My intention was to only review the first episode of “The Orville.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to keep watching it. But I gave the second episode a shot, and it was decent enough that I kept going, although I still wasn’t planning on writing any more reviews of the series. And then episode three, “About A Girl,” came along.
Sci-fi in general, and Star Trek in particular, is often at its best when it uses the story to explore social issues. Remember, Star Trek had, among other things, the first interracial kiss on television, although that’s not a big deal to most folks these days who don’t run around in white sheets on their off time. Quite a few episodes of Star Trek, and most of its successor series, dipped a toe into social commentary. The Orville is showing, surprisingly and enjoyably, that it’s a bit more than just a parody.
This episode deals with a very controversial issue, or actually several at once. While they work in more snarky humor and general weirdness, it’s actually a fairly serious story. They even work in the classic Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer claymation holiday special as a not remotely subtle metaphor. It’s a very emotional episode of the “really makes you think” variety.
I’m not going into specifics so I don’t hit spoilers. I will say they impressed me. It’s easy to dismiss The Orville as a joke, a sci fi comedy. That’s pretty much what I did, in all honesty. If they do a few more episodes like this one, they may just earn their place as something more. Just like another series did, several decades, when they boldly went where no man had gone before.
What I liked: Full points for taking on several emotionally charged issues at once, and making it work. They kept the humorous tone for several scenes, but managed to keep a serious tenor for the majority of the show. There were a few twists and turns along the way, and they managed to surprise me with the ending.
What I didn’t: They maybe tried to do a bit too much at once. I think you could make the argument that they almost undercut the central issue by tacking on a few extras, like what one of the characters’ homeworld is like, environmentally and industry-wise.
I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5. If you’re particularly socially conservative, you probably don’t want to watch this one.