5 Point Discussions – The Orville Episode 2: “Command Performance”

by Sage Ashford

The Orville

Welcome back to 5 Point Discussions for The Orville!  We’re back with another episode, as this show continues to prove itself vastly more popular than critics would’ve suggested. If you like this, please be sure to share it on Facebook or any other social media, and RT it on Twitter.  If you have any comments, hit me up on @SageShinigami on Twitter.

1. Though I’d rather it didn’t, I’m eventually expecting the Moclan idea to fall flat on its face, but for now I do appreciate them for trying. We learned last episode that they’re a single-sexed species, which naturally raised the question of how they have children. Well, this episode we learn that they lay eggs (and I learned something today) and that our ship’s second officer Lt. Commander Bortus is in fact the mother of a child between him and his partner Klyden. I do appreciate them for turning the idea of birth and motherhood on its head—Bortus doesn’t seem disdainful of having children, and in fact has a pretty strong motherly instinct when his child is in danger due to the (mis)adventures happening around him on the Orville.

I’m sure some people thought this was being played for a joke, but…I’m not so sure that’s what MacFarlane wanted to go for here. Later in the episode Alara runs upon Bortus while he’s…incubating and he’s…completely nude. You’d think that’d be the punchline, but it’s…barely played for much of a laugh, and is more awkward than anything else. I think if Seth really wanted to be funny he would’ve gone for Bortus being completely clothed, but instead it’s just seen as completely natural, even if Alara winds up embarrassed.

2. The main conflict of the series comes when Kelly and Ed are lured to a ship and transported to another world, where they serve as zoo animals for a more “highly advanced” species. It’s a basic enough science-fiction concept, “What if humans were in the zoo” and so on…but that’s fine. It’s a concept that could be revisited since most people haven’t seen it in ages.

The real question is…how did they fall for this to begin with? In the middle of nowhere, they happen on a ship that was supposedly attacked by the Krill, but instead of the war-like Krill leaving no survivors, they appear to have mostly left the ship only slightly damaged. They notice things are sketchy and immediately try to scan the ship, only to discover the ship is scanning them first? And as if we aren’t done with unlikely coincidences—we learn that Ed’s parents are somehow on the ship. What part of this didn’t scream “dangerous”?

If Kelly and Ed weren’t so busy trying not to screw each other yet, I like to think this whole thing would’ve been obvious to them both as a trap.

3. With a minor exception near the end, Alara’s character arc was perfect. At the risk of pissing a few people off, it’s felt lately like marginalized characters have to be hyper-competent at all things so they can be a perfect role model-type. (The Rey Effect.) I can understand the idea behind it, but it also makes these characters feel less authentic and usually outright poorly written.

But this episode, Alara is placed in charge when the ship’s commander, and it’s first and second officers are rendered incapacitated for different reasons. Now when it comes to security, Alara’s usually damn good at her job. She’s strong, a good shot, and a quick thinker judging by last week’s episode. But being a leader?  So far she had proven more used to taking orders than giving them, and it shows this episode.

The first thing she does when she’s given command is quickly try to hand it over in order to avoid being a failure, but when that’s not an option she fails and fails hard, until she eventually has to ask for help. She gains some confidence, but still feels uneasy bearing the burden of command, until she finally gets what she’s been looking for the entire episode when she’s commanded to give up the search for the commander and first officer. This was a neat twist; she’d been wanting anyone to take over up to that point, but once someone finally had, it wound up being the last thing she wanted to do.

It’s all well done, with one exception. Near the end, just before they decide to rescue Kelly and Ed, she asks the ship helmsman Gordon his opinion…and after a bit of guilt-tripping, changes her mind rather than following the orders of command. It’s meant to be her big moment where she braves the odds and risks her career for her morals…but really it just felt like she felt ashamed.  It’s an unfortunate last-minute dropping of the ball, but I’ll give the show’s writers credit for solving most of the problem. Plus, she did save Kelly and Ed by herself by the end.

4. If there’s one major problem I’m having with this series, it’s the absurd amount of anachronisms this series has. Kermit the Frog, Papa Smurf: this episode and the last seem to be filled with stuff that characters four hundred years in the future shouldn’t know anything about.  To be sure, it could be explained later—maybe at a certain age you’re simply implanted with vast knowledge about any subject you choose and people just keep choosing pop culture?  At least the references keep going over the aliens’ heads, I guess.

5. This week new alien race is the Calvion, a people so hyper-advanced that even the Planetary Union just kind of gives them their space, as Calvions view any people that aren’t technologically equal to their own to be…inferior and not worth speaking to. This kind of cranks the issue up to another level—at least humans can’t properly communicate with animals. The Calvion totally could, they just chose not to.

I do appreciate that they immediately answered both of the questions I had coming out of the episode. For one, in a world that consists of humans capable of interstellar travel, what makes them so technologically advanced? Well, long-distance teleporting, and complex hologram devices that fool even their own programs, to start. Second, they consider every race technologically beneath them to be inferior…but are there any races that they consider to be their equals? Well, the robotic Kaylon—mentioned last episode as considering themselves vastly superior to all other races in the Planetary Union, seem to qualify in the Calvion’s book as equal.

Lastly, the resolution of this episode’s conflict might have felt a little implausible to some.  Constantly in search of new attractions to their zoo, the Calvion accept an offer from Alara of a massive video library featuring humans worthy of proper zoo attractions. A library full of…reality television. And if the idea of a vastly technologically superior race being fascinated by blatant buffoonery seems ridiculous to you, well…that was probably the point.

See you in seven!

The Orville is available for streaming on Hulu, and airs on FOX Thursday nights.