5 Point Discussions – The Orville Episode 4: “If The Stars Should Appear”

by Sage Ashford

The Orville
Welcome back to 5 Point Discussions for The Orville, FOX’s optimistic space opera series. If this feels a little soon, The Orville recently changed timeslots from Sunday to Thursdays, so this is just us finally catching back up. If you like this article, be sure to share it on Facebook and Twitter.  And if you’ve got any questions or comments, contact me @SageShinigami on Twitter.
1.  One of the things I find myself enjoying the most about The Orville is that it’s making me think about space opera in ways I hadn’t before by tapping into its comedic side. Near the beginning of the episode, we see Lt. Gordon and Lt. John creating star maps–a doubtlessly vital part of exploring space, but one that they admit is massively boring. Kelly reminds them that they are exploring the final frontier and how that in itself should be exciting, but they blow off the idea almost instantly.  And to be fair….that’s not an unbelievable idea. It’s in the nature of humanity to be bored–technology that would have amazed our predecessors is treated as mundane and “obvious” to us.
2. The other thing you pick up on this episode is just how much this series is going to rely on relationships going forward. Bortus and Klyden can’t get along because Bortus seems more devoted to his work than his family–something he should really talk to Ed about before things really go poorly. Ed and Kelly have at least stopped sniping at each other, but still become the subject of the ship’s curiosity and thus their drama remains at the forefront. And Alara’s having problems finding a man to date because the ship’s crew all have fragile male egos….except Ed.  Which makes you wonder how long this series goes before crewmates start giving their HR department headaches from getting “too” close. I didn’t sign on for this much drama, but at four episodes in you have to recognize the kind of series the writers are making.
3. One thing I do wish would change altogether is Isaac. Even the most novice fan of space opera/science fiction can easily recognize the kind of character Isaac was going to be from the first episode–a sort of “I don’t understand you fleshbags” kind of being, but that doesn’t make it any less grating. He doesn’t understand common colloquialisms, and a good bit of the discussion about Ed and Kelly’s relationship comes from Isaac questioning how they broke up to fill in holes about his human knowledge. It’s not that a robot would intrinsically know these things, but he should be able to…I dunno, look them up?  And if he’s really an AI capable of thinking for himself, be equally capable of drawing conclusions from the data he’s examined. Like this, seemingly unable to think on his own, he just feels like a more complex Siri. And it all just reminds me that the best example of an AI to date is Bender from Futurama.
4. We almost started to run into some of the more annoying tropes in sci-fi this episode, with the group proving unable to contact their ship while they were on their mission. A lot of times, writers find themselves unable to write around the tech that a futuristic universe would create, so they answer it by limiting the tech. It can get pretty frustrating–but they kept it to a minimum here.   We even get to see some of the upper limits of that tech, as Alara finds herself shot by the indigenous people they run into and Dr. Claire Finn is able to save her almost immediately–removing the bullets and accelerating Alara’s healing process so quick she’s back on her feet in time to help the crew for the rest of the episode. It’s a touch that’s much appreciated, as some sci-fi shows are written by people so used to writing modern series that their tech can be almost useless, negating the feel of it being a science-fiction series at all.
5. The core conflict of this episode happens when the U.S.S. Orville runs into a massive, city-sized space ship that’s drifting helplessly in space. When they examine the ship, they find a self-sustaining civilization that’s been trapped inside the city so long they’ve forgotten they were even space-farers to begin with. I’ll admit to not being the most experienced with space opera, but this feels like something we’ve seen before as an idea.
There’s a bit of commentary on how humanity’s need to have a supernatural explanation for creation holds them back from advancing scientifically, but fortunately they don’t get too heavy-handed with that message. The people inside the ship are led by a religious zealot, but mostly it seems to come down to him being unwilling to give up power more than the society being unwilling to let go of their own beliefs. This is one of those ideas that could have used a bit more time to breathe, though–I would have loved to see what these people would look like just a few days later, after their belief of how the world worked was completely turned upside-down, but alas. They just barely had enough time to give things a quick, neat ending before the credits rolled.
The one thing I can say about this series four episodes in though, is that they’re definitely improving with each episode.  Though “About A Girl” left a bit to be desired, the show is leaning more and more heavily into its sci-fi roots, becoming something of an optimistic space opera that’s capable of speaking to the Everyman. Here’s hoping that carries appeal enough to keep cancel-happy Fox from touching this show for at least another season.
See you guys in seven!

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