Directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation's own X.O., Jonathan Frakes, The Orville Season 1 Episode 5 is a bit of a head-spinning muddle involving an impromptu shuttle rescue, some interpersonal sparks, time travel, and a humorous amputation.
Interestingly enough, they decided to introduce the B-storyline first, opening on an episode of Seinfeld being watched by the bridge crew and dissected by Isaac.
It's an odd leap from the general concept of human humor to the specific category of practical jokes, but Malloy goes there, and Isaac, as always, seems open to the experience.
When the distress call comes in, it's fun to see the crew spring into action. That some of them may be motivated for purely superficial reasons -- the mysterious Captain Levesque being somewhat good-looking -- is neither here nor there.
Captain, respectfully submit that the attractiveness of the ship's occupant makes the rescue imperative.Malloy
The rescue is exciting to watch, with a tight time constraint and imminent doom looming. The fact that the away team needs the ship to tractor beam them to safety is a nice touch.
It's worth noting that this episode sneakily gets us to watch Grayson when she isn't even talking. Grayson's expression of relief that Mercer and the team are saved is pretty adorable and foreshadows some of her later choices. Her silent sip at the soiree speaks volumes.
I suspect that with Frakes' hand on the helm this episode, he couldn't help but focus attention on the First Officer, the role he played in the seven seasons of ST: NG. There's even something William Riker-esque about Grayson's posture on the bridge.
Of course, when she begins to voice suspicions about Levesque, it is automatically assumed that she is being driven by jealousy. Both Mercer and Kitan jump to that conclusion, and Grayson bristles at this perception of unprofessionalism on her part.
Grayson: My concern is completely unemotional, trust me. You can bang that chick on your kitchen sink for all I care.
Mercer: I don't ever do it near the food. You know that.
She is consistently the voice of reason in an episode rife with poor decision-making and plot holes. Showing a total stranger around your engine core seems like it should fly in the face of security protocol.
The writing gets a tad more misogynistic as Newton and Yaphit both make tasteless comments about Levesque to her face. To balance this out, Levesque gets in a good zinger without really responding to the catcalls.
Yaphit: Y'know, this may sound blunt but you are the only white woman I've ever found attractive.
Levesque: Well, you're the handsomist pile of cat puke I've ever seen.
The scene in Engineering was also an elegant way to explain Yaphit's role on the ship. Up until now, he's just sort of been on the ship, wandering in and out of sickbay, making lewd suggestions to the doctor.
It became increasingly hard to take this episode seriously when Kitan and Grayson executed their illegal search of Levesque's quarters. Considering Levesque was rescued with nothing but the clothes on her back, it seems strange that they didn't go straight for the bedroom.
Mercer: Did you read her diary too?
Grayson: No, we couldn't find it.
Instead, they spend a bunch of time flipping cushions over in the living area and scanning things haphazardly. And when Kitan finds the device under the mattress, the effect is (hopefully, on purpose) comical.
There are a lot of sci-fi references in this episode, and I feel like I missed a few and only barely appreciated the ones I did catch.
The poor recordkeeping of mining companies is obviously a tip to the Alien movie franchise while Isaac surviving through a download into the ship's computer is reminiscent of Marvel's Ultron/Jarvis or even Tron.
And I feel like the indigenous people of Oonach-4 might well be worshipping a trash panda god à la Guardians of the Galaxy.
[Oonach-4] is off limits because the people are nightmarish. They capture outsiders and then sacrifice them to a raccoon god by methodically dismembering them.Mercer
The practical joke plotline is jarring in its slapstick-ness although the story definitely needed it for the laughs. Isaac trussed up with Mr. Potato Head paraphernalia was a chuckle. Malloy's amputation was a gasp and a disbelieving snort.
And when the missing limb (WAY more leg than was actually cut off, btw) drops out of Levesque's ceiling (How exactly did Isaac get it in there and why would it fall out?) we crossed into the ridiculous.
And then the time-travel. Oh, wait, no, first the sex and then the time-travel. Both made things weirdly complicated. Apparently the sex "healed" Mercer of his break-up woes? Really. Okay.
Time travel is tricky at best and stupid the way most shows play it out. Here, we are meant to believe that an antiquities dealer from the future travels back through a manipulatable wormhole to harvest ships that are destined to be destroyed (note the reference to the 1989 film Millennium) for clients in the 29th Century.
Once they realize they were supposed to die, Grayson again points out the baseline truth. They're messing with the future by remaining alive. Of course, she doesn't seriously consider euthanizing the ship to preserve some unknown future, but she mentions it.
The solution of destroying the wormhole makes some attempt at sense but why that causes Levesque to disappear is something someone will have to explain to me. Her little speech about apologies, possibly reflective of 29th Century society, is terribly bleak and jaded.
It's a good rule in life never to apologize. The right kind of people never want apologies and the wrong kind take advantage of them.Levesque
I can't say that I loved this episode. I only sort of liked it. It was the first time this season that it felt like more of a parody than a show in its own right.
And not even a really good parody. The laughs either felt forced or didn't land. The serious notes were marred by unexplainable lapses of sense by Mercer.
On an intellectual note, Isaac's sudden rescue of The Orville was an inspired (and literal) interpretation of the deus ex machina plot device. From a viewer's perspective, it was a terribly, unbelievably convenient.
[Oonach-4] is off limits because the people are nightmarish. They capture outsiders and then sacrifice them to a raccoon god by methodically dismembering them.
All right, lovers of all geekdom media, come at me. What did I miss?
Which plot-hole bothered you the most?
Where did the line between parody and pain appear for you?
Anyone else wondering if Yaphit and Ghostbusters' Slimer share a common ancestor? I mean, yeah, Slimer's got a face, but it could be purely aesthetic, just like Isaac's eyes.
Also, I really want Kitan to ask at some point what exactly "a jar of pickles" is.
Be sure to watch The Orville online for more of those little easter eggs. I feel like as long as FOX gives MacFarlane this playground to rule over, he'll be stocking it to the gills with random fandoms.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.