The Orville

"Electric Sheep"

3 stars

Air date: 6/2/2022
Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Season three of The Orville — moved from Fox to Hulu and now dubbed "New Horizons" — premieres some three-plus years after the second season ended. "Electric Sheep," the first installment — filmed more than two and a half years ago — serves as a re-acquaintance of sorts, with the Orville docked at a starbase for a retrofit and waiting to deploy for its next exploration mission.

But the episode first opens with a Major FX Sequence, featuring a huge battle between the Kaylon and Union fleets, and Marcus (BJ Tanner) running through the corridors of the ship trying to escape the explosions and mayhem. He's able to get back to his quarters where Isaac is there waiting, but then Isaac suddenly goes into Red Mode and lunges at him like a predator. Marcus wakes up in a panic. (This opening sequence was released months ago to stave off impatient fans amid yet another delay announcement, except it didn't contain the obvious reveal that it's all a nightmare.)

The episode doubles back to finally deal with Isaac's betrayal in "Identity," which was completely papered over in the subsequent second-season episodes. It's a wise and prudent move, with believable circumstances, and it's filtered through the perspective of the newest member of the crew, Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters), a survivor from a ship that was destroyed in the Kaylon attack. She watched a close friend and mentor die in front of her during that battle, and she has some blunt, angry words for Isaac when he tries to sit with her in the mess hall.

Not long after that, "MURDERER" is painted on the wall in the science lab where Isaac works. An investigation is opened, Burke is questioned, and she's honest about her feelings on the matter of Isaac's reinstatement (though she says she didn't write the message). We get an interesting admission from Mercer as well: He's not even sure if reinstating Isaac was the right thing to do.

It turns out Marcus wrote the message, and when Claire orders him to apologize, Marcus instead tells Isaac that he doesn't forgive him and wishes Isaac were dead. Later that day, Isaac rigs a device in the science lab that overloads his CPU and leaves him permanently deactivated. All attempts to reactivate him are unsuccessful. Isaac is dead.

At its core, "Electric Sheep" is a story about suicide and people's feelings on the matter. There are some philosophical discussions — it's a personal choice, it's a shortsighted one, it affects others, not all cultures have the same view of it, etc. — that are interesting in a contemplative middlebrow way and done in the Trekkian mold of an "issue episode" slightly revamped with sci-fi trappings. Tackling the issue thematically while also framing it within the specifics of Isaac's status on the ship is a smart approach.

The obvious MVP of the episode is Penny Johnson Jerald, who is put through the emotional wringer with all these events. Her relationship with Isaac (which I confess I never understood) had ended with his betrayal and subsequent kinda-redemption, and now he kills himself for reasons it seems no one will be able to ever fully know. (Claire suspects Isaac had more feelings than anyone realized, but I always believed it to be a matter of simple pragmatic logic where Isaac reached this decision based on the need for the crew to move on; ultimately I was proven right). Claire's discussion with Kelly about not knowing what to do with her very conflicted feelings after such a terrible series of events is an episode highlight.

Part of me had hoped the story would commit to its choice and Isaac would remain dead, and that they'd find a different way to keep Mark Jackson on the show. But "Electric Sheep" also follows the Trekkian mold of finding a sci-fi way of unkilling a supposedly dead character. The technical details of this prove underwhelming (LaMarr's big realization in particular doesn't really seem to land). But it does provide a new dilemma in that the only person capable of saving Isaac with her unique talents is Charly, who is also the one who possibly hates him the most. (Mercer's speech about Charly not having a monopoly on pain concerning the Kaylon tragedy was a nice reality check.) There are shades here of "The Enemy," where Worf was the only one who could save a dying Romulan, and refused on the citation of his hatred. In this case, Charly relents so Marcus doesn't have to live with his own guilt.

That Isaac's choice for ending his life turns out to be a matter of pure logical calculation is yet another kick to the head for Claire, and she implores him to henceforth consult her regarding the full emotional ramifications that his actions have on the crew, and which he doesn't fully understand. Oddly, if anything, this episode ends with even less resolution than we came in with. Isaac is still here, he's still a part of the crew (based on a decision Mercer made and still isn't sure about), and no one knows what to do about Isaac's temporary but extremely consequential betrayal. Hopefully "Electric Sheep" isn't the end of the matter, because it's far from conclusive.

With the move to Hulu comes a shorter season (10 episodes instead of 13) but with longer individual installments (this one runs nearly 70 minutes). Whether that's an overall good or bad thing remains to be seen, but with this premiere I'm definitely not sold on the idea of longer shows — at least not this long. The pacing was off, and you can tell someone (probably MacFarlane) was way too in love with the effects sequences. Glamor shots of the ship and fleet are all fine and good if you're doing a ST:TMP type of "LOOK AT THIS NEW STARSHIP" showcase, but here, in the third season of a series with a ship that's not the Enterprise by any stretch of the imagination, the creators prolong routine FX shots beyond all reason, as if they are their own reward. It's a case of diminishing returns.

In particular, there's an entire sequence where Malloy is testing the weapons on the Pterodon, the ship's kewl new fighter jet, which, frankly, should've been entirely left on the cutting room floor. It's not half as fun as the overly pushy music thinks it is and does nothing to advance the story. I suppose it adds some "day in the life" atmosphere, but it's not worth the time spent on it. A lot of people complained about the extended runtime of the latest season of Stranger Things. I had no issues because the expansive sprawl of the various storylines warranted it (give or take a trip to Russia). But that's definitely not the case with "Electric Sheep," where the expanded time has simply allowed MacFarlane to indulge his worst self-indulgent instincts when he should be letting the editors do their jobs. Maybe this episode could've been 55 or 60 minutes, but 70 is really pushing it.

Also notable here is the almost complete dearth of comedy. I've never been especially sold on The Orville's comic sensibilities, particularly its most juvenile tendencies. But "Electric Sheep" has basically no humor in it whatsoever, and that's a significant change in a show that was initially defined as a sci-fi comedy-drama. It remains to be seen if this is permanent, but I hope this show doesn't try to take itself too seriously, because gravitas hasn't really been its forte either.

Overall, this is a good and solid start to season three. The visuals are crisp and absorbing as always, and it's nice to catch up with this crew. Maybe next we'll find out what these "new horizons" are.

Previous episode: The Road Not Taken
Next episode: Shadow Realms

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55 comments on this post

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Jaxon
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 2:38am (UTC -5)
This show has come a long way since the pilot. And Seth wrote this.

The new character Charlie emulates Worf's attitude towards Romulans in TNG's "The Enemy" a bit here.

Very well acted all around, particularly Penny Johnson Jerald who was just wonderful.

I'd put this right on the cusp of 3.5 and 4 stars. I'll go 3.5 in case something later in the season tops it.
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Jeffrey's Tube
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 3:23am (UTC -5)
This really is just Star Trek now. Seth has stopped even trying to disguise it.

Which is just fine by me.

Hey, they really spent on this episode, eh? Nice. I was a little worried it would look cheaper with the move to Hulu.

I guess Ensign Mary Sue is Seth's new girlfriend? I'm being mean; I liked her well enough. Although I remember her being a better actress from other things I've seen her in. She came across a bit stilted and artificial at times, though no worse than Seth himself does.

The cringey humor is not missed.

Still wonder how on earth Seth managed to get someone to let him make SUCH a blatant Star Trek knock-off . . . with a huge budget . . . starring himself. I mean damn, dude. Major kudos.

Also still wonder why on earth they let him name it "The Orville." Heh.

More Bortus next week, please.
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Nolan
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 4:05am (UTC -5)
Thank goodness for the Orville. It's not quiiiite the same warm blanket to curl up in that Star Trek was, but if it's not the closest thing I've had in awhile. And at times, don't it feel the exact same.

This episode to me was like a melding of TNG's "Family" and DS9's "Emissary" with a dash of TNG's "The Enemy" thrown in (as well as Broken Bow, TMP and Way of the Warrior). And frankly, it was needed after S2 spent it's first half building up to the mid-season twist, only to try and jump right back into status quo for it's second half.

I did find it interesting how our new resident angry ensign seemingly explained quite plainly the root of her own emotional problems in her conversation with Marcus with a total lack of awareness. Granted, not being part of the crew previously, she has the distance from the greyness of the situation to more easily reach this emotional state, but I'm wondering if her arc through the season will be her realizing how she needs to listen to her own advice and come to grips with both her misblamed anger at Issac and the death of her friend. Certainly not something Trek tended to do for more than a singular episode, at least, not with its Starfleet officers.

As a huge fan of the character of Kassidy Yates, I'm so glad The Orville is giving her actress a chance to shine. She was utterly WASTED in her role on Castle.

The only thing that stood out to me as somewhat stupid was the kind of egregious toy commercial for the Pteradon. Sure, it awkwardly loaded a Chekov's gun for later events, but a LIVE FIRE test flight in a crowded dockyard?! Don't they have a test mode on the weapon systems? Where are those stray blaster bolts going guys? Is captain Jimmeny of the USS Whatsit gonna have to push his refit back to account for the new holes in his ship?

That aside, the show looks great, it feels great and I'm glad I've got a Trek-like to tune into again.

Although, were this Trek, I'd probably be WAY more cynical at the new Ensign, the minor hostility among the crew and small bits of unprofessionalism scattered throughout. Not being Trek, The Orville doesn't have to EARN those momemts like the former would have to.
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Nolan
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 4:40am (UTC -5)
Oh, and FYI new Star Trek, THAT is how you do a character breaking down into tears. Shot to highlight their isolation, in a private, quiet moment and not accompanied by overly emotional music that sounds ripped from a soap opera and just screams to the audience "SEE HOW SAD THIS SCENE IS, FEEL SAD NOW."
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Galadriel
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 5:43am (UTC -5)
That was a good episode. Maybe even a great one. I like McFar­lane’s de­ci­sion to start the sea­son with a cha­rac­ter piece be­fore coming to the action.

The theme is emotional mix of hatred, guilt and rebuke, and it works very well for me; if anything is to be criti­cized about it, then that it should have come earlier in the show. Burke has my full sym­pathy for her un­for­giving atti­tude — reality won’t undo the death of her friend, so why should she undo her hatred to­wards the guilty party? The feeling of help­less­ness against an unforgiving reality, and the inevitable choice of em­bracing your own maso­chism is well scripted and por­tra­y­ed. I have been there, and I re­cog­nize her empty stare all too much. The actress plays it perfectly.

That’s a solid three out of four stars. And we may even get more pay­off from that set­up than was har­vest­ed in the epis­ode — of course she does not feel bet­ter now, and I hope that more of this plot­line will be heard of in the future.
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SlackerInc
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 9:04am (UTC -5)
@Nolan: i'm glad you called out that scene. The slow zoom in and the superlative acting combined for a very powerful effect.

I give this episode a full four stars, but I also acknowledge that I can't be objective about it. My father took his own life when I was 15, and although my very last interactions with him were warm and affectionate (thank goodness), there had been plenty of negative ones before that (mostly because of me being a punk-ass kid doing the whole surly, reflexively rebel against your dad routine). So I obviously had a very hard time dealing with my memories of acting sh**ty toward him, just as was portrayed in this episode. Very intense to watch and take in.

Was anyone surprised we didn't get any followup on the whole alternate reality deal?
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SlackerInc
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Oops, forgot one more thing I wanted to mention. How weird is it that we get this and the actual name-brand Star Trek show doing virtually the same submarine cat and mouse routine within just days of each other?
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Galadriel
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 9:47am (UTC -5)
@ SlackerInc

Or both starting with a nightmare?
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Episodenull
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
I'm shocked at how good The Orville has become. There's basically zero comedy left, and to its benefit. This was a sensitive and at times touching exploration of suicide. It got its message out without being preachy, and in a way that felt like a natural extension of who we know these characters to be. More importantly, it got me to feel something for a stupid emotionless robot, and for all the people who care about him. At the same time I also understood perfectly, and empathized with, why people hate Isaac. Really well done.
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Jaxon
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
Isaac's suicide was interesting in that, because of its nature, there was no element of "life isn't worth living anymore" or "I can't live with what I've done".

He ended himself because someone who used to love him now explicitly told him he wanted him ended.
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Jaxon
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
I get the sense that when we get aliens speaking gibberish with subtitles (Unk, Green Cake Guy) we're to assume that the crew is using the Orville version of a universal translator to understand them rather than them simply speaking the standard language outright (Dann, Yaphet), which is a nice touch...if it's intentional.
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SlackerInc
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
@Galadriel I'm blanking on the nightmare in SNW?
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C.T Phipps
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
Sadly, this is pretty much proof positive the last season will not be what I wanted from the Orville. I really loved the early show with its focus on comedy and slice of life in SPACCCCEE but that seems gone in place of drama llama-ness.

It's a shame.

It's still a good show but there's very few decent sci-fi comedies.
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Jaxon
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
The afterglow scene with the sea, er, she-urchin was kind of slice of life...
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TheRealTrent
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 3:40pm (UTC -5)
I thought the first act of this episode was excellent. Unlike nu-Trek, "Orville" shows us officers who speak calmly, politely, and discuss things rationally. When characters are insubordinate, or overwhelmed with emotions (hate, prejudice etc), the captain and his XO quickly discuss the situation, and summon the offending officers for a meeting.

So unlike recent Trek, this feels like a competent crew. Yes, these crewman have a bevy of personal issues, but our heroes try to deal with these things without degenerating into hysterics.

"Electric Sheep" also opens with the kind of "flashback action sequence" we've been criticising nu-Trek for. But the flashback works for me because it never feels cynical; we open with the Orville being pulverized by the enemy, but the sequence is about a kid desperately, and lovingly, trying to protect his brother. More crucially, the sequence is what the entire episode is about; Isaac and the Kaylon massacred thousands of humans, and so this flashback reverberates throughout the episode like an echo, always reminding us how this horror continually assails the crew. Every time they see Isaac, they're reminded of the Kaylon butchering their friends and family.

Realizing he's hurt the crew of the Orville, Isaac thus opts to commit suicide. The episode never seems to settle upon a "reason" for this; is Isaac feeling guilty? Does he love the doctor's kids and so wishes to stop giving them nightmares? Is he killing himself to make the ship function more efficiently? We're never quite sure. The episode's PK Dick title seems to suggest that Isaac's like a black hole, almost sociopathic in the way he reasons. The show's not smart enough to delve into the ramifications of these themes (is what passes for human empathy, choice, selfhood etc a similar void?), but in a sense this works in its favor. The way Isaac's nature bounces up against the show's chirpy, goofball vibe makes him even more horrific. It's like dropping Hannibal Lectre down into a TV show for toddlers.

The first act contains various sequences in which the Orville readies itself in drydock and tests new shuttles. With their giddy music and fly-bys, these scenes are rousing like the early "Star Wars" movies; they have that Spielberg/Lucas innocence, a "tone" which has long given way to Sf/Fantasy which is "serious", "realistic" and "dreary". Tonally and aesthetically, Orville's like nothing else on TV. It has an AwwShucks/GeeWhiz! vibe more akin to the 1950s. With its space men, rocket ships, and alien blobs, you can almost imagine this as some centuries old comic book about space cadets and missions to the moon. It's 1990s Trek meets 1980s Spielberg/Lucas meets 1950s Heinlein.

This episode introduces a character called Charly Burke. IMO every scene with her is excellent. Every scene with Captain Mercer is also excellent; he's nicely contemplative in many of his scenes.

Things fall apart for me in the episode's middle section. It's about twelve minutes too long, with the episode giving us three individual scenes in which a mother and her two sons mourn for Isaac. Better to truncate this into a single scene, with them grieving together.

We then get a nice scene in which a sexy bald alien, for the sake of philosophical balance, drops some anti-natalism ("suicide isn't wrong because nobody asked to live!)". The scene is ruined by a cliched "eureka" moment in which Lamar realizes how to resurrect Isaac. This leads to an unnecessary scene in which the Orville leaves drydock and is then immediately, and implausibly, attacked by a Kaylon ship. The scene is gripping, and looks amazing, but it clashes poorly with the sombre tone of the episode. IMO this scene should be omitted, Issac should be resurrected while the Orville is still docked, and the episode should end with the refitted Orville leaving drydock for the first time. So structurally the episode is a bit off.

Still this is a fun and strong episode. It has minor flaws (too long, could use some jokes, too many kids), but it has a nice utopian vibe ("There's no problem that can't be solved with time") despite its subject matter, it ends on a strong note, and it's a worthy attempt to match Trek's best suicide episodes, "Ethics" and "Mortal Coil".
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Galadriel
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
@SlackerInc Today’s episode of SNW starts with a nightmare of kal-if-fee (Spock vs. Spock).
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Maq
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 4:09pm (UTC -5)
This was good, very good. Brave theme and it was somehow logical. Stil there was some scenes that did not work to well for me and it was the outside repair work scenes. It felt ver constructed. I understand why you may need such scenes but to me the did not really work. But they are easly forgiven ecaus of the quite promising start.
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Sigh2000
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
@TheRealTrent
"This episode introduces a character called Charly Burke. IMO every scene with her is excellent."

Arleigh Burke is a class of guided missile destroyer.

Who is in charge of the new character naming department on these shows? Are they retired USN?
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Yanks
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 7:15pm (UTC -5)
It's so nice to have 'The Orville' back on our TV's.

That is all.
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Quincy
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 7:57pm (UTC -5)
This was a pretty good episode. Not sure how to feel about the almost complete lack of comedy, but I can't complain about the drama.

We knew there was going to be some type of a reset button, but they played it straight and dealt with the glaring issue of welcoming Isaac back to the fold without any repercussions.

Someone above called that alien in the aftermath of sex scene a "she-urchin." Consider that term coined. It was funnier than I guess the scene itself was supposed to be. Lame attempt at humor that it was.

I still think McFarlane should've went straight sci fi drama right away, or, all the way Airplane level comedy from the beginning. I think this would've been a much better series with that clear cut distinction. But whatever. McFarlane isn't that great of a writer either way, but he has his moments.
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Troy G
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
What is this? The Orville has become quite intelligent. And expensive looking. And serious.

I think the extra time helps although the jet-fighter scene felt like padding. However, it’s likely the little ship will make an appearance again and, of course, we get a demonstration of the new Ensign’s very unique talent.

I know this is an Isaac/Kaylon episode so I understand this serious tone but I hope the new episodes aren’t all like this. Perhaps I’m not enlightened but Isaac’s “death” didn’t affect me very much. And I’m still not yet sold on the previous romantic relationship between the Doctor and Isaac.

Hulu lists this season New Horizons, not Season 3. I wonder if Jammer will do the same on this site?
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Troy G
Thu, Jun 2, 2022, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Also, I’m happy to see that Hulu has decided to release each episode one at a time. Jammer said if they released them all at once, he likely would not review it.
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SlackerInc
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 12:45am (UTC -5)
And even if he were still willing to review it, it kills the comment section anyway when they release it all at once. There's no way we would all be on the same schedule.

@Galadriel: Ohhh...I hadn't seen that yet when I posted earlier. Two different episodes.

One nitpick that just occurred to me: It has always bothered me to see space maps, or star charts or whatever they call them, that are two dimensional. With all the VFX they have nowadays, couldn't they use a hologram or something?
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Booming
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 1:16am (UTC -5)
@SlackerInc
Considering that the Milky Way is a disc galaxy a 3D model wouldn't do much. The Milky Way is around 200.000ly wide but only a 1000ly thick.
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TheRealTrent
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 6:00am (UTC -5)
Quincy said: "This was a pretty good episode. Not sure how to feel about the almost complete lack of comedy, but I can't complain about the drama."

I personally prefer it with the jokes. I thought season 2 struck the right balance between serious and comedy.
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modulum
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 8:51am (UTC -5)
If I'm being perfectly honest here, my issue with Orville was never the jokes (which were often pretty funny and gave the series a distinct flavor) but the weird kind of...really, really sugary sentimentalism permeating the character writing? In some moments, it paradoxically sometimes felt even more "emotional" than Discovery because of how much time they spent lingering on feelgood setpieces like big overwrought dancing scenes or celebrations that went on for minutes at a time with no real significant plot. I dropped off the show in mid-S2 because the amount of stories that were about relationships and sex was just getting too much. Seth is, of course, fundamentally a sitcom writer so that's what he knows best and excels at, but it got to the point where it felt like the show was *about* that more than any of the sci-fi.
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Karl Zimmerman
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 9:28am (UTC -5)
A bit late to the party. I liked the episode, other than the gratuitous, way too long fighter scene. I can understand the desire to punch up a rather slow-paced episode with some action, but a test flight is literally no-stakes - it would have been so much better to have the maiden voyage of the fighter involve the Kaylon action later in the episode somehow. I guess they just wanted to "show their work" so to speak - show how much additional CGI they were now allowed to use? Otherwise it was a bit head-scratching.

As for the core of the episode, I think the themes explored around suicide were excellent, but the execution was somewhat hampered because the cast mostly lacks the gravitas to pull such a heavy subject matter off. In particular the actress playing the new character Charly (Anne Winters) did not leave me with a good impression. That said, Penny Johnson Jerald nearly singlehandedly salvaged this episode. She hit it out of the park with her complex performance. I didn't quite come close to tears, but I definitely managed to feel a twinge of sadness empathetically for her. It never made total sense how she could feel such empathy for a character who pretty clearly has no emotions whatsoever, but those feelings matter to her, and thus they matter to me as well.
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Jammer
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
Review now posted.
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Andrew Taylor-Cairns
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
3 out of 4 sounds right.

I wasn't sure about the extra length as well, but on the whole, it was a good start to the season.

The lack of comedy was surprising but actually welcome for me. Sometimes the humor would be a bit offputting in the early seasons.
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Jan
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 3:44am (UTC -5)
The fighter scene could not be readily removed because it served to introduce the idea that the new girl has the ability to see "in 4D" or somesuch and thus is the only one able to save Isaac. A feeble excuse, but I was having these same exact thoughts on length, padding, implausibility as it all unfolded.
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Rob
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 4:10am (UTC -5)
I’ve tried to watch this several times at various points in its run, but the fact McFarlane is clearly in love with himself always makes me switch it off.

TNG is available to watch still.
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SlackerInc
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 8:48am (UTC -5)
@Jammer: "interesting in a contemplative middlebrow way"

Oh, man, that's withering. Great writing though.

"The obvious MVP of the episode is Penny Johnson Jerald, who is put through the emotional ringer with all these events."

Nitpick: the idiom is "through the wringer", not "ringer".

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/is-it-through-the-wringer-or-through-the-ringer-difference#:~:text=When%20describing%20the%20act%20of,of%20concern%20or%20guilt%E2%80%9D).
"The mistaken application of ringer or ringing where it would be more appropriate to use wringer or wringing is commonly found in edited prose (although not commonly enough that such use is accepted as a variant)."

"(Claire suspects Isaac had more feelings than anyone realized, but I always believed it to be a matter of simple pragmatic logic where Isaac reached this decision based on the need for the crew to move on; ultimately I was proven right)."

Hard disagree there (with you, and @Karl Zimmerman, maybe everyone?). I have the opposite opinion (that he has more feelings than he lets on), although I acknowledge that it's ambiguous, and I don't believe your position was "proven right" here, or even that the needle moved at all in your direction. Of course he protests that it's all about logic. That's his stubborn pride.

How do you explain his turning against the Kaylon to protect the boy? Seems emotional. What about stopping to look at the stars before going to the lab to kill himself? Seems wistful (i.e., emotional). What about the conclusion to his "suicide note", giving regards to Penny's family? Where's the logic in adding that bit?

I do agree that they should have cut the "kewl fighter jet" sequence, hopefully before they spent all that VFX money on it.
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Philadlj
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 9:04am (UTC -5)
First SNW wets my whistle (agree the last episode was slight but would’ve still given it three solid stars for the character work alone), then The Orville returns? Talk about an embarrassment of riches for the Trek-forward sci-fi TV fan! And I have not finished Boba Fett or started Kenobi, which speaks to my preference for Trek/BSG/Expanse shows.

It is hard to look past what are pretentious and self-indulgent fellow Seth MacFarlane is, but both his writing and performance certainly help matters (as Jammer said, his directing could use some serious editing). Ed Mercer is no Pike, but he’s a damn fine captain. I also thought Ensign Burke did a great job. J Lee’s delivery still sounds like he’s rehearsing.

Agree that Captain Kassidy Yates remains the lynchpin of this cast. The show is lucky to have an actor of her caliber and she is fully committed to the role of doctor, counselor, mother, and human mentor to Isaac.

Great start. Looking forward to the rest of the season!
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Daniel Prates
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 4:03pm (UTC -5)
Interesting to see this show rate better than ST's blunders of the last years. A comedic, star-trek-a-like show, showing itself to be better then the more "serious" source it was doing parody of.
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SC
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
It was a fine episode but as Jammer said, it was overlong. This idea could have stretched to 50 minutes, but 70 led to some tedium. It felt like they blew the FX budget on this episode, with far improved FX than we've seen on this show before. I hope this isn't the last season, as I've missed The Orville.
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SC
Sat, Jun 4, 2022, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
Also, comedy, we need more comedy on the show. They've cut it too much as to be non-existent. Jars weirdly with the earlier seasons.
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J.B.
Sun, Jun 5, 2022, 12:59am (UTC -5)
I agree the music can be overbearing sometimes (as beautifully written it is, rare for TV and film these days) but it at least knows when to stop. The recent Trek shows in particular are greatly overscored, with relentless music during dialogue scenes when none would have sufficed.
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Lynos
Sun, Jun 5, 2022, 1:01am (UTC -5)
We live in the upside down world now, where the real Star Trek is now episodic and more lighthearted, while Orville is getting more serialized and deadly serious. I don't mind either of that, but it also means that when the real Star Trek starts to feel more like Star Trek, than the Orville has to up its game. No longer can it be just a loving pastiche to fill the empty void in every Trekkie life. Now it needs to find an identity of its own, or else it's going to going into forgettable land.

Some part of me misses the humor. I still think this show should've been Galaxy Quest instead of Family Guy in Space from the outset. The problem wasn't that it was a comedic show, only that it was the "wrong" kind of comedy. It should've been a loving spoof, not a broad workplace comedy.

Orville is a show struggling with its identity. Yes, it's well-made and entertaining, but it's also clearly a vanity project for Seth MacFarlane, and I feel like the writing will really need to be sharp this season in order to help it find what it wants to be.

i liked this episode, it had an interesting premise, I like the new Charli character, and I like how the crew feels professional for the most part. Isaac may be my favorite character and I feel like they got the Data part of their show down to pat. It's all well and good, but Orville just needs to tight its storytelling a bit and find its identity in order to acheive some kind of greatness. I mean, do we really need 70 minute-long episodes?

Oh, and the fact that this episode has a) a submarine hunt scenario inside a "gas cloud" and b) an opening nightmare sequence, when SNW did these two in its last two episodes is a very entertaining coincedence. Or is it? Both shows are cut from the same cloth, after all. And comparing them in the new few weeks will be quite interesting as they run along each other.
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Tom
Sun, Jun 5, 2022, 2:13am (UTC -5)
Was it just me or did anyone else think Cmdr Grayson (or the actress) looked slightly irritated at not having anything to do in this episode?
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Norvo
Sun, Jun 5, 2022, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Like Jammer said, not sure we needed all the glamor CGI shots of the new ships and all the pew-pew-pew fight scenes. It bloats the episode and doesn't add much to the overall story.

Did we get an actual recap on the Planetary Union's relationship with the Kalon empire? Is the war still on?

So this first half of the season was shot 2.5 years ago before covid put everything on hold. It'll be interesting to see how the cast changes midway through the run. Especially Claire's kids will have changed a lot.

Appreciated the Norm MacDonald tribute. It's a little jarring to hear him here, but in a good way. That voice is so unmistakable.
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Del_Duio
Sun, Jun 5, 2022, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Just saw it. Wow. What an excellent episode, handled really well. I’d probably give it 4 stars for the subject matter and how it was tackled head on.
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NachoPicard
Sun, Jun 5, 2022, 1:41pm (UTC -5)
Finally got around to watching. I thought it was a really solid start. I appreciated the subject matter and the way they tackled it in a sci fi setting. I liked the commitment to the characters and the drama and how the humor was notably absent. I expect some lightheartedness will return, but only when it's needed/appropriate, which is how it always should be.

The pacing was a bit slow, with things dragging more than necessary. It's probably a great 60 minute episode instead of a really good 70 minute one.

Overall I'll give it an 8/10.
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theBgt
Sun, Jun 5, 2022, 6:42pm (UTC -5)
Penny Johnson Jerald is amazing and her kids-actors are pretty good as well.

Isaac's suicide scene upset me almost as much as the one from Batlestar Galactica (won't mention who not to spoil for those who have watched it).

The new girl is a BAD actress..is it true she is Seth's ermm..companion?
She was terrible...

Norm... :`(
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Yanks
Mon, Jun 6, 2022, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Nice review as always Jammer. I had to look up "Kewl" ... lol

You can tell that Hulu has given 'The Orville' some serious cash. I always loved their cgi etc., but this has really taken a step up. Impressive.

I'm also fine with no comedy here. It would have been so out of place in this episode. As long as they keep it organic it will be fine.

Does anyone know how they are solving the Norm Macdonald thing with Yaphit? (pretty funny seeing him in a space suit BTW...) Is this an impressionist doing his best Norm?

I like Charlie, and it would be hard not to agree with her stance here.

I was hoping that this would have revealed some underlying emotion from Isaac but it appears they won't be going that way)

3 stars from me.
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Jammer
Mon, Jun 6, 2022, 8:04pm (UTC -5)
@Yanks: "Does anyone know how they are solving the Norm Macdonald thing with Yaphit? (pretty funny seeing him in a space suit BTW...) Is this an impressionist doing his best Norm?"

All of Norm Macdonald's dialogue for season 3 was recorded before he died. Parts of this season were filmed long ago, and the rest were filmed forever ago.
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Yanks
Tue, Jun 7, 2022, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Ah, thanks Jammer.
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Jaxon
Tue, Jun 7, 2022, 6:47pm (UTC -5)
"All of Norm Macdonald's dialogue for season 3 was recorded before he died. Parts of this season were filmed long ago, and the rest were filmed forever ago. "

By now the Finn kids probably look more like Tony Todd than Cirroc Lofton.
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JohnTY
Wed, Jun 8, 2022, 3:02am (UTC -5)
Too long. I checked how much was left 3 times.. Let's sweep passed the ship a couple more times.. Queue trumpets.

Not enough fun / funny. (Why do we need another serious Trek? Answer: we don't but it's what SM wanted all along. The man's ego encroaches on nearly every scene.)

Dream sequences that aren't clearly dream sequences from the start. Rest buttons.

Other than that, it was alright.

2 stars
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Tim
Tue, Jun 14, 2022, 9:43am (UTC -5)
I really hope this episode is a one off. The tone of this episode was completely off, zero comedy, very dark/sad, etc.

This show secured a place in my heart on par with TNG precisely because it dared to be happy/optimistic and episodic in an era where dark “10-hour movie” productions are the norm. Seth managed to find a way to channel TNG’s inherent optimism about the future with characters that felt more real (a comment above describes it as a workplace comedy, which is apt) than TNG’s ever did. These were real flawed human beings living in the future, a future that lived up to TNG’s ideals and found a way to successfully distill those for modern television audiences.

On the merits of this particular episode, characters coming to term with the Kaylon attack, meh, “Blood of Patriots” did it better without leaving me throughly sad when the credits rolled. It’s nice to see an acknowledgement that even evolved humans would have a hard time coming to terms with the death of friends/colleagues, TNG’s exploration of Picard’s trauma post-Locutus is well known, but the visceral hate
/fear apparently felt by large swaths of the crew (including Gordon) felt like it came out of left field. This story would have been better told last season, imagine TNG waiting two full years after Best of Both Worlds to do Family….

As a stand-alone episode of a random television series this one ain’t bad, 3 of 4 stars easily, but it didn’t feel like The Orville to me.

A few other thoughts:

1. I didn’t object too much to the extended SFX shots, show has been on hiatus for two plus years, might as well show off the new sets, models, etc. I do hope this pacing is confined to Episode 1 however (it was in OG Orville, pilot episode did this but subsequent episodes did not)

2. The fighter looks cool and will doubtless be important later on but the shuttle redesign felt unnecessary.

3. The ship and sets are AMAZING in 4K.

4. With all this runtime surely they could have devoted 5 minutes to the current state of the Kaylon war? They apparently shoot on sight at Union ships but haven’t bothered to attack any Union planets again?

5. What’s the point of the refit if Orville has to run from a single Kaylon ship and never even attempts to fight back?

6. The nod to submarine warfare and playing chicken was neat, at least for a Naval Historian such as myself, and less campy than DS9 or SNW’s attempts at the same.

7. Did a binge rewatch of OG Orville with my partner to prepare for this and loved it, forgot how great it was. Perhaps this made the contrast more jarring than Seth and producers had intended?

Reserving judgment on the rest of “New Horizons” until at least the third episode.
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Tim
Tue, Jun 14, 2022, 9:49am (UTC -5)
*Playing opossum, not chicken; sometimes I wish we had an edit function here. :)
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Proud Capitalist Pig
Sat, Jul 9, 2022, 11:12am (UTC -5)
I’ve never been so amused by a suicide scene since South Park (check out southpark.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_Suicide_Moments; they’re all great) and Conker’s Bad Fur Day (when a talking broom handle tries to hang itself, but it doesn’t work because it has no neck).

Ever since “Identity, Part II” I thought it was foolhardy and naive for Mercer to order the crew to reactivate Isaac. It was a problem with a built-in resolution -- Isaac’s decision to off itself and take the Kaylon invaders with it was a perfectly appropriate punishment for its actions. If anything, it saved a Union prosecutor a pile of work. The one good point Mercer has for keeping Isaac on board -- Isaac can uniquely aid the ship in a future Kaylon attack situation -- is unfortunately a pretty thin one. What could Isaac help with, really? In “Identity, Part II” it used a rather conventional method of neutralizing the on-board threat (a type of EMP pulse if I recall correctly). Would one AI have a tactical advantage against entire ships full of them, really?

No, better to let the crew heal and get on with their lives without the source of their discontent “staring” them in the face every day. Here in “Electric Sheep,” it’s almost as if Isaac is intentionally fucking with them. Going to the Mess Hall for Christ’s sake? Asking a group of crew members, “May I join you?” Fuck Isaac. If anything, if indeed it’s all well and good that it’s been assigned bridge duty, Isaac should simply turn itself off after its shift is done. Give the crew a slight break.

Look at the misery here. Everyone on board has every right to be pissed. That cute-as-a-button new ensign, Charly Burke, should be applauded for her hatred here. She’s the most level-headed one on the ship when it comes to voicing her objections (She has a nice line, “Listen to the ghosts.”) I like that Malloy at least admits that he agrees with her, because Malloy didn’t directly lose anyone in the battle that was close to him, as far as I know. For Malloy, you couldn’t say, “Oh, Gordon is just sad about his loss and acting out against Isaac.” But since Burke lost her best friend, I’m sure certain people would quickly hand-wave away her anger at Isaac by pointing out that it’s a part of her grieving process. Oh, bullshit. Isaac is an evil goddamn sentient AI that should have been put out to pasture. I hate the damn thing, and I didn’t lose anyone in the Kaylon battle.

There’s another voice to be heard from, too. Hats off to BJ Tanner, who puts in a brilliant, moving performance as Marcus Finn here. That opening dream sequence, all tense and explody, was superlative. It’s just like what an apocalyptic dream really would be -- everything blowing up around Marcus, everyone dying around him, the repetition of constantly entering elevators surrounded by fire, narrowly missing death constantly, the determination to find and protect his little brother, the gag of Isaac lashing out at him with protruding fangs--it was perfect nightmare fuel. Marcus has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in case you didn’t catch that. In fact, I’d imagine lots of the kids *and adults* on board are suffering from it. They’ve been through a war, for all intents and purposes. Come to think of it, every time the Orville is attacked (by the Kaylon or not) must really suck for the kids. Seems like they would get scared a lot on board this ship. I feel sorry for the teachers.

But back to Marcus, specifically. The cherry on the top of his trauma is that he’s been utterly betrayed by something that he loved. He hates Isaac and can’t trust it again, so like a typical teenager he’s going to lash out. I loved the scene with Penny Johnson Jerald and Tanner when Finn confronts Marcus over his little incident in the lab. Tanner owns this scene when Marcus points out that he’s being punished for vandalism when Isaac is facing no consequences for murder. He’s desperately angry and crying for someone to listen, but Finn, who is going through her own shit as an artifisexual, deflects this point by being pissed that Marcus dared to steal her security clearance code. Jerald holds her own here, too, and it’s a really great scene (Mercer’s priceless line: “I think we can let this go, as long as it doesn’t happen again.”)

And then, for God’s sake, Finn brings Isaac into their quarters so Isaac can apologize to Marcus. Say what now? Did Finn forge her psychology credentials? I think she should just stick to medicine. I was appalled. Mama Bear, you were wrong here. The best thing for you to do is take out a restraining order against Isaac that prevents it from getting within a hundred feet of your cubs, but you went and brought the absolute source of Marcus’ misery home with you for a little talk with him. Sigh. Of course, outside of the box, this was all shorthand for the necessary soapy scene of Marcus telling Isaac flat out, “I wish you were dead.” I mean, yeah, Marcus, good for you. But it’s almost tragic that Finn has to be painted as a pretty naive mother to force a connect-the-dots, telling-not-showing scene that insults the viewers’ intelligence.

So then Isaac offs itself again. Sure, I was amused and approving of this. But an even better choice would have been for Isaac to *simply leave the ship* and never return, because what it actually did here with its suicide was pile onto the trauma of Ty and Marcus. Seriously, what a demonic asshole of an AI program. The suicide notes are all inevitably hit -- She-Urchin (@Jaxon, I love that name too so I’m cosigning its use) points out that different cultures can have varying opinions on it, Finn cries privately in a wistful simulation of the restaurant where she dated Isaac in happier times, Ty hangs out with a simulation of Isaac, Marcus blames himself, and of course, a technical solution is found to resurrect Isaac (again). This is pretty bog-standard and middle-of-the-road drama if you ask me.

Burke ultimately agrees to the plan of bringing Isaac back to life but she still hates it, clarifying that she didn’t do it for Isaac, she did it for the Finn family. So I do appreciate “Electric Sheep” for sticking with the human factor and not actually redeeming Isaac in any way. Essentially, at the end of the episode, we’re back where we started. And from now on, I’m with Malloy -- He’ll work on the Bridge, acknowledge that Isaac is present, but otherwise continue to wish hell upon it. Likewise, I will keep watching The Orville, and I’ll keep seeing Issac there, but I hereby will never mention it again unless it’s necessary for plot or character commentary.

The title “Electric Sheep” comes from the name of Philip K. Dick’s seminal novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which is a contemplative tale of human relevance against a backdrop of AI society. Ironically, the main character is named Wilbur Mercer. That’s right: The first name of *Orville* Wright’s brother and the last name of Captain Ed *Mercer.* Seth MacFarlane obviously has an affinity or at least an interest in AI tales. The novel “Electric Sheep,” in fact, points out that stressing humanity’s empathy over AI’s antipathy can lead to just as many bad ends, because humans are of course imperfect. I’m not sure if MacFarlane is trying to convey any of that here, but maybe another more analytical commenter will find some nuggets there after having a go at it.

I’m fine with longer Orville episodes that are stretched out beyond 45 minutes on account of streaming giving the producers that allowance. After all, we had an entire episode that was basically about nothing (“Ja’Loja”) and it turned out just fine. As long as things are kept flowing and interesting, I’m game to watch a three-hour Orville episode if they see fit to throw one at me.


Best Line:
Grayson -- “I’ll organize a talent show if I have to.”


My Grade: B-
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William B
Mon, Aug 22, 2022, 11:54pm (UTC -5)
3 stars is about right, yeah. It's actually quite good in some scenes, but the action SFX sequences, while impressive (and those scores!), do drag and don't feel necessary. I liked seeing Yaphit in the space suit!

With Isaac, I think the episode does get to some of the fundamental problem, which is that, since Isaac is (mostly) not human, it is not entirely fair to hold him to human standards in evaluating his sleeper-agent actions, to treat him as a person rather than a machine. But going down this road is a problem because the affection people like Claire or John have for Isaac is based, in part, on viewing him as a person. There's no easy answer. And while this is specific to Isaac-the-robot, it does generalize to people (or organizations, etc.) in our world, where there is always a gap between the person that lives on in our minds and the actual being (or organization, etc.) -- who is capable of acts that we might not be able to process. That Marcus and Ty see such radically different Isaacs is much of the subject of the episode.

If Charly has a once-in-a-generation talent for "visualizing four-dimensional space," should she really be a navigator? Maybe it's a bit of a nod to Wesley "Mozart of time and space so let's make him a pilot" Crusher.
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SlackerInc
Wed, Aug 24, 2022, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
@PCP, interesting perspective. It's not one I remotely share (I adore Isaac), but I appreciate hearing different points of view.

What was the "talent show" line about? I don't recall that.
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Proud Capitalist Pig
Wed, Aug 31, 2022, 8:32am (UTC -5)
@Slacker Inc,

Thanks, I appreciate your position as well. It's a credit to The Orville's writing that its characters can inspire debates and strong opinions among its viewers.

In regards to your question, after Lt. Keyali came into Mercer's office to report the graffiti in the science lab, Mercer and Grayson got into a discussion about how crew morale was at an all-time low as a result of the Isaac factor. They talked about ways to improve said morale, and Grayson offered, "I'll organize a talent show if I have to." It was a quick throwaway line but it gave me a chuckle.

Apparently they don't have the philosophy that a lot of past ships' crews did: "The beatings will continue until morale improves."
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SlackerInc
Wed, Aug 31, 2022, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
Ah, okay, thanks.

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