Excitement was the key to The Orville Season 1 Episode 2 when Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson fall for a holographic trap, leaving the inexperienced Alara Kitan in command of the ship.
This was a hum-dinger of a second episode. Both story and comedy hit a better stride than the premiere. The funnies were funnier and the galaxy-building more ambitious.
What tickled me most was the multiple pop culture references that, understandably, went over the heads of the alien-to-Earth species. Mercer's hero worship of Kermit endeared him to me eternally.
Mercer: That is, uh, Kermit the Frog
Bortus: I do not recognize the species.
Mercer: It's an amphibious life form from Earth.
Bortus: Is it someone you know?
Mercer: No, no, he's just a leader I admire. Always keeps his cool in a crisis. Inspires greatness in his people.
Bortus' gestation leave was a great way to start.
It clearly demonstrated how little the species know about each other's biology as well as each other's culture. Mind you, we were probably exposed to more Moclan butt than necessary...
Bortus: Moclans reproduce by laying eggs. Klyden and I are going to have a child.
Mercer: Bortus! That's great! Congrats! My god, you lay eggs?
Bortus: Yes, sir
Mercer: I always wondered how a single-gender species populated itself but... are they big eggs?
Bortus: They are somewhat large, yes, sir.
Furthermore, the theme of parenthood ran through the whole B plot line.
Mercer and Grayson fall for the Calivons' trap because it is baited with Mercer's parents (played by the phenomenal pairing of Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor).
Mercer: Guys, you remember Gordon?
Malloy: Hi, Mr. and Mrs. M!
Mr. Mercer: Is that Gordon?
Malloy: It's me. Yeah.
Mr. Mercer: Oh! Well, ok, tell him I said hi.
Mercer: He just heard you, Dad.
Mr. Mercer: Who's that?
Mercer: That's Gordon again.
While in the Calivon zoo, Grayson's concern for the alien child who is clearly terrified and alone denotes some maternal shadings to her character, foreshadowing... something?
Personally, I'd like to know how they convinced the Calivon Zoo Administrator to throw the alien kid in when they got sprung from the zoo.
Another thing they really had fun with in this episode was the food and drink replicators.
One of the questions that Star Trek fans had always pondered was,"If we can replicate anything we want to eat in the future, why would we replicate junk food?"
So when Grayson orders up a pot brownie, the show establishes that recreational drug use is not only still around, it's obviously sanctioned by The Powers That Be. Or at least The Powers That Program The Replicators.
Mercer: Do you remember that time Jeff and Maureen invited us to the opera?... and you knew I hated opera so you made me smoke that joint before we left?
Grayson: So sorry. That was supposed to be mine. I gave you the wrong one.
Mercer: Your weapons-grade weed. Yes, I remember it very well. And it kicked in when we got to the theatre and I became convinced that ...
Grayson: ... that you were going to be paralyzed...
Mercer: ... that I would be paralyzed if I stayed seated for longer than two minutes
Also, forget the "Earl Grey. Hot." Acting Captain Kitan hits the hard stuff first chance she gets. As well as the second chance. Apparently, Xelayan tequila doesn't benefit from salt and lime.
What really struck me as well-done here was the authenticity of Alara's reaction to her circumstances.
She is unsure of herself when she is left in charge and then immediately has to deal with the crisis of Mercer and Grayson being abducted.
Her first order nearly causes the ship to be blown up but Dr. Finn won't let her take the easy way out, giving her advice instead of a sick note.
Command is all about the balance between inspiring confidence in your leadership and knowing when to trust your people.Finn
When her gut (and Isaac's investigation) finally tells her what she needs to do, Admiral Tucker tells her she's forbidden to do it. It takes a double tequila and a shot of Malloy's hard truths to open her up to following her gut.
Can I have everyone's attention please? I have been given a direct order by the Fleet Admiralty to abandon the search for Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson. But, as far as I'm concerned, they can bite me because we're going anyway.Kitan
Meanwhile, Mercer and Grayson work through a bit more of their baggage while imprisoned in the Calivon zoo.
Forced to live in a perfect replica of their marital home, they reminisce about the good times and the bad ones, recalling all the things that irked them during their marriage.
Grayson: You should try eating in the morning instead of drinking. It's neat.
Mercer: I'm having A beer.
Grayson: Yeah. At nine AM.
They both make great points about the issues they had. Grayson's cereal eating is ridiculously irritating and Mercer is not, after all, German. I kind of wonder if they ever did get to that brownie.
One aspect of future alien relations which has come up in both episodes so far this season is the idea of certain alien species believing in their superiority. Isaac is a member of the crew but the Kaylons believe they are superior to all biological species.
Kitan: Once we reach the planet, Isaac becomes key. As he loves to remind everyone, his homeworld of Kaylon is technologically superior to the rest of us.
Isaac: Intellectually, as well, sir.
The Calivon are similar in their beliefs, hence the zoo collection of other species and the Zoo Administrator's poor treatment of Alara.
Calivon: If you're going to try to sell me that Xelayan female, I've already got one.
Isaac: She is not for sale. She is... my pet.
What is refreshing in The Orville is that no one tries to convince them of humanity's equality to them. It is understood that in the arena of technology, both the Kaylon and the Calivon really are superior to Earthlings.
However, Isaac inadvertantly admits that Kaylon will never be a tourist destination for stand up comedy.
Isaac: They were in the midst of treatment for a very rare disease they are carrying, one that could infect your other species.
Calivon: You're kidding
Isaac: I am Kaylon. We do not kid.
Alara's medal ceremony in the wake of her successful rescue of Mercer and Grayson is highly reminiscent of the final scene of Star Wars: A New Hope. I guess that makes MacFarlane our new Leia. And that ties in nicely with Dr. Finn's offer to mentor her.
Kitan: Will you help me?
Finn: I'm not going to whisper the right answers in your ear but I'll try to be your Obi-Wan however I can.
Kitan: My what?
And the hook at the end! Bortus hatches a female offspring into an all male species! Cannot wait to see how that plays out.
I'm hoping that the child is a foretold messiah of some legendary Moclan prophecy.
I continue to love the production value of The Orville, even if the bridge looks like it was built by IKEA.
The diverse alien species and attitudes is really reminiscent of the days of the original Shatner Star Trek.
Mercer: Moclans reproduce by laying eggs which I never knew.
LaMarr: Well, where does it come out of? The butt?
Mercer: Y'know, John, I didn't really pry into those kinds of specifics
LaMarr: How's that not the first thing you ask?
After the premiere, sci-fi author, Robert J. Sawyer, posted to his Facebook page:"So, here's my take: THE ORVILLE is TOS packaged to look like TNG. I loved it."
For those who can appreciate the marriage of the adventures of a fallible, error-prone crew to a slick and sexy futuristic look (and I do count myself in that crowd) The Orville is gaining altitude as a truly entertaining addition to the television landscape.
Calivan 1: The Bachelor, Duck Dynasty, Keeping Up with the Kardashians...
Calivan 2: There must be ten thousand files here. What is this... reality television?
Calivan Zoo Administrator: The best exhibit we've ever had.
If you feel the need to relive the moment when we realize Alara traded reality television archives to the Calivon, be sure to watch The Orville online . Also, don't forget that The Orville moves to Thursday nights, starting this week.
Do you agree that Command Performance was an uptick from the premiere?
How do you think Mercer took the loss of his desk?
How far down the Command structure would we have to go to get an Acting Captain Malloy do you think? Or would the Planetary Union prefer to set the ship to auto-destruct? Same difference?
What is your hypothesis on the Moclan girl-child development?
So glad we only have to wait until Thursday to find out about Bortus' daughter!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.