The Orville

"If the Stars Should Appear"

2 stars

Air date: 9/28/2017
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Orville encounters a massive ship adrift that actually turns out to be a huge alien bio-dome — carrying passengers who think they're living on an actual world. This spaceship, whose engines have failed, is now on a collision course with a star.

If that premise sounds familiar, it is. I lifted the paragraph above directly from my review of TOS's "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" and made a few minor tweaks. This seems to be the approach MacFarlane takes with the broad ideas in "If the Stars Should Appear," which takes familiar Trekkian staples — including the world-ship and alien dictatorships acting out on ancient information that has been misinterpreted over generations — and recycles them without adding anything in terms of emotion or inspiration.

Look, I hate to beat a dead horse here. But if MacFarlane wants to bring back old stories he liked in his youth and present them as if they were new to his audience, he needs to also bring some perspective or at least conviction to the whole affair. The presentation of "If the Stars Should Appear" is so flat and stale that it wouldn't work even ignoring the bizarre tonal shifts that continue to undermine individual scenes. Maybe MacFarlane should employ a writing staff instead of trying to write every episode himself. I mean, it's not like The Orville is an auteur project. (And if he thinks it is, boy, has he miscalculated.)

First, let's start with what's good here: I will happily report that the initial discovery and boarding of the mysterious massive vessel is impressive and features that "sense of wonder" we're always looking for in sci-fi stories. What is this huge object, and why is it dead in space? The subsequent discovery of the massive bio-dome is also interesting. It's a good, visually arresting sequence, realized with gravitas.

But once we start meeting the locals, this all becomes an uninspired rehash. There's no dialogue that sets any bar higher than expository. Mercer and his crew seem like slow studies when they talk to the confused farmhouse folks about space and science and stuff; clearly these people are not privy to the things outside the dome. Given how much pop culture the Orville crew knows about (Friends, Rudolph, reality TV, etc.), you'd think they'd have recognized immediately the plight of these unwitting simple folk from 20th century sci-fi TV.

Hold on! Major brainstorm! What if Earth's entire society and the Planetary Union turns out to be modeled intentionally on Star Trek — like literally/actually within this universe! I sure hope I haven't spoiled the scene in episode 13 where Mercer walks into Admiral Halsey's office and the admiral is watching an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series on TV. The admiral then says, "We learned a lot about diplomacy from these guys." And wait; double brainstorm! The admiral pushes a button and the channel changes and Family Guy appears on the screen. Then he says, "Oops!" and pushes another button that turns it off.

But I digress. When it's not exploring character-development cul-de-sacs like listening to Isaac try to understand Mercer's divorce (scenes that are all-too-unimaginative rehashes of Data's need to get to the bottom of human beings) or Kitan talking to Grayson about her recent breakup, this show continues to cause whiplash when switching between earnestness and irreverence. A more consistent tone that blends the two would be better than scenes that are played completely poker-faced before Mercer then suddenly calls someone a "dick" out of nowhere. (Seriously, can this show go one episode without a dick joke?) Are we supposed to take Mercer seriously? The answer seems to be yes, except when we're not. While I'll admit that I laughed at the goofy routine with the apparently terrible food and the napkin ("Do you have a garbage?"), it weirdly comes amid what is supposed to be a serious conversation that offers clues into this strange society. The napkin bit ultimately ends up being the most entertaining part of the whole affair, and that really doesn't speak well for the drama. But Mercer isn't a character so much as a transparently artificial construction borne of the theoretical concept of comedy and drama merged in an unfocused script.

To compare, faring a little better with the comedy notes is Grayson, who gets kidnapped, beaten, and tortured (par for this course, I suppose), and offers up one-liners as statements of defiance. ("There's a little coffee shop on Lafayette Street in SoHo called Central Perk. My friends are there. Please, just don't hurt the monkey.") This at least makes sense in the context of the scene, rather than coming out of nowhere — as when The Orville gets into a pointless space battle, and LaMarr exclaims "BOOM, BITCH!" after blowing up an enemy ship. Is my reaction supposed to be one where I laugh and facepalm simultaneously? (On a superficial VFX note, I feel like the Orville loops around and around too fast in these firefights; it feels too cartoonish for a ship that size. The Millennium Falcon, yes. The Orville, no.)

The opening sequence with the deadpan-bickering Bortus and Klyden, on the other hand, works pretty well, because it's based in fairly honest character interaction and situational comedy rather than obligatory randomness. So the comedy on this show can work, and it sometimes can make me laugh, but it's so hit-and-miss because MacFarlane's scripts can't help but clown around every page or two, whether it's appropriate or not.

And, hey, look: There's Liam Neeson (!) as the mysterious Dural, whose secrets reveal that upon which this whole society's rules were founded and, over 2,000 years, contorted. It's not bad, it's old hat, mostly worth a shrug. If anything, The Orville proves it has enough clout to get A-list guest actors. Next week features Charlize Theron!

I don't know. I didn't hate this, but save for a couple stray standout moments, boy is it mediocre. The fact that they're not only plundering the overall premise but actual storylines of Trek is not in this series' favor as long as it continues to execute at this level of ennui.

Previous episode: About a Girl
Next episode: Pria

◄ Season Index

58 comments on this review

Trek fan
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
Oh no. No, no, no: The Orville has jumped the shark by ripping off an entire TOS episode this week. This episode (spoilers ahead) "If the Stars Should Appear" has the EXACT SAME PLOT as "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" in TOS Season 3: A generational ship hurtling toward destruction full of people from a civilization who do not realize they are on a ship, with a religious theocracy ruling over everyone to keep them from realizing the truth. Wow: Thanks Orville, but no thanks. Nothing is significantly new here, as "Orville" doesn't improve on the original material at all, as some later Trek series do with TOS concepts. Watching this episode is like eating cold pizza that's been lying in the fridge for a week.
Scot
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
At first I thought this was just a rehash of "For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky." However, that's like saying that any plot with a generational ship that's devolved into ignorance would have to be a rehash. I found the take on this very fresh. And there was so much more character stuff going on. I think that's why I'm enjoying the Orville so much. A good portion of the show is spent on character interaction and growth. The plot, while familiar, is merely the means to an end. It's really about watching the people interact. And I have yet to be disappointed. If anything, this episode really ups the ante in terms of the drama. I like the direction the show is going.
Scot
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
Holy crap! Liam Neeson!
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
See, the thing is For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky was an example of how terrible TOS Season 3 could be. It was no Spock's Brain, but not really watchable. A lot of the episode was given over to a really unpersuasive McCoy romance. Most of the remainder had to do with The Oracle, and there's really nothing similar here. Besides the generation ship hurtling towards doom, there isn't much in common.

This episode did have a heavy TOS vibe however, pretty much as soon as they got into "the city" which had architecture exactly like Earth. I especially loved Kitan wearing a headband as a disguise, as it was an obvious callback to all the times that Spock wore a hat to be incognito on an away mission.

On the whole it didn't really cover any much ground, but it honestly did the Trek thing better than Trek has done more than half of the time in the past. And I loved the "girl talk" scene between Grayson and Kitan, which came across as far more believable than basically any time two women talked about relationships in any Trek series.
Startrekwatcher
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
This episode wasn't good at all. Quite unfocused. I hate the humor. TNG had a gravitas and earnestness about it. If this show wants to be like TNG it needs to dump the elementary level humor or better yet jettison the humor altogether. And it's perfectly fine to want to strive for what TNG was as a series but don't copy them or recycle their episodes or plots. I have to believe the human imagination isn't so limited that it can't come up with fresh plot ideas that exploit the wonder of being out in the unknown

And is seth going to write every episode?!?!? He's not a good writer. TNG solicited freelance scripts and had a strong writing staff who polished them up
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
@Karl Zimmerman

I agree.

I've actually stumbled across Trekfan's comment before I got around to watch the episode itself, and his "spoiler" didn't ruin the suspense and intrigue of the episode for me.

The story *is* a paint-by-the-numbers plot, though. TOS must have done at least a dozen episodes about theocratic dictatorship planets, and this one goes through all the usual motions (I actually got more of a vibe of "Returns of the Archons" here then "For the World is Hollow..."). I did like the fact that - in the end - their myth of "the creator" actually turns out to be kind of true: Dural really *is* the creator of the universe as they know it.

At any rate, with stories like this, it all depends on the execution. And this, really, is the main strength of this episode: It felt very fresh.

Speaking of which: There are quite a few scenes in this episode where they do visual sci fi in a way that was never done in Trek before. The way Isaac accessed the panel, for one. Or the really cool way Dr. Finn treated Alara. It's these little things that elevated this episode well above it's cookie-cutter premise.

As for the humor: This episode is the first one where I felt the humor fit seamlessly with everything else. There wasn't a single joke/gag which made me cringe, which was a positive surprise. They're really getting into the groove with that balance.

Final verdict:

Not as profound as the previous episode, but much better made. 3 stars.

@Startrekwatcher
"If this show wants to be like TNG it needs to dump the elementary level humor or better yet jettison the humor altogether."

If you don't like the idea of Trek with a humoristic slant, why are you even watching the Orville? It is quite clear that you aren't in the target audience for this show.
Startrekwatcher
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
Because I was hoping that they might dump the humor as part of tweaking the series as it progressed. But if it is going to continue coming across as a parody well no thanks

I'm not a fan of humor in sff--that's why I'm a huge fan of TNG, DS9 and the X Files.
Dobber
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 12:16am (UTC -5)
Isaac: "Captain, it appears we have encountered a dictatorial theocracy."

Mercer: "Great, those are always fun..."

Seems the Union encounters these civilizations frequently, I figured this was a joke at how often the Enterprise came across those haha
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 12:28am (UTC -5)
Just noticed an interesting thing about Dural's name: It's a near-anagram of "Landru" from the Return of the Archons!

A coincidence? Or a deliberate wink?


J.B.
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 12:37am (UTC -5)
I guess being filmed before the last two episodes didn't end up mattering much, since this episode was clearly meant to air after them (maybe due to the post-production work needed or accommodating Neeson's schedule). It felt like a really dull, paper-thin Stargate SG-1 episode, albeit with some good performances, especially a creepy Robert Knepper. The episode introduces a lot of concepts, some of them ripe for exploration and then does nothing with them. Is a paint-by-numbers "save the crewman" plot really all the potential this episode was capable of fulfilling? By the time this is accomplished, there's barely enough time for an admittedly striking conclusion (even if the implications for the society are glossed over). I'm still finding the attempts at humor wildly uneven, especially the jokes revolving around dicks and other sexual function. This is a show that desperately wants to be TOS and TNG but hasn't come up with anything other than rehash yet. I hope it finds some originality soon.

(The early scenes exploring the ship clearly used Goldsmith's ST: The Motion Picture score as a temp track. I found this very distracting.)
Karl Zimmerman
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 9:16am (UTC -5)
@ Startrekwatcher

I'm shocked you say you're not a fan of humor, and like TNG/DS9. Both shows (particularly the latter) had comedic elements similar to TOS. Voyager made attempts at comedy, but they were pretty flaccid. Only Enterprise didn't even bother trying, although from the sound of it Discovery isn't going to bother with humor either.

@ J.B.

The dick joke involving Isaac was the best joke on the series yet. I laughed out loud halfway through the episode when he interjected "it's a compliment." Essentially they are putting Isaac (at least in this instance) in the place of Data as someone who is an outsider to the human way of thinking, leading him to jump to seemingly absurd conclusions - along with allowing him to play the "straight man."
wolfstar
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 10:07am (UTC -5)
1 star - felt really padded and hackneyed. Almost none of the comedy worked, and the drama (or what passes for) was cheesy, formulaic and something we've seen done often and better on Trek and other past sci-fi shows. So this ep felt like a cross between a bad Family Guy episode and a bad Enterprise episode. I basically agree with JB and Startrekwatcher.
Mal
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 10:09am (UTC -5)
@Karl Zimmerman - I also laughed out loud at the dick jokes. It's a compliment! LOL.

But guys, seriously, 11 comments in and no one is going to mention Space: Above and Beyond? BEYOND. Like, "are you from beyond??"

Cause the leader of the Reformers was TC McQueen, all around badass from Space: Above and Beyond! Before there was a surly Col. Tigh. Before Tucker Smallwood was a Xindi. Before Wang started collaborating with Nazis (that's a Man in the High Castle reference). Before B5 Season 3 "Severed Dreams" was all like, dude long-form arcs are amazing. Before all that, there was this little show that could, called SAaB!

Look folks, I get that Liam Neeson is awesome. But for some of us, TC McQueen was so much cooler than Quigon cause Kristen Cloke was more smoking than a double scoop of padme.

Love it!
Mal
Alexandrea
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 11:35am (UTC -5)
I've begun mentally deleting the Orville's unfunny humor as I watch. You could edit the jokes out of the episode and have it run just the same, which on the one hand drives home how shoehorned the crass humor feels, but on the other hand leaves us with otherwise perfectly serviceable Trek. Not excellent, but I can't deny that the show has improved since its premiere.

Comparing an hour of television to a fairly pedestrian episode of 90s Trek oddly feels like praise, since after all, there were reasons we kept watching even run-of-the-mill Star Trek. Despite our not knowing the worldship's people better than any standard-issue dictatorial theocracy from Voyager, the show's final unveiling of the night sky manages some of the awe that we hope for in sci-fi. It earns its Emerson quote--which it promptly spoils with boring attempted humor about the captain's ignorance. To enjoy the show, I just have to ignore that.

Ignoring some of the failed humor can be difficult. Yafit uses the doctor's professional obligation to attend to him if he reports illness in order to sexually harass her--again. This. Is. Not. Funny. It is also not OK, and its acceptability on the Orville fundamentally undermines any notion that we're in a more evolved future. I hope that responses do not again feature some guys 'splainin to me how it's really fine.

It's a shame we have so much forced and failed humor, because when the Orville embeds its humor in the situations it confronts, rather than inserting immature humor on top, it can earn some laughs. Chicago has a group called Improv Star Trek, and they're pretty phenomenal onstage. Their podcast, while inherently hit or miss as an improv show, is also worth catching. Funny Trek can work. The Orville just might get there.
Chrome
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 11:41am (UTC -5)
I tried to watch starting with this one because I like Liam Neeson, but it's really hard to get past the humor in this show. Like, how many phallic jokes do they need to make in ten minutes? Are they trying to wear us down until we laugh? Isaac's interaction with Malloy reminded me of the dirty limerick scene in TNG's "The Naked Now".

Other than that, it's alright, I liked the message towards the end about over-reliance on technology one doesn't understand (like Wall-E). But, they'll need to seriously retool the jokes (no pun intended), for me to keep watching.
Robert
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
@Alexandrea - "You could edit the jokes out of the episode and have it run just the same"

Make it so!
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
Edit out MacFarlane too and you've got yourself a deal.
navamske
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 6:20pm (UTC -5)
Trek connection: "a creepy Robert Knepper" (almost a redundancy) appeared as Wyatt Miller in the NG episode "Haven" and as Gaul in the Voyager episode "Dragon's Teeth" (the one with the Vaadwaur).
karatasiospa
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 6:38pm (UTC -5)
A boring episode.
Skrimbus
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 6:55pm (UTC -5)
A so-so episode, but a lot more Trek-like, and better, than the first 2 Discovery episodes.

2 1/2 stars
Trek fan
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Jammer's review and comments. At the moment they stepped off the ship into the meadow, at perhaps 10-15 minutes into the show, I had a premonition this episode was going to be a direct lift from the story of TOS' "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." And right up through the end of "If the Stars Should Appear," when Liam Neeson appeared in a perfunctory cameo to give almost the exact same exposition that Kirk and Spock discovered from a similar computer at the end of the TOS episode, I was hoping the "Orville" would move in a different direction toward something fresh. But it didn't. I also thought of "Return of the Archons" at a few points, but that's mostly surface detail, unlike the actual storyline that came directly from "For the World Is Hollow...."

Let's not play coy and pretend that "generational ship of people unwittingly headed for destruction, ruled over by a theocracy and visited by Earthlings who discover the truth" is as common a plot to Sci-Fi as the name "Smith" is to the English language. This episode is an obvious lift from "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," and not a very good one, making me want to see the TOS episode again.

Rather than the McCoy illness/romance subplot, we get a subplot about the Orville engaging in an unremarkable space battle, while on the "planet" there are a few variations in detail to the usual capture-and-escape tropes of the TOS script. Robert Knepper replaces the high priestess of the TOS show and so on. But honestly, there's nothing fresh here at all. The two-part "Discovery" pilot had some clunky writing, but it was recognizably Trek and was clearly higher-caliber on every level in its ambitious effort to do something new. To my mind, the soaring promise of the "Discovery" pilot and the rehashed boredom of "The Orville" speak to a real dividing line in quality. If "Discovery" were on network TV, rather than CBS All Access, it would continue to demolish "Orville" in the ratings. For myself, I keep coming back to "Orville" because of the involvement of Star Trek people with it, but I know an inferior product when I see it. Macfarlane obviously wants a shot at the champ, and he's taking it in his own unimaginative way here, but there is only one champ. And that champ is Star Trek, the one and only, accept no substitutes.
Matt
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 1:48am (UTC -5)
Even though the plot is the similar to many Star Trek ones, it was refreshing to have this kind of story not have a debate about the Prime Directive taking up a large chunk of the episode.
Darren
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 8:19am (UTC -5)
Although I'm not sold on all the humor The Orville has featured so far, I've at least been okay with most of it. (And I actually find a lot of times that it's less about humor, and more about making the characters seem real ... putting a fresh spin on the whole affair.) This episode though marks the first time I was actually grinning in advance a couple times, such as when Capt. Mercer can't get the hatch open to the bio-ship (I just knew he was going to turn to Lt. Kitan for help ...)

Even better, as someone who often doesn't laugh out loud no matter how comical I find something, this episode also marks the first time that I did so for this series. Isaac's "It is a compliment!" line was good, as were several other lines or moments. But to me, it was his "Perhaps she fears you are not sexually adequate" line that was just really hilarious. (And again in terms of being realistic, it's interesting that Isaac, of a people who claim to be so intellectually superior, would completely misinterpret a situation like that. I hope--and would look forward to--more exploration and insight into Isaac and the Kaylon down the road. In more ways than one, there is a lot of potential there.)

I also thought of "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" as I watched this (but only vaguely of "Return of the Archons"). But perhaps as @Scot did, I nonetheless found the episode to be fresh. There certainly was some good character work--better, I seem to recall, than "FTWIHAIHTTS" had--and as @ Karl Zimmerman pointed out, while the setting was indeed very similar, from there, the specifics weren't. Now, there certainly was a TOS vibe--from the human-looking aliens and the architecture, and even to Capt. Mercer's method of getting into the interrogation building (whatever it was exactly). Actually, I might even suggest that it had a "Star Trek Continues" vibe about it; but with as much as I've enjoyed that series, and knowing that it will all be over in barely a month from now, I would hardly complain about that.

But for me, the real high point was the ending. It was quite moving, and, for yet another first for this series, I found myself tearing up. And I wasn't quite sure why; though upon reflection, I have some ideas. Part of it, I think, was Capt. Dural and his log entry / message. He presumably lost hope once they couldn't fix the engines, yet while it took hundreds of years (and generations upon which their society went astray) for his one small and last glimmer of hope to actualize, of course, with the crew of the Orville, it finally did.

More so though, I was later thinking about, say, people who get caught up and spend years of their lives living in abusive situations; or people who develop detrimental habits they'd like to break but haven't; or perhaps even people falsely imprisoned, only, if ever, being exonerated and gaining back their lives years later. And of numerous situations like that, really, where, "Thank you; We just gave you back what was already yours; Yes ... our future" might apply. (Not that I don't think that too often, we get so set on how our lives should go that when inevitably it doesn't work as imagined, we struggle to still see and appreciate the values of our lives. But there's no question that people get caught up in bad and unfair situations that, essentially, rob them of productivity and happiness that they never should have lost ... and the ending, I think, brought all this up to me.)

Of course, the music really helped sell it (how great has the music been so far in this show?). And incidentally, I really appreciated how Hamelac (?) was, amazingly enough, presented as a three-dimensional character. (You got the sense no matter his means, he did care about and fear for his world. And then, when even he has that briefest flicker of a smile at the end, when the stars are all appearing ... you even get the sense that he's as glad as anyone that the old reality is ending ... that it's all over.)

Overall, to me at least, this episode was the best yet. (In terms of its affect, I'd say it's on par with Star Trek episodes like "Blink of an Eye" (VOY); "Transfigurations" (TNG); or "In the Cards" (DS9).) *This* is (one way at least on) how to be aspirational with your sci-fi story ... in a way that really gives a lot of hope.
Real Human Robot
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 10:38am (UTC -5)
@Darren, hear, hear. My wife and I are also enjoying The Orville as a fun romp down memory lane which is often laugh-out-loud funny. I think the fact it doesn't take itself so seriously is quite refreshing, especially conpared with the tone of Discovery so far, which projects a sanctimony I'm just not buying yet. Maybe after 50 years of canon, it's more fun to see homages done in its spirit (even if they smack a bit of fan-fiction), than it is to see shoe-horned-in additions to it (especially when they try to "modernize" its spirit).

By the way, the premise of "For the World Is Hollow..." is hardly original when compared to the set up of the 1963 book Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein. And actually, David Mack even pointed out that "For the World..." cribbed many of its plot points from the previous Star Trek episode "The Paradise Syndrome." I mean, TOS could be accused of repeating others and itself. At least so far, The Orville can only be accused of repeating others.

@Jammer, is it really worthwhile for you to continue reviewing this series if nearly every episode is going to be "two stars/too much like Star Trek/too not funny?"
Jammer
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 11:21am (UTC -5)
We'll see how long I stick with it. I still hold out hope the show will get better. The ingredients are here, but they haven't figured out the ratio yet.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
"Yafit uses the doctor's professional obligation to attend to him if he reports illness in order to sexually harass her--again. This. Is. Not. Funny. It is also not OK, and its acceptability on the Orville fundamentally undermines any notion that we're in a more evolved future."

I agree.

That was actually the only "joke" in this epsiode that made me cringe (which is a great improvement over the previous episodes in this department).

But I have no trouble ignoring it. It's no different than all those times McCoy stepped over the line with his racist comments against Spock. You gotta gloss over these things if you want to watch the show.

And really, given that this is a McFarlane work, it could have been much *much* worse.
Joseph B
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 1:17pm (UTC -5)
All I can say right now is that I’m having *fun* with this show.

Yes, this plot was terribly derivative of several Star Trek:TOS eps, but there was some originality with the execution. As mentioned by Jammer, the first part recaptured the “sense of wonder” we all crave from Star Trek. And the last part was enhanced by a surprise guest star along with the title revelation. In the middle we got a “mini” space fight.

I think the bottom line here is that a lot of us are starved for a new “Star Trek” type show back on TV. And “Discovery” is now stuck behind a pay wall. I’m going to pay for a month of CBS-AA to give the “official” show a real chance, but I’m not happy about it. And right now The Orville seems more familiar. And it’s certainly more accessible.
It *does* need to get a little better, but I’m willing to give it plenty of time to get there.


Diane
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
Curious as to how/why the name "Dural" came to be used.
Brandon
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
I wonder how long it will take Adrianne Palicki to realize what she's doing to her career and start begging Seth to write her off the show.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
Well, the ratings are in.

After the big (and expected) drop when the show moved to Thursdays last week, the ratings were fairly steady this week (3.7 million vs 4.0 million).

I guess this means that this show more-or-less found its target audience. Does anybody know how good/bad are these numbers (assuming they remain more-or-less constant)?

Paul Allen
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 4:52pm (UTC -5)
Less great than last weeks episode, but still good. And Liam Freaking Neeson??
J.B.
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 5:43pm (UTC -5)
Really, I think Jammer needs recognition for cranking out these well-written (and fairly lengthy) reviews consistently the day after they air. And balancing two shows too! It's just like the good old days, haha.
Zoe
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 7:53pm (UTC -5)
This episode does not rip off For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. It has the same basic setup but beyond that it's quite different. And remember that the Star Trek episode itself bears a strong resemblance to "Orphans of the Sky" by Robert Heinlein first published in 1941, which has the following synopsis on Wikipedia.

"A gigantic, cylindrical generation ship Vanguard, originally destined for "Far Centaurus", is cruising without guidance through the interstellar medium as a result of a long-ago mutiny that killed most of the officers. Over time, the descendants of the surviving loyal crew have forgotten the purpose and nature of their ship and lapsed into a pre-technological culture marked by superstition. They come to believe the "Ship" is the entire universe, so that "To move the ship" is considered an oxymoron, and references to the Ship's "voyage" are interpreted as religious metaphor. They are ruled by an oligarchy of "officers" and "scientists". Most crew members are simple illiterate farmers, seldom or never venturing to the "upper decks" where the "muties" (an abbreviation of "mutants" or "mutineers") dwell. Among the crew, all identifiable mutants are killed at birth."
Trek fan
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
@RealHumanRobot actually "The Paradise Syndrome" was TOS doing a space version of "Tahiti syndrome," in which British sailors to the new world forget their duties/homes and "went native" by settling down with a native girl. The American Indian aspect underscores this analogy as Kirk "goes native" with a space American Indian girl and forgets his past. There is an asteroid hurtling toward the "Tahiti planet," and the Enterprise is trying to blow it up and/or reactivate an ancient deflector shield that will repulse it, but that's nothing like "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." You're welcome to excuse it , but the biosphere ship plot line in all the various details I gave above is a direct rip from "For the World Is Hollow" alone, not any other TOS show. There is no other TOS plot quite like it.

Since I'm not paying for Discovery on the assumption that reruns will eventually air in a free venue, I'm watching "Orville," but I'm with Jammer: Call this show out when it reheats old pizza and serves it as "new." Keep watching and keep kicking the Orville in the pants when it falls back on lazy writing.

If some people enjoy rehashing old times on the Orville, they're entitled to it, but let's not pretend it's a new spin. If you want a new spin on TOS, watch the Star Trek Voyager episode "Blink of an Eye," which takes the same concept from TOS' "Wink of an Eye" (an interesting episode with flaws of execution) and expands/improves on it. I don't see that happening at all in "If the Stars Should Appear." To my mind, "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" is better than this Orville rehash, because it's got the original Trek cast with their great chemistry, and the concept is treated with more seriousness and freshness on TOS even if DeForest Kelley perhaps underplays his terminal romance. At least the TOS writers weren't recycling their plot from an older Sci Fi show. When push comes to shove, I'll take average TOS over average Orville any day. I think Orville needs to either play up the Macfarlane humor -- it could be a lot funnier than it is, more like "Galaxy Quest" -- or just give it up, because its current halfhearted inclusion at tonally jarring moments just isn't working for me.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
@Trek fan

Mind telling us how - exactly - this Orville episode is a rehash of "For the World is Hollow..."?

I mean, beyond the very general premise of "A generational ship hurtling toward destruction full of people from a civilization who do not realize they are on a ship, with a religious theocracy ruling over everyone to keep them from realizing the truth"?

Other than this short paragraph of yours that I just quoted, the two episodes are nothing alike. The story beats are completely different. There's no romance story here and no omniscient oracle. The Orville episode has a capture-and-rescue story which the TOS episode doesn't. The Orville episode has a nice B-plot (the distress call). The Orville episode has completely different character interactions.

And then there's the ending, which is 100% original (and also quite moving).

So how, exactly, is "If the Stars Should Appear" a rip-off "Hollow"?

Sorry, but I don't see it.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 9:30pm (UTC -5)
BTW TOS's "Wink of an Eye" and VOY's "Blink of an Eye" also have virtually nothing in common except the very general sci fi idea of "a civilization accelerated in time"

It's not a "reworking of the same concept". It is a completely different story.
intro2001
Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 1:37am (UTC -5)
You guys are high. Yes it's ultimately an elaborate "For The World Is Hollow..." (which BTW is a neat view of what that TOS ep could have been with more budget and 2017 effects) but the second act (after the opening credits) is a massive-freaking homage to the initial V'ger scenes in TMP. I'd give it ***1/2 just for that.
Hank
Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Alexandrea: Regarding the slimeguy: For me it felt like he really is just lonely and does not know what to do about it. He wasn't so bombastic as last time, and the doctors reaction did also seem more sombre. I hope this will get resolved in further episodes.
Dougie
Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
Since I won't pay for CBS, I am stuck with The SnoreVille. I can't even remember it's on each week and end up watching it on Fox.com

Every scene leaves me wanting for the obvious comedy that never occurs, cringing from the comedy that does occur, and being mildly entertained by the storyline.

Here's the thing MacFarlane got right: IT'S FREE! So I'll watch it until it ends most likely.
Diane Durall
Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 9:55pm (UTC -5)
Does anyone have info/ideas on how the name "Dural" came to be used in Orville. since our name is "Durall", am curious.
Dougie
Mon, Oct 2, 2017, 1:29am (UTC -5)
Dragon's Teeth -

"When it rains, do you run from doorway to doorway trying to stay dry, getting wet all the while, or do you just accept the fact that it's raining, and walk with dignity?"

The best philosophical moment of Voyager. Hands down.
HawgWyld
Mon, Oct 2, 2017, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
Not a bad episode and, in fact, this whole series feels like its just finding its footing. There was nothing great here, but it wasn't dreadful, either. Here's hoping "The Orville" improves in the weeks to come.
Trek fan
Mon, Oct 2, 2017, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Not to belabor the point, but what I (and I think Jammer) mean by the "story" of a TV episode -- I.e. the basic concept of the plot that writers pitch to producers -- is a brief capsule summary like what we used to read in TV Guide describing it. As Jammer showed by lifting a sentence from his review of "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," this Orville episode has the same story. It may vary in execution and details, but it's the same basic story: It starts the same way in the discovery of a generational ship hurtling toward destruction and moves toward the same resolution of the crew saving the people by telling them the truth about their situation and discovering a computer record.

This is not a "general" or "common" story at all, say like "cop goes rogue to get revenge on the guy who killed his partner," but a very specific pitch that I can count on one hand (indeed on one finger) all the number of times I've seen it done on a TV show. That one time was the TOS episode "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." Case closed. We can agree to disagree about whether we enjoyed Macfarlane's take on the story, but I don't think it's disputable that he borrowed a very particular story that was done before (once and only once) on the same science-fiction show he happens to be taking as inspiration for this homage that I sometimes call The Boreville. Maybe some people enjoyed this one because they haven't seen (or haven't seen recently enough to remember) "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," but that doesn't change the fact that this story has been done before.

If a tree falls in the woods when you're not looking, it still falls. If "Enterprise" repeats the same story from "Voyager," as it did in several cases like the "crewmember hallucinating alone on the ship" concept with Seven of Nine and Doctor Phlox, then it's still a rehash even if you didn't see the earlier show first. And there's no way for us who have seen all of Star Trek to pretend we haven't seen this Orville story on TOS before, regardless of however Macfarlane changed various details. We can argue about whether it's a good redo, but not that's its a redo.

Look, I'm rooting for Orville, I really am. I agree with Jammer about the few moments of this episode (i.e. Klyden's funny comfort eating and the torture scene) that felt fresh. But most of it bored me, felt like stuff I'd seen before in a very specific Star Trek episode, and I never had any doubt where things were going to resolve themselves after the crew discovered the resistance movement. While Orville may be "meh" or "okay" in reminding me of better things I've seen on Star Trek, borrowing from the classics will only take you so far, and we need to see some fresh stuff (and I'm totally in favor of punching up the humor to make it sharper, more like a spoof, if that's what it takes) if this program is going to become more than network filler for people who want Trek but aren't subscribing to watch Discovery. To be honest, Discovery is a better show so far despite some early kinks, and I say that as someone who like Jammer has seen every Trek episode and does not impress easily. I'm impressed by Star Trek Discovery so far.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 6:42am (UTC -5)
Okay, I understand your point of view.

I still don't agree with it, though.

I'll say that "cop goes rogue to get revenge on the guy who killed his partner" is just a little more generic than the premise borrowed here.

Besides, when we have something that "was only done once before", the question is how well was it done the first time? "For the World is Hollow..." is a pretty medicore episode (especially considering the potential of the premise). Do you really want it to be the last episode in the history of television to tell this kind of story?

While the Orville's take on the premise isn't great, it is still far superior - in my view - to the source of its inspiration.

And yes, I agree that that "For the World is Hollow" was probably the inspiration for the premise of this show. I'm simply saying that there's a huge difference between borrowing the general premise of an episode and actually ripping it off. The latter is always a bad thing and it should be condemned. The former can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances.

Peter G.
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 11:12am (UTC -5)
I think you may have both missed the mark a bit on the context of MacFarlane ripping off a TOS episode. It isn't a bug, it's a feature. Part of his writing style is being intentionally self-referential and using known tropes and references to refer to. It's the quintessential postmodern style, where a good chunk of the content is showing that it's smart enough to reference other content. Tarantino does it with B film and westerns, and MacFarlane does it with pop culture and American mores.

I'm pretty sure that he not only took "For the World Is Hollow..." as a template, but did so with the deliberate notion that directly referencing it would both legitimize Orville as being a fan of Trek, as well as do his usual thing of trying to put his own spin on a known story. Whether that comes off to a viewer as fresh or as creative laziness will vary, but the debate about whether this ep could realistically be traced back to TOS misses the point that it was probably intended to be understood as doing so, right out in the open. That's how MacFarlane writes. If the reference is missed or denied then half the joke is gone already. The question is whether you like the joke.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 11:39am (UTC -5)
I've actually used the exact same words ("it's not a bug, it's a feature") in this exact context on the "Command Performance" thread, so I agree with your general sentiment.

Then again, there's a huge difference between references and a wholesale ripoff of a specific episode. So the question of whether "If the Stars..." did that or not does have merit (short answer: it doesn't).

(the only place where a wholesale ripoff would be acceptable is in a full-blown spoof. Spaceballs got away with it when parodying Star Wars, but the Orville is playing their stories way too straight to get this kind of free pass)
Dexter Morgan
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
I dont know how any of you watch this garbage. Its horrendous.
Other Chris
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
@Dexter Morgan JJ Abrams is considered "The Next Spielberg" and Donald Trump is president. Standards are looooooooow.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 6:34pm (UTC -5)
Dexter, at least explain WHY you think it is "horrendous garabage".

Just saying "it sucks" doesn't contribute anything to the discussion.
chrisx
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 9:35am (UTC -5)
I can explain. It sucks because... well, it DOES and I am sure it will be cancelled next year while DIS will get a second season!
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
Ah, I see.

You have, indeed, explained yourself perfectly. :-)
SlackerInc
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
Wow, I was shocked to see the two star rating.  Admittedly, I don't remember the TOS episode he refers to (I think maybe I haven't seen much of the third season?), but as @Real Human Robot points out, "colony ship goes adrift, people on it lose memory that it's not the whole universe and create a new religion" goes at LEAST as far back as Robert Heinlein's 1941 novel Orphans of the Sky.  (Not sure why his date is 1963 when Wikipedia says 1941.)

I LOVED this episode, except for one flaw at the end.  I was all ready to give it four stars, the first "Orville" episode to get that rating from me (and there aren't many "Trek" episodes that get it either), but then I *thought* they were actually going to lift something from another sci-fi classic: Asimov's "Nightfall".  There's no way people who have never seen night would just accept it without totally freaking out, especially when the vast majority didn't know it was coming!  But that was only like a ten second flaw, so it's still like 3.8 stars which rounds up to 4.

This episode had a judicious amount of humor that mostly worked.  I disagree with Jammer about the "BAM!" bit on the bridge; and like Jammer I cracked up when the captain tried to be polite about hating their food.

Seems like Alara might have a crush on the captain?

@OTDP: TV By the Numbers seems confident the ratings are good enough to earn a second season for "Orville".  Yay!

As for "Orville" vs. "Discovery": after the first two episodes of the latter, I might have called it a tie or maybe a slight edge to "Discovery" for having better visual effects.  But then I saw the third episode of "Discovery", which to me was a big dropoff in quality (albeit still with some elements I like), and this episode of "Orville" which I consider the best yet.  So right now "Orville" is ahead by a length at least.
Dexter Morgan
Fri, Oct 6, 2017, 6:52pm (UTC -5)
"Dexter, at least explain WHY you think it is "horrendous garabage".

Just saying "it sucks" doesn't contribute anything to the discussion."

Fair. I just didnt want to drone on being TOO negative.

My thoughts: Its poorly cast, poorly acted, poorly scripted, poorly rehashed carbon copy trash. It has no ingenuity, it has no pace, and it has no idea what type of show it wants to be. And that is my opinion just from watching the first 20 minutes. Now I get the response would be, "give it a few episodes" in which case ill say, "No". In today's TV landscape you dont have the luxury of a few episodes or a whole season to get your shit straight. You have to hit the ground running with all cylinders firing. The quality of TV out there is amazing and this show simply isnt good enough to warrant my time.
Trekker
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
Orville to me is okay, like Star Trek TNG Season 1.

It's serviceable, but not original.

When you contrast this show to Star Trek Discovery, breaking new ground in the wrong direction, I have to ask the question:

Do you want to enjoy a TV show that ventures into a dark world that masquerades itself as a Utopia? Or do you want to live in a light world that does not hide its frivolous nature?

I think Orville needs a game changer episode to put it up there with the best of Classic Trek, but it's on a good trajectory for something like that. Star Trek Discovery in contrast is heading in a direction that makes it far more akin to Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars than Star Trek, I expect it not to live up to the classics and stride for different path that is appealing to some, but just not what I'd consider engaging for a Star Trek show. I love the new BSG for a reason, just like I liked DS9, TNG, and TOS for others, along with Babylon 5.

Right now I want optimistic Sci-Fi, not Pessimistic Sci-Fi.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Tue, Oct 10, 2017, 5:18am (UTC -5)
@Dexter
" Now I get the response would be, 'give it a few episodes'..."

Actually, no.

After everything you've written, it is very clear that you SHOULDN'T give the Orville any more chances. For you, personally, it really is a terrible show. There's no point in sticking around and waiting for it to change ('cause it won't).

As for your question/statement:
"I dont know how any of you watch this garbage."

Well, obviously, if we continue watching it, we don't see it as "garbage". Different people have different priorities.

For example, while you say "it has no idea what type of show it wants to be", I get the exact opposite feeling from the Orville: I feel it knows *exactly* what it wants to be. It's a weird beast, but purposely so. It's like Star Trek meeting the Office meeting Futurama, and I dig this combination very much.

Where you see "a poorly rehashed carbon copy trash", I see a loving homage made in a unique personal style. I agree that the stories themselves are not terribly original, but the execution is very fresh in my view. The directing is top notch, the pacing is good (I disagree with you on this one), the visuals are lovely and the music is downright incredible.

Also, sometimes (as in this episode) the Orville "rehash" is actually better than the source material. Other times, there are other redeeming qualities of originality. For example: Orville's "About a Girl" is obviously no match to the excellent "Measure of a Man", but "Girl" also dealt with specific issues that were never properly addressed in any episode of official Trek to date (which, given over 700 episodes of Trek, is downright amazing).

Besides, can you name even one modern sci fi show which isn't "rehashed carbon copy trash"? Nearly all modern sci fi shows look alike and feel alike. Even "Discovery" managed to turn Trek into another "generic sci fi" clone.

At least the Orville is copying something that I like. Do you realize that there's absolutely nothing like it on TV these days? It's kinda funny calling the Orville "a rehashed carbon copy" when it is doing something very brave and unique that no other show is doing.

Does the show have flaws? Sure. I agree that the acting is a weak point. The scripts, while not awful in my view, are not that great either (I hope that McFarlane realizes that he isn't exactly a genius sci fi writer and that he should bring in actual such writers to the "Orville" team). Also, I personally could do without the low brow humor (which seems to become rarer and rarer as the show progresses).

But despite these flaws, I think the show does what it meant to do reasonably well. And I like it. It may not be the greatest show ever made, but it is certainly good enough for me to want to continue watching.

hpontes
Thu, Oct 12, 2017, 3:03am (UTC -5)
I'm quite surprised at all the hate.

I left this episode with a horrible realization. I'm enjoying The Orville a LOT more than Star Trek: Discovery.

It's unfair to judge a series entirely by comparing, but let's see, what do we know about character building, world building and etc after 3 episodes of each?

STD (wow... the horrible moment I also realize Discovery's acronym is STD....):
**SPOILERS** Klingons bad, war happened, commander mutinied, new captain angry, Klingon messiah, Warp/teleport hybrid.

Orville: New races, gender-weird races and their politics, we've touched on gender issues, race issues, feminism, religion and dogma... in 3 episodes The Orville has at least touched pretty much all the untouchables.

They're not masterpieces really, but I leave the Orville feeling like I've just watched a Star Trek episode. I leave STD (omg really... STD... wow...) with more of a "I guess ____ is different too in this reality... Oh I guess maybe _____ changed too because of this timeline...". With STD I'm essentially constantly having to throw away all I've ever learned from 4 series, with multiple viewings, and having to suspend my belief to the point that STD is more like some sort of Reverse Reality where we pick out the "wrong" things.

STD is going full on battlestar/wars, very little social commentary, and I'm really not liking that they're essentially building up to us not liking the captain... I mean essentially it's looking like Michael will have to "mutiny", but then realize she shouldn't mutiny and instead counsel... like yeah...

The humor in Orville is awesome, and pushing it sometimes. Most of the humor in The Orville are like mental "yes! that's really what would happen" where Star Trek was way too inhuman sometimes. Like all those times they tried other peoples foods, the awkward moments. When you yell out happy that you just did something awesome then realize that's not the right time/place...

And the violence was jarringly real... How many times did a Star Trek person get kidnapped, and you can tell they were roughed up because their hair was a mess... Seeing the commander hit in The Orville I instantly had a moment of, "Oh wow... they're right... THIS is what those kidnapping/captured scenes would really be like....". Or when they put on a random cartoon/show, whereas Star Trek would put on some classics/etc like only those would ever survive, instead of our crap too. Or when in this episode she's shot, and really bloody/pale with actual surgical tools.

Many of the humor moments are really just nods to us in a "you know... this is what us humans would really do...", because our tech does evolve much faster than our social morality/personality.

This felt like a Voyager episode. A good voyager episode.

I give it a 3.5/5
Yanks
Thu, Oct 12, 2017, 6:33am (UTC -5)
I found this episode to be enjoyable. Some good humor, some good interactions.

I also don't think I can evaluate this like trek. There's not enough seriousness to it.

Sort of a message, pretty badly told and directed....

But it's fun and that's about it.

If you're going to steel from a TOS episode, I'd choose a season 1 or 2 episode. :-)

2 stars.
Brontodon
Sat, Oct 21, 2017, 5:37pm (UTC -5)
Look at how First Officer Kelly Grayson is the toughest character so far -- she's the one being beaten and tortured in "If the Stars Should Appear," AND telling the guy beating her face in to go to hell! In the next episode, "Pria," SHE'S the one getting into a fistfight with the villain while the bridge crew -- including the captain -- stands around watching. Keep in mind that she's the reason Mercer got his command in the first place, and she was willing to leave the ship after he got it, having accomplished what she set out to do. Very tough, very loyal, self-sacrificing -- basically a female Captain Kirk! I think we're going to end up admiring this character after a while.

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