giggling coming from his bedroom. He then walks over and presses three buttons on the keypad to open the door.

Does that seem right? Who'd want to have to enter a keycode every time they wanted to enter their own bedroom?

See? I told you it was heavy duty!

• Mercer enters his apartment and discovers Kelly cheating on him with Darulio, a blue-skinned Retepsian. If Darulio looks vaguely familiar, that's because he's played by an uncredited Rob Lowe.

By the way, a second later Darulio spews blue fluid from his eyebrows. The implication here of course is that this is his alien splooge, and Darulio just ejaculated on network TV! How the hell did MacFarlane get THAT past the censors? Is it OK because he's an alien, and he's squirting out of his eyebrows instead of his penis?

One last thing about Darulio. As Kelly hurries out of bed and chases after Mercer, Darulio opens his mouth and emits what sounds like a quack! When he shows up later in the season in Cupid's Dagger, he speaks standard English.

I'm wondering if at this early point in the series he was just a one-off character and they had no plans to bring him back, hence his quacking? 

• Admiral Halsey offers Mercer the captaincy of the Orville. Halsey's played by actor Victor Garber, aka Professor Stein of Legends Of Tomorrow fame. I really miss him on that show, as his absence is sorely felt.

• Sorry to see that terrible office wall art is still alive and well in the 25th Century.

• When we first see Mercer, his uniform features epaulets with three bars on them. I'm assuming this means he's a commander.

Once he takes command of The Orville, he has four bars on each shoulder, indicating he's now a captain.. Nice attention to detail!

• Mercer meets Gordon in the Environmental Simulator, where he's fighting a holographic ogre in a samurai village (?). Gordon boasts that he wrote the program, and gave the ogre "a really neat personality."

Not gonna lie— I'd like to see more of Justin the Ogre, Gordon's jovial holographic sparring partner.

By the way, at the end of the scene Gordon cuts off Justin's head, and the Simulator announces, "YOU WIN!" The congratulatory voice was clearly provided by Seth MacFarlane!

• I can't help but think that the Orville greatly resembles a woman's sling-back shoe.

• Although I like the overall look of the Orville, it features one heck of a MAJOR design flaw (in my opinion, of course). In order to get in or out of the shuttle bay, pilots have to fly between the ship's massive engine rings! The middle ring is even level with the bay doors! Yikes! 

Surely there had to be a better place to put the bay.

By the way, I will be bringing up this particular point over and over during the show's run, but Old Wounds is the first time in which we see it.

• As Mercer takes command of the Orville, he addresses the entire crew in the shuttle bay. I wonder... did they really hire a ton of extras and whip up several hundred uniforms just for this one brief scene? That's pretty impressive if they did.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the first two or three rows are real people standing in front of a green screen, and the rest are a CGI crowd. 

• In the intro I praised this episode for somehow managing to establish an entire new world, introduce a slew of characters and still tell a story. 

Case in point— the scene in which Mercer reviews his officers. Not only does it effortlessly acquaint us with the crew and their personalities, but it features quite a bit of worldbuilding as well:

— Alara mentions that Xelayans don't usually join the military, because they're a planet of brainiacs. This actually becomes a plot point later on in the series.

— During the review, Bortus reveals that the Moclan race only urinates once per year. This also becomes a plot point later on.

— Also, the opening scene features Kelly having an affair with a blue-skinned alien named Darulio. Although he seems like a one-off, throwaway character, he's actually quite important, as he returns later on and is the focus of an entire episode!

• When Mercer reviews his command staff, we get a brief scene of his futuristic iPad, which contains a partial crew manifest. 

The first six names are the main cast, while the rest of the list is populated with names from the production crew. The list includes:

Laura Lamour: Chief Of Operations (who's really a prop designer on the show)

Kit Stolen: Chief Of Repairs (assistant art director)
Alex Maynard: Assistant Medical Officer (production artist)
Matt Chase: Medical Officer (costume department)
Jack Lineweaver: Assistant Science Officer (production designer)
Josh Pierce: Chief (location manager)
Linda Herrera: Medical (buyer)
Gary Rake: Repairs (first assistant director)\
Sabrina Plaice: Repairs (construction assistant)
Tony Lattanzio: Repairs (construction assistant)

• Wow, what a different an episode makes! Alara looks much more alien here in Old Wounds, as she has no eyebrows and seems to have a slightly more pronounced forehead. 

Her look completely changes in all subsequent episodes. Apparently she decided she wanted to look more like an Earth girl, so she had her forehead filed down, grew some eyebrows and went overboard on the beauty makeup!

Poor Halston Sage, who plays Alara, actually shaved her eyebrows for the pilot! Unfortunately her look was poorly received by the cast & crew, so it was decided to tinker with her prosthetics. She wore false eyebrows for the rest of the series to soften her look a bit.

• T
his is some hardcore scientific nitpicking, but whatever. Supposedly Alara has superstrength because her home planet of Xelaya has incredibly high gravity, causing her muscles to develop accordingly. Than means she her strength level is average on her world, but much, much higher on Earth or an Earth-like environment.

So far, so good, as this is scientifically plausible. Unfortunately in real life (!), Alara would not look like a tiny elfin girl. She'd likely be four feet wide and brimming with bulging muscles, like a female Bulgarian wrestler. Also, the longer she spends in an Earth-normal gravity, the more her superstrength will fade— unless she puts in some serious time at the gym with some major weights!

• Doctor Finn is played by Penny Johnson Jerald. She's no stranger to sci-fi, as she had a recurring role as Kasidy Yates on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That's undoubtedly why she was cast in this series, since it apes the Trek Universe so closely.

• When we first meet John Lamarr, his only concern is whether Mercer will allow him to drink cokes on the bridge, as his previous captain did. Mercer says it's fine, as long as he keeps it under the instruments.

Later on after the ship's underway, we see John surreptitiously take a sip of coke from a futuristic cup!

• When Mercer heads to the bridge for the first time, he walks up a flight of stairs in between decks! That's definitely something we never saw on any version of the Enterprise!

Amazingly, this staircase isn't just decorative— it's actually functional! The Orville's ship sets are built on two levels— a rarity in TV and movies. The first floor contains corridors, crew quarters, Mercer's quarters and his office, the sickbay and mess hall. The second floor contains more corridors, the upper level of Mercer's quarters, the briefing room and of course the bridge.

• As the Orville leaves the spacedock, for some reason Bortus and Alara both stand at the stations directly behind Mercer. This is the only time they ever do this, as for the rest of the episode they sit at consoles to Mercer's left. In fact they use the side consoles for the rest of the series.

I'm guessing that since this was the pilot episode, the creative team was still figuring things out as they went along.

• I love the way the Orville enters Quantum Drive, as each of the three engine rings powers up before it zips off. Kudos to whoever came up with this idea. I've always wished the ships on Star Trek has some sort of powering up sequence like this.

• In the past, shows like Star Trek featured a main viewer covered with a blue or green screen. Star fields, planets and messages from angry Klingons would then be matted into the screen in post. It was a clunky and costly method, and the actors had no idea what they were supposed to be looking at on the viewer.

Not so on The Orville! The windows surrounding the bridge are actually an enormous, curved 90 foot wide hi-def LED screens! Stars and planets are displayed on the screen in real time, and the actors can now see and react accordingly. Cool!

• Here's a curious oddity— when the ship first leaves the spacedock, Mercer's chair is clearly covered in fabric, and features thin armrests with touch screens built into them.

A minute later, Gordon asks if there are any bars or strip clubs on Epsion II. Suddenly Mercer's chair is covered in thickly padded leather or vinyl!

A few seconds after that, Mercer's informed that Kelly's been assigned as his new First Officer. Sure enough, his chair's back to fabric again! And it remains that way for the rest of the episode.

As I said earlier, this is the pilot episode, so they hadn't finalized everything yet. I'm betting the scene with the leather chair was filmed early in the production, then changed to fabric later on. Who knows, maybe they discovered the leather chairs made embarrassing fart noises whenever the actors sat or changed positions in them, and hurriedly switched to quieter fabric ones!

• This episode marks the first appearance of Yaphit, the gelatinous blob voiced by comedian Norm MacDonald.

• When Kelly first enters Mercer's office, you can see a small model of a plane on his desk. That's the Wright Flyer— the first ever heavier-than-air plane. It was famously flown by Wilbur and Orville Wright. Presumably the series' ship was named after Orville Wright, though why they wouldn't christen it after his last name is beyond me.

• When Doctor Aranov first contacts the Orville, we see a beagle on a couch behind him, furiously licking its junk.

This is no doubt a nod to Enterprise. On that series, Captain Archer had a pet beagle named Porthos who lived in his quarters.

• Aranov's played by veteran character actor Brian George, who's guest starred on hundreds of TV series over the years. He's probably best known for playing Babu Bhatt on Seinfeld.

George is another Star Trek veteran, as he played Dr. Bashir's father on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and made a guest appearance as an alien on Star Trek: Voyager.

• Mercer & the others land a shuttle at the Epsilon II Science Research Facility, a large building with a sleek, futuristic design.

Oddly enough the Facility bears a very striking resemblance to the Baxter Pharmaceuticals building in Thousand Oaks, California, right here on good old 21st Century Earth!

You can see it for yourself on Google Maps! The parking lot even has those stone benches, as seen in the episode when the shuttle lands!

The Baxter Pharmaceuticals building has been seen in many, many movies and TV shows, like Demolition Man, where it played the part of the San Angeles Police Department!

It also starred as Sabre Headquarters in The Office! Have you ever tasted a rainbow? You will!

• As the crew tours the Epsilon Facility, Doctor Finn's impressed by its cavernous interior.

As near as I can tell the interiors were shot at Baxter Pharmaceuticals as well.

• During the tour, the crew walks past an alien who appears to be a member of Lt. Dann's species. In case you're scratching your head wondering where he is, Dann doesn't actually appear in this episode. He first popped up in Cupid's Dagger.

• At one point Doctor Aranov shows Mercer a dish full of generically modified redwood seeds. He points out that they've been crossed with tardigrade DNA, which makes them able to survive and grow in the harshest of conditions.

Tardigrades, or water bears as they're more commonly known, are a real thing. They're cool looking microscopic creatures that are virtually indestructible. They can survive freezing or boiling temperatures and even exposure to radiation!

Oddly enough, over on Star Trek: Discovery (which premiered around the same time as The Orville), tardigrades played a HUGE role in the overall story arc. The Discovery was powered by a "spore drive," which used gigantic, genetically modified tardigrades that could somehow instantly teleport the ship from one part of the galaxy to another. Yeah, that really happened on the show. 

Sadly, it appears that STD (as I like to call it) lifted the whole "tardigrade teleportation" concept, along with many others, from an obscure computer came created by an amateur developer named Anas Abdin. In fact the parallels were so glaring that he lawyered up and is suing CBS for copyright infringement! Good for him!

Based on the huge number of similarities with Abdin's game, I am 100% convinced that STD stole his ideas. Not so with The Orville though, as tardigrades are a very small (heh) part of the overall plot.

• Doctor Aranov finally shows the Orville crew the reason he brought them to Epsilon II— the Temporal Field Device (aka the Aranov Device, aka the Time Cone). Get used to it— it pops up over and over again in the series, and plays a huge part in the Season 2 finale.

• Doctor Lee uses a banana to demonstrate how the Temporal Field Device works. Hmm... for decades now scientists have been warning us that the banana's in imminent danger of becoming extinct. Looks like they're still alive and well in the 25th Century!

• This is some even more hard core nitpicking, but here goes.

Doctor Aranov touts the benefits of the Temporal Field Accelerator, claiming it could heal life-threatening wounds in an instant. Sounds like a beneficial side effect, eh?

But wait a minute... that's not how the Accelerator works! That's not how it works at all!

Doctor Lee herself confirms this when she explains, "Captain Mercer, this banana is suspended in a quantum bubble that can be adjusted to accelerate time. Out here only a few moments have passed. Inside the bubble, it's a month in the future."

That means the banana didn't skip over a month and instantly become rotten. It still experienced every single second of those thirty days
— just very quickly.

That means it'd be useless for treating life-threatening wounds. The patient wouldn't be instantly healed— they'd still have to fight off infection and experience debilitating pain as their injuries healed over a period of weeks. It'd just happen faster. Meaning they could still die from their wounds!

Told you it was hard core!

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• Janice Lee is killed (com-O-dee!) when a traitorous lab tech named Derrick pushes her into the temporal field, causing her to age a hundred years in a second. Doctor Finn examines Lee's body and says she's now over 125 years old.

I'm not nitpicking here, just spitballing. In the TNG pilot episode Encounter At Farpoint, Doctor McCoy made a cameo appearance and was still going strong at the age of 137. Presumably this means medical science in the TNG universe advanced to the point where human life expectancy is twice what it is now.

Based on Janet's untimely death, it seems like residents of The Orville universe must not live as long as TNG citizens. Or maybe they do, and the shock of aging a hundred years in a second killed poor Doctor Lee. Now that I think about it, that's probably the answer. I'm betting that only the parts of her body directly in the field aged, while the rest of her remained twenty five. That'd be enough to kill anyone!

By the way, when Janice is pushed into the beam, her body ages but her clothes remain unchanged. Shouldn't her outfit have aged as well? Or do 25th Century fabrics never wear out?

• So what was Derrick's deal? He betrays the station (and the Union) by attempting to hand over the Temporal Device to the Krill. But why? What was in it for him? I guess it's none of our business, as we never see him again after Alara knocks him out.

• When the Krill Destroyer arrives, the Orville finds itself hopelessly outmatched by the bigger ship. Gordon manages to save the day by "hugging the donkey," meaning he flies the Orville so closely around the Krill ship it can't fire on it.

The thing is, it looks like Gordon could have saved himself a lot of effort by just parking the ship underneath the Destroyer and hiding out there!

• I like the design of the Krill quite a bit. They look a little like the Jem'Hadar from DS9, but with some space vampire thrown in for good measure.

In the original version of the pilot script the Krill didn't have their deadly aversion to sunlight — that came later when David A. Goodman wrote the episode Krill. The producers then re-edited this episode to outfit the Krill with helmets whenever they were in direct sunlight. Sneaky!

• Mercer & the others race through the Facility to escape from the Krill. They round a corner, but are stopped by a sealed bulkhead. Mercer tries to open it, but it's locked tight. He looks to Alara and says, "You want to open this jar of pickles for me?" She takes a few steps back, leaps at the door and knocks it completely through the wall.

This is the first ever instance of the "pickles" line, which Mercer will repeat many times during the series.

• At one point Mercer & Co. reach a dead end and decide to make a run for the shuttle:

Mercer: "All right, get ready."
Kelly: "Doc, stay behind Alara."
Aranov: "Which one's Alara?"
Alara: "Oh, I'm Alara."
Aranov: "Sorry, still learning names."

Ha! I love this scene! He just met these people a few minutes ago, so it makes perfect sense he wouldn't know who they all are yet. Plus it highlights the typical TV trope that all characters automatically know and remember everyone's names.

• So what happened to the rest of the staff on the Epsilon II Facility? When the Krill attack, Doctor Aranov hops in the shuttle with the Orville crew and hightails it the hell out of there.

Aranov never once mentions his colleagues, nor does he seem upset about the fact that he left them all to fend for themselves against the deadly Krill troops. Lucky for the scientists that the Krill didn't think to hold them all hostage in exchange for the Temporal Device.

• Mercer & the others fight their way through the Krill soldiers and make it back to their shuttle. As they blast off, Mercer orders them all to fasten their seat belts— something no one ever does again for the rest of the series. 

Of course the reason he makes a point of telling everyone to buckle up is to set up the gag in which he slams on the shuttle's brakes (?), which causes the Krill soldier to fly forward and knock himself out on the windshield.

By the way, you can tell this show's set in the 25th Century because the seat belt buckles light up when fastened!

• Shortly after the shuttle takes off, a Krill soldier magically appears from behind a panel and demands they hand over the Temporal Device. I'm still trying to figure out where he was hiding inside the tiny shuttle. The alcove in which he's hiding looks to be barely a foot wide. Plus how did no one notice him when they walked past him?

• Once Mercer and the others are back on the Orville, the Krill Commander threatens to blow up the ship unless they surrender  the device to him. For some reason this particular Krill's eyes feature glowing white pupils (you may have to zoom in to see them). It's a cool effect, but it's never seen again in any subsequent episodes.

• This episode begins another long-standing tradition on the series. As Mercer and Kelly prepare the Quantum Accelerator, we see a shuttle in the background labeled "SCV-197-1." You can't tell from this still, but they're carrying the Accelerator into a second shuttle just out of range at the right of the screen.

One would think this second shuttle would probably be numbered "SCV-197-2" or something like that, to help tell them apart, right?

Wrong! The shuttle that's sent over to the Krill ship is ALSO labeled SCV-197-1.

This will happen over and over and over in subsequent episodes. I honestly can't tell if this is a production error, or if the creators decided they didn't want to keep track of shuttle designations and just said, "Eh, give 'em ALL the same number."

• So the Orville crew attaches a redwood seed to the Temporal Accelerator & sends it to the Krill ship. They remotely activate the device, causing the redwood to grow to its full height in the space of a second, which completely destroys the Krill vessel.

Wait... I know Doctor Aranov said the redwood seed was crossed with tardigrade DNA, so it could survive any environment. So that explains how it's existing in the vacuum of space. But how the hell is it growing without soil, nutrients or water of any kind? Is the tardigrade DNA handling that as well?

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

Despite the fact that The Orville takes place some four hundred years from now, the crew seems intimately familiar with 20th & 21st Century pop culture. I'm assuming this is to help  make the characters and situations more relatable to us. Anyway, here're the references I noticed.

Kelly cheats on Mercer with a blue-skinned alien named Darulio. Mercer refers to the alien as Papa Smurf.

Soft drinks still exist, as John sips a Coke on the bridge.

Derrick holds Mercer hostage, and tells him to contact the Orville and tell them everything's fine. Mercer calls the ship and says they're having a pizza party, which is apparently still a thing.


I already went through The Orville's many, many, many similarities with Trek in an earlier post, so there's no point in repeating them all here. I did spot a couple of additional swipes when I rewatched the pilot for this review though, so I'm listing those here:

— As the Orville gets underway, we're treated to a series of beauty shots of the ship leaving the spacedock. In particular we see it sail past a shuttlebay door, and rise majestically in front of a group of spacewalking astronauts who wave goodbye.

Note that we saw virtually identical shots of the Enterprise in at least two of the Star Trek theatrical films!

— As the Orville clears the space dock, we get an overhead shot of the ship, looking down through the upper dome and into the bridge. If you look closely you can actually see Mercer and the others sitting at their posts. It's a pretty cool shot.

In The Cage, the very first Star Trek pilot episode, there's a similar shot of the camera peering down into the bridge of the Enterprise. There's no doubt in my mind that the flyby in The Orville was an homage to the shot in The Cage.

By the way, this Cage shot admittedly looks a bit creaky now, but bear in mind it was filmed way back in 1964!

— Mercer and the others attempt to dock their shuttle with the Orville while it's under attack by the Krill Destroyer. Unfortunately the shuttle's struck by debris, knocking out its navigational system. In order to save the shuttle, Gordon expertly lines up the rear of the ship into the shuttle's path, so it flies safely into the bay.

A similar situation happened in the dreadful Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, as Kirk & Co. flew a shuttle at top speed into the Enterprise's bay while it was under attack by a Klingon ship.

— I'm probably reeeeeeeally reaching with this so-called similarity, but whatever. The Orville crew wear color-coded uniforms denoting their departments. Blue = Command, Green = Science & Medical, etc. Notice that the Red (Security) and Orange (Operations & Engineering) uniforms are pretty close in color. In fact in certain scenes it's hard to tell the two colors apart.

In The Cage again, command officers wore gold shirts, while the ops & engineering crew wore peach-colored tops. The two colors were nearly indistinguishable, especially on old school picture tube TVs. In fact it wasn't until sometime in the 1990s that I realized there were peach colored uniforms!

As I said this is likely a stretch, but is it possible The Orville's color similarity was a very obscure nod to the uniforms in The Cage?

• This Week's Best Lines:

Admiral Halsey: (to Mercer) "Look, the truth is, you're nobody's first choice for this job. But we have 3,000 ships to staff, and we need captains. We're giving you one last chance."

Mercer: "Look, I- I know Gordon has his issues, but we all know there's nobody who can drive a starship like him."
Halsey: "Didn't he once draw a penis on the main viewing screen of outpost T85?"
Mercer: "He's drawn a lot of penises on a lot of things, but, Admiral, if you were caught in an ion storm, who would you want at the helm?"

Mercer: (reviewing his officers) "All right, uh, Lieutenant Commander Bortus, our second officer. You know, I've never met a single-gender species before. Your entire species is male, isn't it?"
Bortus: "That is correct, sir."
Mercer: "So, there's probably not a lot of arguments about leaving the toilet seat up and that kind of thing, right?"
Bortus: "No. Moclans urinate only once per year."
Mercer: "Really? That's... me, I'm-I'm up two, three times a night."
Bortus: "That is unfortunate."
Mercer: (sadly) "It is."

Gordon: "I've never been to the Epsilon Science Station. What's it like?"
Bortus: "Epsilon 2 is an outpost devoted exclusively to scientific inquiry.
Mercer: "Researchers from all over the galaxy petition to work there."
Gordon: "Really? Wow. Any good bars?"
Bortus: "I will investigate."
Mercer: "No, Bortus, you don't have to investigate that."
Bortus: "I have already obtained the information."
Mercer: "Oh."
Bortus: "Shall I withhold it?"
Mercer: "No, you can tell us."
Bortus: "There are no bars."
Gordon: "How about strip clubs?"
Mercer: "Gordon."
Gordon: "Sorry."
Bortus: "There are no strip clubs."

Derek: "Put down that comscanner and drop all your weapons now."
Mercer: "Listen, I don't know what you're trying to..."
(Derek fires at a computer next to Mercer.)
Mercer: "Okay, okay, relax."
Derek: "Move."
Doctor Aranov: "Derek, what the hell are you doing?"
Mercer: "Oh, of course it's a Derek."

Gordon: (Seeing Krill fighters speed toward the Epsilon station) "God, there's no way we're gonna be out by 5:00 today, are we?"

Gordon: "Sir, since I pulled that off, can I please wear shorts to work?"
Bortus: "I've already said no."

(The Krill Commander appears on the viewscreen and demands the time device.)
Mercer: (to Krill Commander) "Sorry, right, yeah, sorry. I'm a little distracted lately. I just got out of a rough marriage, and it's been a difficult time. My wife had an affair.
Kelly: "Oh, my God. Are you really bringing this up right now?"
Mercer: "I'm trying to keep him talking, so I can buy us some time."
Kelly: "Oh, okay. In that case, you know what? You're an objective third party. Are you married?"
Krill: "What?"
Mercer: "Oh, my God, you're ac... you're bringing him into our..."
Kelly: "No, I'm just buying us some time. Let me ask you something. Do you make an effort to balance your career with your home life?"
Krill: "A marriage is work."
Kelly: "It takes work, right? Compromise."
Krill: "On both sides, yes."
Kelly: "And if you didn't make that effort, would you be surprised if your wife sought comfort in the arms of another?"
Krill: "No, that would be selfish."
Mercer: "No, that would be se... Yeah, yeah, 'cause both of you are complete friggin' saints.
You know what? I don't have to sit here and listen..."
Krill: "ENOUGH!"

(Mercer says, "Happy Arbor Day" right before he destroys the Krill ship with a giant redwood.)
Gordon: "What's Arbor Day?"
Mercer: "It's the holiday where you plant the trees."
John: "I wouldn't have got that."
Gordon: "Oh, yeah. No, I didn't get that, either."
Mercer: (to Kelly) "You knew what Arbor Day was, right?"
Kelly: "I mean, actually, I had to think a second. Kind of confusing."
Mercer: "Nobody knows what Arbor Day is?"
Bortus & Alara: "No."
Aranov: "I knew."
Bortus: "I do not."
Mercer: (to Kelly) "What would you have said?"
Kelly: "I would've said, 'You got wood."
Gordon: "Yeah. Yes."
Mercer: "Yeah, that is better, isn't it?"

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