The Orville


2.5 stars

Air date: 11/16/2017
Written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong
Directed by Brannon Braga

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Any episode that features an establishing shot of a homicidal space clown seen way down at the end of the hallway in a stylistic homage to The Shining — followed by that clown charging full-tilt toward the protagonist — can't be all bad.

The shot gets your attention, that's for sure. It's laughably weird and head-scratchingly bizarre, but it tells you we are in strange territory. It happens because, as we eventually learn, anything here can happen. It's a strange moment that threatens to bring down "Firestorm" before the story has even had a chance to take off. But you know what? I remember that shot more than anything else. It stands out.

On the whole, however, "Firestorm" falls into the neutral zone for me. I admire its willingness to take on the surreal and impossible and work through the strangeness with an approach of measured logic, but the longer it goes on the more artificial it feels, and the gimmick at the center of it all is a bit of a ho-hum letdown. At the very least it's a letdown rooted in a character's motivation.

That character is Alara Kitan, whose unexpected fear of fire (I suggest she join a support group with the Hound on Game of Thrones), leads her to hesitate during an engineering-deck crisis that claims the life of a shipmate. There's no evidence that her not hesitating would've changed the outcome, but she blames herself and judges herself very harshly. At one point she submits her resignation. Mercer refuses, offering a pep talk that is one of his better moments as the captain of this series.

Alara's reaction to her perceived failure is vastly overstated, but I'll allow it under the "she's just a young pup" statute — although the writers would be well-advised to perhaps move on to other things after this and the focus of her green-ness in "Command Performance." (But if anything, this episode shows that Halston Sage has gotten more comfortable in her role since that outing.) At the very least, we meet her Xeleyan parents (played by Robert Picardo and Molly Hagan) who tell her the story of why she's afraid of fire, while also establishing the Xeleyans as seeing themselves as humanity's intellectual superiors.

Also worth pointing out is how Bortus seems to be reliable comic gold, thanks to the infallible deadpan gifts of Peter Macon. Sure, he's basically the tough-guy straight man Worf was on TNG and it's a variation of one joke, but it's all about playing the right notes, which Macon does. If it works, I'm all for it.

Anyway, before too long, the weird things start happening. The killer clown. Elevator doors that open to reveal deadly voids that almost swallow up characters. A room full of spiders that appear and vanish instantly. A crazy Dr. Finn killing her own nurse, strapping Alara to a table, and threatening an "examination" of horror. A giant spider that literally eats Malloy. Every scene goes increasingly over the top into making the Orville into a haunted house, which makes it increasingly obvious that none of this is "real" in the conventional sense and that, because we've graduated to regular characters killing other characters or being eaten by spiders, this will all be reset as part of an elaborate sci-fi gimmick. The question becomes: Will it be a good gimmick?

There are shades here of many past reality-bending Treks from the various series where imaginary fears turn all too real, including TOS's "Shore Leave," TNG's "Where No One Has Gone Before," DS9's "If Wishes Were Horses," and Voyager's "The Thaw." (If you wanted to include Enterprise you could maybe stretch it to include "Strange New World," but that's a very thin one.)

"Firestorm" has perhaps the least fantastical and most straightforward solution among all those examples, in that the whole thing is a VR program on the holodeck environmental simulator that Alara has locked herself into so she can "test" herself for additional failure against every threat imaginable. She doesn't know she's in a simulation because Finn erased her short-term memory after creating the program so Alara would forget it was a simulation and believe it was real.

As narrative trickery goes, this is a C-plus-grade twist in a mostly B-grade outing. I didn't hate it; I didn't love it. I do question the wisdom of revealing the trick with an entire act still to go, although the writers probably thought they had no choice by that point because what happens in the final act (the disappearance of the rest of the crew; Isaac turning red-eyed evil; Alara taking off her jacket and taking up arms because Now She Means Business; the entire ship eventually being destroyed) is too outlandish, so the ostensible stakes have to be brought back to being about Alara's mental state.

Still, when taken on those understated terms, this is actually pretty implausible. Subjecting yourself to an elaborate hoax and breaking regulations by invoking an inappropriate command code to barricade everyone out of your VR fantasy world? That seems like a weird and unprofessional way to deal with your (irrational) fears. Oh, well. The final exposition for all this, with everyone offering up their explanations of how they contributed to creating the threats in the simulation, is (1) very long-winded and (2) shows the crew rallying around a character in need, which is kind of nice. LaMarr is unfortunately still mostly a lame punch line. But Bortus is funny.

"Firestorm" is an okay-fine outing. I can't quite recommend it because it feels like a strung-together series of casual amusements — some which work, some which don't — servicing a character core that feels a little too labored. But there are certainly far worse ways to spend your television hour.

Previous episode: Cupid's Dagger
Next episode: New Dimensions

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106 comments on this post

Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 9:05pm (UTC -5)
First episode below three stars for me: call it a two, even. I don't like stories where nothing makes any sense, unless there's a good explanation at the end. All through it, I said to myself, "this had better be a humdinger". It was partially salvaged by the explanation being reasonable, but ultimately I just didn't need to watch this story.

The only good part, really, was the bit with her parents (featuring the Doctor from "Voyager").

Why wasn't this moved up to Halloween, anyhow?
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 9:48pm (UTC -5)
This Orville is more like Sherlock Homes. It's hard to explain the sequence or maybe it was me. How did Lt. Alara end up in the hologram? I will have to watch this again to see if I miss any parts between commercials. This particular episode has a feel of genuine Star Trek. Alara's parents are Father Robert Picardo and mother is Molly Hagan. 3.5/4 stars from me, highest in all the episodes so far. There were a couple very funny moments. Let's see how Jammer rates this one.
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
I'm glad that they went in a different direction than I was expecting. It was feeling like a mash-up of several different TNG episodes for a while there and the show has certainly been guilty of that in the past. Halston Sage felt rusty in her first starring episode but she's really improved. She was compelling throughout here. Also loved seeing two Star Trek veterans as her parents (Robert Picardo as Voyager's Doctor, of course but also Molly Hagen, who played DS9's first Vorta). Finally, John Debney's horror score was perfection. Star Trek: Discovery could take lessons from how The Orville is being scored.
Pocket University
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 10:45pm (UTC -5)
It's interesting that surveillance cameras are acknowledged to exist in this universe, a rarity for space opera. (Though it raises obvious questions about how they managed to escape being found out when their disguises malfunctioned in "Krill".)
Pusher Robot
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 10:56pm (UTC -5)
I was completely enthralled by the scoring. Really superb work.

I couldn't decide if this being a real spatial-anomaly-enabled physics thing, like the episodes of TNG and DS9 when thoughts became real, or some kind of mirror universe or simulation, up until Gordon bit it. Though losing the nurse would have been a gut punch, I believed they would do it.

I really enjoyed the episode. It was a different tone and effective at ratcheting up the tension and it was really fun to see the ship in a much different and more ominous way, like when DS9 was dressed up as Terok Nor.

RSVP ensign Payne.
Pocket University
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
@Pusher Robot "RSVP ensign Payne"

The Seventh Doctor?

Sailor Venus?


Well, whoever you are, it's an honor to welcome your esteemed personage to our humble forum.

(I really need to stop posting when I'm up this late.)
Dave in MN
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 12:08am (UTC -5)
I personally don't think this is one of those episodes served by recapping/rehashing the plot. This is a story firmly in the "This is what happened" camp. The pleasure is in the ride the plot takes you on, and this one was executed (no pun intended) very competently.

I try to be rational about phobias I have, but the clown and the spiders scared the crap out of me. (Very good CGI on the giant arachnid!)

Besides the dark visions, the mystery aspect kept me guessing. I enjoyed that I couldn't see the ending coming.

I'd say this was a successfully executed foray into horror. ***1/2

Random thought 1:

Bonus points for the Bernard Herrmann/Jerry Goldsmith-esque symphonic score. This is some of the best orchestral music written in the last decade, for TV, film or the concert hall, imho. Almost no one writes this kind of music this well anymore, this show is a treasure in more ways than one.

Random Thought 2:

the crew really has grown into their roles. It really does feel like a close-knit work group or a real-life naval crew. The scene with Ed and Alara after the accident is fantastic: well-written insightful dialogue that felt like it was coming from REAL people without hidden agendas.

So many reasons to love this show!!!
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 12:19am (UTC -5)
This is an interesting episode, largely because it fools us, and especially because at the end we find that Alara has asked to have her memory wiped.

This is especially interesting because before she chose to do that she did some things that could be worthy of insubordination.

And so then the question that fiction sometimes asks, should someone with no memory and maybe no inclination to commit a crime be responsible for a crime that they previously committed? Becomes extra tricky because this Alara is not only "innocent" in the sense that she has no memory of doing these things, yet she conspired to wipe her memory...

So while this is not a key question addressed in the program, it makes for an interesting quandary.

Does being in a state of "innocence" make you innocent? And if it does, does it matter how you got to that state? In a way it is like a baby conceived through rape, the new consciousness is innocent no matter the wrong doing involved in it's creation.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 1:08am (UTC -5)
I figured some people would like this one, but: really? Everyone but me?

man guy
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 5:13am (UTC -5)
Some very tame humor in this one that I think everyone will enjoy. I couldn't help but laugh out loud several times during the first half.

I was expecting a random mind alien behind the curtain and was glad it was something a bit more meaningful.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 6:07am (UTC -5)
Loved it. I would go as far as to say that this was the best one this season. The fear felt real, Claire cackling in the brig about a cosmic horror in the dark made my skin crawl, and evil Isaac was the icing on the cake . The big reveal at the end felt really in place, and not like a reset button at all.

I like how the Orville isn't stuck to one genre, or type of episode. Personally I don't really care much for the ones like last week, the social commentary and the relationship episodes, but I tolerate and even enjoy them because I know this show has more to offer. That also works the other way around of course. I can imagine people who hate horror to think that this episode was a stinker.

Anyway, an easy 3 stars from me.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 6:07am (UTC -5)
Definitely the worst episode I've seen so far. The first few "odd occurrences" were interesting, but when it continued on and on I found myself looking at the clock on the wall. I get it, people's fears are coming alive. How many more sequences do we need to drive the point home. I was able to guess the ending and just waited for it to happen. This is the second episode centered around Alara being unsure of herself; hopefully the last.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 7:55am (UTC -5)
Very enjoyable episode! The tension was palpable, the score chilling, and the resolution unexpected but fitting. I love Bortus' comic relief, like walking in the holodeck "Am I early?", and when he left the ready-room feeling vulnerable when everyone knew his fear. The shot of Alara going to sleep was a sweet TNG touch to end it, as well.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 8:25am (UTC -5)
This episode was damned good fun. Loads of great Bortus one-liners, a bonus Robert Picardo cameo, good twist that didn’t involve alien mind possession, and ... well, the terrifically watchable Alara. :D

My only real complaint was I found the pacing a bit off in the middle third of the episode, and the end felt a bit rushed. But, okay, minor gripe given this was a great character growth episode.

And the crew interactions are going from strength to strength. This cast really has great chemistry.

Also, great to see Braga directing, he really put his Trek cred on show here.

It’s had a couple of ups, downs, and duds but — overall — I really, really like this show. It’s the antidote to that miserable STD.
Lobster Johnson
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 9:11am (UTC -5)
Solid episode, enjoyed it more much than last week's Blue Cosby story. Only two little quibbles are the Psycho-esque ending where they just sit around and explain the entire episode and I think they should've setup in a previous episode that Alara was feeling totally secure in her position.

They touched on this back in episode 2 but after that she seemed completely confident in every episode, especially last week's. Orville's an episodic show but the character beats do have some serialization, so it'd be nice to see them take advantage of it.

That aside though, again a strong episode and my favorite joke was Malloy, John and Bortus showing up for a Georgian era pistol duel.
Lobster Johnson
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 9:12am (UTC -5)
"I think they should've setup in a previous episode that Alara WASN'T feeling totally secure in her position."

typo fix'd
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 10:09am (UTC -5)
I don't like the explanation at the end. They set all this up for her, and wiped her memory, yet the doc says she should write her up for lying to her for the reason for the memory wipe. I don't get that part. Alara told her it was to protect classified security info to get the doc to do it. But everyone already knew what was going on, she was going through this to get rid of her fears, and had to believe it was real, so they wiped her memory. Confusing

And Alara invoked directive 38 to stop them from shutting down the simulation, but she doesn't remember doing that, so that means she did that before she had her memory wiped. Wouldn't there be some sort of alert or something when that happens? I mean, it overrides everyone's security clearances, including the captain. And she didn't get into any trouble for it either.

Other than the ending an ok episode.

2 1/2 stars.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 10:37am (UTC -5)
A lot of firsts in this one:

- First episode where a crewmember dies. (they mostly pulled it off )
- First show that can be also classified as horror (it was pretty scary)
- First holodeck show (you knew it was coming)

So Orville is jumping genres and actually making it work. This one was very well made and entertaining. Some jokes were a little forced but most of them worked very well ("I will try not to sound like I'm talking out of my ass." "please try to enunciate").

Episode written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, a veteran Family Guy writer. First Family Guy writer Mcfarlane is bringing and she did a great job.

The ending is not perfect, you can poke holes in it for sure. But it's a character beat that works. It's about something at least.

This show is miles away at this point from it's horrible pilot.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 10:41am (UTC -5)
My mistake, this is not the first Family Guy writer working on the series.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 10:50am (UTC -5)
I'm waiting for Ed to fight a giant chicken all throughout the ship :D
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 10:54am (UTC -5)
The direction felt off. The pacing felt off. Something felt off. It didn’t build in an interesting way — Alara’s never trying to figure out what’s happening (I know, not the point of the simulation). Some of the weird off things make sense in the computer simulation context of the episode (Ed and Kelly aren’t funny and make pretty obvious jokes with off timing — which a computer sim programmed by issac might do) .

I almost stopped watching after they killed Nurse Park (who apparentky doesn’t have a first name), pissed off that they’d seemingly written off the only Asian character on the show, a week after introducing him.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
Rating: 2.5/4

Pros: Red Lamping? (Is the term being used right?)
Cons: Confusing

I wouldn't say this was good, or bad, the whole episode felt like a state of confusion. Which made it interesting to watch, but wouldn't make me want to rewatch it like I would some other episodes.

The "state of confusion" lasted too long. To me, it would've been more interesting to see her realizing what it was near the 75% mark, and then trying to escape.

We felt a bit like Alara, like last minute revelation.

Despite that, it was a good watch for the thing The Orville does best. Highlighting the obvious things we think during these kind of episodes in other shows.

The part where the captain says, "If this is impossible, then it must be, and therefore be in our minds" is AMAZING. How many episodes of anything have we seen where no one realizes things are in their minds for way too long??? Or "Clearly this must be some new race/etc" instead of, "Are our minds affected?".

The only negative storywise for me is the punishment. Regardless of anything she basically abused every single last resort thing available... and she gets a slap on the wrist because she's sad? No. It should've been she's demoted or something. Like when Tom in Voyager was demoted for the water planet thing. You can have real punishments without firing someone.

The score was great as usual. And once again, despite the humor, and random mediocrity, The Orville is uplifted by comparing it to STD, where I actually feel like I'm watching Star Trek, even if satire (of whatever it is), whereas in STD I don't FEEL the trek.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 2:48pm (UTC -5)

True. But then she wouldn't have had to beat the fiery explosion at the end, which was the whole point of the thing. If she realized she was in a simulation, then it wouldn't have been a victory (and that victory gets deflated because *we* know she's in a simulation. I almost wonder if it would have worked better without that scene where we see the crew watching her (or at least if we didn't know that she'd banned them from getting her out). But yeah, the story and maybe the direction needed some work here.

Total speculation: but maybe they rushed this one so they could get the VFX work done.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
The review for this episode is likely to be delayed, possibly into next week, because of my schedule.
Pocket University
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 6:37pm (UTC -5)
@SlackerInc "I figured some people would like this one, but: really? Everyone but me?"

Well, I tried to sound non-committal... After some consideration I'd put this one at two stars too, though I did like that we finally got some background on the Xelayans. (So it would seem their distaste for the military is essentially a matter of snobbery, rather than the more obvious explanation of pacifism.)

@Styx "The fear felt real, Claire cackling in the brig about a cosmic horror in the dark made my skin crawl, and evil Isaac was the icing on the cake."

Yeah, but having all that portentious stuff turn out to be a complete red herring was something of a let-down. It truly was frightening in places I have to admit, it's definitely not something you'd want young children to watch.

@Lobster Johnson "I think they should've setup in a previous episode that Alara wasn't feeling totally secure in her position. They touched on this back in episode 2 but after that she seemed completely confident in every episode, especially last week's."

Does anyone else get the feeling that Alara is being written as a riff on fan-fic characters? She's not a Mary Sue, per se, but I'm sensing a certain air of genericness...
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 7:04pm (UTC -5)

We waited 3 years for a review on Star Trek Into Darkness and 18 years for reviews for TNG, we can wait a week or so for a review on an ambitious but flawed episode of The Orville

My review is pending, look for it in about an hour.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
very, very impressed by the score, both in quantity as well as in quality. this must have been about the same amount of work as 3 regular episodes if not more. 80% of the scary stuff was scary thanks to the masterful oldschool soundtrack that pulled out every scary soundtrack trope there ever was without apologizing for it. as a musician, i was very very much entertained (and scared) by this. hats off.

also, camera work and cutting was also done with a surprising amount of skill. you could probably run this side by side with kubricks shining camera work and end up with every single camera pan trick being used at some point. they must have had a blast producing this.

having said all that: another TNG rehash plot without any original orville angle whatsoever. for a moment i misread braga (who was directing) as writer and was already about to do a "bragaaaa!" kirk/khan impression, so note to self, cut the guy some slack because the directing work was very good. regardless, braga or not, the plot was yet another example of how the show sometimes takes the easy route and just copies a proven star trek formula, updates its a bit, throws in a handful of jokes, done. thats kind of a letdown. i have seen the beverly crusher episode "remember me" that this is based on many times (one of my TNG favourites actually) - i am ok with the orville copying TNG to some extend, what with it being part comedy and part childhood dream remake for mcfarlane i imagine. but when they copy it so much that you feel like they are copying the story beat by beat by beat, it gets way too predictable and boring.

i can live with the orville being many things. episodic or not. reset button or not, comedy or not. i dont care, as long as im entertained. but please not predictable and boring. because then im not.

still...that score. oh man. give that man a raise.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 11:28pm (UTC -5)
A great episode! And one of the funniest so far. The blend of humor and Trek has really hit its stride here. I think the funniest moment of all was the very end — thirty seconds of our character just slowly making her way into bed with a calm smile. A part of me was waiting for a sudden joke — which never came! It was so old school Trek that I laughed out loud.

Bravo, MacFarlane!
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 11:44pm (UTC -5)

"I almost stopped watching after they killed Nurse Park (who apparentky doesn’t have a first name)"

Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 11:48pm (UTC -5)
It was okay. Picardo shoe-horned in. He was such a great dad in that Voyager episode but they made him awful here.

I saw it coming with the Doctor surgery scene. It was too far out. I suddenly realized they were testing her at that point.

Fox Now has the commercials on overdrive. Pretty awful user experience to have 9 commercials every 4 minutes.
John Harmon
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 3:07am (UTC -5)
I was really intrigued by the first half. I loved the doctor cackling and warning about what's coming. It made me think they were teasing some serious baddie that's yet to come. Like there was some malevolent reality warping aliens they were getting close to. Almost reminded me of TNG teasing the Borg. I kept thinking "this better not be all in her head".

Basically was. Very let down with that ending. Good character work, but it bums me out that the cool ominous warning didn't really happen.
Liam Thibodaux
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 5:55am (UTC -5)
I just realized that Kitan is the Barclay of this series. Any story revolving around her is forever going to be about how she's a basket-case. It seems bizarre that she's been given so much authority. I hated that she wasn't court-martialed for wildly inappropriate use of her ability to override the Captain's authority should he become a security risk. You'd think just invoking such a thing should automatically provoke an investigation by higher-ups that ends with either the Captain or the Security Chief being booted out of service.
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 9:01am (UTC -5)
@Liam good one with the Barclay link
Yes she should have had the book thrown at her. However I’ve noticed every time they have “The Admiral” on giving the Assignment of the Week, he always looks like he’s about to reach into his desk for a bottle of whiskey and Just did a line. So my general sense is “The Union” isn’t as strict as The Federation even though in this galaxy they’ve just about copied everything.

In many ways, Ed Mercer’s universe is the one created by the Thermians. It’s an almost exact copy of Star Trek. But they didn’t understand the context. Ie it was developed by Peter Griffin instead of Gene Roddenberry, so there’s bad humor where there should be parables and morality plays.
Ben S
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 10:55am (UTC -5)
When it comes to The Orville, I always try to remember that it's not Star Trek. It's a comedy series with a Trek feel. I don't hold it up to the same standard I would reserve for actual Star Trek. It's a silly universe where silly things happen, so I can overlook plot holes sometimes and just go along for the ride. The fact that The Orville sometimes manages to make an actual statement or squeeze in convincing drama around the comedy is just icing on the cake.

This episode was better than the last. I spent most of the episode trying to decide if the whole thing was just in Alara's head, but the show kept tricking me into believing there was something deeper here. Others could see the clown. Others were attacked by spiders.

About the time Alara was alone on the ship, I thought it was surely all in her head. But then, Isaac showed up. And I thought I was wrong again.

In the end, it wasn't quite in her head...but it was close. But the episode did a good job of keeping me guessing. And honestly, there were some really tense moments. The lighting and music were fantastic.

If anything, I felt that they made the reveal a little bit too soon. Usually, in Star Trek, if they make a reveal about something similar, the story shifts to the people outside trying to help the person inside...but instead they just went back inside. That removed some of the tension and I think was the biggest misstep of the episode. Once you knew that, you knew that she wasn't going to really be in any danger.

Overall, I liked the episode. It was better than the last, for sure, but didn't quite reach the height of some of the past episodes. Felt very much like a TNG episode, which is interesting when you consider it's not even Star Trek.
Dave in MN
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 11:04am (UTC -5)
Reading through the comments again, I haven't seen this many commenters praise the musical score since Best of Both Worlds. Glad to see I'm not the only one who noticed!

Honestly, to this classical music fan, this show is like manna from heaven. I really need a soundtrack release!!

@ Jammer

I'm looking forward to the "official" review. I have a feeling you'll like this one!
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 11:46am (UTC -5)
In the 1990s, the TV critic for the New York Daily News used to write about what he called "Extras," subtle allusions to other, usually connected in some way, shows. For example, in an episode of "Frasier," Frasier, Niles, and Martin were stuck in a cab during a traffic jam. The driver radio'd for help and identified herself as driving Cab 804. This was a subtle allusion to an episode of "Taxi," "Memories of Cab 804," which was written or produced by the same guys who later wrote the "Frasier" episode.

I wasn't sure if the Alara simulation began before or after her conversation with her parents, but if it was before, she could have told them about it afterward and her father could have said, "You mean I was only a holographic simulation?"
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 4:38pm (UTC -5)
3 stars - good, but contrived. A standard "fears come to life" episode, exciting and well-made, with another fairly standard "it's all in the character's head" twist, the most interesting thing about being the reveal that Alana herself asked to be placed in the situation and to be given a short-term memory wipe (which is the episode's main contrivance, and a pretty large one). I realized it was all in her mind after Gordon got eaten. I was at various points reminded of "Vanishing Point", "Suddenly Human", "Where No-One Has Gone Before", "If Wishes Were Horses", "Starship Down" (the teaser) and "The Adversary" (the hunt for the clown). Not sure how well Alana is working as a character though - she was used really well last week, but her two featured episodes so far (this and ep 2) don't really work as character development - on the contrary, they kinda show her to be a wilful liability, and I don't think that's the intention.
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 6:56pm (UTC -5)
@DaveinMN: Like you, I am in Minnesota and eager to hear Jammer's take. I don't think it's all that likely Jammer will like this one. I go back and forth, because he has disliked other episodes I liked; but OTOH the ones he HAS liked, I liked quite well (and one of the two he gave three stars to is my favorite episode, "Krill"). And it's also just probabilities: he's given fewer than three stars to seven of nine (heh) episodes thus far, so I think that will continue. I will be a little surprised if he even goes as high as two and a half stars.

But we shall see! I've already been very surprised by how many people liked this one in the comments, so who knows.
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
Sorry for the double post, but a light bulb just popped off over my head:

Did those of you who liked this, also like LOST and BSG right to the end, or at least into the final season? I bet there's a correlation there.
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
I always found the Holodeck episodes a mixed bag at best. This is better than most - an enjoyable episode, perhaps because we're not told about the simulation until very late (The focus is on the characters and not the holodeck). It distracts well toward the 'alien hijinks' hypothesis. Also the execution is very nice. Nice enough that I'd like to see some actual wrap horrors in this show...

* Line of the episode - Tough call, many candidates this time since the dialogue is pretty sharp. Hmm... Alara's father calling humans the “hillbillies of the galaxy.” Ouch.

* "short-term memory wipe" - does that mean 'wiping out short-term memory' (I recall an article about a suggested treatment to do that) or 'short-term wipe of memory until it recovers'? Probably the first by context, but I'm not entirely sure.
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 7:03pm (UTC -5)

Can't stand LOST. BSG started excellently, but the last two season fell a bit in quality.
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
I found both LOST and BSG to be rather shallow, style-over-substance shows. They were flashy and intriguing at first to draw you in, but after a while (1 or 2 seasons for me) you realize there's not a whole lot of depth to them. And that's perfectly fine - all that most people need in a TV show is a lot of wonderfully cinematic action going on. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 10:25pm (UTC -5)
Wow. You didn't find the characters and stories compelling on Lost and BSG? Those shows are both widely heralded for their characters and complex storylines. I happen to love both BSG and Lost, but the one thing I have not heard said about either of those shows is that they lacked substance. If anything, the knock on both shows is that they collapsed under the weight of their mythologies. (Something I would never argue myself.)
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 11:04pm (UTC -5)
I suppose for me it's unfair to judge BSG, since I bailed shortly after the Cylon merry-go-round began. But I don't think I'm the only person in the universe with the same opinion. I found this article whose points I agree with, especially about the characters and grittiness:

As for LOST, I never finished that either. The characters were unlikeable to me. And I realized after a while it was trying to be manipulative rather than genuine. Hiding things from the audience, introducing mysterious elements that never end up being explained just to keep us watching for the next twist.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 1:15am (UTC -5)
That's exactly how I feel about LOST. It was obvious to me from almost first sight that the authors planned on lots of flash but no real resolution. And I didn't like the characters. LOST was not the first series being like that - Twin Peaks also ended like this, but in fairness David Lynch had a plan which the execs didn't approve. LOST was though the first series I know doing this on purpose.

BSG was much easier, despite me disliking some of the later elements. Perhaps knowing the original series (+much more interesting characters) changed things for me...

And because it's unfair for me to pick only on DIS:

* What happens on Union ships with no Xelayan aboard? People are just left to die when crashed like that? No one in engineering has a hydraulic jack? Add in what happened in "Krill", and we may have to assume there's no space-OSHA equivalent in this universe...

* Why is it so easy to invoke Directive 38? Surely this just moves the vulnerability from Captain to Security Chief - when the latter being far more likely to be in contact with dangerous aliens? In Trek shows, the CMO has similar authority, but this is dependent on crew support, otherwise the Captain will just brush it off like Janeway did - so there's some check on this power. Hopefully on more important systems the Directive is harder to apply and easier to override.
Stefan T.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 3:26am (UTC -5)
Three stars for me. After the last episode, which totally sucked in my opinion, this one was by far better, but not perfect. Needless to say, the idea of putting "The Orville" in the middle of some kind of psychic thriller, is twisting as well as interesting. You wont find out until the end what's really going on.
The only thing I am concerned about when thinking of "The Orville" is that there is indeed a huge gap between some episodes. Some are just bad, while others are outstanding. Anyway, I cant wait for next week to watch the next episode.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 6:12am (UTC -5)
Just so everyone knows: (1) The next episode will be on Nov. 30, a *week* from this Thursday, not *this* Thursday (presumably due to the Thanksgiving holiday); and (2) This first season was recently reduced from 13 episodes to 12, with the now "extra" episode going to the second season instead. (Which of the 13 episodes they chose to move--and precisely why-- isn't clear. Though The Orville isn't serialized, I'm still hoping that the reduction and move won't disrupt anything.)
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 6:15am (UTC -5)
Just to clarify: As of January 2006, when both shows were in the middle of their second seasons, I would have called “LOST” and BSG my two favorite television programs. I stuck with both all the way through, but with BSG it became fairly quickly apparent that the quality level became much more uneven after “Resurrection Ship, Part II” (the conclusion of the Admiral Cain storyline). I often tell newbies to that show to go through to that point and then stop, and they will have watched a nearly perfect 27 or 29 episodes of television, depending on how you look at it (the miniseries episodes are double-length). There are enjoyable moments after that (in particular, the most painful thing to excise was Apollo’s speech at Baltar’s trial about being a “gang on the run”), but all in all it’s just not worth it given how it sullies the greatness that came before.

With “LOST”, I failed to recognize it at the time (which in retrospect I feel foolish about), but it also jumped the shark in 2006. I didn’t really get disenchanted with the show until 2009, late in Season 5. But when I tried to figure out a similar “curation” of the show as with BSG if I recommended it to someone (so, what episode to exit the show), I kept finding myself having to go earlier and earlier as I reviewed episode summaries. Despite enjoying the time travel stuff, I knew the making-it-up-as-we-go nonsense had started much earlier.

[Spoilers for “LOST” follow. The last two paragraphs return to “The Orville” and are spoiler free.]

At one point I settled on the second season finale: Desmond blithely and inexplicably decides to go along with Locke’s plan to stop entering the numbers, even though--as the flashback in this very episode shows!--he had once come back from outside too late to enter them at the proper moment, and it had caused the hatch to almost destroy itself.

But a major pet peeve about the slapdash writing of the show had long been the “smoke monster”, which before it was shown to be a smoke monster had so obviously been conceived of as a mechanical security system, operated by 1970s style clickety-clack Dharma computers, just like the numbers board in the hatch. So that meant the scene earlier in season 2 when Eko comes face to face with the “smoke monster” had to go.

Anyway, to tie it back into my speculation about those who liked this episode of “The Orville”, I hate it when TV writers go the lazy route of ginning up audiences by throwing all kinds of “mysterious” occurrences at the screen, everything but the kitchen sink, but have no real plan to explain the mysteries, or the one they do have is kind of lame. This wasn’t as bad as was the case on those other two shows, where mystery plot threads were dropped entirely or ultimately explained with gauzy mystical mumbo-jumbo; but this wasn’t too far from “it was all a dream”, and that’s a pretty lame explanation in and of itself.

So as I said in my first comment, the reveal at least makes what we saw plausible. But it still meant that when we in the audience were kept in the dark, our chains were getting dishonestly yanked over something that ultimately didn’t really matter, not in a way that made it worthy of being virtually the entire plot of an episode.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 11:50am (UTC -5)
The Orville episodes are serialized but not harshly. There was a 6-month reference in this episode, yet there was a 1-year reference in the last episode with the Bortis/Klyden offspring getting shots.

If they want the series to not be Star Trek then Yellow Alert has to go. There are simply too many Trekkian references. That is why it feels so derivative and the comparisons will continue.

I lost Lost at the polar bear. I am amused at how people watched those earlier serials, and speak of their viewing habits in retrospect. It’s almost Orvillian.
Dave in MN
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 1:09pm (UTC -5)

You are assuming a Moclan year and a human year are the same time span.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 2:17pm (UTC -5)

Wikipedia indicates that episode 112 is the one being moved to next season (which makes sense if 113 is more serialized and/or has a cliffhanger).
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 4:09pm (UTC -5)
I thought Halston Sage did very well in this episode.

You'd think Lt. Alara Kitan's superior strength would make her fast as well. :-)

I enjoyed this one, twists and all.

A few trek episodes came to mind while I was watching this. I liked the fact that this wasn't just like any of them.

The "humor" didn't do anything for me, so I'll go 3 stars.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
@Dave I thought maybe that but it was a medical reference so I would assume everything would be aligned to Union time references. Perhaps not something we can come to terms yet with only two data points. I don’t recall a third time reference yet unless we include Isaac’s reference to Claire’s children’s behavior which would then force sequence this episode after Into the Fold.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
"This episode of the Orville reminds me of the episode of ________ except for_______"
We get that a lot on this site.

This episode of the Orville reminds me of the TNG episode "Remember Me". Like Remember Me everything is back to normal in the end, so what we are left with is character development, which is the best I can say for this episode.

The ending didn't work for me, though. "I'm going to test my meddle in the Holodeck with implausible scenarios but, I want to think its real so wipe my memory so I can't remember i'm in a simulation. Thanks doctor. Now computer, execute Order 38 so that nobody can interrupt it."

So in the end, Kitan is stronger for it. But we had to put up with scenario after scenario that we know aren't real, that would have gone on indefinitely had Mercer not stopped it.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 9:14pm (UTC -5)

Totally agree LOST was a mess and unnecessarily complex This was the point I would argue where tv writers got lazy. Gone were the days of careful thoughtful approach to writing and instead LOST ushered in an era where the writers believed they could throw mysteries and teases along with the kitchen sink at the audience and fan theorizing. It became more about structure and gimmicks. Everything centered around the weekly cliffhanger or gotcha! Moment. Scenes got shorter so more could be crammed in or certain things strategically kept offscreen to keep up the long con The audience had to fill in the blanks of things that should have been dramatized onscreen and were back in earlier decades. The mythology got so convoluted that audience had to check Wikipedia to keep track. Holes had to be filled in by writers/producers in Q and As or podcasts.

It was also LOST that for pure ambition sake bean growing the character roster to ridiculous levels. And Lost started the fad of killing off main characters for shock value

And when it came time to provide answers the writers got cute and said “ oh, it was never sboutbthe mysteries—it was about the characters”. Even though they had encouraged fans to chew on the mysteries.

And ever since then shows have adopted wholesale that Lost format or huge parts of it. Even shoes like Desperate Housewives

BSG followed that Lost format with its ongoing series spanning mythology and itbtoo never panned out but unlike LOST, BSG didn’t go as all-in on it. BSG though felt like an academic exercise. It wasn’t entertaining. It felt like a course in pure academic character studies of insufferable human beings—guinea pigs of Ron Moore as a big F U to Star Trek. It was poorly plotted, at times choppy because of poor editing and came across as little more than a stitched together string of isolated scenes

Frankly I keep hoping television will get back to basics and solid storytelling. I’m tired of the flashback gimmick, the long con, holding back on the audience as to generate an aura of mystery surrounding characters or their motives for some distant aha moment. But right now it doesn’t seem like they’re going back to the basics anytime soon

I guess I should applaud Seth MacFarlane for hardening back to that earlier time in television but the horrible comedy and recycled storylines torpedo Orville for me
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 4:32am (UTC -5)
I agree on Lost and BSG. Of the two, Lost's problems were much more profound. I quit Lost after season 4 (and would argue it stopped being good after the end of season 3) but saw BSG right through to the end. In the case of BSG, while they wrote themselves into a corner by never having had any idea where they were going with all the mythology etc, I think there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the show that a better-written finale couldn't have solved. As it stands, that wasn't the case - so while season 3 and 4 have their fare share of outstanding episodes, I think the criticisms of people who found the series losing credibility and direction from the end of series 2 onward (e.g. have a great deal of merit. Both shows had great characters and production, but when you're selling mythology and mystery as a central point of your show, you have to have some idea where you're going with it or at least what you want to say.
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 6:40am (UTC -5)
Of BSG and Lost, I will say this: For the first season of Lost, possibly two, it was among the best-written television series we have EVER seen. Be grumpy all you want about the last couple of seasons - it's certainly justified - but that should in no way diminish our pleasure at that first season of the show. To this day, it's miraculously good, in character work, in structure, in theme, in tone, everything -
it's incredible, all around. Fans get greedy about these things. YOU try having a show last 5 or 6 years and keep the standard set by that first season; it would be practically impossible. Many believe it's the showrunners' fault for not having a plan; okay, fair enough. But there is no reason to believe the show would have maintained that impossibly high standard even if they DID have a plan. Yes, the show fell apart, but that's largely because it lasted too long, and because answers are never as satisfying as questions. BSG also maintained a very high standard throughout, and while there were certainly significant dips in quality in the mid-seasons (Balter's arc, for example, plummeted in interest), the mutiny stuff in the end was gripping as hell. In the end, both of these shows, despite their lows, had such high highs that they should still be regarded as the standard for high-quality science fiction television. AND, later shows can even try to learn from their mistakes, which is even better.

As for this episode, it was giddily entertaining for the first 3/4, with a predictable let-down in terms of the explanation at the end. But that's okay. It's fairly easy to guess what the writers did here - they thought up the premise and the conflict, which were cool and well worth doing, and only afterwards did they try to find some semi-workable sf explanation for it, which they sort-of kind-of did. Everything before the explanation is wacky and scary enough, I would say, to warrant a halfassed resolution - why not? This episode is about the tonal experience, and about the character fearing that she has too much fear - so thematically, it was on-point. And yes, by the midway point, the episode was extremely reminiscent of TNG's Remember Me, and perhaps, like many of even the better Orville episodes so far, it suffers by reminding us of a similar, but better, earlier Trek episode. In this case, it's being compared to a semi-classic, so we shouldn't be too harsh on it. For much of its running time, I think it worked just fine.
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 11:54am (UTC -5)
Another fun episode. 3 stars. I like Alara so I appreciated another episode that developed her character further. Picardo was underutilized, but I'll assume a suppose a cameo is all he was available for/wanted to do, so fine.

Though I'm in the middle of TOS Season 2 parallel to this show (Chekov's wig...WOOF!) I felt compelled to watch one of my favorite TNG episodes: "Remember Me."

While there's definitely a palpably creepy nature to the crew disappearing bit by bit, at the same time I enjoyed seeing and hearing the Enterprise without any crew. It's the same thrill one gets from "Starship Mine" or the beginning of "Brothers" when it's just Data on the bridge.

You really get a feel for how big the Enterprise is once it starts emptying out (even though the universe around it is shrinking).
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 12:19pm (UTC -5)

Wow, surprised to hear you say that about BSG. That show was all about character development. I didn't watch it until it came out on Hulu, and after watching the mini-series, I ended up binge watching the entire 4-year series over the next two months. It was like an 80 chapter book that I just couldn't put down.

Anyway, I just got caught up on The Orville after a fellow Trekker at work told me I should watch it. I like the series so far, but some of the shows have been duds, which is typical for a first season. I like this one though, as it had me guessing up until the very end as to what the heck was going on. Best episode of the season so far, and Halston Sage is starting to get a good feel for her character. I'd give it 3.5 stars.
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 3:52pm (UTC -5)

Yes for Lost, no for BSG (quit after season 2).

Why do you think there is a correlation?

Dissappointing to find there will not be an episode this week, AND that they shortened the season by an episode.
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
@Lynos: Ubik's comment is a good illustration of why I suspected a correlation. Ubik sees no real problem with writing a TV series from an approach of "what images and actions can we put on the screen that will be really weird and tantalize viewers, never mind whether we have any idea how to ultimately explain them". For me, unless it is clearly being done as an exercise in surrealism (like David Lynch), that's not a legitimate way to write a TV show. It becomes, especially when it is carried out over multiple episodes or seasons, a kind of long con. But even over the space of an hour, it's a narrative cheat, not playing fair with the audience.

Maybe that's really the bottom line. We've all seen cases where a character on a TV show has something bizarre/horrible happen to them, and then suddenly they wake up in bed and we see it was a dream. (Sometimes the wakeup is also a dream.) I'm not a huge fan of that to begin with, but I can tolerate it if we are only teased for like fifteen or twenty seconds before we are shown that it was just a dream. To do it for thirty minutes is not kosher IMO. Or at least, it's not the kind of thing I want to watch. But without advance warning, I get sucked into watching it anyway, and feel annoyed that I wasted my time.
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 5:45pm (UTC -5)

Totally agree. It’s a cheap, lazy way of doing things. You can do or say whatever you want and don’t have to make it make sense because anything happens in a dream

I’m a big fan of Michael Piller and one reason is he told the TNG writing staff no dream endings. Originally Remember Me and Future Imperfect were dream episodes but he said that’s unsatisfying so he worked on both and that’s why we got much better payoffs.

You could see once he stepped back from TNG In the last two seasons the writers becoming lazy and Jeri Taylor allowing dream endings in Frame of Mind and Eye of the Beholder which I’m certain he wouldn’t have allowed. And convoluted mythologies like The X files conspiracy and LOST are no better
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 5:55pm (UTC -5)

Okay; but doesn't that suggest that narrative coherence - plot - is the most important aspect of a show's aesthetic appeal? It's important, sure, but why should it be the ultimate arbiter? What about character? What about emotions evoked? What about cleverness and wit? What about world creation? And what about colours and textures and music? Would you examine a painting and then dismiss it merely because the story depicted offers no satisfying resolution? What about the experience itself, in the moment, of engaging with the work? Doesn't that count for a lot? In fact, isn't that precisely what David Lynch has been trying to teach us with the third season of Twin Peaks?

This episode has a weak resolution. But it also has at least one brilliant moment, our first view of the clown, as he barrels down the corridor and knocks Alara down. It was funny and creepy and surprising, and its success as an isolated moment does not depend on a logical explanation for it. It's about the image itself, the
Juxtaposition of his presence, the speed at which he ran, and then, finally, the punch line that he appeared on the ship's camera. It's a lovely moment of television, skillfully rendered. That the logical underpinning that comes later is unsatisfying does not diminish the impact of that earlier moment. The only reason they even bother to invent a logical explanation is because viewers, who have learned nothing from David Lynch, sort of demand it. It's so clear that, for the writer of this episode, their heart wasn't in the obligatory logical explanation anyway, but in creating a creepy visceral experience. Can't we appreciate art that achieves success in ways other than in the mere narrative realm?
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 8:20pm (UTC -5)
I prefer my entertainment to be a satisfying coherent cohesive whole as a viewing experience

More and more with shows like Lost or BSG they come across as a bunch of stitched together pieces and very uneven as a viewing experience

Yes, you can enjoy or appreciate isolated moments but that doesn’t mean you walk away satisfied from the whole. And a single likeable moment isn’t going to make me personally forgive all the other junk I had to sit through for that one or two moment(s)

It may be just me but television used to be more consistently good week in and week out with episodes solid from teaser to credits. Nowadays it is like an a la carry buffet where they try to be everything to everyone inevitably leading to a very choppy and uneven frustrating viewing experience

At least with a show like Voyager if an episode was bad it went all in on it’s badness from start to finish but a show like Lost has ups and downs in an episode and throughout the narrative arc.
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 8:28pm (UTC -5)
* a la carte

II’m also tired of passes people give writers like Lynch by suggesting it’s artistic or some other such high-minded principle for the narrative messes their series are. It just comes off as rather pretentious.

Lynch’s Twin Peaks revival was NOT some brilliant artistic product and it was NOT that many fans’ were too provincial to appreciate what he was doing. It was a hotness that came across as of it was written by someone sitting down at the computer after having partaken in pharmaceuticals
Dave in MN
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 9:25pm (UTC -5)
Everything David Lynch has made is pretentious, overlong and psychologically disturbing .... but I think he's probably as close as any director has ever gotten to recreating what the experience of having a vivid nightmare is like. It takes a certain kind of talent to pull that off consistently.

Anyways, OST I actually stuck with (mainly because the producers promised that none of the characters were in a spiritual purgatory). I allowed myself to get invested figuring the payoff would be worth it.

I found the characterizations and acting to be outstanding, particularly Sawyer, John Locke and Hurley.

I detested the final season once I realized the fast one they were about to pull. That obscure ending (implying the series is a time loop) was even more infuriating. A classic case of having your cake and eating it too.

It made me retroactively dislike the entire convoluted mythology. It's still a good show, but not something I'd watch twice (except maybe the episode where Rose deals with her illness).

BSG I just couldn't get into. The whole interstellar submarine mutiny trope didn't really work for me as a motivation to stick with a series. I also felt a few actors were miscast, at least in the few I watched.
Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 1:54am (UTC -5)
I admit that in the end Lost was a big tease with little payoff (and I actually liked the finale), and Damon Lindelof admitted on numerous occasions that they had to have filler episodes because they were forced to do 22 episode seasons by the network, which is insanse. It goes without saying that if Lost was a cable show with 10 episodes per season it would have fared better.

But the reason to keep watching Lost wasn't necesserilly the Big Mystery (although obviously it's a big part of it), but because of the characters. As long as the character work was solid, and you had someone to root for, the show, at least for me, was worth it. Compare it to The Walking Dead, which also kind of had/has a mystery at its core. I quit it after season 3 simply because I found no characters I cared about anymore. The show simply killed off all the interesting characters.

For me, this is what saves Firestorm in the end, the character work, and how it ties to the reveal. Let's imagine that the episode was structured differently, that there would be no twist, that we would simply watch Alara asking Issac to program the holodeck, and then to wipe her memory, and then we watch her go through the motions. That it would a pure character-focused drama show.

If that was the case, our identifications with her plight would be lessened. If we knew the game is rigged, we would just sit bored until Alara catches up. She would still earn her development as a character, but we as viewers would have a lesser experience. Admittedly, that approach only works best in the first viewing, but I think it was still the right call to turn it into mystery/horror, and to have the viewers as baffled as the character is. If Firestorm has a fail, it's that it didn't push Alara's perspetive far enough and involved the other crew members on too many occassions. The viewer needed to FEEL her desperation every step of the way.

What I mean is it would have been better if the fears she was experiencing were her own fears and not the crew's. It would make it more personal and focused. But it's understandable they wanted to involve the rest of the cast.
Paul Allen
Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 1:48pm (UTC -5)
Watching it now - when it's clear she's in a simulation when she shoots Isaac and is bleeding, she has that whole Ripley in Aliens vibe going on, even the music matches.

Kinda hot. :)
Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
@Startrekwatcher, nice comment. I am a fan of Piller as well. I became aware of him relatively late, after seeing and being very impressed by the Voyager episode "Meld" and wondering who had written this involving, intense, and unusual (by Trek standards) script.

@Ubik: "Okay; but doesn't that suggest that narrative coherence - plot - is the most important aspect of a show's aesthetic appeal? It's important, sure, but why should it be the ultimate arbiter? What about character? What about emotions evoked? What about cleverness and wit? What about world creation? And what about colours and textures and music? Would you examine a painting and then dismiss it merely because the story depicted offers no satisfying resolution? What about the experience itself, in the moment, of engaging with the work? Doesn't that count for a lot? In fact, isn't that precisely what David Lynch has been trying to teach us with the third season of Twin Peaks?"

I did offer a specific exception in the case of someone like Lynch. But with him, I know what I'm getting: surrealism. And he's not going to explain it in ANY way, including "it was all a dream". In a show that has essentially made a compact with the audience that it is intended to be more or less realistic futuristic science fiction, that trust is broken IMO when you do something like this. You talk about character, but for much of the episode, we were looking at one "real" character (albeit in an unreal situation) and a bunch of unreal characters. Was the depiction of the doctor as a psychopathic torturer, for instance, supposed to add to our understanding of her character?

@Dave in MN: "It made me retroactively dislike the entire convoluted mythology."

Yup, same. I gladly rewatched the first season and a half of BSG with my kids, but I have no desire to revisit that island. They made, as you say, the most convoluted mythology ever (piling more on it even into the last season), and then they said none of that matters, it's just a bad man and a good man and a cork. Oh, and "the characters". Well, then why did you throw all that crazy mystery and mythology at us? Why not just show the characters living on the island and interacting, and leave it at that? And as you note, the chutzpah of promising "no purgatory" and then delivering exactly

Very curious for Jammer's take!
Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 11:23pm (UTC -5)
The problem with the structure isn't that it put the reveal at /near the end -- that's necessary for a story like this -- it's just that it kind of petered out a little early. And the real point, Alara beating her fears, or at least learning to function despite them, didn't quite get shown (although, maybe the intention was to show that she was wrong to be so determined to beat them).
Thu, Nov 23, 2017, 3:48am (UTC -5)
Hm, 2,5-3 Stars from me. I really liked the first three quarters, and I fully expected a reset button, but that explanation just didn't work for me. I'd much rather have it all be a dream, treaden as that ground is. I have very vivid dreams from time to time, and it would make sense for Alara here after her trauma. Or something like the movie "Sphere". I guess it is just personal preference.

Other than that great episode, my rating is just down to the ending. I really liked Bortus' jokes - he in 18th century clothing was just hilarious. The score was also really well done, as well as the fight scenes. Isaac felt really nimble and powerful, not the kind of "lumbering robot" that is so common. I also liked the funeral, with the chief making crude jokes - at first I thought "man, Seth, this is the wrong place", but I guess the Chief just wanted to keep acting like he did with his friend for such a long time, before the realization really sinks in. Really touched a nerve, without being full of false pathos.

Robert Picardo was sadly underused, but I guess we havn't seen the last of him. I almost thought he would appear on the ship, as some kind of final enemy. Oh, and for some reason, Nurse Park seems really interesting. He is the complete opposite of everybody else on the show: Down to earth, normal, dutiful human being.

And a final remark, the visual style is just great. It harkens back to TNG and Voyager, a calm, collected affair. Really excited to see where we go from here.
John Witte
Fri, Nov 24, 2017, 2:49pm (UTC -5)
I felt that this episode was a rather middling affair. When I saw Robert Picardo as her dad I immediately thought that the show was going to turn into a character arc where she goes back home and learns alot about herself. Instead, it turned into a holographic haunted house where she is trying to overcome her demons. It was such a waste to get Picardo and only use him for one scene.

To me, it felt like a rehash of other creepy Star Trek shows. I suppose that it makes a certain amount of sense because Brannon Braga directed it. I agree with some posts that the end made me think of Ripley in Aliens. But that pretty much drives my central point. There's nothing really new here.

2 stars out of 4.
Nah Not Today
Sat, Nov 25, 2017, 1:58am (UTC -5)
@Dave in MN

David Lynch is as far from pretentious as you can get. He doesn't bother with intellectual blather and high-falootin' gibberish, it's all about feelings and mood.
Dave in MN
Sat, Nov 25, 2017, 9:41am (UTC -5)
@ Nah

The line between pretension and surrealism is blurrier than you might think.

I guess my perception of surrealism includes a true sense of earnestness about the material they are presenting. I can't help but think that Lynch often overthinks what doesn't necessarily require it, especially since he is as gifted in cimematgraphic presentation as Hitchcock or Kubrick.

In a sense, I'd say John Waters succeeds on this front more (and I'm not really his fan either).

I've always preferred my surrealism in still form: Dali, Magritte etc.

The filmic versions make me feel weirdly unclean, like i'm shaking off a bad dream or Ive taken a hit of acid hanging with the wrong people. It's a genre where a little goes a long way for me.

Even so, I still appreciate it for what it is and I see the value of surrealism, and speaking from thst position, I think Lynch could improve by self-editing more.
Trek fan
Sat, Nov 25, 2017, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
What starts out looking like TOS' "Obsession" ends up as a hodgepodge of bad, good, and average reality-bending TNG episodes here. And make no mistake: Other than the all-too-brief cameo by Robert Picardo of Voyager, this episode of "Orville" is ferociously bad. It's not just awful, it's *aggressively* awful and manipulative and tasteless to boot. No wonder Jammer hasn't mustered the energy to review it yet: The juice hardly seems worth the squeeze for such a relentlessly derivative story filled with bad acting and tacky shock moments.
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
@Trek fan

I'm a big Trek fan and watched many of the episodes going back to the first ones in 1967. I can't watch them all when I value family first. This is Thanksgiving week and many people are busy with loved ones so Jammer must have similar family genes, just a speculative guess.

Orville is a comedy kind of spoof with a Star Trek theme. If that isn't your thing to watch, go watch STD. I can't watch both shows at the same week, no time for me. I was able to watch the last show on STD and came away quite impressed before they resume next year. Both shows have been making a lot of adjustments lately I have to honesty it really comes down to user's opinion of the show.
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 7:34pm (UTC -5)
I feel like this show has been making some strides in resolving the tonal dissonance between the urge to do wildly earnest, old-school space adventure, and devil-may-care rude comedy- generally by surrendering more and more to the former.

But the dissonance that seems to be dominating my objections (which are not overwhelming, ergo continuing to tune in) is that a show that ostensibly has comedic arrows in its quiver to lovingly skewer the habits of its predecessors, ala Galaxy Quest, lets so many groaning tropes sail by unmolested. I suppose there's a slight bit of innovation in making the nightmares-become-reality business Alara's own handiwork, but doing a memory wipe to conceal it from Even Ourselves is just as rusty as the rest ('Clues', anyone?) and the only mystery- of what precise breed of magic was responsible for the happenings- was never going to really matter, because what could it possible resolve? That the crew member that consistently displays the most physical courage is also now not phobic of fire? Great for her, I guess, to complete her layer of total bravery, but it also wasn't something that I was terribly worried about having resolved, nor does her one success really suggest that her fear has been expunged.

I mean, what ultimately happened? A crew member concocted a hair-brained, illegal, dangerous scheme to fast track her past the sort of psychological hiccup that grown, mature people spend years massaging into a manageable form, which usually comes with a measure of acceptance of their shortcomings, but for her... it just works? She had an immature panic at the notion of her fallibility, and she just got to cash it in?

To be fair, the speech Alara gets from the captain when she tries to resign was pretty pitch perfect- worse than screwing up is sulking about your lack of personal perfection, and imagining that messing up once in earnest dynamites all your relationships is to foolishly misunderstand your place in things. But then they unwound all that maturity with a dumb, the-holodeck-circuit-breakers-are-jammed story.

It's sort of the same thing for me, each week- I'm not mad I get a new episode of TNG, but *I also can still watch TNG*.
Wed, Nov 29, 2017, 10:07am (UTC -5)
I think your points are valid but most of them come to the surface in retrospect. The episode works as a stand-alone, well-made adventure with a twist, with admittedly lower re-watch value. The series seems to be wavering betwen serious character analysis and willing to sell its characters for some jokes, Family Guy had the same problem when it tried to do character development.

But I think Orville is getting better and more coherent with time. I think the intention here is to ultimatley be a more serious and thoughtful show and not as zany as Family Guy.
Thu, Nov 30, 2017, 1:37am (UTC -5)
Review now posted.
Thu, Nov 30, 2017, 9:46am (UTC -5)
I know he's working over at DISCO, but this felt like a Joe Menosky story. They could be good, they could be bad...but they were always WEIRD.
Thu, Nov 30, 2017, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
I feel a consistent theme emerges in the entire series:

Good cinematography
Good music
Good cgi
Average directing
Mediocre writing
Cardboard acting

Perhaps another look at the distribution of funds.
Trek fan
Thu, Nov 30, 2017, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
@PerryP yes it does come down to opinion. And there are some things I really like about "Orville," especially the episode "Majority Rule" which is my favorite of the season. I know what kind of show I'm watching and I really think it's improved in a few areas; I sometimes find the gags supremely funny. But I also reserve the right to have a strong negative reaction to something like this episode. Other than the engaging clown sequence -- a nice pop culture nod to scary clowns like the recent remake of Stephen King's "It" -- I found this episode a gradual descent into tasteless and tired horror film tropes without a satisfying payoff. I found it to be a superficial "shock show," rather than a humorous or clever story with a believable (as opposed to wildly exaggerated) character hook. After the tense clown stuff, I gradually checked out of the episode when the "fun" moments (like the continued exploitation of Dr. Finn's character for cheap shock moments) made me cringe.

Also, like Jammer, I reserve the right to watch both "Orville" and "Discovery" as I've been doing all along. Overall, Discovery is for me a better and more creative show even with its problems, but Orville has its moments too. And Jammer's reviews concur with me here: Although he and I sometimes differ on star ratings, he's only given THREE episodes of "Orville" more than 2 1/2 stars. To be specific, he's given 3 stars to only three episodes the entire season, and with two shows left he hasn't given 3 1/2 or 4 stars to any episodes of the entire season. Honestly, I really want to like both shows, but it's a struggle with "Orville" more often than not because of the frequent feeling that I'm consuming heated-up leftovers from 15-50 years ago. There's some promise here, but I basically agree with Jammer's critique that the whole show feels somewhat like an uninspired knockoff of better material, a copy of a copy that feels middling-to-average on its best weeks. Since I've watched this far, it's hard to stop watching until the show gets cancelled, and I'd be surprised if it goes past two seasons.

But I'm willing to be surprised: I would love for "Orville" to prove me wrong and run 7 seasons. That ball is in Seth's court, not mine. To the makers of "Orville" I merely say: Impress me. Like you and Jammer, I've seen a lot of Science Fiction including all of the Star Trek shows ever made, and I have standards for "Orville" to rise above my sense of "average." Am I a snob? In life, no. In 99% of things, no. But with Star Trek and its imitators, more than anything else in my life, I kind of am. It's one of my few lifelong obsessions and the bar of entertainment after 50 years of stories is pretty high for me.
Thu, Nov 30, 2017, 9:21pm (UTC -5)
Ha, we were all wondering what side Jammer would land on, and the answer was...neither!
Threshold Lizard Man
Fri, Dec 1, 2017, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
Was it Q?
Sat, Dec 2, 2017, 1:13am (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone

It was silly when the two of them showed up with the wigs and flintlocks, and I thought it was cute and sort of true to how time on the simulator might work. But it was a perfect set-up for... Bortus. I laughed so hard when he asked if he was early I had to stop my recording. Tears flowed. I was entertained.

Was it a good story? Well, it was different, at least to my eyes. Not horrible but not fantastic. The star rating is probably on the nose, but so close to a three I can taste it. As I'd had a strange day at work, I was not trying to figure it out, although I thought it'd be something that wasn't real (I was thinking aliens at work, doing something weird, based on old TNG memories). Honestly, Kitan isn't my favorite because, well, I don't like the makeup. It just looks like plastic to me, much more than the Bortus makeup. It pulls me out of the immersion a bit. But seeing her parents (heh, nice) and getting a bit of backstory was decent. And that she was on the simulator, but not knowing it, my work-melted brain thought it was... well... decent enough. I really think the laugh I got towards the beginning skewed me towards a higher rating. But that isn't all bad to me.

@Skoply I really, mostly, dislike Family Guy, but I know the characters and when I read your note I truly laughed out loud, as that is one of the few things I've seen from that show. Thanks!

I hope the series does well, as it seems to have steered away from the d**k jokes a bit, which is a plus for me. There are many kinds of humor, and if it veers away from the Family Guy type towards more of the types of humor TNG could have done, but didn't, I'll continue to enjoy it.

Lastly... I know this show is nowhere near the level of Babylon 5, but I recall JM Straczynski mentioned that he always wanted his show to have at least one funny moment you could laugh at, even during the darkest episodes. While they didn't always pan out, they usually did. If The Orville can be semi-serious and have a stupid funny moment or two in it, well, I'll keep watching until the thing ends...

Thank you for your time and thank you Jammer... RT
Wed, Dec 6, 2017, 3:08am (UTC -5)
Apologies if I repeat anything said already, as I only skimmed the comments because there are so many.

This is only the third (fourth?) Orville that I have seen. My uncle has been watching from the beginning, and I have seen several eps with him (such as the social media allegory one).

I was generally pleased with this one. Very much in the Trekkian fashion (yes, the Orville isnt Trek, but the similarities are a good way to view and analyze it). It reminded me of TNG's "Clues" or "Remember Me" and Voyager's "Latent Image," in that I spent most of the episode trying to unravel just what the hell was going on.

Unfortunately, despite being on the edge of my seat for 95% of the episode, it sort of falls flat once all the cards are on the table. Even as it became disappointing clearer what was going on, I was still eager for the exact how it was going on.

Problem #1: Once Penny Johnson shot the nurse, it was clear that one of two things was true. Either a) she was possessed or b) Alara was still in the holodeck or hallucinating or dreaming or some other reset button outcome.

Problem #2: Once Malloy was eaten, it was pretty much obviously option b. They were smart not to let Grayson not fall into that abyss earlier in the episode. Sure, they could have gone the losing folks one by one route, but that would have given any the hey-a-reset-button-is-coming much earlier, so I credit them with not doing an even poorer job of maintaining the fuller mystery.

Frankly, they just gave it away too early. Maybe Malloy should have been merely dragged off or injured and at least taken to sickbay (even if critically injured). Unfortunately, his being swallowed made it clear the reset button was coming.

The reveal that Alara was in fact in the holodeck still (and the others were watching) was interesting. However, the reveal that she locked herself into the program (despite being memory wiped at some point?), was not as palatable as had she been assigned to the program to retrain her or to deal with the grief or something. It just felt tacked onto what was otherwise an intriguing premise.

As for the humor, I laughed multiple times, and I felt this episode did not derail itself to squeeze in one-liners as much as the pilot or the other eps I saw (like the social media one).

One other thing: as I had not been keeping up with the show, Alara's freak out over the death of the guy at the beginning really threw me. Sure it was under her watch and she might feel responsible, but surely they have lost multiple people on the show (all the Trek shows lost crewmen (redshirts and unnamed mostly) at a pretty steady rate). I read after, however, that this was the first crew death for the ship. This also lends context to Mercer's struggling with the condelence letter (which also threw me). Of course, the Trek shows probably didn't show enough of (captains especially) grieving over causalities, save for the DS9 Dominion War stuff, and that was mostly only when the Feds were losing badly and war fatigue had set in.

So, all in all, the episode was worth a 3 out of 4. Not sure how watchable it is once the twist is known (though few twists eps of TV are ever the same after the initial viewing). I was really invested pretty much throughout.
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
I just want to point out the "first year is the hardest" wasn't indicating a year had passed, it was Claire telling Bortus that the first year is the hardest for new parents.
Brian Bates
Fri, Jan 5, 2018, 8:03am (UTC -5)
How are so many people praising the score? Did no one else recognize that it's mostly small segments of various Star Trek scores (probably just short enough to avoid being legally labeled plagiarism) woven together? I've enjoyed plenty of Debney's work but I wonder if I need to take a closer listen and see if it's actually original (or maybe he was just told "make it like Star Trek" so much that this was the result.
Fri, Feb 16, 2018, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
I laughed out loud at the Captain warning them (when searching for the clown) to watch out for balloon animals.

The humour seemed less forced in this one.
Mon, Feb 19, 2018, 3:12am (UTC -5)
The best episode so far. I loved it. Okay, the reveal was a bit of a let down and it's essentially just - face your fears - stuff, that we've seen many times before, but it was really entertaining. The characters are excellent and surprisingly Seth is making a decent, likable captain.
James Alexander
Mon, Jun 11, 2018, 6:14pm (UTC -5)
this was the first episode of Orville I ever got a glimpse of.
was randomly scrolling through channels and I stumbled across this thing with a vaguely Bajoran-looking girl getting into trouble, and a robot's eyes turning red as it turns evil and tries to kill her.

thought what I saw was passable albeit nothing truly stunning, and it was good for killing time while it was on.
Mon, Jan 28, 2019, 5:28am (UTC -5)
Fairly solid episode with some nice twists to the typical holodeck run-amok device that keeps the audience off-balance long enough. Cast coming together really nicely and the deadpan humour is really timed , this lovingly made deadpan comedy/homage and genre crossing experiment is really coming together in my opinion.
Fri, Mar 20, 2020, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Because the quarantine is certainly only a few days away I decided to work my way through my Netflix and Amazon backlog.

Orville... Well I did not like the general story. I cannot take Kitan seriously. If she would tone down the cherry lipstick maybe... and the first officer should bronze less. She has a 0.6 on the open top Trumpscale. Strangely enough the humor in this episode worked for me. LaMar freaking out about clown, Brtous talking about killing an alligator and a few other scenes. I found it mildly enjoyable. Maybe the cabin fever is setting in.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 11:52am (UTC -5)
"I found it mildly enjoyable. Maybe the cabin fever is setting in. "

Don't worry.

Firestorm is the best episode of the first season. Your reaction to it is perfectly reasonable given your past reviews :-)
Dave in MN
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
"Mad Idolatry "and "About a Girl" are pretty good too, but yeah, "Firestorm" is probably the best Season 1 episode.

I'm genuinely interested to see his reaction during the back half of Season 2. Only a Trekkie with a heart of stone couldn't be won over, imho. It gets SO good!
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
Here is the dark secret guys. Jeff Bezos wants 20€ for season 2...

Am I already that starved for entertainment to pay the beelzebezos??

Signs point to yes.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
Surely you can buy it somewhere else?

Whatever you do, do it quickly. The way the world is going, you might not be able to get deliveries home for a very long time.
Dave in MN
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
@ ODTP and Booming

That seems expensive.

The Season 2 DVD (with extras) was on sale for 13 bucks at Target a few weeks ago.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
Streaming. I don't even have a dvd player anymore, grandpa!! #ageism.
Dave in MN
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:54pm (UTC -5)
@ Booming

But the DVDs let you enjoy all the fun stuff like deleted scenes and commentary tracks! Being old school has its benefits.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 1:44pm (UTC -5)
So far I haven't really warmed to the non-deleted scenes. Commentary would have been nice, though.
William B
Fri, Jan 22, 2021, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Braga finally gets to direct one of these. What saves the episode from being too generic a "it was all in her mind" story is the idea that Alara sets it up herself, which gives the story a certain punch and makes her actions more admirable. Kid did good. Still because the fears are by nature a little generic I don't know that we did learn much about Alara besides that she has a can do attitude even under great stress, which we could have guessed. 2.5 or so.
Sat, Sep 18, 2021, 9:28pm (UTC -5)
I could smell it a mile away. Waste of time psychological melodrama.
Proud Capitalist Pig
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 12:19pm (UTC -5)
I could watch that cutie Alara Kitan for hours. Sure, it seems like the only character development the writers can think up for her involves her extreme greenness that she has to rise above, but Halston Sage is at least a capable actress, even better here than in “Command Performance.”

Alara is as stubborn as the iron columns she can throw around. Seeing her pound the punching bag until its stuffing fell out was a great touch. While many above feel that she’s being way too hard on herself here (as Dr. Finn pointed out, Payne was doomed either way) for the sake of the plot, why must even shipboard professionals be constantly resilient and not have extreme personal hang-ups? At least hers makes sense -- she’s the strongest person on the ship and the engineering crew specifically requested her help, but in her mind she blew it. It’s a believable mental wringer for her.

The simulation’s parade of threats was stupidly entertaining. It was fun to see the ship turned into a haunted house of horrors. It makes great sense that there’s something for everyone. I’ve read and seen plenty of Stephen King, but I’m never fazed by clowns. I love spiders and always release them gently if they get into my house. Extended isolation can be worrisome, okay, but I love me some good alone time now and then. I’m not afraid of heights. But that scene in Sick Bay with crazy Dr. Finn pinning Alara down to the operating table? Yes, that’s me! I’m with Malloy -- I hate hospitals and I’m scared to death of surgery.

Evil Isaac was nice as well, and it was funny as hell seeing Alara and Isaac tossing each other around. Who knew that Isaac’s costume was so malleable and kinetically forgiving for that stunt guy? This was very believable too -- Isaac is a goddamn sentient AI that indeed can probably be hacked or change loyalties very quickly. For a while there, I was entertaining the idea that Isaac indeed was in some way the cause of all the shenanigans, as Alara thought.

I disagree with those commenters above who are complaining about the pacing of the reveal--I thought it happened at just the right point. There were only about 10 minutes left in the episode, and at that point, the tension wasn’t about, “What the hell is going on?” but, “Okay, what does this all mean for Alara now? How the hell does this simulation end?”

The whole Macguffin makes sense from a character perspective, but damn was the in-universe execution and explanation convoluted. Dr. Finn is so easily convinced that Alara needs a *memory wipe* conducted on her?! It doesn’t take more than one crewmember to sign off on “Directive 38?” These are just a couple of huge contrivances to tie everything up in a nice bow, but at least the crisis came down to being grounded in character instead of some insane science fiction plot.

And man, it was great to see Penny Johnson Jerald almost channeling her psycho Sherry Palmer days (“24’) in the Sick Bay simulation, though her scenes in the Brig were pretty over the top. I got a kick out of seeing Robert Picardo (Coach Cutlip from “The Wonder Years!”) as Alara’s father. I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Larry Joe Campbell who stepped up admirably as Chief Engineer Newton with more lines in this episode than he’s had in the whole series. Everyone else was fine too, especially that cutie Halston Sage.

Best Line:
Mercer -- “I’m not a writer, okay?”

My Grade: B
Wed, Nov 16, 2022, 8:32am (UTC -5)
Sadly, this is the first episode that I have found to be a complete waste of my time since I fell in love with the show two weeks ago. Perhaps this plot hinges on you finding Alara attractive? I find the Supergirl character completely boring and I found the unlikely. Shitty writing and dopey acting, all around. This goes right up there with TNG's Shades Of Gray as something I hope to forget.

I'm still in love with the show and very grateful it exists at all. I just don't get the Supergirl character, it's been done to death. And what's with the lipstick? It almost looks like she is wearing prosthetic lips.
Wed, Nov 16, 2022, 9:43am (UTC -5)
Correction to my comment:
I found the premise to be implausible.

I turned off BSG when they started reciting Dylan lyrics. No thanks. I don't like being bullshitted, and perhaps that's the link. (I don't know about Lost, I don't like bullshit so I stay away from television, generally.)

I'm grateful to the commenters on here who discussed season 3 so thoroughly and got me to take a look. Typically I don't like my SF to be mixed with other genres. When a friend told me that the Orville was "just like Galaxy Quest", I was reluctant to give it a chance. I'm glad for watching half of season 3 before watching season 1.

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