The Orville can be a frustrating to watch at times, because there’s a certain amount of patience afforded for such a young show.
You can either watch the show as an homage and serious science fiction show or you can give it the benefit of the doubt provide courtesy to appreciate this as a fan-inspired show, learning on the fly. I decided to judge it on the latter.
The latest episode of The Orville, “Nothing Left of Earth Excepting Fishes” is a tale of contrasts, specifically between Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki, Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), and Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane).
The episode separates to two arcs. First, Mercer and Lt. Janel Tyler (Michaela McManus) go on a vacation together. Second, Malloy tries to take the next step to move up in his career with the Planetary Union with the assistance of Grayson.
A Krill convoy intercept Mercer and Tyler’s shuttle and capture them. Under the threat of torture, the Krill coerce Mercer to giving them PU codes under the treat of harming Tyler. The Krill Teleya later visits Mercer’s cell revealing herself to be Tyler in disguise. Mercer, extremely blinded by his love for Tyler, goes through the “Was none of it real?” routine while Teleya naturally mocks him for his naivety.
Putting the hopeless in “hopeless romantic,” Mercer tries to remind her of the good times as Tyler when they get attacked by a Krill enemy. Their convoy destroyed, Teleya and Mercer flee on an escape pod to a nearby inhabited planet to summon for help.
Meanwhile back on the Orville, Malloy seeing he lost his courtship battle of Tyler to Mercer attempts his next career move to Grayson. She puts him through a series of tests to see if he’s ready to be in a command position. The result was it was not cute, just pathetic.
By the end of the episode, you see the comparisons come into play. Malloy is the child-like spirit of the show. Bold, young, a little self-aware of his own insecurities, but trying to figure out as he goes along, much like a young science fiction show trying to forge its identity. Grayson represents the wise veteran with the sense of urgency and knowledgeable, like a stoic sci-fi veteran, who can get things done. Mercer is the combination of Malloy and Grayson, the courage to fall flat in his face, but the persistence to persevere and show resolve to the end. He begins as Malloy and ends up like Grayson.
While you had previous Star Trek shows dabble with 20/21st century traditions and pop culture, The Orville obsesses with them, way often to a fault. Many times, the characters don’t feel like they belong in the future when they keep reminiscing about a time long gone, but when Mercer reminds Teleya what those attachments to these “relics” like The King and I and the music of Billy Joel draw him to the kind of hope and inspiration that keeps him going.
This is why The Orville is so strong. It’s not afraid of its identity and it comes at you full speed. There’s a good chance, you’ll find something to like about it, especially if you’re a fan of pop culture superlatives and science fiction.
What did you think of the episode? Sound off.