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Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

Now that was lovely! From last week's preview, I was worried we'd get a retread of "In Theory," and while it kind of was in its broad strokes (artificial lifeform tries dating and relationships with a human), it had such an endearing sweetness that I found it impossible to resist. It made all the difference that the seeds of Claire and Isaac's relationship were planted in "Into the Fold" and "Ja'loja." Also that it's two leads dating, rather than Data and a guest star who we knew would be gone next week.

"The episode's piano performance and live orchestral show... reveals Seth MacFarlane as not only a TNG fanboy, but giant romantic at heart. The longings, romances and broken hearts in this show are much criticized, but IMO they don't feel like cliches, but something personal."

Nailed it! If there's a dominant theme in the Orville, it's not exploration of space and the human condition like Star Trek, it's the complexity of dating and romantic relationships. This has been a consistent thread throughout the series that has touched every character: Ed/Kelly, Bortus/Klyden, Claire/Isaac, even Alara and Gordon have been on dates and John's role as Official Love Advisor. This episode, more than any other, clarifies this theme and resonates with previous episodes like "Ja'loja," which I also loved because it was about character and relationships. If the Orville evolves into a giant rom-com in space, I'd be totally on board. Trek gave us plenty of science, adventure, action, politics, exploration, etc. Let the Orville do a different take on the format.

I've also found that the Orville is a great audience show. Trek is fun to watch with people, but I find that we usually just sit there in respectful silence. With the Orville, the group I watch with, which is a mix of Trekkies and non-Trekkies, is constantly laughing, commenting, talking back to the screen, and just having a blast. This episode was a real winner in that regard. And it was our resident non-Trekkie who was most on board with the romance and excited at every turn it took.

My favorite episode of the series so far. Loved it top to bottom, from the silly B-plot about Bortus' moustache to the sweeping camera moves during the orchestral performance to the corny but completely earnest and sincere starry-eyed tone.

As every new piece of news about Star Trek just makes me cringe (a Section 31 show!! gritty gore and violence!!), I'll take a cheesy romantic ending where a woman and robot kiss to "Singin' in the Rain" any day.
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Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

I have to agree with Jammer here. This was an entertaining, well-produced episode with plot holes that you could drive a truck through. It recycled the worst elements of TOS's planet episodes: find a planet with a unique societal problem and solve everything in less than an hour.

Even granted that these people have an absolute, dogmatic belief in astrology, they can't comprehend that aliens come from different solar systems with different constellations and therefore different astrological signs? As for the crew's plan to add another star to their sky, to paraphrase Red Letter Media, it's hard to untangle how complex the level of awfulness is. So these aliens, with an advanced system of satellites dedicated solely to tracking the sky, don't immediately discover this blatantly obvious object in high orbit? I assumed the crew was placing this mirror well outside the solar system to keep it hidden and solve the perspective problems, but the VFX shots show it in an orbit similar to our modern-day space stations. The swiftness with which Bortus and Kelly are released is absurd, and Ed's hand-waving away the vast societal changes he's wrought in the final scene is frustrating. I can deal with cliches, and I cut this show some slack because I mostly view it as a comedy, but this episode IMO crossed the line from cliche to absurdity.

In his script, MacFarlane employs a frustrating array of hacky shortcuts. There's the time jump between commercial breaks that spans almost a month yet reveals the situation is totally unchanged. The assumption that this planet has one leader, one religion, and one world government was a tired trope 30 years ago. MacFarlane is a prolific writer, and I give props to the guy for his work ethic. But prolific writers are particularly prone to cliches and formulas. Look at Gene Coon from TOS. He was hugely prolific, wrote some great episodes, and developed some great ideas like the Klingons and the Prime Directive. But he was also responsible for many of TOS's most memeable cliches: the redshirt death, Kirk vs. the computer, an ending scene where Kirk and McCoy tease Spock for showing emotion and Spock says some variety of "I believe I've been insulted." Jammer identifies the Planetary Union's philosophy of first contact as "just wing it." The same could be said for MacFarlane's writing, which works great for a comedy, not so well when you're trying to establish a universe with consistent rules.

I did enjoy the early scenes that show the crew genuinely excited to make first contact. Bortus is a gem throughout, with his usual deadpan one-liners. My favorite: "We are having separate celebrations." The episode is fun to watch, with a basic level of technical competence. But "Who Watches the Watchers" this ain't. I don't expect The Orville to surpass TNG in terms of its drama or original sci-fi premises. I just ask that it makes sense.
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Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes

I loved this one! I always found the Orville entertaining and tuned in to its sense of humor because I'm a fan of MacFarlane's other shows (mostly American Dad. I haven't watched Family Guy in 10 years). But this one really nailed the *drama* for the first time.

I was worried that the Gordon B-plot would be a repeat of TNG's "Thine Own Self" where Troi takes the command test. What else can you do with a plot about a command test other than "character takes it, runs into obstacles, and passes or fails?" But it worked for me since Gordon is so obviously unfit for the job and actually realizes it by the episode's end. His desperation and lack of self-esteem is really well-played by Scott Grimes. Kelly gets a really strong showing, and comes off as a thoroughly competent, professional officer.

At first, I was iffy on the A-plot since it dipped into the well of Trek cliches: the Shuttle Crash [TM], getting to high ground to send a signal ala DS9's "The Ascent." I actually laughed at the line, "They're venting drive plasma." But it really came together once Ed and Tyler were in the cave, and we actually got some thoughtful dialogue about how a civilization reacts to discovering it's not alone. It was the Trekkiest thing I've seen in TV or film since Archer's big speech at the end of "Terra Prime." And the ending montage with the Billy Joel song: wow! I was not expecting to actually *feel* for Ed: his loneliness, the tragedy of meeting an amazing woman, only to find out she never really existed. Well done!

I admit, I didn't make the connection with Discovery until I read the above comments, but now I can't unsee it and it's hysterical. The episode is absolutely a middle finger to the Tyler / Voq plot. It gives me joy to imagine MacFarlane, Braga, and the Orville team riffing on Discovery like it's MST3K. (A bit of offseason news that caught my eye: Joe Menosky jumping ship from Discovery and joining up with his old Trek buddies on The Orville. I bet he has stories to tell.)

Really, I have no complaints. Great show and I can't wait for the next one. (Side note: After every single Trek series refused to reference pop culture after the 60s, I was amused to see Ed's movie tastes stretching into the 80s with Raiders of the Lost Ark. God, I would love a meta joke about Ed actually watching Star Trek.)
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Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Home

This was fine. Pretty good as far as "saying goodbye to a crewmember" episodes go. I was worried that they were going to rip off (VOY) "Homestead" right down to the line of crewmembers in the hallway to see Alara off (a very lovely moment in Homestead, but it would have been *too* shamless a ripoff here), so I'm glad they picked the low-key route of having each main cast member hug her one by one. Understated and classy.

My problem was, like the commenters above have pointed out, the family scenes were incredibly stilted and the family came off like rich WASPs, not aliens with a distinct culture. The episode had a latter-day VOY / ENT vibe which is not in its favor, since that was Trek at its most stilted. Alara's conflict with her dad worked OK, and so did the hostage crisis. Very nice moment where she tells her dad "you can do it," which resonates with their earlier argument. I mostly enjoyed this story for the novelty value of seeing Robert Picardo and John Billingsley in the same scene, and Billingsley playing a bad guy. (This was an alum-heavy episode overall. Molly Hagan, Alara's mom, played a Vorta on DS9, and Patrick Warburton is instantly recognizable to Seth McFarlane fans.)

The B-plot on the Orville with Warburton's new security officer was incredibly jarring and didn't fit with the rest of the episode. Even though I found the *content* of the A-plot standard, I did appreciate how it played as straightforward drama and encouraged us to take it seriously without digressions into random jokes (aside from the occasional Gordon quip, but that's what he's here for).

As to the rumors of McFarlane and Sage dating, it would be a little icky if their relationship ended and that's the reason she's being written off the show. I can't find any straight answers online; it could be as simple as a scheduling conflict, since they left the door so obviously open for her to return. But honestly, actors are fickle creatures (I say this being an actor and working with many actors over the years) who sometimes make odd choices with their careers. We may be looking at a George Lazenby situation where he chose, completely on his own volition, not to return as Bond, thus throwing away his biggest break. Or Denise Crosby, who felt understandably undervalued on TNG S1 but could've gotten some great episodes if she'd stuck it out. Or maybe Sage knows more than we do, and she's making the right choice. Who knows? I'm fine with Alara leaving and fine with her maybe returning someday.

Not the episode's fault, but I laughed out loud when my local FOX station cut straight from a Wendy's commercial to a shot of a woman's finger about to be cut off. Talk about tonal shifts!
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Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Primal Urges

Now that was interesting! "Primal Urges" is "Hollow Pursuits" taken to its logical conclusion, and actually treated with a fair amount of compassion. Bortus' monologue in the shuttle was a moment of pathos I truly didn't expect, especially when he acknowledges how hollow and dead his addiction makes him feel. Was the word "porn" even mentioned on Star Trek? Quark ran sex programs in his holosuites, sure, but that took place far offscreen. Kudos to The Orville for not only bringing up the topic of porn addiction, but actually showing it.

That being said, I still struggle with the show's tone. One minute, Bortus is being stabbed in the chest, and the next, Gordon is making masturbation jokes. At this point, the tonal shifts are a feature of the show, rather than a bug. You like them or you don't. It mostly works for me, but during the porn scenes, it led to some cognitive dissonance. I watch the show in a mixed group of Trek / sci-fi fans and non-fans, and most people were laughing simply at the novel sight of rubber-headed aliens acting out porn scenarios. Whereas it seemed the episode wanted us to feel sad for Bortus screwing up his life. I worry that the show undercuts its own intentions by priming us to expect humor, even during dramatic scenes.

@wolfstar, totally agree that Bortus and Klyden blow Stamets and Culber out of the water as far as a same-sex relationship with characters you care about. Stamets / Culber felt like they were ticking a box ("No same-sex couples so far on Trek? Check!"), but Bortus / Klyden have real arguments, moments of affection, etc. Their relationship lives and breathes, instead of being just a tool in the season arc.

The visual effects are just astounding for TV. The final plunge into the sun was genuinely intense, and the score had a strong Wrath of Khan vibe. My group actually rewound the episode (we DVR it) to figure out if the penis monster with the Jabba the Hutt voice was CGI or a puppet. It looks like a combination to me, maybe a suit with CGI filling in the vocal articulation. I almost wish the refugee subplot had been saved for a different episode, since it's such a dark, rich scenario that could've used more exploration than just a component of Bortus' story. I guess the Orville writers are following the TNG rule of combining character-based A-plots with sci-fi B-plots.

Finally, I do love Bortus, but the rest of the cast is starting to feel underdeveloped. Would love to see more LaMarr / Alarra / Finn episodes that give them this kind of depth.
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Mon, Dec 31, 2018, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Ja'loja

Longtime lurker posting here for the first time! I figured the start of Orville S2 would be a good time to jump in. (I will not be watching Discovery S2 since S1 so thoroughly put me off, but I will greatly enjoy watching you fine people tear it apart every week!)

As for "Ja'loja," I loved it! Not everyone's cup of tea, for sure, but if you're a fan of Seth MacFarlane's other shows, you know what to expect. Even on Trek, I always loved these kinds of low-key hangout episodes: VOY's "Someone to Watch Over Me," DS9's "In the Cards." The Orville's sci-fi elements have been pretty weak so far, so I'm glad to see the show lean into its strengths: a laid-back, another-day-at-the-office tone with regular people dealing with regular relationship issues.

I disagree with some of the other posters here; the episode did have a strong thematic throughline of the complexities of dating and romantic relationships (with the exception of the Isaac / Claire subplot). I liked the love triangles being set up among Ed / Kelly / Gordon / Cassius / the new character. LaMarr was fun as a love advisor. The Alara / Dann date was cringeworthy and funny. Probably my favorite small joke was Dann's "I miss you already" text. Too real, Seth. Too real.

I do have to turn off that alarm in the back of my head that goes off whenever the Orville reminds me of a Star Trek episode:

- Bortus' ceremony like Pon Farr from "Amok Time"
- The "your kid is a bad influence" teenage subplot like Jake and Nog in the early DS9 episodes
- Bortus even had a line like "this ceremony is shared with one's closest friends," which is almost word-for-word how Worf refers to his "bachelor party" in "You Are Cordially Invited."

But that's just me and my encyclopedic Trek brain.

Favorite little detail: in the future, the more zippers a jacket has, the cooler it is.
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