Airs Thursdays on FOX at 9pm in the UK
Writer: Seth MacFarlane
Director: James L Conway
Essential Plot Points:
- On the Orville, the crew are watching Seinfeld on the main screen. The humans love it. The others, not so much.
- Fun and games end when they detect a nearby distress signal. They track it to a sundiver, a comet being dragged into the nearest star. And the mining ship Horizon, trapped on its surface along with it’s captain, Pria Levesque.
- With minutes left, Ed, Alara and Gordon take a shuttle down to the ship. They evacuate Pria and are almost caught in the star’s gravity well but John rescues them using the ship’s tractor beam.
- Pria explains that she had been attacked by the Krill and lost her fuel. She landed on the comet to try and refuel but it went wrong. Ed asks her to the cocktail reception he’s hosting that night. Kelly is not entirely okay with this…
- In an ongoing attempt to educate Isaac about humour, Gordon tricks him into wearing Mr Potato Head pieces. Isaac is enthusiastic, if not understanding, and agrees to prank Gordon next.
- Pria is the star of the show at Ed’s reception. It turns out she was from one town over from him on Earth. They bond. Kelly drinks. Later, Pria kisses Ed on the cheek as a thank you.
- Kelly checks the manifest of the mining consortium Pria said she works for. There’s no record of her…
- The next day, Ed is giving Pria a guided tour when Kelly gives him the information. He doesn’t believe it and dismisses her opinions.
- Kelly goes to see Alara and asks a favour; search Pria’s quarters. Alara agrees on the condition this has nothing to do with the fact Ed and Kelly are clearly attracted to one another.
- They search her quarters, find a small mysterious box that can’t be scanned and are interrupted by Pria. They bluff their way through and leave.
- Kelly goes to Ed with their findings. He’s furious, reprimands Alara and refuses to listen to Kelly once again. Kelly argues that if Ed’s attraction to someone gets in the way of his job, it’s her job to tell him that. Ed isn’t having it.
- Suddenly, the ship starts being hit by something. Isaac theorizes it’s a dark matter storm. Very rare. Supremely dangerous. Pria appears, gives them a solution and it works. The Dark Matter is now visible. And EVERYWHERE.
- Pria tells them that she can fly them clear. Against Kelly’s suggestion, he does so. She throws the ship through an incredible array of manoeuvres and gets them out of it.
- The Orville is down a communications array. Pria suggests a Consortium base nearby where she has friends who can help. Kelly is furious. Ed doesn’t care and takes Pria to his favourite simulated environment. They kiss.
- And then they wake up in bed.
- Ed and Pria talk about Ed’s past. He is, surprisingly, actually really genuine and honest about his role in the failure of the marriage.
- The next morning, Gordon’s alarm goes off. He gets up. And falls over.
- He’s missing a leg.
- On the bridge, Kelly asks for long range scanners on the Consortium base. Gordon turns up and screams at Isaac who admits that he cut off Gordon’s leg as a ‘practical joke’. Gordon wants to kill him, especially when Isaac admits he hid the leg. Gordon is taken to sickbay to get his leg re-grown.
- Ed and Kelly are called to Engineering. The object that Kelly and Alara found has been locked into the ship’s systems.
- Ed, Kelly and Alara confront Pria and she tells them the truth; the Orville should have been destroyed in that dark matter storm.
- Pria is from the future. And she saved the ship so she could take it forward in time, sell it and leave the crew to live out their lives 400 years upstream.
- At which point the device activates and John loses control of the ship…
- Pria explains that they time travel thanks to a stable wormhole. One she’s taking the ship to.
- Gordon’s leg falls out of the ceiling. It…yeah.
- Ed orders Alara and Kelly to take the leg and confronts Pria. She tells him she does care about him and he does not care AT ALL.
- Ed and Kelly make up with typically untidy, weird and oddly convincing emotion. And Ed has an idea…
- They try and blow a hole in the device to no effect. Chief Newton then suggests using an old fashioned diamond tipped drill which works. Isaac interfaces with the device and…is thrown across the room. And dies.
- Desperate to get him back online, Chief Newton and Isaac take him to sickbay. Gordon complements the (mostly) dead Isaac on the practical joke. Then he’s called to the bridge.
- They’ve arrived.
- Ed begs Pria to let the crew go but she refuses. They go through the wormhole and are confronted by the aliens who have bought the ship.
- Then, a message comes through on Ed’s channel: WOULD YOU LIKE A JUNIOR MINT, CAPTAIN?
- Kelly tackles Pria as Ed and Gordon get the helm back under control. They make their getaway. Isaac explains his consciousness was transferred to the ship’s computer, Gordon is allowed to finish getting his leg re-grown and Ed apologizes to Kelly.
- Safely back in their home time, Ed confronts Pria. He refuses to use any of her technology and reveals that Isaac has figured out the true nature of the wormhole. As long as it exists, every future is possible. If they destroy it, he and Pria will never have even met. She asks if he really wants to be the messed up man who rescued her. He stares at her and says
- ‘Mercer to bridge. Fire.’
- The wormhole is destroyed and Pria fades away…
What a profoundly strange episode this is. It’s still, mostly, actually very good but yet again the two elements of the show’s make up really don’t sit well together.
The joke war plot just does not work. It’s not even that it’s crushingly unfunny it’s that it feels like marking time. The moment where Gordon’s leg crashes through the ceiling should be an absurdist highlight. Instead the episode stops and waits for a laugh that just doesn’t come.
Elsewhere, it’s much more successful. In fact, the way Pria’s relationship with Ed redefines how he feels about Kelly is actually the highlight of the episode. This could so easily have been terrible. Instead it’s a surprisingly honest look at a pivotal moment in two people’s lives and how they both deal with it. Ed has, in the space of five episodes, gone from being an awful human being to a truly likable one and that’s very much on show here. The final scene is a courageous beat for both the show and the character and it really lands. Kelly also gets a ton to do this week, all of it good and all of it entirely understandable. The terrible, bickering duo of episode 1 have officially gone and the show is so much better for it.
Likewise, the surprise on just what Pria’s doing there is one we didn’t see coming. We spent the entire episode yelling ‘HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN POLYMORPH?!’ at the screen only to be pleasantly surprised. Plus, Charlize Theron is really good as Pria and offers an interesting counter-point to Ed’s life on the Orville. We’re sorry she’s gone but we’d love to see her back in some form.
But the really interesting question ‘Pria’ raises is one that we’re worried the show doesn’t know how to answer. If the Orville was supposed to be destroyed and time has been irrovcably changed, what impact will that have? We’d love to see an exploration of this in later episodes but given that every episode to date has hit the reset button we’re not holding our breath.
Nonetheless, this is a legitimately good hour of SF TV. A comedy? Much less good but it’s getting there. Just no more leg removals, please.
- Actual action sequence! Actual GOOD action sequence! Which, let’s face it, took Next Gen AT LEAST three years to get close to achieving.
- Seth MacFarlane’s Ed has, in the space of five episodes, gone from an Adam Corolla-like fountain of terrible opinions and speech to a profoundly likable leading man. We never thought it would happen. We are so glad it did. Especially as this week could so easily have seen him regress back to episode 1 asshole Ed. The fact he apologizes to Kelly is a massive step forward in particular.
- Alara refusing to let Kelly take the fall for her is a nice grace note in the character’s continuing evolution.
- Excellent special effects all the way down this week. The dark matter storm, the tracking shot down to the cocktail party and the comet rescue are all great.
- ‘…You have a face.’-The Isaac plot is not great but Bortus absolutely lands this.
- ‘Housekeeping.’-The cut from ‘I’m a professional’ to this is brilliant. Adrianne Palicki has been the least well served cast member for comedy so far but she’s absolutely able to do it.
- ‘Did you read her diary as well?!’
‘No! We couldn’t find it.’
- ‘It’s the gravity from the star, it’s pulling us in!-No Gordon, it’s a gravity well. You know that. Your writers know that. They just don’t trust their audience’s intelligence enough to actually use the term.
- Oh hey, a Yaphit scene. Great.
- The get out on Isaac is a cop out. Especially as he’s far and away the least developed character at this point.
- Pretty much all the joke war plot doesn’t work.
- The Kelly/Pria fight does NOTHING besides scratch someone’s itch to have a bad cat fight on a Star Trek-alike show. It’s especially annoying given that both Palicki and Theron have legitimate martial arts training and have worked for most of their character establishing themselves as credible action stars.
And The Random:
- Charlize Theron! Charlize Theron is genre royalty. She was amazing as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, was fantastic in Atomic Blonde and was one of the few cast members to escape Prometheus with their dignity intact.
- Jonathan Frakes knows a little bit about how to run starships after his years as Will Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s also a veteran director with years on shows like The Librarians, Leverage, NCIS: Los Angeles and Burn Notice under his belt.
Review by Alasdair Stuart