Airs Thursdays on FOX at 9pm in the UK
Writer: Brannon Braga & Andre Bormanis
Director: Brannon Braga
Essential Plot Points:
- Claire is woken by her little boy, Ty, who is massively excited about about going to a play planet. She drags her teenage son Marcus who is…well…a teenager, up and they get ready to leave. The bad news is, John, who was going to fly them, is needed on the ship.
- The ‘good news’? Isaac has taken his place.
- On the flight, Marcus and Ty act out. Isaac asks about why Claire is a single mom and she explains she wanted kids but didn’t feel the need for a father. Claire and Isaac clash as Claire’s kids fight over a games console. They hit the outer edge of a gravity shear and are working to get around it as the kids fight over a games console. One of them throws it over the other, it hits the console and…the shuttle is catapulted into the shear.
- They’re catapulted 1000 light years away into uncharted space. With the shuttle coming apart, Isaac detects a moon with a nitrogen oxygen atmosphere. The shuttle gets power back just in time to crash land rather than crash. The tail section is sheared off with Claire in it and the nose cone comes in to land miles away, with Isaac, Marcus and Ty aboard.
- Marcus’ knee is dislocated in the crash and Isaac fixes it with a combination of compassion and terrifying efficiency. Marcus and Ty call for their mom and Isaac agrees they have to find her.
- At the tail section, alive, but unconscious, Claire is dragged away by someone…
- Isaac has detected the most likely location of the tail section. It’s under 4 kilometers away. He leaves Ty with a sidearm, explaining the kids are weak and feeble and he’ll move faster without them, and heads off. He finds the tail section but no sign of Claire…
- Night begins to fall. Something crawls over the front of the shuttle and suddenly Ty is snatched away by a hulking humanoid figure. Isaac arrives just in time and stuns the would-be kidnapper.
- On the Orville, word comes in that Claire’s shuttle never arrived. With the navigational array disassembled for an upgrade, they have no choice but for John to navigate using star charts.
- Back at the crash, the kids are arguing. Isaac explains their Dysonium power supply has been badly depleted. Marcus explains he learned that Dysonium was common across the galaxy and there might be some on the planet. Isaac, to his surprise, detects Dysonium on the hull. The mountain they clipped has Dysonium deposits. Now all they have to do is get back there and mine it…
- Claire wakes up in a prison cell. Her captor explains that she’s in a safe place, commands her to eat and locks her in.
- The following morning, Isaac, Marcus and Ty head out. After they argue about Marcus’ portable game, yet again, Isaac destroys it. He’s asking about why the kids hate their mom when the scavengers from the previous night appear. Isaac stuns them all and notes they’re all suffering from disease and malnutrition. He deduces that they wanted to kill and eat the children.
- Back at the cell, Claire is working on a means of jimmying a window open. She’s interrupted by her jailer, who is the same race as the people who attacked Isaac and the kids. He yells at her, forcing her to eat and introduces himself as Drogen. He explains there was a war that culminated in a biological weapon infecting the water table. In desperation, the few survivors turned to cannibalism. Drogen had seen it coming and prepared stocks. So, basically, Claire’s been rescued by a doomsday prepper.
- Isaac, Marcus and Ty cross a river. Ty trips and swallows some water.
- Back on the Orville, John has navigated them directly to the show’s ion trail. They detect the gravity shear. The ion trail goes directly through it. With no choice, Ed orders them in. They make it through but there are so many moons in the nearest system the search will take a while.
- That night, Isaac reassures the kids as best he can that Claire is probably alive. He tells them a bedtime story and Ty asks him to simulate Claire’s voice. He does and the kids go to sleep.
- The next morning, the boys wake up and Ty is covered in the same welts as the scavengers. He’s sick with the disease in the water.
- Claire breaks a window and discovers she’s many floors up in a derelict skyscraper at the edge of a deserted city. She cuts herself, pretends it was an accident and manipulates Drogen into going in search of antibiotics. She climbs out onto the ledge and into one of the other rooms. She looks for her communicator, finds it and makes contact with the others.
- Isaac explains that they harvested the Dysonium. Claire comforts Ty as best she can and Marcus asks to speak to her. Marcus haltingly apologizes to his mom and she simultaneously kicks his ass and makes him feel better.
- And then she hangs up, takes Drogen’s knife, and waits.
- He comes home, Claire stabs him in the gut. They fight and she shoots and kills him. With her communicator in hand she heads for their coordinates, fighting off scavengers on the way.
- Newly reunited, the shuttle crew send a distress signal but the Dysonium is only enough for a short transmission. Claire’s pretty sure she knows what the virus is but with the Orville maybe weeks away she’s helpless. And her son doesn’t have weeks. In tears, Claire is, to her great surprise, comforted by Isaac.
- The Orville gets the signal and heads for the planet. Dozens of scavengers converge on the shuttle as Isaac fights them off. He’s about to be over run and asks for assistance. Claire is all set to go but Marcus volunteers. When all seems lost, a second Orville shuttle appears, drives the scavengers off and comes to get them.
- Back on the ship, Ty is on the mend. Kelly asks Claire to put together a stock of the cure so they can, hopefully, help the inhabitants of the moon.
- Claire visits Isaac and asks him to go and see Ty because the boy misses him. Isaac, in his own roundabout way, admits he’s fond of the kids. Claire smiles and says ‘welcome to the family’
This is a kid centric episode that’s not just good, but is one of the three best episodes of the show so far.
We know! We’re shocked too!
The Orville has had mixed success with this first run of character-centric stories but this one, despite the off the shelf plot, knocks it largely out of the park. Claire’s been one of the best characters on the show from the get go and giving Penny Johnson Jerald a chance to cut loose, as this episode does, pays off again and again. The conversations with Isaac that bookend the episode, the fight with Drogen and the total frustration and horror she feels at being powerless to save her son are all really nicely handled. The Doc has always been one of the show’s most rounded characters but now more than ever she’s a real highlight.
That’s equally true of Mark Jackson as Isaac. Jackson, much like Scott Grimes and J. Lee, has been trapped with the designated comic relief character for a while now. However, where Gordon and John were badly served by their spotlight episodes, Isaac shines. The script carefully shows us how he learns, and how what he learns both reinforces and changes (slightly) his cheerfully arrogant Kaylon world view. The moment where he takes Claire’s hand towards the end is genuinely moving in a way the show has never been before. And given that his last big plot involved a practical joke which led to cutting off one of Gordon’s legs that’s a Hell of a step up.
BJ Tanner and Kai Wener are also, amazingly, pretty good as Claire’s sons. There’s nothing revolutionary about the characters. Ty is small and sweet, Marcus is lanky and grumpy but they hit their marks and play both roles with a sincerity that lifts the characters massively. Genre legend Brian Thompson impresses, as always, as Claire’s captor Drogen, too.
But what really raises the episode is the way the script balances limited comedy with character centric drama. If anything the episode is a little too grim in spots, but for the first time the mix feels close to balanced and right. The closing scenes have real emotional impact to them and are surprisingly methodical in bringing the story into land. Kelly wanting to go back and help the survivors speaks very clearly to that. The Orville is a show about good, kind, crumpled, slightly rubbish people trying to do good things. This week, almost all of that works.
What doesn’t work isn’t the show’s fault either. In light of current events, the heroic moment Marcus gets when he takes up arms to defend his family leaves a nasty aftertaste. Likewise you could argue Marcus and Ty are entirely too stereotypical to be fully successful. But, given that they’re apparently back for another couple of episodes there’s time to fix that.
Regardless, the episode remains one of the most tonally consistent, and interesting that the show’s done so far. Nice work, Doc and Isaac. Now let’s see who’s up next.
- All five central performances are great.
- That opening gag is a delightfully unexpected and successful callback to Family Guy‘s ‘Mom. MOM. MOMMA. MOMMA. MOM! MOM!’ gag from ‘Stewie Loves Lois’
- The crash has to be a Lost nod, right? The tail section coming loose like that?
- Isaac having a megaphone mode for his voice is smart.
- The cutting between Isaac reading the story in Claire’s voice and Claire discovering where she is is sweet and creepy and one of the smartest things the show has done so far.
- ‘Wide stance, keep it on stun. They may not value life but we do.’
- Claire straight up killing Drogen, a LOT, seems a little…hardcore? And perhaps not fully earned?
- That Dysonium is harvested very, VERY fast.
And The Random:
- Brian Thompson! Drogen is played by genre legend Brian Thompson who has been a large, serious voiced man in a vast amount of genre classics. We especially like his turn in deeply weird classic nuclear romance, Miracle Mile.
- BJ Tanner, who plays Marcus, has previously appeared in Lethal Weapon, Ballers and Grey’s Anatomy.
- Kai Wener, who plays Ty, has previously appeared in Game Shakers, Days of Our Lives and The Millers.
- Andre Bormanis co wrote this episode. He was the science consultant on the four Star Trek shows from Star Trek: TNG through to Enterprise and a writer and producer on Threshold, much missed in these parts.
- Brannon Braga was a driving force behind Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise. He co-wrote Generations and First Contact with future Battlestar Galactica and Outlander showrunner Ronald D Moore and co-created Threshold. He also directed this episode.
Review by Alasdair Stuart