I've come to the conclusion from The Orville Season 2 Episode 5 that the show does best when its A and B storylines are closely aligned.
While the secondary plot here was Commander Grayson and Lt. Commander Bortus' birthdays, it was really more of an element of the First Contact A plotline.
And that works.
The introduction of Talla Keyali as the new Security Chief, replacing fellow female Xelayan Alara Kitan, was smoothly done and entertaining to boot.
Anyone else get a slightly "Ensign Ro" vibe off of the straight-talking Keyali?
Your world is no longer just this planet. When you sent that message, you invited yourselves into a galaxy packed with thousands of different cultures. You might want to start being a little more open-minded.Keyali
It might just be first impressions but Keyali already seems to be a more active member of the crew than Kitan was.
She has more agency and takes initiative where Kitan tended to wait for orders. Overall, she carries herself with more confidence and experience.
All of these things are in the plus column in my mind, by the way. I worried that bringing in another Xelayan meant the character was going to be Alara 2.0 and, so far, that fear has gone unrealized.
So much to like here. Also, many questions.
Unlike the culture LaMarr pissed off on The Orville Season 1 Episode 7, the Regorians don't apparently believe in capital punishment.
The internment of Giliacs seems somewhat more humane than, say, killing all babies born in the offending month.
The question that begs to be asked is what sign do you get born under that puts you in charge of a concentration camp?
The behavior exhibited by the Warden and his guards seemed more in keeping with the description of behavior expected from Giliacs.
Warden: Y'know, you have my pity.
Grayson: Your wife has mine.
Of course, we can discuss the implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment at length in the comments (I'd welcome it!) but I feel that the writers did a fantastic job in demonstrating the incredibly illogical nature of their societal structure through the camp scenes.
Simultaneously, they enforced the meritocratic philosophy espoused by Mercer and his crew. Brilliant stuff.
The joy exhibited by the crew over making First Contact was heart-warming.
Malloy, in particular, really conveyed the excitement of doing something really meaningful.
Furthermore, it was nice to see that continuity from The Orville Season 2 Episode 4 where he had started showing some annoyance at constantly being used as a delivery vehicle.
My question about First Contact is the rather haphazard way the Planetary Union seems to approach it.
Dr. Finn: What do we know about these people from the initial communication?
Mercer: They're awaiting our arrival and they've given us landing coordinates. Other than that, nothing. That's the fun part.
This is a definite departure from Star Trek's Federation protocols. Mind you, the Planetary Union's Admiralty has its own questionable rules.
Dr. Finn's question on approach was valid though. Shouldn't they have made some effort to learn SOMETHING about the society before landing?
You'd think that Isaac could've easily hacked and interpreted the planet's archives in seconds when they first came into orbit.
Of course, that would've prevented the whole conflict of the episode. Still.
There's an echo of other sci-fi proposals in this encounter with the Regorians. Specifically, I thought of the films Gattaca and Minority Report.
Gattaca introduced a world where every person's future is predicted based on a DNA scan at birth.
More scientific than astrological sign, for sure, but still a dictatorial way to order a population, completely disregarding individual personality and preferences.
Minority Report had a police force that arrested criminals before they could commit their crimes. Locking up a population because they were "born bad" could be argued to be just as pre-emptive.
What boggles my mind is how passive the Giliacs are about the situation. The fact that they buy into the dogma so completely, with no sense of the "self-truth" that the Warden sermonizes about is a horribly bleak reality.
Murderous instincts reside within every Giliac, either deeply buried or on the surface. Stars don't lie.Rokal
That passivity in the population might explain why the camp's guard towers and main gates appeared to have been built out of fresh plywood the day before Grayson and Bortus make their escape attempt.
The budget for this episode was obviously not spent on the external camp set. Possibly, it was spent on that cake.
There were more pretty speeches in this one than we've had the pleasure of in past alien encounters.
I love watching MacFarlane deliver those flowery addresses. He always looks like he's having so much fun playing captain, living out his dream.
In the vast emptiness of the universe, we have found a fullness of cultural diversity. And when a first contact unfolds like this, the cosmos becomes a living, breathing organism so that, within that emptiness, we become a way for the universe to know itself.Mercer
And the humor of him admitting to plagiarizing most of it hit the right note of self-deprecating this time.
As always, it's fun to see Trek alumni making appearances. I mean, John Rubinstein's been in a million different things, as has Robert Curtis Brown, but you know that they landed their roles because they have Trek creds.
The thing that impressed me most with this outing was the cohesiveness of the message and that ties back to the way the plot was really just one narrative.
Without a jarring second storyline, the writers were able to deliver on what the Planetary Union really stands for, what Mercer's personal philosophy about his crew is.
We all do better when we all do better.Mercer
How do you think The Orville's first First Contact went?
When you watch The Orville online, how do you think Regor 2 stacks up in terms of societal foibles?
Did you cotton to Tala? Do you think she'll gel with the crew?
I'm a Taurus-Gemini cusp baby myself, by the way. Means I'm flighty and stubborn or so I'm told.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.