One has to admire the ambition of The Orville Season 1 Episode 6 where they basically try to be three different kinds of sci-fi entertainment simultaneously - comedy, adventure, AND ethical.
We start with the comedy, the Galaxyquest-like spoof that was advertised in the teasers before the series began. Seth MacFarlane's signature humor often twists the old school schticks of misogyny and racism into subtle social commentary.
The opening scene worked as situational comedy, set in the ship's commissary instead of the office water cooler where Kitan, the lone female, bemoans the fact that her newly ex-boyfriend can't stand the fact she's stronger than him.
Isaac: I am fascinated by the interpersonal behavior of biological organisms. I would be happy to attempt sexual relations with you, Lieutenant.
Kitan: I'm actually just sort of working on myself right now. But thanks.
After Isaac's, um, generous offer, the scene segues to Bortus' digestive - maybe "ingestive" is more accurate - abilities, beginning with a golf ball-sized lump of wasabi.
As the group starts to pick up steam, coming up with stranger and stranger things for him to chow down on, duty recalls them back to the bridge, leaving Malloy's pint of beer untouched. Hope it was a Sapporo at least to pair with his sushi.
The comedic tone during their mission hinges on the teamwork of MacFarlane and Grimes as buddies Mercer and Malloy, respectively. Again, the choice of giving their names as "Chris" and "Devon" to the Krill captain is typical sitcom fare.
The humor aboard the Yicar doesn't land as well as it's competing with the mission adventure tone and tends to draw focus. It may be that it's meant to be an extension of Mercer pre-mission comment about being scared off his ass. Both men use humor to deal with stress.
The sci-fi adventure of "Krill" is set up well. It's the follow-through that feels rather lightweight. The idea that the Union wants to understand the Krill better by studying their holiest text makes sense. Having Lady Deathstrike/China White herself making the case undercuts the sincerity a little.
Love me any chance to watch Kelly Hu in action and MacFarlane continues to impress me with his guest star roster but I felt Admiral Ozawa should have been a little less confident about sending Mercer and Malloy on this mission.
Ozawa: You and your helmsman are going to take that shuttle across the border and infiltrate a Krill vessel. You're going to obtain a copy of the Anhkana.
Grayson: There has to be someone with more undercover experience.
Mercer: Oh, thanks.
Grayson: What? You wanna risk death on a Krill ship?
Mercer: No, but you also don't have to make me look bad with company over.
Grayson's concern for Mercer's welfare is sweet but, as with the comedy on the Krill ship, it draws focus and weakens the episode overall even if they're working to build a long relationship arc in.
Adrianne Palicki has been a good little soldier in her multiple roles as first officer, ex-wife, and gal pal. It seems that every episode reboots her personality and motivation. We're getting to see a lot of versatility on Palicki's part but very little consistency on Grayson's.
The mission adventure on the Krill ship is appropriately tense and suspenseful for the most part. Head priest Sazeron is effectively sinister and the shift from the mission plan to the sabotage plot is believable.
But this isn't Star Trek: Discovery and Mercer feels compelled to actually think a little about his actions before committing war crimes.
Even Malloy questions their initial plan to prevent the attack on Rana-3. And all this political correctness does nothing to actually help them out of the situation.
We came here to try to find a way to make peace. And now we're talking about killing everybody on board.Malloy
And that brings us to the ethical dilemma, a cornerstone of the Star Trek-template, which is botched pretty badly here.
Despite playing on one of the starship tropes earlier in the show when Mercer tries to address the Krill vessel immediately after giving the order to Kitan to open a channel (because, yeah, of course they're on speed dial, right?), the Orville still falls right into a bunch of others.
To address the issue of killing the Krill children specifically, it seems short-sighted to assume that the classroom they visit is the ONLY classroom on board. There could've been fifteen others with functioning lights when the UV kill-shot goes off.
Also, why assume that all the children on the ship are school-aged? If the Krill ship is a live-aboard, there could be babies and infants in the family quarters who probably died in horrifying agony.
Finally, just as Teleya states, sparing the children's lives but orphaning them by frying all the adults is probably far crueler than the original plan to just blow the whole ship up by remote.
Teleya: Why did you save the children
Mercer: They're kids. With their whole lives ahead of them. They're not my enemies.
Teleya: After what they saw you do today, they will be. They will be.
Something in me hopes that the Krill boy with all the questions and the telescope grows into a character like Hugh from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a voice in the Krill population who questions the dogma of their culture and possibly convinces others to open their minds to outside cultures.
Knowing that UV is deadly to the Krill will definitely come into play in future episodes. They've already indicated they're happy to play on the serialized story with Malloy screaming about his "brand new leg", referencing Season 1 Episode 5's practical joke war where Isaac cut his leg off and hid it.
Mercer: Remember when we fought the Krill on Epsilon-2? They wore helmets...They were protecting themselves from sunlight.
Malloy: Oh my god. They're space vampires.
The ethical quandaries presented in science fiction have always meant to be thinkers. The Orville has done a decent job up until now paying homage to that element of the genre but this one has SNAFU stamped all over it. But maybe I'm taking it too seriously.
Because facing down a militarily-ruthless, insular and xenophobic race driven by religious fanaticism really should just be a barrel of laughs.
Remember the Anhkana. 'Judge not a stranger by his sheath but by his sword.'Teleya
If you, like me, missed some, maybe the majority of the Avis car rental puns that Malloy threw up all over the episode, and really feel your life isn't complete without them, you can watch The Orville online over and over until it Hertz(!)
But if you just need to rant and/or rave about how their ambition may have overreached their execution here, please comment below.
Did the fact the Avis chapel resembled a Christian church so closely bother anyone else? Well, up until the moment the priest started stabbing the human head over and over again anyhow.
And who else noticed how there were cafeteria scenes on both ships? Malloy always seems to have food or beer on the mind. Not that it's a bad thing but it is a thing.
Did this episode "humanize" the Krill for you or was the representation that of an unrelenting, unsympathetic enemy?
And, lastly, since they're called the Krill... who else suspects a whale joke in the future?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.