Air date: 9/17/2017
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Command Performance" improves upon the Orville pilot while also doubling down on several of its problems. It's an improvement in that the tonal clash, while still present, is less frequently obvious. It also jettisons the mindless action and cartoon villainy that caused the last act of "Old Wounds" to completely fall apart. And it features an A/B-story structure that proves the supporting characters on this show will eventually get their due.
On the other hand, one of the biggest problems remains and is not likely to go away anytime soon: This show is such a blatant rip-off of the Rick Berman Trek era that it's distracting and counterproductive. It's one thing to pay homage, but when you claim to be in a different universe (wink, wink) and then proceed to make everything such a Trek clone — from the music to the story beats to the jargon to the photography and shot selection — the whole thing just comes off feeling like a weak pretender, no matter how expertly produced.
We now have an opening title sequence that, while not quite shot-for-shot plagiarism of the Voyager titles, comes close enough. The in-show music by John Debney is cued up right where we expect it, just like in the days of Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway — though Debney has a little more leeway for bombast here. The director of photography is Marvin V. Rush, who worked on all the Berman productions and shoots this exactly like those shows. And Robert Duncan McNeill, who directed the episode, undoubtedly brought his many years of Voyager with him. Unless The Orville's intended identity is simply "Rehashed Berman Trek featuring occasional MacFarlane one-liners," then this is a series with a serious identity problem. You want a 1990s retread — okay, sure. But I think they owe us more than an HD update of what is already available by the hundreds of hours on Netflix.
Anyway, I'd better move on (and I promise not to belabor this point for weeks on end). In the absence of something different or inspired, we here have something that's serviceable. Mercer and Grayson — in keeping with the tenor of the show, let's just call them Ed and Kelly and be on a first-name basis with everyone — are lured into an illusory trap and vanish to an unknown place. This leaves the very inexperienced Alara in command of the ship against her will. (Bortus is expecting a child and is on leave in his quarters to sit on his egg; the cold open features Ed awkwardly fumbling through tepid egg jokes while Bortus plays the straight man.) The bulk of the show is about the trials and errors of being a 23-year-old with zero command experience who is suddenly in charge of a starship and must now find the missing captain and first officer.
I could theoretically be on board for this plot, familiar as it is, if it weren't so hopelessly cheesy and ham-handed. While there's a certain goofy charm to watching this show earnestly go through the story beats of The Kid's First Command, the way it's executed is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. At various points Alara vomits out of panic (not on the bridge, thankfully), literally runs away to take counsel from the sage Dr. Finn (who gives her a maternal, no-BS pep talk), takes shots of tequila, and displays moments of faux overconfidence to try to gain the crew's respect. Par for course, I suppose. Halston Sage (Ha! Sage!) provides a green performance for her character's green command, which I guess is okay.
An admiral played by Ron Canada (who's like the perfect obligatory casting choice for this character) orders Alara to return to Earth rather than pursue a lead in the investigation after she tracks Ed and Kelly's whereabouts to the world of the Calivon, with whom the Planetary Union strictly forbids contact. So Alara must choose to either disobey orders and follow the clues, or abandon her shipmates.
It would seem Malloy's part in all this is to be the asshole who will back you if he agrees with you, but will piss in your coffee if he doesn't. The big turning-point scene where Alara goes to whatever they call this show's version of Ten-Forward and Malloy tells her simply, "YOU SUCK," doesn't speak much to his professionalism or empathy in helping a rookie through a tough decision. This is also lacking what could've been some solid dialogue in the Trek tradition. The scene then lays it on really thick by pulling a sudden 180 and having Alara stand up and announce her decision to disobey the admiral's orders ("If they don't like it they can bite me!"), at which point the entire room erupts into cheers. The whiplash of this scene and the way it's so hokey and overplayed doesn't feel earned. It also doesn't help us understand the rules of the universe we're in, because there's no sense of whether the admiral's order is coming from a genuine place of danger or from bureaucratic wrong-headedness that can and should be dismissed; it's just a plot device. (For that matter, Alara being in command in the first place suggests we shouldn't take the Union fleet seriously as a space-faring organization but rather bring a "just go with this silliness" mentality to the whole series.)
I'll also say the glib, contemporary dialogue ("You suck," "Bite me," "White guy can go to Compton as long as the black guy says it's cool," etc.) is shoehorned into the script so unnaturally (other times everyone just talks like they're in a Star Trek episode) that it often pulls me right out of the show. For the most part this was better here than the pilot because it was toned down somewhat, but there are still moments where this is odd and random and doesn't work.
The B-plot in which Ed and Kelly find themselves trapped in a replica of their old apartment and engage in exes-will-be-exes reminiscence and bickering (some of which is fine, some of which is too cliché) showcases this show's considerable visual appeal; the FX shots of the futuristic New York skyline through the window are particularly striking. Something this series definitely has going for it is the handsome production, which makes this an inviting world to spend time in, all other conceptual problems notwithstanding. These scenes also showcase Adrianne Palicki acting circles around Seth MacFarlane, though we kind of figured that was inevitable. The revelation that they are actually the human exhibit in a Calivon zoo is a sci-fi standby (with shades of The Twilight Zone and Trek's original pilot, "The Cage"), sure, but the reveal lands well enough within the confines of this story's modest ambitions and works far better than the mishmash of leftovers in "Old Wounds." The stakes feel more real here than in the pilot, and the plot feels more invested in itself, so this is definitely a step in the right direction.
The solution to the plot — which hinges on reality television, of all things — is actually an example of what The Orville brings to the table, which is jokey current-day references that can be used as unexpected twists within the plot's 25th-century setting. It's suitably amusing and clever and at least indicates a specific point of view within well-trodden material. But this series still has a ways to go if it's going to emerge from the shadow of the Trek template that it has so shamelessly molded itself from.
Previous episode: Old Wounds
Next episode: About a Girl
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75 comments on this post
Sun, Sep 17, 2017, 9:25pm (UTC -5)
As for Command Performance, what struck me the most is Alara's new eyebrows. The show made me laugh out loud a few times but not enough for me if the earnest moments seem trite.
I'm still hopeful that this show will find its footing, so I will continue to watch
Sun, Sep 17, 2017, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
It's just a shame that the show is continuing to have problems coming up with an identity of its own. This was yet another bargain-bin sci-fi plot executed with little originality or flair.
(The episode filmed after the pilot was pushed back a few weeks so I'm wondering if it'll explain Alara's eyebrows, haha.)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 8:22am (UTC -5)
[Please note that there will be some SPOILERS from here on out.]
Incidentally, I really appreciated that the episode did *not* take various story avenues that it easily might have, particularly considering that The Orville is, after all, partly a comedy series. For instance:
- Bortus' egg brooding was not played for laughs, as in, say, if he had been forced to somehow brood his egg while also somehow being put back as an active officer. Nor, save for two scenes, did he have to endure any disruptions to his brooding, where again, such disruptions could have been done repeatedly for laughs.
- Ed and Kelly were *not* placed in their imitation apartment for any reason related to them having been married and divorced, and nor, again, was their predicament played up for laughs. (Particularly as in a "The divorced couple are forced to be together in their old home!" sort of way ... like a sitcom might have done.)
- And presumably, while they recalled a bit of old affection for one another in one scene, they did *not* have sex, which, considering they were in a zoo and possibly being watched at any given time, again, could have been played up as comical.
With these in mind, it still seems clear that despite its lighter side, The Orville intends to be a series that's earnest and sincere, which to me at least, is a lot of the reason why I'm watching.
But back to the plot and possible allegory, well, of course Alara was ultimately going to try and save Ed and Kelly; that was a foregone conclusion early on. That said though, the interactions between Alara and Dr. Finn were a nice touch, and possibly indicative of a friendship / mentorship going forward. And while Alara seemed to make her final decision less from conviction and lessons learned and more from personal desire / guilt, it's not as realistic that with just one incident, a person would become tremendously more experienced and show it. So, I think her arc, as it were, played out reasonably well, if simply a bit routine.
As for allegory ... well, there were actually a few moments that caught my attention:
- Gordon's remark about whether *he* would be given time off to brood an egg, made me think about paternity leave versus maternity leave, like how (so far as I know), some workplaces don't offer paternity leave. (And of course, whether the two are equivalent, or both needed and such.)
- With the alien zookeeper's line to the effect of, "You want me to talk to *her*?", it was impossible not to think of cultures here on Earth in the present day, where men indeed think so little of women as to not regard them as worthy of carrying on conversations with. Not to mention, all the times in history where one group has thought of and treated another as inferior, and hence again, not worthy of common decency and humanity.
- But potentially the big one, of course, was Kelly's line about animals having been used for entertainment "centuries ago". Was this episode meant to argue in any way that keeping animals captive--on display in zoos; to act in circuses and other shows; to be used in non-lethal sport--is wrong? It seems like too little was said ... and most people would not equate animals being kept captive to humans being so anyway (save perhaps for other primates, dolphins, elephants, and so on).
And yet, as I thought about it, I found myself thinking about a lot. For instance, most people do not consider it wrong to keep a pet snake, so long, as with any living thing, proper food and water and such is offered. Yet most snakes, if not given places to hide in their tanks / enclosures, will end up dying from stress. Point being, food and water is only the basics of keeping a thriving pet--their environment *has* to be fulfilling to them as well.
But did the aliens, say, use their extremely advanced technology to simulate all of the Orville and surrounding space, so that Ed and Kelly might have had "freedom" and autonomy, not even realizing anything was different? No! All they provided them--other than food and water--was a mere apartment; nothing to help them thrive or be content.
And why, likely? Well, why does the horse that loses too many races often get sent to slaughter? Or why do most egg-laying hens still live in little cages? Because of prestige, and money. And so presumably, the aliens were too concerned with their huge collection of species as a draw for visitors to be bothered with the welfare of any particular one, while it would take too much money / resources to do otherwise.
So, whether intended or not, perhaps this episode was more successful as an allegory than it might at first appear. And lastly then:
- The reality shows as a trade was *great*. It made sense that the aliens would love them; and here in the real world, it was a nice jab at what really are displays of human behavior at its most ... something. (Although I'm not sure Duck Dynasty, for one, was warranted to be part of the trade.) Another very clever solution to an episode's central problem, and definitely another point in its favor.
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 11:48am (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
Perfunctory as it was, I did vaguely appreciate the animal rights side of the ep, so I echo Darren's comments on that front... but again, the ep wasn't really interested in exploring this topic. Darren, if you're interested in a deeper exploration of the arbitrariness of the dividing line between animal and human, the factors that decide whether someone's a person or whether they're property, I recommend Michel Faber's Under The Skin (the novel that the Scarlett Johansson film is loosely based on).
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 3:44pm (UTC -5)
By the way, did anyone notice the soundtrack? I though it was amazing; very DS9 like)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
Definitely better than the pilot. Much more meat in the plot, and the humor is better as well.
And I disagree with those who said the plot here was "derivative". While it is true that Trek has indeed done the "unexperienced officer taking command" thing many times, this episode has a fresh perspective on it.
I loved Alara's progress through the episode. And the resolution of the plot was... well, surreal.
But the best thing about this episode is that it does make you think. I'm beginning to question what I've written on the "Old Wounds" thread, that the Orville isn't a worthy Star Trek successor. It still isn't, but I'm beginning to think that it is on the right track of getting there.
Also, interesting cliff-hanger :-)
Can't wait for next week's episode. This show is starting to look surprisingly good!
BTW the animal rights thing is nothing to sneeze at. It is worth noting that Star Trek itself never addressed this issue in any way or form. It's nice to know that in the Orville-verse, at least, there are no zoos on earth. And it's even nicer that they didn't beat us over the head with the message.
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 7:19pm (UTC -5)
Kitan's story is something I (and probably a lot of people) could relate to on occasion, ending up way over my head in a situation (in this case a position of authority you're not used to), and wanting to get out of it in any way possible but figuring out how to pull through.
Then there's the twist at the end. This is a series I look forward to seeing every week.
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 10:25pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 11:07pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
Couple things that worked for me:
- The Zoo idea, seems a bit inspired and I liked the conversations with the overseer
- Special effects and the musical score are still top-notch
- Decent dramatic moments on the ship after the buoy exploded
- A few parts of Alara's storyline were decently handled - "Sir, not kid"
- Poking fun at Reality TV. I mean it's an easy joke, but sure... why not?
- Doctor Finn's "Son of a b****" after Alara puts her in command. :)
- The uh, Bortus has a girl "cliffhanger".... I guess?
- Who doesn't love Kermit the Frog?
Things that didn't work for me:
- The gag with the parents and the Captain's colonoscopy dragged itself out, exactly the kind of thing that I don't want to see from this show
- The rest of Alara's storyline. I mean, constantly having to take a shot in order to do anything? It would've worked better if she would've asked for a shot that 2nd time and then changed her mind
- Reducing the Zoo idea to a joke about Reality TV, even though it was an OK gag, I would've preferred a proper Trekkian examination of the concept and it's issues.
- The quips still tend to fall flat "Dora the explorer has balls"? "Good balls"??
- Using a replicator to make a weed brownie. Hm, alright, going there I guess.
- The divorce/relationship fights between the Captain and his XO are still so tiresome, bad running element for the show. Is it aiming for a "Will they/Won't they?" angle? No, thanks.
- The promos for this episode showed scenes from a different episode? Come on FOX!
I might finally see some of the reasons why people are digging this show, but I'm still struggling to care about the characters (have to look most of their names up on Wikipedia). And then there are the mostly recycled Sci-Fi plots that largely still end up being shortchanged for gags. The potential is certainly there in this episode, I just continue to wish that it was handled better.
This episode is a step in the right direction, but they still have a ways to go if it's to become a show that I'll actively care about seeing on a regular basis.
Kind of leaning towards a 2.5/4 on the Jammer scale.
(I would've rated the premiere a 1.5/4)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 12:20am (UTC -5)
"Kind of leaning towards a 2.5/4 on the Jammer scale.
(I would've rated the premiere a 1.5/4) "
It looks like you had to revise your rating for the premiere downwards... and I think I should too.
I mean, if I give the pilot a low 3 stars and this is definitely better... well, something was obviously off with that rating.
This just demonstrates how difficult it is to rate a new show before it finds its footing. I mean, everybody today agrees that "Encounter at Farpoint" was a mediciore Trek episode, but there's no way I would have given it a mediciore rating when it first aired.
I think I'll just forgo the star ratings for now, until we have a few more episodes with which to make a meaningful scale (I don't envy Jammer, who doesn't have this luxury).
And a note on the current episode: Did anybody notice the random Star Wars joke that was thrown in? I thought it was a nice touch.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 1:21am (UTC -5)
"It looks like you had to revise your rating for the premiere downwards... and I think I should too."
Yeah, but I was probably always leaning to a 1.5 with that one. The more I think about the pilot, the more I end up disliking it, especially when I compare it to this episode.
"And a note on the current episode: Did anybody notice the random Star Wars joke that was thrown in? I thought it was a nice touch."
It was quick and it kinda caught me off guard. It's nice to think that we'll still remember Star Wars in 400 years.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 3:10am (UTC -5)
I probably would have disliked it more if it were, say, the 5th episode of the series. But as a pilot, it does a very good job introducing the characters and the tone of the series. Even the bad humor serves this purpose... think of it as an initiation ritual: If you can stick through all those jokes (even grudgingly) then you'll probably enjoy episode #2. Otherwise, the series is probably not for you. :-)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 4:55am (UTC -5)
I just read that MacFarlane insisted on having a full orchestra score each episode separately, as would be done with a movie. That is, indeed, pretty amazing.
I found this very thought-provoking as well. I have friends who are strongly anti-zoo, but I still take my kids to zoos from time to time, as long as they seem to make an effort to provide habitat and not just a cage. But I recognize that it's still nothing like what an animal would have in the wild (although I haven't been to the San Diego Zoo). I console myself with the fact that animals do tend to live longer in captivity, but I'm still torn about it and this episode actually shifted me over a bit.
@Cosmic: I am glad you are keeping an open mind. I agree with a couple of your points (that toning down the comedy is a good idea, that the colon scan joke was too much, and that rehashing how the captain "wasn't there" for his wife/XO is tiresome, just as it was in the pilot). I also am beginning to see a pattern, that in general you frown at lighthearted or approving portrayals of drugs and alcohol. That's your prerogative, but just not one I share. I like that the show is "modernized" in this way (although I recall Scotty getting pretty wasted on Romulan ale or something like that in TOS).
@OTDP: I liked the Star Wars joke too. And I agree it's tough to give individual ratings. I liked some things about this episode better than the pilot, yet overall I feel like I want to give it 3/4 instead of the 3.5/4 from the pilot, and I can't quite explain why. (Maybe it's because nothing here was as awesome as the troll bit?)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 7:39am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 9:32am (UTC -5)
It seems that those having a hard time with this series are evaluating it like it is trek. It is not. We wouldn't do that for FarScape, or BAB5... I just don't think you can look at this through that same lens.
The biggest issue I had with this one was the reason Alara "caved". She was so worried about what everyone thought of her she even went to the mess hall to announce her change in heart.
I loved the reality TV bit and all the neat new aliens.
Loved the opening. I like that it's a long one. TV had gone away from that. The visuals made me think of Voyager, but I couldn't place what sounded familiar to me in the music. Then I figured it out.... it reminds of of 'Seaquest DSV'.
Fun ride, getting better as we go.
Nice to see Ron Canada again.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 11:22am (UTC -5)
Old Wounds: 8.6 million
Command Performance: 6.6 million
Anybody has an idea whether this is good or bad news?
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 11:31am (UTC -5)
Seems like good news so far as long as the fall isn't a trend. "The Orville" ranked top 10 (#8) in its premiere week among regular broadcast shows in its opening week. It then fell below top 10 in its second week. Among its top contenders are Football, of course, "60 Minutes" and "The Big Bang Theory". It's still doing well for a Sunday night slot.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 11:43am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 1:14pm (UTC -5)
We've known for weeks (at least) that the Orville will air on Thursdays starting with episode #3. Does this change your assessment of this being "a bad sign"?
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Nowadays, though, along with making money from later sale to streaming services and international markets, what counts in the short run is how a show does in "the demo" (18-49 year olds). A site that's very good at tracking all this stuff is TV By the Numbers. Their graph for the past week (that includes this second episode) show "Orville" in strong position both in the demo and in total numbers (but notice that the demo is presented first, as advertisers don't much care if a lot of 50+ folks are watching):
This is a weird graph, though. "Orville" is actually the only scripted show in the top 13 ("Marlon" is tied with a couple others at #14), and it's the only hourlong scripted show in the entire top 25 (in the demo: the old-skewing "NCIS" has a repeat at #14 in total viewers). That's going to change: this is still the end of the summer TV season, and when all the shows come back for fall (and new ones premiere), it will be a different story.
That said, "Orville" got a jump on the competition, and the second-week ratings are within the normal 10-20% dropoff for a second episode (though close to the high end). We'll have to see what happens when it moves to Thursday. When shows get a launch after something like "Big Bang Theory", they inevitably lose a lot of viewership when they move to their regular night. But I think there's reason to be a little more optimistic here. For one thing, football caused "Orville" to start at a really weird time this week (8:48). Secondly, it's supposed to be getting a boost from coming on after FOX's afternoon football game, right? But first you have to sit through a postgame show, not nearly as much watched as the game itself. And then, if you're into football, aren't you going to switch over to NBC and watch Sunday Night Football, the most popular "show" on TV? Not to mention that Sunday night in general is when networks schedule their most prestigious offerings.
Time will tell, and the numbers will be the numbers. I'm crossing my fingers.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
Come on man, all those shows are from the 90s when "Must See TV" was actually a thing. The only must-see TV nowadays is the On-Demand button on my remote.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
"I am glad you are keeping an open mind."
Of course. I see the potential of this series, especially after this episode.
"I also am beginning to see a pattern, that in general you frown at lighthearted or approving portrayals of drugs and alcohol. That's your prerogative, but just not one I share. I like that the show is "modernized" in this way (although I recall Scotty getting pretty wasted on Romulan ale or something like that in TOS)."
Not true, I simply don't like how those things are being used in the show so far. The "drinking and driving" gag in the pilot was in poor taste. The weed brownie was a cheap and easy joke that didn't service anything, sort of like turning to the camera and being like "See guys, I made a WEED brownie. Just in case. *wink wink*". Meh.
Scotty drank an alien under the table in a TOS episode called "By Any Other Name" (I know because I watched it a couple months ago). That was amusing to watch and it was in service to the plot. It also happened to involve a character that I actually care about - meanwhile the XO character (Kelly?) and the Scott Grimes pilot are easily my least favorite characters in the main cast.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
And a big orchestra too. The pilot had a 75-piece one. Not sure if the regular episodes do as well. Star Trek TNG to Enterprise usually worked with a 40-50 piece orchestra, depending on the episode (and due to budget cuts, later Enterprise often didn't have live instruments at all).
The music is honestly my favorite part of the show so far, even with the obvious temp track influences. There's a cue in this episode that came straight out of Wrath of Kahn.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 9:39pm (UTC -5)
"Unless The Orville's intended identity is simply "Rehashed Berman Trek featuring occasional MacFarlane one-liners," then this is a series with a serious identity problem. You want a 1990s retread — okay, sure. But I think they owe us more than an HD update of what is already available by the hundreds of hours on Netflix."
This is hitting on something that is constantly in the back of my mind while watching this show. It's going to be my "make or break" with this show (and any new Trek-style show for that matter) after watching a couple of episodes.
There is so much "good" Trek out there already... if I'm going to choose between spending precious time on a new "rehash" show with poor humor and recycled plots or re-watching actual Star Trek, I'm going to ultimately choose to watch actual Star Trek. Guess we'll see if it comes down to that.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
I did like that she started out obeying the admiral's orders, and then dismissed the helmsman from the bridge for disobeying hers. (Similarly, dressing down the chief engineer.) But then how did she ultimately justify her disobedience if she expects others to follow the chain of command? Exploring that quandary would have been cool.
And then everyone in the mess was cheering her "bite me". But this is a brand new captain and XO. Would not at least some of them prefer following a fleet admiral's orders to going off on a mission that could get them all killed or imprisoned?
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 2:46am (UTC -5)
It was very conspicuous to me, for instance, that in "Old Wounds" even, no one beamed anywhere--everyone took shuttles to get around. And while this episode showed that the Calivon have something akin to transporter technology (as a highly technologically advanced civilization), still, that the Union doesn't immediately makes it hard to imagine this is all part of the Star Trek universe, no matter what else may have been inspiring. Add to that things like how the quadrant doesn't appear to be anything like we would expect it to be 40+ years after the Dominion War (hypothetically, The Orville takes place approximately 40 years after Voyager returned home), or like how Dr. Finn clearly isn't just Ms. Yates with a different name, and, to try pretending that it's all taking place in the Star Trek universe begins to feel impossible.
More than that though, I think there's already some evidence that The Orville, in much more substantial ways, is already on its way to distinguishing itself from Star Trek. For instance, the Calivon do not strike me as like any specific people seen in Star Trek. Yes, the Talosians held people captive; but as I recall, they were searching for a species to be bred and used for slave labor on their planet's surface (it's been awhile since I last saw "The Cage" ...). The Caretaker only pulled ships to the Delta Quadrant in trying to find a replacement for himself, and of course, the Borg were just an individual-less collective on a cold mission to bring more and more "technological and biological distinctiveness" to themselves, to try and achieve "perfection".
But a species that considers itself so superior to less technologically advanced ones that it captures people to display in zoos? While there's nothing non-Star Trek-like about the idea, nonetheless, such a people do not seem to correspond to any yet seen in Star Trek. And if MacFarlane or the other Orville writers would care to bring the Calivon back in future episodes, they could become distinguishing antagonists in The Orville. (In fact, if you think about it, they basically represent an existential threat to the Union. That is, they have the technology to literally eliminate the Union and all its people, and they lack the conscience to hesitate to do so, should they ever come to see the Union as bothersome pests. It's no wonder that Admiral Tucker was so emphatic about no one in the Union engaging in any way with the Calivon; they represent a grave threat.)
And then, secondly, there's Isaac and the Kaylon. Was there ever a person serving aboard a Starfleet ship who was there, essentially--*sent* there, no less--for reasons unknown? Someone from a civilization that the Federation knew next-to-nothing about, yet were an advanced power? I can't think of anyone, and really, while I seem to recall that there *have* been civilizations in Star Trek that were far more advanced than the Federation, they weren't "neighbors" to the Federation; plainly known about and there, yet keeping to themselves. And, given how the Calivon "zookeeper" reacted to Isaac in this episode, we seemingly have proof as well that the Kaylon are indeed a highly technologically advanced civilization themselves. (For that matter, that the Calivon maintain a zoo for similarly-advanced societies clearly implies that there are probably others besides themselves and the Kaylon to boot. Given that the Federation and Klingons and such never had such "higher" civilizations operating in their midst, yet within a sphere of power and influence unto themselves, there's a potential dynamic here in The Orville that, should the writers choose to build upon it, could become quite unlike any seen in Star Trek.)
So, it seems that The Orville already has clear potential to become something distinct from Star Trek. And, even though it's episodic, that obviously doesn't preclude world-building and not necessarily story arcs even ... which, amazingly enough, it might already have. Take Alara's situation in this episode, for instance. Were she a "typical" Union officer, the fact that she was so unprepared for command would not reflect well on the Union, and so, in turn, The Orville itself as a serious sci-fi show. Yet going back to "Old Wounds", Capt. Mercer himself questioned how she could be so young and yet Chief of Security on a ship. And she responded by acknowledging her inexperience, after explaining that because her people so seldom join the military, whenever someone like her does, the Union fast-tracks them. Basically then, taking this episode in isolation, we might not know quite what to make of Alara's predicament; perhaps the show was just being silly. Yet when considering it along with the pilot, it turns out it makes a lot more sense. (And, if this is indeed an arc and the writers would like to continue it, there are all kinds of questions they could tackle, like:
"Why do so few Xelayans join the military?"
"What does fast-tracking their path to officer standing involve?"
"Why is the Union so keen on getting whatever Xelayans it can?"
"Did other Union worlds once discriminate against Xelayans?"
"What do other Union worlds and members think of this policy?"
... and so on.)
And, as just a quick observation on a second potential arc ... while we didn't see the Krill in this episode, they were mentioned twice. First, they were claimed to have attacked and raided a ship, which did nothing to further them from their "cartoony" or "comic book" standing from the pilot. Second though, once Ed and Kelly were in the zoo, a Calivon child and mother argued about going to go see the Krill, with the mother saying they might, if they had time after seeing the Moclans. Here, very subtly, Humans, Krill, and Moclans at least were all put on an equal footing ... which *could* be a bit of development for the Krill going forward.
Ultimately then, it seems The Orville has already been setting itself up for distinction. How it might proceed though (and whether it will "succeed"), just depends on what MacFarlane and the other writers and producers have in mind. For myself personally, I just hope that no matter how distinct from Star Trek it may become, it develops good allegorical and moral play-style storytelling along the way, and that it never loses this, nor the aspirational outlook or scientific plausibility or whatnot. And, while I appreciate its comedic side (which in many cases seems less about comedy than making it feel fresh and real, without going "dark" and throwing out what makes Star Trek shows Star Trek), I'm hoping as well that it will be nonetheless be able to stand up to scrutiny and detailed analysis of its world and mythos ... that there won't be too many things that just have to be chalked up to, "Well, because it was funny". (Or, I suppose, non-funny things that simply don't make much sense.)
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 6:15am (UTC -5)
It's just episode #2 and we already have a single-gender relationship (treated appropriately as a complete non-issue) and a commentary on zoos and animal creulty - both done in a non sledgehammery way.
Star Trek didn't manage either of these things in over 700 episodes. And the last time I remember Picard speaking of animal rights, he spoke of how unprofessional it was for scientists to get emotionally attached to their lab rats (see "I, Borg")... That's hardly what I'll call a passionate speech for animal rights.
AND WE ARE ONLY ON EPISODE 2!
I'll also add that the entire "everyman office on a starship" vibe is very different from Star Trek. And the lack of technobabble is also refreshingly different (especially since this would have been SOOOOO easy to play for laughs by going completely over the top).
In short: Saying that the Orville isn't treading new grounds is completely false. The show obviously has its own things to say, and it wastes little time saying them.
Also, have you noticed how little a role the "borrowed-from-Trek" terms play in the Orville?
Sure, quantum drive is warp drive and deflectors are shields, but the crew seldom speak of them. It's really amazing, how unintrusive the tech is the Orville and how different this is from Star Trek (or at least TNG). The tech is there, basically, just because you can't tell a space opera story without some kind of FTL drive and can't have space battles without some form of protection. And it's not like Star Trek has a monoply on hyperdrives and shields, either.
Then there are the little things. Have you noticed, in this very episode, how the ship needs to leave subspace/hyperspace before changing course? I don't recall anything like that in Star Trek, and I find the Orville take on this to be more realistic.
To summarize: I really don't understand what people are complaining about, when they speak of how "unoriginal" and "derivative" the show is. The Orville still has a few problems, but "being derivative" is hardly one of them.
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 10:40am (UTC -5)
Really? I mean, seriously?
Maybe I need to look harder to see the differences (and yes, I will grant there are some), but the similarities are completely in-your-face and distracting. The show looks *almost exactly* like updated TNG/Voyager. The story beats are almost identical -- like I said, down to shot selection, production design, and the way the ship warps (sorry, "quantums") to and from locations with the musical cues, etc.
As the show continues, it may distinguish itself. And, sure, it brings some differences/tweaks. But to claim it does not look and feel like Berman-era Trek I think is ignoring the obvious.
Why didn't it do the things you are saying it is doing while having its own original-looking production design and foundation? You are telling me the Union is not Starfleet plus a few tweaks?
Maybe I need to get over it and maybe I will. But MacFarlane could've saved himself this criticism by creating something original rather than plundering the Trek archive and then adding a few olives.
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Roger Ebert said "It's not what it's about, it's how it's about it".
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 1:18pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
I had not noticed this but you are absolutely right. More evidence that the primary intent is not to spoof Star Trek.
Nor did I notice the thing about coming out of warp to change direction. I agree, it's a realistic touch!
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 2:24am (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 8:54am (UTC -5)
I think this was done intentionally. The Orville benefited from the bump received by NFL watchers. Now that the fall TV schedule is starting, they will take their planned spot.
Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 11:17am (UTC -5)
1) Seth's money rules
2) Braga is stuck in the 90s
3) The Robot ABSOLUTELY SUCKS, and has done nothing racist or even remotely funny, and quite honestly isn't even close to Marvin the Paranoid Robot from Hitchhikers
4) Galaxy Quest nailed it
5) Can anyone envision the Cast sitting around and nodding approvingly at these episodes? I cannot, therefore...
Fake TV. Not Seth, but a doppelgänger, and Seth has lent his name to the production like Tarantino does to most productions these days. That's my guess and I'm sticking with it.
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 2:59pm (UTC -5)
"Maybe I need to look harder to see the differences (and yes, I will grant there are some), but the similarities are completely in-your-face and distracting. The show looks *almost exactly* like updated TNG/Voyager. The story beats are almost identical -- like I said, down to shot selection, production design, and the way the ship warps (sorry, "quantums") to and from locations with the musical cues, etc.
As the show continues, it may distinguish itself. And, sure, it brings some differences/tweaks. But to claim it does not look and feel like Berman-era Trek I think is ignoring the obvious."
Of-course it feels like Berman-era Trek. THAT IS EXACTLY THE POINT.
The question is whether the Orville does new things with this premise... or alternatively: whether it does some of the old things better than the original.
And I believe the answer to both questions is very firm "yes" (I've already give quite a few examples of this in my previous post).
So yes, I find the claim of the Orville being "a rehash" (or as one poster here put it: "lazy grave-robbing") to be very strange indeed. Especially when official Trek is now a completely different beast then what the Orville is serving.
"You are telling me the Union is not Starfleet plus a few tweaks?"
Of-course it is.
And again, I don't see this as a problem. Especially as long as "the Union" is just a background part of the setting.
Now, if they started to tell intricate stories about "Union politics" and they turn out to be very similar to "Federation politics" Trek episodes, THEN it would be a problem.
And the same is true with all the other elements similar to Trek. For example, if the Orville did a tech-heavy episode which features the "quantum drive" having a Trekkian warp field and subspace and warp/quantum factors... then we'll have a problem. Especially if the situation is resolved in a way similar to Trek.
But as I already said before, the Orville had already distinguished itself on this front. Unlike Berman-era Trek, the Orville is very low on technobabble, which is both a very good thing and a distinguishing mark.
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
I think you are being a bit disingenuous when you say that you find the rehash claim to be "strange." Maybe you don't agree with it based on how you personally are viewing Orville's distinctions, but surely you can see where those of us who have made that claim are coming from.
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
Yes, I can see where some of you are coming from... But I still maintain that "where you're coming from" doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Because even if we assume the notion that the Orville is a carbon-copy of Trek (and I don't)... SO WHAT? As long as it's good Trek, how is this a bad thing? Especially when they put a spotlight on topics that Trek has never dealt with before in an adequate fashion (and it already did that twice within the first 3 episodes).
So no, I'm not being "disingenuous" at all. I honestly don't understand what you all are complaining about. Yes, the Orville is very similar to Star Trek, but that is the entire point of the show. It's a show made by a huge Trekkie (McFarlane) for Trekkies, in a time that official Trek is no longer delivering the same kind of optimistic sci fi that it used to.
Now, if you think the STORIES aren't original enough, that's a possibly valid point which can be discussed. But complaining that the SETTING and STYLE are "too trek-like" just doesn't make any sense. It's what Seth aimed at, and it is exactly what his target audience want. As the saying goes: It's not a bug. It's a feature.
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
But, yes, it is still early on.
Tue, Sep 26, 2017, 1:59am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 26, 2017, 11:21am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 26, 2017, 9:18pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
I was underwhelmed by the pilot.
Don't get be wrong, loved seeing Cassidy again, Bashir's dad too.
But I came to Orville because Trek hadn't started yet, and I was a huge fan of Friday Night Lights - Tyra Collette kicked ass on that show. Do I want to see her in a Starfleet uniform? Hells Yes.
Never seen anything by this Seth MacFarlane, AFAIK. Evidently he is famous, but on the pilot, he did not make much of an impression.
Command Performance changed my mind. It rocked.
I’m not sure how many of you get to interact with young folks in their early 20’s. We get them every year right out of college. One of the youngster who works for me is 23 - same as Kitan, and poor thing, she has that same deer-in-headlights look as Kitan. They all do. They are a really bright generation, and they’ve seen a lot more than we had at that age, and they are also quite sweet. But they are basically still kids who don’t know jack.
Now I imagine her in charge!?! OMFG. Yeah, there would be some liquid courage for sure.
The Orville is crewed by real people. Not Star Trek ubermench. When Bortus says he’s got to go on paternity leave, cause family is more important that a job: that’s real. You see it at work every day. But you almost never see it on TV.
How many people have fantasised about how Voyager might have been good? Ronald D. Moore made an entire show (a fraking awesome show!) just to demonstrate one way that Voyager could have been good.
And this is another way. "The Office" in space. I dig it.
So, where do I get my Union card?
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 12:37am (UTC -5)
I get the comments on the first show - it's SO much humour that some people are uncomfortable with (lots of drug & fart humour passed off as something witty)
This episode was fun, ACTUALLY funny and exciting - a perfect example of what this show can be. Honestly, I don't have time to nit pick about every little detail that doesn't suit everyone - It's a cool show based on this episode and not the trainwreck the premiere made it out to be
Sun, Oct 22, 2017, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
The only real issue for me is the humor. If McFarlane wants to do a Star Trek parody, then he should do that. But doing what at most of the time feels like an honest TNG hommage, and then having the characters make dick jokes and dropping constant references to 20th/21th century pop culture is just insincere. I especially hope that McFarlane will find use for the character of LaMarr apart from being a provider of cringy one-liners.
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
I actually like this show! It asks good sci-fi questions; almost none of it is comedy. The next episode is quite good.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 9:02am (UTC -5)
2 stars again.
Sun, Dec 3, 2017, 8:38am (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 22, 2017, 11:14am (UTC -5)
I'm cautiously optimistic.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 9:09am (UTC -5)
It is Star Trek that does not take itself very seriously. Its like childish Trek with an irony behind. You know its corny, they know its corny, so lets forget about it and enjoy.
That is good.
I would hate a preachy episode that is seriously talking about animal rights.But in this not so serious premise, I love it.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 5:33pm (UTC -5)
I love the modern day references "I'm not going to be your Obi-Wan" and the hash cake cracked me up. I like that this is a crew of "Us" onboard a star ship.
Thought the Zoo thing was very cool as well, not heavy handed but cool.
Rescuing the kid was a nice touch as freeing the whole Zoo would have been a bit lame.
Whilst there is no escaping the fact that this is a Trek pastiche it is also it's own thing. Light hearted with some Sci-Fi thrown in.
Looking forward to what comes next. I think this will be fun.
Fri, Dec 20, 2019, 6:10pm (UTC -5)
- About MCfarlane's acting. A neighbors kid is trying to play Christmas songs on a flute. Sadly that kid hasn't made it through one song without mistake. For weeks now, sometimes several hours I have to hear this kid fail and fail and fail. Mcfarlane is like the acting version of that.
- So Captain... Seth (I want to write Archer but that is the Enterprise Captain) doesn't know that his second officer lays eggs or is pregnant. Mcfarlane ends the scene with the hollow promise: "I will not try comedy with you anymore."
- Am I the only one who thinks that the ship looks like a double toilet seat from behind??
- Alara looks like she is 16. So her species gets high security posts immediately because they are strong...ok.
- lots of colon humor. I guess we are working us down towards the asshole.
- So it's a the (obviously unqualified) Teenager has to learn that the power was within her from the start.
- I guess nobody is more qualified to command the ship like redbeard or token star black.
- I guess too much make up wearing XO and Seth will be in a "will they, won't they" situation for the foreseeable future.
- Phew the Space Union is really giving up fast on it is commanding officers...
- Ok the episode doesn't make much sense.
Ok... ok...ok let me get this straight the uber duber species hunts other species for their zoo because these are considered inferior. BUT they can easily be fooled by making the Orville look like one of their ships, they also don't scan their inmates for illnesses apparently, killing inmates is done with oceans twelve lasers and are then fascinated by 20th human tv shows. Oh and then Alara gets a big medal for almost destroying the ship, running away in a dangerous situation, smashing a table and disobeying orders.
- Germans don't drink beer for breakfast. I must admit though that I wish I was drunk right now.
Rating: 1 1/2 empty beer bottles
Fri, Dec 20, 2019, 8:13pm (UTC -5)
The next episode on your list is decent; it's a gender reassignment on Space Saudi Arabia episode.
Sat, Dec 21, 2019, 3:12am (UTC -5)
I knew it existed but I never actually watched it. I'm not sure if his acting in this is worse or better. It certainly says something that he is the captain in both. THis is were is ego truly reveals itself. He must know that he can't act so why take center stage. If he really cared for the show and not just about living out some childhood fantasy then he would have taken a far less prominent role or maybe that of the robot. What would TNG be without Patrick Stewart?!
"The next episode on your list is decent; it's a gender reassignment on Space Saudi Arabia episode."
What could go wrong?!
Sun, Dec 22, 2019, 3:35am (UTC -5)
if you are not enjoying it, why watch it at all? It's your decision. It ain't Trent's fault if you insist on torturing yourself.
Also, while the show does get infinitely better, I don't think you - personally - are going to like the rest of it. This show is not for everyone. And I gotta tell yea, that I haven't met a single person who ended up liking the show after outright hating the first few episodes.
Sun, Dec 22, 2019, 4:49am (UTC -5)
I'm a scientist and like Spock I'm willing to observe cultural phenomenon even if the appalled by it. :D
And I didn't hate the first few episodes. I thin they were bad but nothing that deserves hate.
I didn't notice obvious misogyny so far. I never watched family guy or to be more precise I watched one or two episodes didn't laugh once and was really puzzled how anybody could find this funny. Normally even when I don't like a certain type of humor I get what people like about it but family guy really left me confused. It is less subtle than a laugh track. The show point blank shows you:" This is funny. This is funny". Maybe it is the simplicity. I don't know.
The women on the Orville so far are stereotypes (like the men).
- Sure the XO cheated on Mcfarlane and is made responsible for all his problems but she also tries to help him. She kind of feels like a sexual object and a mother figure at the same time. We saw her legs and her belly button in this episode. It's all a little oedipal.
- Sexy tough girl is insecure and all.
- Kasidy Yates is the stereotypical wise old black person you go for advice.
Sure a woman is responsible for all the problems the protagonist has which is a fairly common trope. I guess you could see it as a little misogynistic but when you look at the men I would rather call it misanthropic.
- The black guy is really nothing more than a stereotype. Language and all. He is the token black guy. To bring in the inner city kids. :D
- redbeard is a highly skilled idiot. He thinks the moon was the capital of the USA. That is borderline special needs dumb.
- Mcfarlane himself is a loser, an idiot and super immature. They stated that he was super professional before she cheated on him but considering how he talks with people I have a hard time believing that.
Mon, Feb 3, 2020, 4:24pm (UTC -5)
The second episode of the Orville is pretty similar to the first, in that it still doesn't really know what it wants to be.
There's still too much comedy for it to be a serious space opera - for instance, Alara abandoning her post on the bridge to do a comedy run down to see Bortus. Entertaining in something like Red Dwarf, but in the real world, that'd be a career ending decision. In fact, she'd have been washed out of the command track long before.
OTOH, it's still too lightweight to be a serious space opera. The whole thing with the zoo and the resolution thereof via 21st century reality TV: it's pure lightweight, self-aware comedy.
So. Neither fish, nor fowl.
But at the same time, The Orville still holds some promise. The frat-boy comedy has been toned down from the first episode , the production values are still high (even if the alien in the opposite cell was an oddly direct rip-off from Hellraiser) and for all that it was a ridiculous setup, it was still the kind of plotline which TOS or even TNG would have explored.
Here's to hoping this series manages to find its balance...
Sun, Jan 17, 2021, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
Possible (unlikely?) subtext of us watching for the soap opera shenanigans which ties us to the Calivons; like the Calivons, we "want to see" the history of the Ed/Kelly ship (note: I don't actually very much right now). Super-smart viewers apparently just want to watch soapy reality TV right?
It's very by the numbers in its actual dedicated stories (the "comedy of remarriage" Ed/Kelly stuff and the green-first-command) but there are interesting bits of world- and character-building around the edges. 2 stars seems appropriate. The scale is sliding.
Sun, Jan 17, 2021, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 18, 2021, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
I, on the other hand, am getting my Star Trek fix after what seems like an eternity. Five stars for me on actually creating a Trek like scifi worth watching. The storylines are rehashed, this on being like the episode where Data gets captured by a collector merely to be put on display. To me it's like visiting an old friend. They may be look different, be dressed different but we just pick up where we left off.
Wed, Apr 6, 2022, 5:09am (UTC -5)
It has quite good graphics and animation, the design and display of Orville from outside is great. I do not like the studio like inside. Enterprise was with the low to roof and quite tight space interior more fantasy appealing.
Regarding rip of, did the trek team have spies copying Alara to Tilly? I did honestly like the approach of the young inexperienced 23-year-old Lieutenant Allara taking over the command. A silliness made on purpose. So I just had a quite enjoyable 40 minutes until the final where I really laughed. It was a hilarious nonviolent solution in an almost trek spirit.
The very trek environment rip of is too obvious and disturbing. It is a pity that MacFarlane did not make it more his own creation.
Wed, May 18, 2022, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
Nothing in the plot about the wildlife preserve, the zoo, the cage, the menagerie (okay, I’ll stop now) was groundbreaking, unless it happens to be your very first time watching a science fiction show. I was amazed by how passive most of the “neighboring exhibits” were. I expected them to be more like Jeffrey Hunter’s Pike in “The Menagerie.” Mercer was, of course: “We are not your Shamu!” That instantly reminded me of Pike’s “I’m not an animal performing for its supper!” As far as the other captives, perhaps they’ve just become defeated after so much time. The reminiscing and arguing among Mercer and Grayson in “their apartment” was all fine and pretty authentic--Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki do have chemistry, although Palicki does indeed put in a better performance.
The resolution of the menagerie plot was perfect, perfect, perfect. As soon as I heard the immortal line, “I am paying attention!” I started laughing. The point of this is so telling. We are like the Calivon when it comes to reality television--the Jersey Girls are the zoo animals. If it weren’t for us, the audience willing to watch them, shows like Real Housewives and the Kardashians wouldn’t even exist.
There isn’t a whole lot to digest here. Basically, it’s not easy being green in the captain’s chair (who knew that Kermit the Frog could foreshadow a science fiction plot?), and if we humans ever do advance to interstellar travel as a species, there are probably aliens that just might study us instead of the other way around. No big discussion needed. But “Command Performance” is solidly entertaining, even more so than the pilot, so while I was hardly inspired or impressed, I’ve got no big complaints.
Malloy -- “You suck--sir.”
My Grade: B-
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