5 Point Discussions – The Orville Episode 5: “Lyra”

by Sage Ashford

The Orville
Welcome back!  This week, the crew saves a lone woman from an asteroid flying into the sun…but is she more than she appears?  Remember, if you like this column please share it on Facebook and Twitter. And if you want to contact me with questions or comments, please hit me up on Twitter @SageShinigami!
1. The episode opens with the crew of The Orville watching an episode of Seinfeld, which I guess makes as much sense as anything if you’re flying through space with nothing else to do. But the viewing does lead to a brief discussion on the nature of humor, as the human cast try to explain the concept of practical jokes to their “racist robot” Isaac. Because humor is a nebulous, difficult to nail down concept in the best of circumstances, the ship helmsman Gordon Maloy promises to play a practical joke on Isaac to help him “get it”.
His joke? Planting Mr. Potato Head accessories on Isaac’s normally feature-less face.  As juvenile a joke as it was, it honestly elicited a laugh-out loud moment for me.  You can blame that on the actual humor of the joke, or me being a child, take your pick.  Either way, when Gordon challenges Isaac to get him back he learns a hard lesson: maybe don’t ask someone that doesn’t understand how humor works to play a joke on you when you least expect it. Later in the episode, Gordon wakes up missing a leg (easily fixed in the future) and having to hobble around for the remainder of the episode in what was, surprisingly, an even funnier moment because Gordon got what he deserved for playing practical jokes in any era past the 1980’s.
Still, the show’s writing is getting sharper. Up until now, I’ve enjoyed The Orville merely as an optimistic, escapist space opera romp. The humor bits from earlier episodes had largely fallen flat for me, earning little more than a chuckle, but this time I couldn’t help laughing aloud during several bits in the episode. It’s entirely possible that a lot of the clunkiness for the first four episodes can be attributed to the writers figuring out how to write compelling science-fiction and things will hopefully be smoother from here on in.  That probably doesn’t mean much if you rated the series as low as the people who contributed to it getting a “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but if you thought it was decent/okay-ish like me, it’s probably a great sign of things to come!
2. One thing our characters are going to have to get away from though is falling for coincidences so easily. Someone crashed their spaceship on a comet that was flying into the sun? Uncommon, but certainly possible. But having that same someone–in a post-interplanetary society like this one, from the same state as your Captain?  In sister cities so they share almost identical cultural backgrounds to you? That’s so unlikely that one’s brain should instantly think it to be a trap, but you know…maybe being teleported to another planet and kept in a zoo of sentient life-forms wasn’t enough for you to stop being so trusting of people?
3. Fortunately, Kelly was a little more skeptical of our episode’s guest character or things would have had a much more unfortunate ending for our heroes. Pria, a woman they rescued from a comet while she was doing work for a mining company, seemed suspicious to Kelly so she inspected her room and discovered a strange device that played into the core conflict of the episode.
Still, although I found Ed too trusting, I did take issue with how Ed and Kelly later had an entire “I Told You So” conversation later that same episode. Kelly was certainly correct, and I did mention being more skeptical and genre-savvy, but that’s not what Kelly backed up her initial research with–she just looked into Pria seemingly because she was flirting so hard with Ed. How hard was it to have Kelly point out how convenient it was the two of them had so much in common? Instead of Kelly being justified, she just sounded jealous and Ed was technically right that they had no business looking into Pria’s belongings.
4. Anachronism Watch: This week’s episode gave us a Nancy Drew reference, which was chuckle-worthy but makes me wonder how deep the well goes on obscure pop culture.  Especially since after Lyra reveals she’s from the even-further future of the 29th century and doesn’t get simple, much more widespread phrases like, “Go to Hell”.
It feels weird—though there’s four hundred years between our time and that of The Orville’s setting, it’s only another 400 years between The Orville and Pria’s future timeline. Why wouldn’t the phrases carry? She’s clearly able to communicate with them so they still have some kind of database containing language translators—what happened between the year 2400 and the year 2800 that caused such long-lived phrases and pop culture to die out?  Which reminds me…
5. The crew rescues Pria at the start of the episode, and while they’re on their way to their next location, they wind up in a dark matter storm that only Pria is able to rescue them from. After she does, she reveals her secret plan: that she’s from the far future, where they discovered a stable wormhole and have been utilizing it to travel to different points in the past (which shouldn’t be how wormholes work, but nevermind). Time travelers from her era take artifacts that are supposed to have been destroyed and take them into the future where they sell them to collectors for parts or resources.  Since The Orville was supposed to have been destroyed in that dark matter storm, Pria was “free” to take the ship to the future, sell it, and drop them all off in the far-flung future of the year 2800.
Eventually, after hacking into the device Pria had used to hack into their own systems, the crew manages to escape and head back to their own time just after flying forward into the future.  And after a brief, semi-emotional discussion between Ed and Pria (who developed a bit of a relationship this episode), the Orville destroys the wormhole, locking the quantum timeline back into place and sending Pria back to the future.
I have…so many questions. Does this undo all the other people who’ve been saved by time travelers? Why didn’t this destroy The Orville since they were meant to die?   Does destroying the wormhole change the future in any discernible way? What’s the twenty-eighth century supposed to be like? Don’t just tease us like that without giving us a better glimpse, that feels unfair.
Most importantly though? Hopefully they didn’t drop a bomb like that at the end of the fifth episode without any plans to develop it further. The Orville was supposed to be destroyed, so anything they do now that matters will significantly alter how the future is meant to develop. Do we come back to that, or is it just a plot point for an episode and it doesn’t connect to future episodes in the series?  Because it feels like we should really come back to that. Ah well.
The Orville airs on FOX Thursday nights and is available for streaming on Hulu.

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