THE ORVILLE Review: “Pria”


desperately tries to seek meaning in each episode to the point that nothing really has meaning, it’s just stereotype and cliché. I’m not sure where characters stand or who cares about who. I can sort of tell that Kelly feels guilty and wants Ed to like her, but outside of that – no idea. There has been a stark jump in quality from the first few episodes to the last two, but The Orville still struggles to deal with the little nuances that made prior iterations of Star Trek stand out. I still don’t understand the commitment this show makes to outdated references even for today. They’re not jokes – they’re just references. Like how the episode opens with Seinfeld and then the “Junior Mints” scene is referenced as a plot point. Really? Why does this show take place 300 years in the future, if every reference is before the dawn of the 21st century?

The crew find Pria (Charlize Theron) in need of dire help. She says she’s from a mining coalition but there is no way any of that is true. She also says she wants to get with Ed, but there’s no way any of that is true either. Seth MacFarlane loves to roleplay that Charlize Theron is into him to the jealousy of every other girl around him. It’s not enjoyable to watch, but it is fascinating. Why does he keep doing this and why does she keep saying yes? Somehow, we go from, “Hey thanks for saving my ship” to “Hey thanks for kissing me” to “Hey thanks for having sex with me.” It doesn’t add up, even in a comedic way and when it’s revealed that Pria was using Ed, it’s like, really? She slept with you just to sell your ship as an antique to some disembodied alien? OK.

Yaphit is the best character. He’s a snot puddle voiced by Norm MacDonald and he makes absolutely no sense, but he’s there and he’s great. Outside of that, no other character is much of a character. Alara is young, Kelly is needy (but also professional), LaMarr is black, Bortus is stoic, Malloy is an idiot and Isaac is not racist. These aren’t characters as much as they are stereotypes to give Ed the center stage to mask the fact that he adds nothing. It’s frustrating to see a show with such potential take the easy road over and over again. They don’t try to push for jokes or even plot. The payoffs are scant compared to the predictableness. Last week’s episode was the first time I felt like there was a character worthy of a sci fi show. This week, Pria seems to be a vehicle to remind us that Ed is attractive.

Can we talk about the irony of Pria’s entire existence in the face of this show? So, after hooking up with Ed, she eventually reveals that she’s not a miner, but an antique dealer from 300 years in the future who has her eyes on this ship. At one point she teleports onto their ship and Ed says, “I’m happy to see we have teleportation in our future.” At another point Ed tells her to go to hell and she doesn’t understand what that means. And yet Pria references Amelia Earhart. Let’s break this down: So, this show, which is 300 years from today, actively references Cyndi Lauper, Real Housewives of New Jersey and Kramer dropping candy into a man’s body during surgery. But 300 years in the show’s future, humans have no idea what “Hell” is. Hell, and specifically the phrase “Go to Hell,” which has been in use for some 1500+ years, suddenly drops off the face of the universe, but Amelia Earhart, someone that half of the world has never heard of, is timeless. Don’t come for me in the comments unless you’re ready to discuss this.

It’s not that this show is bad. It’s so much better than the first few episodes. I don’t even care about the lack of jokes, or it’s weird dramedy schtick. I just don’t understand how people look at this and see anything but the lazy way out. The Orville is not serving us anything we haven’t seen before: it’s just mashing two genres together. Everything on this show is ripe for a punch-up, and I’m not sure how the can say: “Ed does something cute” and they get away with that. It’s disappointing to see something that could be great settle for mediocrity. In a lot of ways this show is written for people who follow Family Guy still, and find humor in mashups. Because that’s all this is. Take space + 90’s = The Orville.

I think it’s safe to say that in a B-Plot that involved Isaac “the not racist robot” Robot and humor, we’re never going to get a racist robot. Maybe this was a studio note, or maybe they defaulting to some easy racist jokes that would come off as nothing but offensive. I don’t want it to seem like I’m arguing for racism on this show, I just thought it was the best part of the pilot! Racism amongst Earthlings is pretty terrible, but a robot being racist to a human – that’s funny! Instead we were treated to a scene where Isaac where’s Mr. Potato accessories on his face, because that’s comedy in the 24th century.

The Orville will never be a great show until they commit themselves to understanding their own world and what that means. If they wish to keep using 90’s references, they need to explain why, and have a real reason behind it. If they want the science to take a backseat, they need to focus more on character and interaction than sci fi plot. If Seth MacFarlane wants to cast his ex-girlfriends, he should’ve cast Emilia Clarke instead because she’s so hot right now. Don’t @ me.

TB-TV-Grade-CSeason 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
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 New York. He has worked on Billy on The Street and Black-ish. He also loves sandwiches.
Follow Arman on Twitter: @armanbfar
Keep up with all of Arman’s reviews here.

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  1. Your Earhart conundrum is easily solved – if Pria’s vocation is finding historical flying machines that disappeared, it’s not a stretch to think that she, or more likely a computer, did research to find people exactly like Earhart. Having said that, you may have a point as far as the Orville crew being aware of who the reference was to – but Pria may have seen the model of the Wright Flyer on Mercer’s desk and assumed he was a student of 20th Century aviation.

  2. J. Pullen explains the Earhart thing nicely. So, I’ll deal with this idea that the term “Go to Hell” should be known to the entire universe just because Americans use it. 3 years ago, I didn’t know what the terms “Slag” and “Wanker” meant. I’d never even heard the terms before. That’s because UK speak is not universal, so the problem isn’t the show, it’s your own unreasonable expectations of everyone, everywhere to speak like you.

  3. I. B. Halliwell on

    Writers Goofed!

    The problem with the ending is simple: Destroying the wormhole wouldn’t just make Pria disappear, it would (as she said make it so they never met).
    They key is simple: Pria and her business partners don’t go back and alter time on purpose until AFTER history shows the destruction of the item. If they don’t go back the item (in this case the Orville) would end up destroyed, but by going back in time, saving the item, and taking it to the 29th century history remains the same and they get something of value.
    The destruction of the wormhole prevented it from being found in the future and thus this line of business never starts. No one from the future would go into the past to save the item and take it into the 29th century to sell.
    History would continue just as Pria and other in the 29th century learned it. The Orville would end up in the dark matter storm and the ship and everyone would die.
    Destroying the wormhole wouldn’t just make Pria disappear, it would reset time back to the moment right before the emergency signal (as Pria sent it, but as she couldn’t go back in time, no signal). The Orville would continue on course and meet its fate.
    NOTE: Pria clearly stated she did not send the ship into the dark matter storm. History she and others learned reported the destruction and thus without her the ship and crew would be lost.
    This where the writers left the viewers. It is their responsibility to explain to us how physics of their Universe would work otherwise. (Everything else in the episode made sense and so should the ending.)
    If I’d been writing the ending, I’d have Pria point this out saying: “And who will save your ship, Captain? If I don’t come back in time, as I did, you’ll end up in the storm. It is history, Captain. Fire your weapons and you end this ship and everyone on board.”
    So, what is the Captain to do? Well, the wormhole still exists both in the present and their past. The Captain uses the wormhole to send a message back in time to himself telling him to change course and miss the storm. It is then he can destroy the wormhole, as its destruction at this time would not change the past, but only the future.
    This would also give the writers a chance to explore temporal regulations. The Captain gets a coded message say a 1T message. This would be a priority one temporal message. It would have the necessary codes to validate and the Captain would be meeting his future self. There would even be the possibility of the future Captain passing on information about what he learned to his past (even if it was against the regulations) about trusting his first officer, etc.

    Now see how simple of a change in the ending would fix the issue and also open up a new line to explore (how the message from the future affects the Captain who lives).
    What makes it so bad, in this writer’s view, is how simple the fix would have been. Yet, the wormhole is no more so no message into the past.
    Unless, it could come out the Captain did send a 1T message back before destroying the wormhole. It could come during a discussion between him and his first officer. She notices a change and keeps after him. The change is the result of the message and the extra information. He swears her temporal secrecy and tells her about the message. She reads the logs sent back and watches the message.
    Thus the ending we see with Pria disappearing gets a proper explanation. In BOTH time lines the Captain is sitting at his desk. Pria simply isn’t there in the one and only one in the end.
    Easy fix, if the writers decide to take it. Oh, they can have this idea for free. Yes, I’d like some acknowledgement, BUT if I can’t so be it. What matters is a good explanation and great series that makes sense

    • @I. B. HALLIWELL
      You still have a paradox. If Pria never came back, where did the message from the future come from? It can only exist, because Pria came back and changed history. The only solution to this problem is to use the multiverse theory of time-travel: all time-travel creates a new universe or at least causes you to cross-over into another universe. Future Pria should simply be stuck on the Orville.

      • I. B. Halliwell on

        You bring up a good point and it took me awhile to come up with a solution. It takes the easy writer way out by explaining a bit of physics that may or may not be real. Given we’re discussing sci-fi and don’t yet know all the real physics of time travel, what matters is gives a plausible explanation. Again, it is the easy writer way out.
        During the conversation between the Captain and First Officer, she points out your paradox!
        The Captain explains that Issac said events taking place prior to the “time event of destruction” or “time event horizon caused by the wormhole destruction,” would continue to exist. This is even, though, the original event (sending the message back via signal or drone w/self destruct) didn’t occur in their time line. It did occur, when the worm hole existed in the future. His getting the message occurs say several days before the destruction event and thus still occurs for him.
        She starts to question him and he stops her saying temporal mechanics always did give her and him a headache. The fact is they are her and thus Issac had to be right.
        She gives up and accepts it as the laws of time travel for their universe.

        • Yeah, no. That’s still a paradox. If the Orville continues to exist in the “present,” so must Pria. The writers are trying some complicated tech talk to get out of it, but it just doesn’t work.

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