Time travel is always a tricky card to play. The Orville Season 2 Episode 13 uses it to set up a finale in a clever-ish way but it's problematic and not necessarily in a good way.
The episode is most obviously a rehash of Star Trek: the Next Generation Season 6 Episode 24 wherein Commander Riker discovers a version of himself created by a transporter accident eight years previously.
Of course, transporters don't exist in the world of The Orville (as I often need to be reminding of) so a time distortion caused by an experimental device and a gravitational wave does the trick here.
The time travel aspect lends itself to a few derivations from the ST:tNG plot since Past Grayson is actually younger than Present Grayson where Riker and his double are the same age, with the double living the interim eight years since the accident that created him in total isolation.
Unique to The Orville is the effect of Past Kelly on the highest ranking positions on the ship. While Riker was a Commander, his relationship with the captain was purely professional.
I don't how the food synthesizers are going to replicate enough wine for two Kellys.Grayson
Grayson and Mercer's past together and continued relationship tension has been a contrived central plot-point for pretty much the entirety of the series.
I'd thought they'd settled it once Cassius left the ship (to be replaced by Marina Sirtis! OMG!) but Mercer continues to hang onto the hope of a relationship with his second-in-command.
Why he keeps pursuing relationships with his subordinates (and is seemingly allowed to do so) is incredibly bizarre.
Overall, it's a pretty serious episode.
There's a token Kaylon threat in the background which drives some character development (and I'll get back to that joke of an escape plan) but mostly it's an introspective episode.
Grayson spends a lot of it belly-button gazing, second guessing herself (both past and present).
Who are we kidding? You ARE me. Just a younger, more naive me. I mean, I know myself. I used to say things like 'find my soulmate.' Well, guess what? You don't find soulmates. You become soulmates by growing together.Grayson
Mercer is mostly reactive to the things happening around him and he tries to be diplomatic about navigating the waters between Past Grayson and Present Grayson.
Which doesn't excuse him from that hot mess of a conversation with Present Grayson where it starts out looking like he's sort of asking permission to date Past Grayson but ends with blatant emotional extortion.
For real, I knew a boy in high school who thought that if he messed up a relationship dating a girl, dating her twin would be a satisfactory do-over. That is basically the same reasoning Mercer uses here.
What makes it worse is that he tells Present Grayson if she would just come back to him herself, he wouldn't need to go to Past Grayson to try to make his dream relationship work. Total jerk move.
Past Kelly is a solid plot device for peeking into pre-Commander Grayson's personality.
We rarely see Commander Grayson relax with crew and the fact that she could probably drink any member under the table is a skill we're unlikely to see her trot out.
I liked that Keyali took Past Grayson under her wing the way she did.
It was a nice parallel to Commander Grayson having Dr. Finn over for drinks and to commiserate.
There's a lot of advice being thrown around here as well. Keyali counsels Past Grayson. Malloy counsels Mercer. Dr. Finn counsels Commander Grayson.
It's a ship-wide support network in a way.
Real is relative....Goals change. Things become more beautifully complicated. So we have to stop every so often and reassess. What is it you really want?Dr. Finn
The stand-out scene in this episode is the Earth club Past Grayson programs into the simulator deck.
Not only does it illustrate Commander Grayson and Malloy's warnings to Mercer perfectly regarding whether Present Mercer was up to dating Past Grayson, but it gives us a much-needed comedic break.
Seeing Yaphit letting loose (and pointy) on the dance floor was amusing but I howled with laughter at the Moclans lines and moves.
(It's strange that club music resembles Moclan mating songs when the Moclan porn was so completely lacking in a bass line. Anyhoo...)
Right, as for that escape from the Kaylon ships, I feel pretty disrespected by the writing team if they thought any of that drivel would pass the sniff test.
In brief, they flew the Orville into an ice debris ring orbitting a planet, covered the ship with water to create an ice shell in order to blend in, and then cut the power.
Do the Kaylons, the most intelligent species in the galaxy, not have scanners? Wouldn't they have detected life signs through a thin sheet of ice and the ship's hull?
Could they not detect the Orville's quantum drive trail? Would shutting down power suddenly erase any heat emitted by any part of that ship?
Could they not track Isaac basically ANYWHERE in the universe?
Whatever. Obviously, this wasn't a science-rich sort of episode but wow, that was dumb.
Dr. Finn: It's all you, Isaac. You're sure this'll work?
Isaac: Not at all, Doctor.
And that brings us with the returning of Past Grayson to her time and the cliffhanger leading into the finale.
By the way, I hate cliffhangers.
So, disregarding the fact that the process by which they reversed the time distortion was just quantum physics mumbo-jumbo, the mind-wipe/brain damage clearly didn't work.
And that leaves us with the age-old time travel dilemma: Is time linear or is it fractal?
Since we're heading for the season finale and Past Kelly's rejection of Mercer is going to have knock-on effects for our present-day crew, this narrative is leaning linear.
I'm laying money on the phrase "space-time continuum" being bandied about sometime in the finale as well.
Mercer: So you're saying Kelly's thoughts did this?
LaMarr: I know it sounds crazy but that's quantum physics.
A few more issues I had with this episode.
1) The time span was SEVEN years. How many times did Past Kelly make it sound like it had been decades?
She referred to her whole life being lived without her and wondered if places she knew on Earth were even around anymore.
2) Why, when we see the past version of a woman, does she ALWAYS have bangs?
Every mature person has to make peace with the fact that they used to be dumber, but to have it thrown in your face every single day? Man, it sucks.Grayson
3) So Past Kelly gets sucked out of the past and through a vast distance of space by Present Kelly's thoughts. How were they able to plop her right back into her apartment? And where did her coffee cup go?
Be sure watch The Orville online in preparation for the finale.
For those keeping score, this'll be two for two finales with Kelly Grayson at the centre of the action. Last time, she was proclaimed a god.
How do you think they'll handle this reset?
Will we see the return of the Krill? The Kaylon?
Will Past Grayson's fore-knowledge affect more than just her relationship with Mercer and all the things on the Orville that came about because of that relationship?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.