THE ORVILLE: “Command Performance”


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I’ve never seen a show abandon so many concepts from the pilot so quickly. Also, outside of Angie Tribeca, I’ve never seen a show have so many jokes, and yet no jokes at all. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but is not a comedy. But it’s true. The pilot was a bad comedy, as it felt the need to constantly explain the world to us as if we’re children. But the second episode is a drama, in line with The Next Generation, but not nearly as well thought out. The entire show is a never-ending contradiction: I’ve already referenced abandoned concepts and jokes, but also molding confusing themes with insanely dull ones. I’m not sure what to say, other than… why? There’s no purpose, no reason for this show existing, and at this point it would better serve to be a bad new series of Star Trek than the lampoon it pretends to be.

The show continues with the horrible idea of explaining everything. So, we’re supposed to believe Ed Mercer is good at his , but has no idea that Bortus’ people lay eggs? I don’t know shit about platypus, but I know they lay eggs. The thing is, this would actually be an interesting quirk should his idiocy play as a hindrance to a mission or as a joke, but no, he’s just suffering from selective gaps. The other issue I have stems from the The Orville constantly references space technology that is straight up magic. A ship that can TRANSFORM into another ship? Pot brownies that just APPEAR? And yet we need to know every detail about how it’s possible for Alara to be tiny and strong.

Ed and Kelly are getting along as if nothing ever happened between them. And so, when trap disguised as Ed’s parents play an excruciating scene asking him to come hang out on a mysterious ship, Ed takes Kelly with him and names Alara, the youngest of the team, as temporary captain. Maybe she’s bred for command, so this choice makes sense, I don’t know, selective gaps. What I do know is that at this point the show becomes beyond horrible. It’s a tale of two tropes, each one less original than the last. Ed and Kelly get thrown into a zoo for aliens, forced to relive their crappy marriage, while little baby Alara has to play captain.

Alara’s scenes are the most bewildering. It’s not a comedy. At one-point Alara causes an explosion on the ship that sends her begging to be labeled “Insane, a drug addict, unfit for duty.” She plays this straight. It’s all played straight, and I honestly have no idea why this show exists. It’s not a lampoon, it’s just a clone, and it’s a deformed clone. Alara is told to “listen, and take advice” and then immediately disregards the engineer’s advice and gets praised for it. She then obeys her superior’s orders to not try to save Ed and Kelly and gets admonished for it. The scene that follows needs its own paragraph.

It starts with Alara drinking shots in the mess hall and people are like “whoa she’s tough.” She then sits down next to Ed’s friends and appeals to their sense of health and wellbeing; essentially saying, let’s not go head first into unknown danger and all die under my temporary command. They don’t like that, and that’s fine, but what doesn’t make sense is NO ONE likes that line of reasoning? No one has any self-respect or loves their kids? These dudes have had Ed as their captain for one episode and they’re all freaking out ready to risk their lives for WHAT?! For some wiseass who doesn’t even know Bortus lays eggs, and his ex-wife? Uh, no thanks guys. I’d rather go back home to Future and chill with my friends and family in the safety of my future apartment enjoying the city’s future skyline. But not this crew, no, not the Orville. When Alara is essentially peer pressured into risking all their lives they hoot and holler and pray to whatever sun god reigns supreme in this galaxy.

Meanwhile Ed and Kelly see an alien kid in the zoo cage next to them, and Ed cries out a Shamu reference about being locked up. The references on this show make absolutely no sense. Kermit the Frog, Elvis, Star Wars and Shamu have all been referenced, but for someone no characters like like, “Wow this is just like Star Trek! Like literally, what a prophetic show!” Which makes me think that Seth McFarlane legitimately wrote the pilot as a candidate for whatever he thought was going to happen when he heard CBS was bringing Star Trek back. Otherwise this show makes no sense, and even then it makes barely any. The issue with references (and the climax of the episode) come to a head when Alara and the robot crew member (that was supposed to be racist, but is definitely not racist) makes a trade with the zoo director: the lives of Ed, Kelly and alien kid for some “old, ancient, history from Earth.” This turns out to be slightly old Reality , which throws every reference obsolete. How is Teresa flipping the table cuneiform while Shamu is a fidget spinner? Every time Futurama would make a reference they would be 100% aware of their surroundings. If it was a joke about George Foreman grills, it wouldn’t be simply a reference to it, but rather an answer to the question, “what would George Foreman grills look like 3000 years from now.” It’s what made that show beloved, and it’s killing The Orville. The Family Guy style does not work when you’re exploring deep space.

If that’s not bad enough, we check in with Bortus, watching his egg hatch. A fellow Moclan exclaims, “It’s a female.” A clenched teeth Bortus gifts us with the last line of the episode, “That is impossible.” Can we break this down? Why would an asexual species have genitalia to know the difference between males and females upon birth? Let’s compare this to another all-male race, the Gorons from Zelda. The Gorons don’t have junk, we know this because the Gorons also don’t have pants. There’s no need! The lack of cohesive logic on The Orville is more than just disappointing because any true Trekkie will tell you that logic and cohesiveness are the guiding principles of not just Spock, but every single good iteration of Star Trek.
TB-TV-Grade-DSeason 1, Episode 2 (S01E02)
The Orville airs Thursdays at 8PM on Fox

Read all of our reviews of The Orville here.
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Arman is a Seattle-based writer who often lives in LA and wants to be in . He has worked on Billy on The Street and Black-ish. He also loves sandwiches.
Follow Arman on Twitter: @armanbfar
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