Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Orville Season 3, Episode 6: Twice In A Lifetime

This week on The Orville we get another time travel episode, as Gordon's thrown into the past and ends up making a very familiar life for himself there.

Overall Twice In A Lifetime Is another banger of an episode, as the show continues its winning streak. 

Fair warning though— this is yet another episode that's built on the foundation of a previous one, and relies HEAVILY on the viewer's encyclopedic knowledge of the series. It's a direct sequel to Season 2's Lasting Impressions, and if you've not seen that episode you're gonna be well and truly lost here.

As I'm so fond of pointing out, that's a pretty risky move, since over THREE YEARS passed between Season 2 and 3. Of course that wasn't intentional, as it was a result of the Covid pandemic. Still, it's a reach to expect the audience to remember all these prior episodes.

Although the episode was generally well written, it's not without its problems. First off is the fact that the whole thing's incredibly contrived. The contortions the script has to go through in order to send Gordon to the past to hook up with his holographic crush Laura Huggins are nothing short of amazing.

It's especially jaw-dropping when the crew determines Gordon was sent to Laura's time because he was simply thinking about her when he was hit by a wave of temporal energy— as if time itself read his mind!

The episode also has to do a ton of retconning in order to make the story work. Gordon in particular is the subject of most of this, as the script paints him as a technical and mathematical genius— one who's able to somehow use 21st Century technology to send a message to the Orville (some four hundred years in the future) as well as construct a new identity for himself in the past. 

This is quite a major change, as up to now Gordon's been depicted as a good-natured idiot and moron, who was ignorant of even the most general knowledge.

Fortunately these minor hiccups are offset by the episode's main theme, which asks what's more important— Duty To Society, or Duty To One's Self. It's a valid question, and like most of Seth MacFarlane's scripts, it doesn't provide any easy answers. Instead it presents both sides of the issue, and lets the audience decide for itself. Just like all good sci-fi should!


The Plot:
We open on Gordon hosting a party in his quarters. He sings That's All I've Got To Say— the song he learned from Laura Huggins, a 21st Century woman whose hologram he fell in love with last season (yeah, that happened).

After the song, Isaac attempts to make small talk with Charly, but she angrily shuts him down. Charly sees a replica of Laura's smartphone lying on a desk, and asks Gordon what it is. He explains who it belonged to, and uses it to take a selfie with Charly and Bortus.

Later in the Astrophysics Lab, John and Isaac inform Mercer they've been experimenting with the Aronov Device (which was introduced way back in Old Wounds). Originally the Device could accelerate time directly underneath it, but John says they've managed to greatly expand the dimensions of its temporal field. More importantly, they can now use it to send objects into the past or future.

Mercer reports the discovery to Admiral Perry, who says time travel could be used as a weapon if it fell into the hands of the Kaylon. He sends a convoy to rendezvous with them and deliver the Device to a research facility on Sabik 3.

The Orville hooks up with the convoy, which is led by Admiral Ozawa for some reason. She tries to contact Sabik 3, but gets no answer. Sensing something's wrong, the convoy speeds to the station, only to find it destroyed. Mercer realizes the Kaylon somehow knew they were coming and laid a trap for them.

Just then a fleet of Kaylon ships drops out of quantum and fires on the convoy. We get another gorgeous and epic space battle, as the Orville's battered by Kaylon Spheres. Ozawa orders all ships to retreat to the Veil Nebula. Suddenly the Orville's caught in a tractor beam, as the Kaylon order them to surrender the Aronov Device.

Mercer orders Talla to destroy the Device so it doesn't fall into Kaylon hands. Suddenly the ship's rocked by an explosion, and Talla's momentarily knocked out. Gordon says he'll do it, and for no good reason, Mercer agrees. Gordon runs to the armory and picks up a blaster, then hurries to the Lab.

Isaac tells Mercer they may be able to escape the tractor beam by overloading the quantum core into the deflectors. Mercer tells him to go for it, and Isaac reroutes the power.

Gordon makes it to the Lab, and just as he's about to fire on the Aronov Device, the quantum core overloads. A wave of temporal energy hits Gordon, throwing him backwards and seemingly splitting him into several duplicates before they all disappear.

The Kaylon tractor beam is disrupted long enough for the Orville to jump to quantum.

Sometime later the crew gathers in the Astrophysics Lab, looking for Gordon. Unfortunately there's no trace from him. Just then the ship receives a transmission— from four hundred years in the past. It's from Gordon, who was thrown back in time by the temporal wave. He says he appeared on Earth in 2015, and has been living there for six months (PLOT POINT!). He pleads with them to rescue him.

John searches the Union database, and discovers Gordon's obituary, stating he died at age ninety six on July 12, 2068. John and Isaac theorize that Gordon was thinking about Laura when the Aronov Device overloaded, causing it to transport him to her time.

Mercer realizes the obit means Gordon broke Union Temporal Law by interfering with the timeline. He says they need to go back in time to retrieve him and undo any damage he's caused.

John and Isaac work on a way to use the Aronov device to send the entire ship back in time. They manage to do so, but unfortunately their aim's a little off and they arrive in 2025— ten years after Gordon appeared in the past. The news gets worse— John says the time jump used the ship's entire supply of dysonium, meaning they're stuck there.

Mercer says they'll split up into two teams— he and Kelly will find and retrieve Gordon, while Isaac and Charly will search for dysonium. Isaac uses his holographic projector to disguise himself as a human. They take a shuttle down and land outside Pasadena.

We then see Gordon— dressed as a pilot— working at an airplane hangar. He looks up and spots Mercer and Kelly approaching. Kelly says they're there to take him home, but Gordon says it's not that simple. He asks them to go for a drive with him.

Gordon says after years of waiting for rescue he's grown comfortable with his new life. Kelly warns that he's clearly violated Union Temporal Law, and will have to answer for it. Just then they pull up to his house, and are greeted by Gordon's wife Laura (formerly Huggins) and his young son Edward (!). Oh, and Laura's pregnant with their second child! Uh-oh!

Elsewhere, Charly and Isaac hoof it down a road, miles from the dysonium (of course). Charly decides they need transportation, and sees a biker bar in the distance. The two enter the bar, which is filled with stereotypical biker types.

Charly strikes up a conversation with a couple of the patrons, and bets them that Isaac can beat anyone in the bar at arm wrestling. If he wins, the two bikers will hand over their rides. Amazingly they agree. 

They pick the biggest, strongest biker in the bar to wrestle against Isaac. Naturally he easily beats him, and Charly and Isaac become the proud owners of a couple of bikes. So... how is this not altering the past like Gordon did?

Also, this entire side plot has nothing to do with the rest of the episode, and is clearly padding.

Back at Gordon's house, Laura serves lunch and tells Mercer and Kelly about how they met and fell in love. They look uncomfortable as they realize Gordon's settled into his new life here in the past.

Back on the Orville, John's repairing the ship when he mentions his shoulder's aching. Talla, who's hanging around Engineering for no good reason, uses her Xelyan strength to massage him. He moans in pleasure, and the two begin making out. This scene also has absolutely NOTHING to do with the episode of course, and is here solely to set up their inevitable relationship episode.

After lunch, Mercer and Kelly speak privately to Gordon. They condemn him for violating Union policy by interacting with Laura and starting a family with her. Gordon fires back that he spent years abiding by Union law— living in isolation in a deserted cabin in the woods, and having to kill and eat animals to survive. He says he eventually said screw it and decided to live the rest of his life his way. He says the fact that Mercer and Kelly still exist means he didn't change anything significant. Mercer says they don't understand enough about time travel to know that for sure.

Just then Laura enters, having overheard the entire conversation. Mercer and Kelly leave, but warn they'll be returning to take him back to the future.

Laura tells Gordon she's always known there was something odd about him, especially the way he seemed to know what was going to happen. She asks what he's going to do, and he says he's staying in the "past" with her.

Meanwhile, Charly and Isaac find the source of the dysonium. Unfortunately it's deep underground below a suburban house that's for sale. Isaac starts to break into the place, when suddenly a realtor appears and mistakes him and Charly for a young married couple interested in the house.

The realtor shows them around and they play along. Charly asks if they can speak privately in the basement, so the realtor leaves them to it. Isaac then assembles the probe and blasts through the floor for the dysonium.

Isaac then tries to kill time by attempting more small talk with Charly. She asks what the hell's wrong with him, and he says he's simply trying to be nice and thank her for helping reactivate him after his "suicide" attempt. She says she was just doing her job and still loathes him. She then tells him about her friend Amanda who died during the Battle Of Earth. She says she loved her, but never got a chance to tell her thanks to the Kaylon.

The probe hits the dysonium and Isaac collects it. As they hurry out of the house, Charly tells the realtor she and Isaac just broke up.

That night, Gordon's watching TV with his family. The doorbell rings, and when Gordon answers it he sees Mercer and Kelly have returned— with Talla in tow. He's furious when he realizes they brought her along as muscle, to force him back to the ship.

He tries bargaining with them, but Mercer refuses and insists he come along. Gordon pulls out his blaster and aims it at the officers, saying he's not going anywhere. Just then Isaac radios Mercer and says they have the dysonium, and can now activate the Aronov Device.

Mercer tells Gordon they'll just go back to 2015 when Gordon first appeared in the past and pick him up there, which will pinch off this particular timeline. Gordon pleads with them not to do so, but Mercer and the others leave.

Gordon gathers his family on the couch and says he loves them. His son Ed asks if they're in trouble, and Gordon says they'll be just fine.

Mercer and the others return to the Orville, and use the Aranov Device to jump back to 2015. This time they arrive about a month after Gordon appeared in the past and pick him up. Gordon's ecstatic to be back on the ship. Mercer and Kelly exchange uncomfortable glances.

The news isn't all good though, as John reports that the recent jump destroyed the Aronov Device— meaning they're all stuck in the past. He says it'll take at least six months to repair it. Mercer tells him and Isaac to get to it.

Suddenly John has an idea. He explains that the quantum engines generate a bubble that protects the ship from the relativistic effects of faster than light travel. He says if they shut off the field and fly at the speed of light, time will slow for them while it moves normally for the rest of the universe. In effect, hundreds of years would pass for them in minutes.

The Orville charts a course for a star 200 light years from Earth, and sets out for it. They arrive in a few minutes, and find that 200 years have passed. They turn around and fly back, arriving in the year 2422— shortly after they originally left.

Later, Mercer and Kelly meet with Gordon and tell him what happened in the other timeline. Gordon's shocked by his alt-self actions, and can't believe he threatened Mercer and the others. He says they did the right thing by rescuing him earlier. Mercer says he feels bad that Gordon's two children will never be born. The three then get thoroughly drunk.

• This week's episode was written by Seth MacFarlane. Based on the title, he's apparently a fan of Talking Heads.

• Man, the amount of detail on the ship this season is absolutely insane. This has to be a brand new CGI version, as it's impossible to cram this level of detail into a physical model, unless it's like twenty feet long!

• Gordon hosts a party in his quarters, where he serenades his guests. Lots going on in this brief scene.

First of all, I love the fact that the Orville crew hangs out together after hours. That's something we never saw much of on Star Trek. They did it a few times on TNG with Riker's poker games, but those only included the Bridge officers. Here it looks like Gordon invited the whole ship!

Gordon entertains the crowd by singing That's All I've Got To Say— the same tune his holographic crush Laura Huggins performed back in Lasting Impressions. It was featured in 1982's The Last Unicorn.

Back in Seasons 1 and 2, I had a lot of fun pointing out the show's horrific futuristic civilian fashions. Every casual outfit was riddled with pointless panels, odd textures and bizarre color choices.

Happily, it looks like the crew's after hours ensembles have been toned wayyy down, as they don't look all that different from what we wear today. Either the series got a new costume designer or the old one finally developed a sense of taste!

That looks like Ensign Bollibar there in the background— and he's actually wearing clothes!

We met him last week in A Tale Of Two Topas, where he was exercising his religious right to traipse around naked on the first day of the month. Fortunately this party must be taking place on a different day!

Lastly, there's this shot of John & Talla standing awfully close to one another, foreshadowing the show's ill-advised attempt to turn them into a couple. We got a first inkling of this back in Gently Falling Rain, when the two briefly flirted in the Old West Pub Crawl on the Holodeck, er, I mean Environmental Simulator. 

Eh, sorry, but I don't buy it. I like both characters, but I'm just not feeling them as a couple. 

• Charly sees the replica of Laura's 21st Century cell phone on Gordon's desk and asks what it is. He tells her and demonstrates how it works. A couple things here:

First of all, I'm puzzled as to why Charly doesn't know what a cell phone is. Especially since the crew has what appear to be futuristic versions of them. We even saw one back in Ja'loja, when Alara actually got a text from Dann on her personal communication device. If that ain't a 25th Century version of a cell phone, then what the hell would you call it? Did MacFarlane forget about this scene in the three years since the show's been on the air?

Secondly, those are actually actor Scott Grimes' hands in the closeup of Laura's phone! That's highly unusual in movies and TV. On most projects the director and actors are too busy to mess with filler shots like this. They're usually filmed by the Second Unit Director, using stand-ins for the actor's hands.

• Gordon uses the cell phone to take a selfie of him, Charly and Bortus. Note that this is what constitutes a smile in a Moclan. Yikes!

And continuing Charly's curious lack of knowledge, Gordon has to explain selfies to her!

• The next day, John and Isaac inform Mercer they've been tinkering with Dr. Aronov's Device and made significant upgrades to it. Its temporal field can now encompass an entire ship, and they've fine tuned its resolution— meaning the Orville could theoretically use it to travel back to a specific point in time. 

They left out another pretty significant upgrade they've apparently made. The original Aronov Device only affected time within a small field directly beneath it. Objects within this field just rapidly aged inside it. 

Apparently the Device can now be used to travel through time and space— like the Doctor's TARDIS. That's a pretty significant detail to leave out! 

The Aronov Device has made quite a few appearances on the show over the years. it first popped up in Old Wounds (the pilot episode), and returned in A Happy Refrain. It played a major role in Tomorrow, And Tomorrow And Tomorrow and The Road Not Taken.

• John demonstrates the new souped-up Aronov Device by taking Gordon's egg salad sandwich and sending it thirty seconds into the future. Sure enough, thirty seconds later it appears. John then makes sure he follows through and sends it thirty seconds into the past.

When the others ask why, Isaac pipes up and says, "If Commander Lamarr had not followed through with his intent to send the sandwich into the past, it would have caused a temporal paradox. In which case an entirely new universe would've branched off from this one, all because of a sandwich."

The episode kind of blurs over this, but that line is pretty significant. It may even be crucial to what happens later in the episode, and answer the question of whether Gordon's family will be erased or go on existing in a separate timeline.

• Gordon then gets an idea and has John send his sandwich three months into the future. John does so, but asks why. Gordon replies that when it appears three months from now, it'll be a "nice surprise."

If this all-important temporal sandwich doesn't appear sometime during the season finale, then why are we even here?

• As the Orville tries hailing the Sabik 3 research station (where they're to turn over the souped up Aronov Device), but it's ominously silent. Kelly then says the classic Star Wars line, "I have a bad feeling about this."

• The Orville arrives at the Sabik station 3, only to find it's been destroyed by the Kaylon. Several things here:

First of all, TOS had the "Kirk In His Command Chair Pose," while TNG had the infamous "Picard Maneuver." The Orville has the "Mercer And Kelly Stand In Unison And Walk Three Feet Closer To The Viewscreen Move." 

You know sh*t just got real whenever you see 'em do that!

Secondly, how did the Kaylon know the Union convoy was heading for Sabik 3? Were they monitoring Union communications, or is there a spy somewhere in the ranks?

Lastly, as soon as the convoy arrives at the station, a Kaylon fleet attacks. In the ensuing space battle, a Kaylon Sphere captures the Orville in a tractor beam and demands they hand over the Aronov Device. But there're a dozen ships in the convoy— how'd they know it was specifically on the Orville?

I guess maybe they detected temporal particles coming from it or something?

• For some reason, the opening titles don't appear until the 8:50 mark of the episode!

• During the Kaylon attack, several Union ships are completely destroyed. 

Man, either the Union Fleet has the worst deflector shields over, or the Kaylon have really powerful weapons. Literally EVERY time there's a space battle we see at least one or two Union ships go up in flames.

• Mercer's voice is extra Brian Griffin-like when he's barking out orders during the battle.

• As I said in the intro, there's a lot of very obvious and strained plot contrivances in this episode that are necessary for the story to happen.

Plot Contrivance Alert #1: In order to keep the Aronov Device out of Kaylon hands, Mercer orders Talla to destroy it. Makes perfect sense, as she's the Security Officer. Unfortunately she's injured during the battle, so Gordon volunteers to blow it up.

That seems more like a job for Bortus, considering he's the Second Officer. Gordon should have had his hands full flying the ship and trying to outrun the Kaylon Spheres.

Of course if Mercer had sent Bortus to destroy the Device, we'd have gotten a MUCH different episode— one which wasn't Gordon-centric.

• Gordon grabs a blaster from the Armory and rushes to the Lab, where he aims it at the Aronov Device. I think this is our first ever glimpse at a blaster's power level indicator, which appears to be color-coded. Looks like red is the highest setting.

• Gordon fires on the Aronov Device just as Isaac overloads the quantum core to free the ship from the Kaylon tractor beam. The Device then releases a wave of temporal energy that hits Gordon and throws him back in time.

This is our first clue that Gordon's happy family timeline will probably go on despite Mercer's attempts to erase it. Note that when the temporal wave hits Gordon, he fractures into four or five different facets of himself. I'm assuming each one of these Gordons ended up creating a different timeline.

That means even if Mercer wiped out the one we saw, there could be three more in which Gordon started a family!

• The Orville retreats to the Veil Nebula, where they hide from the Kaylon Spheres. I love the shot of the ship flying through the nebula, as its running lights illuminate the various gas clouds. Perfect!

• After Gordon disappears, John reports, "Well, the residual energy signature makes it look like the Aronov Device has been running at full power, but it hasn't been activated in days."

Wait, what? We just saw John demonstrating the thing a couple scenes ago. How's it possible it's been shut down for days?

Either there was a really big time gap between the Sandwich Incident and the arrival of the Union convoy, or this is a major whoops.

• As I also mentioned in the intro, this episode features several huge retcons of Gordon's character.

Gordon Retcon #1: Shortly after his disappearance, the crew receives a distress call from Gordon, who tells them he was thrown into the past. He asks them for help and says, "I've encoded my temporal coordinates within this message." 

John then determines the message was sent four hundred years ago, and precisely timed to reach their position in the Veil Nebula at this exact moment. 

The fact that Gordon was able to perform the complicated calculations necessary to send such a message with 21st Century technology is a HUGE retcon of his character— as up to now he's always been portrayed as a lovable semi-moron.

In fact, way back in About A Girl Kelly even put Gordon on trial to prove to the Moclan tribunal that males weren't inherently superior and could actually be idiots:

Kelly: "Lieutenant Malloy, I'm gonna ask you a few questions that one might find on any basic test of adult knowledge."
Gordon: "Go for it."
Kelly: "These are gonna be kind of hard for you. Sorry."
Gordon: It's okay, commander. It's for the baby.
Kelly: Let's start off with some Earth history. A few hundred years ago, the continents of Earth were divided into separate nation states with individual sovereign governments. What was the capital of the United States of America?
Gordon: Um... pass.
Kelly: No, it's-it's not a pass kind of thing. Just give me your closest guess. What was the capital of the United States of America?
Gordon: Nabisco?
Kelly: No.
Gordon: The moon?
Kelly: Let's move on. What are the four chambers of the human heart?
Gordon: The chamber of secrets, the chamber of horrors, the chamber of...
Kelly: No, no, let me get you halfway. There's the left and the right ventricle and the left and the right...
Gordon: I would like to switch to movie trivia.
Kelly: Let's try one more. In the year 2056, which genetic engineer discovered how to target and eradicate individual cancer cells? Doctor...
Gordon: Bill Nye the cancer guy?
Kelly: Well, my point is made. While this male may be the fleet's best pilot, he's also an idiot.

Do those sound like the answers of a man who could encode temporal coordinates into a message and transmit it to an exact point in space and time? No. No they do not. But the episode needed those things to happen, so Gordon's now a mathematic and astrophysical genius, rivaling even Isaac's abilities!

You can't have it both ways, guys! Gordon's either a nitwit or a genius— he can't be both!

• Speaking of Gordon's SOS— Isaac notes it was encoded on a sub-quantum carrier wave, calibrated to 3.7 times the speed of light. So just how the hell did Gordon accomplish THAT? He was violently thrown into the past with nothing but the uniform on his back and a blaster. How'd he transmit a distress signal across four hundred light years of space?

Union uniforms all have little communicators built into their sleeves— did he use one of those to cobble together a transmitter? Seems unlikely their communicators would have the range to send a message to another star, but what do I know. 

The episode doesn't seem to know how he did it either, as it blurs right over how he managed this impressive technological feat!

• There's another HUGE retcon in this episode that happened after it initially aired. In the original broadcast, Gordon's message states,
"I'm sending this message to you from the year 2015. I've been here for six months." In the third act, the Orville makes a second time jump, and rescues Gordon one month after he first arrived in the past.

In effect, they retrieved him BEFORE he was able to send out his distress call! Fans assumed this was a deliberate plot element, establishing a bootstrap paradox that strongly implied Gordon's family wouldn't be wiped out after all.

During a panel at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, MacFarlane admitted the distress call snafu was unintentional and "an egregious mistake." Shortly afterward the episode was edited and the mistake corrected. In the new version, Gordon now says he's been in the past for three months, and the Orville rescues him after he's been there for four.

Many fans were unhappy with the fix, as it eliminated the possibility of Gordon's family surviving, or him seeking revenge against Mercer and his former crewmates.

I gotta say I agree with them here, as the change was totally unnecessary and actually made the episode less interesting.

• After hearing Gordon's message, John does some research and finds Gordon's obit, which says he died in 2068 at the age of 96. Lots to talk about in this brief shot!

First of all, that is some damn good Photoshopping there on Gordon, as I don't see any telltale signs of retouching. In fact it looks exactly like an older Scott Grimes. Well done!

Secondly, based on this obit we can figure out how old Gordon is in Season 3. According to his message he arrived on Earth in 2015 and died in 2068. That's 53 years he spent in the past. Subtract that from his final age of 96, and you get his current age of 43. That's significantly younger than Scott Grimes, who turned 51 around the time this episode originally aired.

Third, thanks to the miracle of hi-def TV we can read Gordon's entire obit. It actually contains some interesting insights into his life in the 21st Century:

Mr. Malloy died peacefully at his home in Pasadena, California, on July 12th, 2068. He was an exceptionally skilled pilot and maintenance mechanic for a local charter airline. He moved to Pasadena from rural Connecticut in 2018 and married his beloved wife, Laura Huggins, a singer and teacher, the following year.

Little is known of Mr. Malloy's life before he moved to Pasadena. According to acquaintances, he earned his private pilots' license in his late teens and was largely self-taught as an aircraft mechanic. Colleagues described him as one of the most intuitive and insightful aerospace specialists they had ever known, with a knowledge of engines, aerodynamics and electronic flight systems, surpassing that of many graduates of top tier universities.

In a career spanning more than three decades, Malloy logged some 25,000 flight hours in a variety of commercial and experimental aircraft. He was certified to fly contra-rotating twin propeller planes, single, twin and triple engine jets and, late in his career, hypersonic trans-atmospheric vehicles powered by liquid, liquid/solid and metallic hydrogen fueled rocket motors. His favorite flying machine was a single-seat, jet-powered stunt plane he designed and built himself.

Although he clearly had the skills and the experience, he never sought to break records or impress his fellow pilots with extraordinary maneuvers, preferring to keep a low profile and spend his off hours tinkering with the engine of his classic German sports car and home-built stunt plane. He received numerous offers to fly private aircraft for wealthy business executives and famous celebrities for much more money than he earned on local charter flights, but as far as anyone knows he never availed himself of these opportunities.

After work, Mr. Malloy spent most of his free time with his wife and son. He was a devoted father and loved to take his family hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and in the first weeks of summer, on cross-country drives to the coast of New England.

His wife Laura described him as a homebody and a bit of a prankster. Even in the most trying times, she said Gordon could always make her laugh. He enjoyed watching old movies and classic sitcoms, and attending his wife's occasional musical performances at local clubs and coffee houses.

Malloy retired form the aviation business in 2049, but continued to consult on various transportation-related engineering projects, focusing in his final years on magneto-electric propulsion systems for hovercraft. His passion for aircraft mechanics and flying was only exceeded by his love for his family. He is survived by his wife Laura, his son Edward and two granddaughters. Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family request that donations in Mr. Malloy's name be made to the Altadena Cat Sanctuary.

Wow, a lot to unpack there. The bit about him not breaking flight records and keeping a low profile implies he was actively trying not to screw up the timeline anymore than necessary. But then it says he spent his final years helping invent new hovercraft technology— most likely years before humanity was supposed to develop it! 

It also mentions him having a beloved German sports car, which doesn't show up anywhere in the episode. I guess it might have been parked in his garage.

The obit also points out his love for old movies and classic sitcoms, which tracks with what we've seen of him in the past (or is that future?).

Lastly there's an ominous sentence in the last paragraph, which reads, "He is survived by his wife Laura, his son Edward and two granddaughters." Note that there's no mention of the second child Laura was carrying in this episode. Uh-oh! Does that mean she lost the baby?

According to behind the scenes sources, actress Leighton Meester (who plays Laura) was actually pregnant during filming of this episode— so they decided to incorporate that into the script. What likely happened is that the Art Department wrote up the fake obit long before Meester arrived on set, and then never bothered to update it when they saw she was pregnant. No doubt they figured it'd be on screen for a couple seconds, and no one in their right mind would ever go to the trouble to take a screencap and read the entire thing.

They forgot they're dealing with Orville fans here. We even count cigarettes!

• Is it weird that no one ever stumbled across Gordon's obit and noticed that he died four hundred years before he was even born? I guess maybe there was never any reason for anyone to look him up. Or maybe thanks to time travel shenanigans his obit didn't appear in the past till he started changing history.

Plot Contrivance Alert #2: Mercer sees Gordon's obit and realizes he's probably already altered the timeline. He says the crew needs to go back and rescue him before he does further damage. Wait, what?

If Mercer's so worried about the integrity of the timeline, the LAST thing he should do is travel to the past, where he and the crew will inevitably do even more damage! If they really wanted to protect the timeline, they should have just gone back to the moment John demonstrated the souped up Aronov Device and destroyed it right then and there.

Of course again, if they did any of that the episode would have been fifteen minutes long, so...

• The crew then meets to discuss what to do about Gordon. I love this shot of the Conference Room with the nebula outside the windows. The gas clouds are even reflected in the shiny table! Cool!

Plot Contrivance Alert #3: This episode would have us believe that Gordon was thrown back to 2015 because he was thinking about that year when the temporal wave hit him. See for yourself:

Mercer: "How did this happen?"
John: "Well, we think we know, because in fact, we've seen it before."
Isaac: "As you will recall, when Commander Grayson's younger self was transported to our time, we were able to confirm that human cognition played a role in the temporal displacement."
John: "We think we're looking at a similar explanation here. The other night at the party, Charly was asking Gordon about the cellular phone in his quarters. Got him talking about Laura. Now, we're still just beginning to understand the relationship between temporal theory and observer perception, but the short of it is, Gordon was close to the Aronov Device when we overloaded the deflectors. The burst of energy from the quantum drive amplified the temporal field before it collapsed, and he got caught in the displacement wave. I might be off base, but my bet is that his subconscious picked that destination point— the early 21st century."

Holy crap! That is some Grade A sci-fi bullsh*t right there! As I said in the intro, it's shocking just how far this episode bends over backwards so its contrived storyline can happen. Gordon was thrown back to the 21st Century because he was thinking about it when the wave hit him? Jesus, he's lucky he wasn't daydreaming about dinosaurs when it happened!

• Our first hint that Gordon may have already altered the timeline comes when Kelly asks why there's a past record of him at all— especially when time-displaced Union officers are supposed to make themselves as invisible as possible.

• The crew then preps to use the Aronov Device to send the entire ship back in time. As they do so, we see Yaphit frantically tapping away on a control panel.

Not sure if I've ever mentioned this before, but Yaphit (who doesn't have any eyes) must be able to sense things with every part of his body— which explains how he's able to "see" the panel when he's down on the floor like this.

• The ship overshoots its mark and arrives in 2025. Once there, Mercer, Kelly, Charly and Isaac take a shuttle down to retrieve Gordon. In order to blend in, Isaac uses a holographic generator to appear human. Note that he did this once before back in A Happy Refrain. He took on this same form too, which looks suspiciously like actor Mark Jackson.

• There's that goddamned Pteradon fighter parked in the way again! Seriously, can't they just shove that thing over to the corner of the Shuttlebay till it's needed?

• Once again, everyone stands behind the pilots in the shuttle, even though there are chairs for them. I'm convinced this is a filming issue, as the pilots block the actors in the second row of seats— forcing them to stand unnaturally in order to be seen.

• The shuttle flies over downtown LA (past the Wilshire Grand Center) at nighttime.

It then lands somewhere near Pasadena— but it's now broad daylight! What the hell? Did they get lost trying to find Gordon's coordinates? LA and Pasadena are only about eleven miles apart! How the hell did it take what appears to be several hours to fly such a short distance?

• Here's a shot of the shuttle as the crew departs it. Even though it's cloaked, the general outline of it's still clearly visible.

A second later they split up into two teams, and the shuttle's somehow magically disappeared! Wow! Now that's an efficient cloaking device!'

Methinks they ran out of time or money here and weren't able to add the cloaked ship.

Plot Contrivance Alert #4: In the tradition of many, many sci-fi movies and TV shows, the Orville's shuttle sets down miles and miles away from where the characters need to go. In fact the dysonium depost is 23.7 kilometers away from their landing site! That's almost 15 miles that Charly and Isaac have to cover on foot! Jesus Christ! 

Um, guys? You have a freakin' shuttlecraft at your disposal! A cloaked shuttlecraft, that none of the natives can inadvertently see.

They could have easily dropped off Mercer and Kelly at the airport, then flown the shuttle a little closer to the dysonium. Of course if they acted logically like that, then we wouldn't have gotten all the bonding scenes between Isaac and Charly, or the all-important biker bar scene, so...

• Mercer and Kelly locate Gordon, who's working as a commercial pilot. Note that this isn't the same Gordon who fired at the Aronov Device a few scenes back. He's now ten years older than when we last saw him, as evidenced by the subtle gray in his beard and hair. Nice touch!

I wonder if that's Scott Grimes' natural gray coming through?

• Gordon drives a Toyota Camry with a personalized plate that reads OVILLE. He explains he picked that plate because someone else already had ORVILLE. 

Sorry Gordon, but you're wrong there. The maximum number of characters you can have on California plates is six. Whoops!

• Gordon drives Mercer and Kelly to his home. I love Mercer's look of utter horror and disgust at the 21st Century and the way Gordon's acclimated to it so easily.

• Gordon then pulls into the driveway of his suburban home. Damn, he's done pretty well for himself these past few years! A house that size in Pasadena probably goes for at least a million these days! Maybe even two million!

• Gordon thanks Mercer and Kelly for traveling through time to rescue him, but says he's not going back. He then shows them the reason why— he's started a family in the 21st Century with his wife Laura Huggins— the real life version of the hologram he fell in love with back in Season 2.

• Gordon Retcon #2: Gordon mentions he tried to stay "invisible" for a while, but eventually couldn't take it anymore and said screw temporal law. He then somehow managed to create a new identity for himself, get a Social Security card, find a job, rent an apartment, buy a car and learn to drive it, then track down Laura Huggins and start a family with her— all in an unfamiliar era that's incredibly primitive and backward to him.

That'd be quite an achievement for anyone. Even more so for a guy like Gordon, who thought the capitol of the US was Nabisco.

• Elsewhere, Charly gets tired of trudging miles to the dysonium deposit, so she spots a biker bar nearby and gets an idea. She and Isaac enter the bar, and he arm wrestles one of the bikers in exchange for two motorcycles. Several things here:

First of all, this entire scene is absolutely pointless. You could edit it out of the episode entirely and it wouldn't affect the plot one bit! The only reason it's here is to pad out the runtime to an arbitrary one hour and seven minutes.

Secondly, Mercer and Kelly are livid with Gordon for violating Union Temporal Law and starting a family, as time traveling officers are supposed to make themselves as invisible as possible.

So what about Charly and Isaac here? They just conned two bikers out of their motorcycles! Now those bikers are gonna have to replace their rides somehow, either legally or illegally. Surely this would have caused some kind of ripple effect, however minor. 

Forget Gordon, Mercer should be charging Charly with temporal violation as well!

Third, Charly friendlies up to one of the bikers and gets him to bet his ride. Jaysis, look at that guy! That's gotta be the most photogenic biker ever. He looks more like a male model than a grungy gang member. In fact he looks a lot like actor Brandon Routh!

Fourth, Charly tells the improbably handsome biker she's from Texas. I assume that's true, as she'd have no reason to lie about it.

Fifth, this is some Heavy Duty Nitpicking, but whatever. Isaac disguises himself by laying a human holographic image over his Kaylon body. Note that this is just a superficial illusion, and his body doesn't actually change. So when Richie arm wrestles Isaac, he ought to be able to feel his true form and say something like, "Hey, this dude's got a metal hand!"

Lastly, even though Isaac won the arm wrestling contest, I have a hard time believing the two bikers would honor their bet and willingly hand over their expensive motorcycles without a fuss. Most likely there'd have been a huge brawl, resulting in Charly getting shot, Isaac's holographic generator shorting out, the police arriving and the timeline getting torn a new butthole.

• Charly & Isaac win the bikes and ride off into the sunset— or at least the fifteen miles to the nearest dysonium deposit.

Unfortunately this is a VERY brief shot, lasting just two or three seconds. I wish we'd have gotten to see more of Isaac riding a hog, as that'd have been hilarious.

By the way, how'd they both know how to ride motorcycles? Are they still a thing in the 25th Century? Doubtful, as I'd imagine internal combustion vehicles were outlawed long before their time. Maybe Isaac downloaded instructions and gave Charly a crash (heh) course in how to ride.

Also, note that they're both wearing helmets here. So where the hell'd they get those? Seems unlikely that anyone in the biker bar would own one!

• Back at Gordon's house, Laura fixes lunch for Mercer and Kelly and tells them how she and Gordon met.

If you look closely it appears they're eating some kind of vegetarian salad. That's an important detail, as people from the 25th Century no longer kill animals for meat. In fact dialogue suggests that doing so is actually considered murder! In the third act Gordon even mentions his disgust at having to kill and eat animals to survive when he first arrived in the 21st Century.

This brings up an interesting question— does anyone in the Union eat meat anymore? The Replicators, er, I mean Food Synthesizers could probably create an artificial steak, but would anyone want to eat it? If killing animals is considered murder, probably not!

• Laura mentions that Gordon appeared right after she broke up with her boyfriend Greg. We met Greg— or a holographic recreation of him at least— back in Lasting Impressions. Good callback!

• The episode then takes time out to push the John/Talla storyline again. Sorry, still not buying this pairing. Nor am I interested in it! I'm just not feeling any chemistry between the two of them.

• Charly & Isaac use a technobabble device to mine dysonium from beneath the Earth in order to fuel the Aronov Device.

I get that they need it to get back to their own era, but won't this potentially screw up the timeline too? Now there's gonna be that much less dysonium to be discovered on Earth. What if the very first deposit was found right here a hundred years from now? Now it's not gonna be there!

• Is... is Isaac wearing a dickie under his holographic sweater? It sure looks like it! If not, then what's that dark half circle around his upper body? Is it some weird pattern in the sweater?

• Charly finally tells Isaac the real reason why she hates him so much. His betrayal led to the death of Amanda, who wasn't just her best friend— she was also her potential lover.

Supposedly actress Anne Winters learned this particular detail about Charly during filming of this episode.

• Mercer and Kelly confront Gordon and try to force him to come back:

Mercer: "Can we talk now?"
Gordon: "Yeah. We can talk."
Mercer: "Look, I understand that you got a raw deal, I really do. But I want to hear a goddamn good explanation for what's happening, because the way I see it, we oughta haul your ass back to the ship right now and throw you in the brig."
Gordon: "Shut up!" 
Mercer (shocked): "Excuse me, Lieutenant?"
Gordon: "No! No, I'm not your lieutenant. I'm not your helmsman, I'm not your crew. I'm Gordon Malloy, and this is MY house!"
Kelly: "Gordon. You're guilty of about 50 counts of temporal contamination. You broke the law, and god knows what the consequences..."
Gordon: "Screw the law! I spent three years obeying the law. I hid in an abandoned cabin in the woods of Connecticut and I did my goddamn duty. I stayed invisible. I didn't see anyone, I didn't go anywhere. You know what I ate? Animals. Yeah. I was holding my weapon when I got sent back, and I used it to kill animals. You wanna talk about breaking the law? Here it's no big deal, but in our time? I'm a serial murderer, folks. You know what that does to your head? So after three years, I said the hell with it. Temporal law can blow me. Yeah, looks fine on paper, but the Union has NO idea what it's like to be trapped, no idea! So... so I went looking for her. And I found her. And I made a life for myself. And I will not let you make me feel like shit for doing it. I'm a human being. We're social creatures. Without each other, we die. Was I supposed to die?'
Mercer: "To protect the timeline? Yes."
Gordon: "Maybe this is how it's supposed to be! Who's to say? Who's to say I shouldn't be able to do whatever I want?"
Mercer: (smugly) "Oh. Seems you really have acclimated to this century."
Kelly: "When you joined the fleet, you took an oath to the Union." 
Gordon: "You're here. You're here. Which means the Union still exists in the future. If anything was gonna happen, it already happened. That's how the physics works."
Mercer: "No. No."
Gordon: "The timeline is okay."
Mercer: "You're deluding yourself. Nobody really understands time travel. According to Isaac, it's all still in flux. He says observer interaction is still a variable, and until we act one way or the other, all timelines are possible." 
Kelly: "How do you know that your son won't grow up to start a war that could delay or even prevent Union emergence?"
Gordon: "Or maybe, maybe one of his descendants helps create it. Or maybe even gives birth to you. Or to me."
Mercer: "That's my point. Gordon, without knowing, we can't interfere. We don't have the wisdom, we don't have the foresight. You may have done irreparable damage already, we don't know. But the longer you're here, the greater the risk. According to Isaac, we're existi... 
Gordon: "Oh, yeah, and Isaac's always been trustworthy, hasn't he?"
Kelly: "Oh, Jesus, Gordon, come on..."
Gordon: "What? What? He helped the Kaylon kill thousands of people. That we know for sure. So a verifiable crime is less serious than a hypothetical one? Nice priorities. 
Kelly: "You have to come with us."
Gordon: "Forget it."
Mercer: "You sent that message. You wanted us to come take you home. We're here." 
Gordon: "Ten years ago I wanted it! More than anything in the galaxy. But not now. You took too long. And I'm happy here."

It's a powerful scene, filled with great writing and amazing performances. Even better, both sides make compelling cases. Mercer's absolutely right when he says they can't know how Gordon's actions could affect the future.

On the other hand, Gordon has a point as well when he says Union Temporal Law was written by people with no idea what it's like to be trapped in the past without hope of rescue. 

Which side's right? Who knows? That's the beauty of the scene and the writing here.

All that said, I can't help but feel the whole scene was a bit jarring. Mercer and Kelly in particular come off as villains here, acting completely out of character. Heck, at one point they even suggest he should have killed himself to preserve the timeline! Holy crap! That's definitely not the laid back, easygoing Mercer we've come to know and love over the past two seasons.

Their attitudes are even more puzzling when you consider they spent all of Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow and The Road Not Taken actively TRYING to change the past! Make up your minds, guys!

I think the problem here is that this is the first time we're hearing about all this Temporal Law stuff, and just how seriously the Union takes it. If we'd had even a hint that it was a thing before now, then Mercer and Kelly's attitude wouldn't have seemed so ruthless.

• Laura accidentally overhears Gordon's conversation with Mercer & Kelly, so he finally reveals the truth about himself.

I wonder just how much "truth" he actually told her? Did he just say he's from the future and accidentally got stuck in the past? Or did he tell her the ENTIRE story? About how a couple years ago he found her ancient cell phone, started snooping through her texts and personal info, became obsessed with her and then created a holographic simulation of her that he had sex with?

Based on how incredibly well she handles his revelation, I'm gonna guess he left out all that sketchy, borderline stalkery stuff. 

That's not an overreaction on my part either— he really did kind of stalk her here in the past! He had a HUGE advantage, as he'd already "met" a version of her in the future and knew virtually everything about her— where she lived, where she worked, her likes and dislikes, hobbies, friends... you name it! He even got to have a "practice run" at dating her, to find out what worked and what didn't! Meanwhile when she met him she knew literally nothing about him.

The fact that he hunted down Laura in the past and started an actual relationship with her is pretty darned creepy when you stop and think about it!

• Laura takes the news that Gordon's from the future REEEEEEALLY well. A little too well if you ask me. Almost unbelievably well. 

She tells Gordon that deep down she always knew there was something different about him. She even points how how he knew the Covid pandemic would eventually pass.

This officially marks the first time the series has acknowledged the pandemic in any way.

That brings up another issue that the episode blurs right over. Gordon's from four hundred years in the future. It's a given he'd be exposed to tons of viruses and diseases he'd have no natural immunity to. And vice versa— he probably exposed Laura to all kinds of futuristic and even interplanetary bugs! We're lucky he didn't bring a new plague to the past with him!

• Gordon tells Laura he fell in love with her "three centuries" after she was gone. Hmm... unless she lived a reeeeeeally long life, his math's way off. He's from the 25th Century— some four hundred years in the future! Whoops!

• After Mercer & Kelly leave, Gordon watches 21st Century TV with his family. At first I was gonna say it seems unlikely he'd get much enjoyment out of a four hundred year old TV show, but then I remembered he & John watched Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer with Bortus, so...

 By the way, they're watching a (fake) sitcom starring Jack McBrayer and Johnny Knoxville of all people!

• Mercer and Kelly return to force Gordon to come back with them. This time they bring Talla along, as not-so-subtle muscle. Presumably she's there to use her Xeleyan strength to carry him back if she has to. Nice touch!

Odd that she covered up her ears (I mean ear) to hide her alien looks, but didn't bother with her nose ridges. Whoops!

• Gordon says he'll go back as long as his family comes with him. Mercer says that's not possible. Wait, what?

The whole idea of taking Gordon back is to prevent him from screwing the timeline more than he already has. But then Mercer's perfectly fine with leaving Gordon's family in the past? OK, Laura I can understand, because she's scheduled to live out her life in the 21st Century. But leaving Gordon's son and unborn child doesn't make any sense. How's Mercer know THEY won't mess up the timeline even worse?

• Gordon refuses to go, and actually pulls his blaster on Mercer and the others. So how long does a Union blaster hold a charge? Remember he's already been on Earth for TEN years! He's not bluffing either, as it's clearly still functioning— it even makes a charing sound when he activates it!

That is one efficient battery!

• Mercer decides to end the argument once and for all by simply taking the Orville further back in time to 2015 and rescuing Gordon when he first arrived in the past.

Curiously, Gordon's rescue happens totally offscreen. Eh, no need to actually show us something like that, as they likely needed the extra runtime for the all-important "Charlie And Isaac Score A Couple Of Bikes" and "John And Talla Shamelessly Flirt With One Another" storylines, that had absolutely nothing to do with anything.

• Mercer & the others return to the ship with Gordon. Once again, could we PLEASE move that goddamned Pteradon fighter out of the freakin' way? It looks like the shuttle almost hits it when it enters!

• Gordon exits the shuttle and says it's good to be back. He looks pretty good for someone who's been hiding out in a cabin and wearing the same clothes every day for four months (or one month, depending on which version of the episode you watch),!

• John reports that that the latest time jump destroyed the Aronov Device, and it'll take at least six months to fix— meaning the Orville's stuck in 2015 for a while. 

He then has an epiphany, as he realizes they can use good old fashion Einsteinian relativity to get back to their own time.

It's hard to wrap one's head around it, but whenever a ship travels at the speed of light, time slows down for anyone inside it while passing normally for everyone else. As a result, a day might elapse for those in the ship, while a hundred years went by for everybody outside it. 

Normally the Orville generates a quantum bubble to protect them from this effect. By turning off the bubble, they can effectively use the Theory Of Relativity to travel four hundred years into the future in what to them will feel like a few minutes. Crazy, huh?

John & Isaac then point the ship for Alpha Tucanae, which is two hundred light years from Earth. By flying there and back at lightspeed, they'll travel four hundred years into the future and end up in their own time. A few things here:

First of all, Alpha Tucanae is an actual star in our galaxy. And get this— it's 197.73 light years from Earth! Close enough to safely round up to 200!

Unfortunately it's part of a binary star system, which isn't reflected in what we see onscreen. Whoops!

Secondly, as the ship takes off at lightspeed, the Doppler Effect kicks in, causing the stars to take on a distinct blue and red color. This is correct, as objects approaching the ship would appear blue, while those moving away would shift to red. Look at you, The Orville, gettin' your science right! That's awesome!

Unfortunately it all falls apart in this scene, in which the stars ahead are red, while the ones trailing away are inexplicably green! What the hell? I have absolutely no explanation for this major goof and can't understand why they included this shot. Was the person who did the CGI here colorblind?

Lastly, as I stated the Orville's trip to Alpha Tucanae will take them four hundred years— two hundred there and another two hundred back. You'd think at some point during those four centuries another ship would have noticed a copy of the Orville poking along at lightspeed and reported it to Union Central. 

Heck, the Orville crew could have easily spotted themselves during the trip and wondered what the heck was going on.

• Once everyone's back in their own time, Mercer and Kelly sit Gordon down and tell him what he did in the past. Are you freakin' kidding me? Why the f*ck would they tell him any of that? Especially the part where he started a family and Mercer most likely erased them from existence! What possible good could come from sharing this info with him? Jesus Christ!

Amazingly, Gordon takes the news very well. A little TOO well, if you ask me. In fact he assumes full blame for the incident, and how he jeopardized the future by violating Union Temporal Law. Even more astonishing is the fact that he isn't the least bit resentful that his friends threatened to throw him in the Brig and erase his entire family. 

I gotta admit, that seems... unlikely.

This Week's Incongruous 21st Century (And Earlier!) References:
Jeez, the entire episodes pretty much one big 21st Century reference!

Eh, pretty much EVERY iteration of Classic Trek has had numerous time travel stories, so it's unfair to accuse The Orville of lifing anything from them. The closest thing I can think of it maybe TOS's The City On The Edge Of Forever, in which McCoy accidentally goes back in time and prevents the Federation from being formed, so Kirk & Spock have to visit the past as well and prevent him from changing history.
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