The Orville starts to come into it's own in "About a Girl" (Season 1, Episode 3 review)

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THE ORVILLE continues to be a pretty divisive show.  The newest episode continues that trend.  I’ve seen reviews with titles ranging from "The Third Episode Of 'The Orville' Is A Must-Watch For 'Star Trek' Fans" to "Why ‘About a Girl’ is the The Worst Episode Yet."  Personally, I thought ‘About a Girl’ really showed what THE ORVILLE can be.

THE ORVILLE- EPISODE 3
"About a Girl"

Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Brannon Braga

Starring

  • Seth MacFarlane
  • Adrianne Palicki
  • Penny Johnson Jerald
  • Scott Grimes
  • Peter Macon
  • Halston Sage
  • J. Lee     
  • Mark Jackson
  • Chad L. Coleman

At the end of the last episode, we found out that Bortus and Klyden's baby was a girl.  We had been led to believe that the Moclan race was only males, but now we realize that they can be female, but it is very rare and treated as a deformity that should be treated, like a cleft palate for humans.  Bortus tries to get the ship’s doctor to perform surgery to change the baby into a male, but she refuses.  As the episode progresses, the crew is very against the surgery.  They try to convince Bortus, and after seeing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Bortus decides that it is better to let her grow up and make the decision herself later.  Klyden disagrees, so they end up going to the Moclan homeworld to have a tribunal decide the issue.

The crew of The Orville do everything they can to sway the verdict, including finding another Moclan female living on the planet, who is revealed to be the planet’s greatest author.  But in the end, the tribunal rules against Bortus and the surgery is performed.  

When Gene Roddenberry created STAR TREK, dealing with social issues was an important part of the show.  As THE ORVILLE is clearly positioning itself as a modern incarnation of classic STAR TREK, it was inevitable that they would have some social commentary heavy episodes.  The first  two episodes had teased in that direction with dealing with scientific ethics and whether “higher” species had the right to put lesser species in zoos. But this episode was wall-to-wall social issues.  

I am sure this was be an unpopular opinion, but I actually thought in many ways THE ORVILLE did it better that STAR TREK did a lot of the time.  For one thing, “About a Girl” seemed to give all sides of gender issues some focus.  While the crew (and I am sure most of the audience) disagreed with the Moclan’s ideology, the Moclan managed to make several pretty convincing arguments about why they felt so strongly about these gender issues.  No one was the bad guy here, it was just different societies approaching things from different directions.  

I also think one of the strengths of THE ORVILLE is that the characters feel pretty natural.  They talk like real people talk, and it made their arguments far more convincing to me.  In my review of the first episode, I said I had some concerns about Seth MacFarlane’s acting, but I think this episode went a long way towards alleviating those concerns for me.  He showed a lot of range and was very convincing here. The whole cast felt like they understood the weight of this story, and they all raised their game here.  Peter Macon and Chad L. Coleman as Bortus and Klyden also really stood out.  I also liked Adrianne Palicki's performance, but I've been a fan of her work for years, so that was no surprise.

I really appreciated that the end of the episode was not just a simple, happy ending.  I think that could have ruined the whole episode if they had gone that route.  The ending felt true to the story and the Moclan people.  I was also intrigued by the idea that because they were all males, the Moclan would be more inclined to being warlike. That didn’t feel particularly heavy handed in how it was done in the episode, but it was still there.

Those three things are why I thought it was more effective that the allegorical style that was typically used in old STAR TREK.  This was much more straightforward and really put the viewer in a situation where they had to think about what they just saw.  

I did have one small gripe about the episode and THE ORVILLE as a whole.  It feels like human society has not progressed in the last 400 years.  All the references are to modern songs, modern TV series, etc.  I like that Captain Mercer has a Kermit the Frog doll on his desk, but that should be the exception, not the rule. All the Earthers on the ship are familiar with Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, reality TV, and Destiny’s Child.  Modern Earth TV was actually a major plot point in two of the episodes so far, which seems a bit strange.   That said, I did think that when asked “Who wrote “I’m a survivor,” Mercer replying “Probably about 12 people” was pretty damn funny.  It does make the show accessible to the viewer, but at times, it makes it hard for me to believe this is 400 years in the future.

I do have to give them credit though.  When you hear "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was a major plot point in a TV series, you expect to roll your eyes, but THE ORVILLE managed to integrate it in a way that was both funny and thought-provoking.  It didn't feel like a stretch to see how Bortus could be swayed after watching it.

THE ORVILLE has gotten better with each episode.  They seem to be finding their comfort zone quickly.  I do think THE ORVILLE is a bit hard to classify, but that is a strength to me.  It’s not parody, it’s not slapstick, but it is often funny.  It’s never hard sci-fi, and while there is a lot of drama in the show, it feels natural and not forced. THE ORVILLE is something unique, and I hope more fans find it, despite many critics just not getting it.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0