REVIEW: “Command Performance”
The Orville Season 1, Episode 2 – Airs Sunday Sept. 17
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill
[NOTE: Review contains minor spoilers]
One of the many storytelling tropes seen throughout the ages is of someone who endures a trial by fire, where they’re thrust into an unfamiliar situation that tests their mettle and ultimately leads them to learn a lot about themselves. It’s this story that takes center stage in The Orville‘s second installment.
When Captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and First Officer Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) are lured over to an alien ship and ultimately kidnapped, it is up to inexperienced security officer Alara Kitan (Halston Sage), who has been left in command after second officer Bortus (Peter Macon) requests a leave of absence so he can sit on an egg that he and his partner have conceived (yeah, you read that right). Kitan must make a series of tough decisions and figure out a way to rescue her crew mates without causing a major interstellar incident.
The show does something unusual for a program so early in its run: it relegates the two leads to the “B” story, giving the main storyline to Alara and her struggle in dealing with the immense burden suddenly placed upon her. She receives counsel from Dr. Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) throughout the episode, and while she ultimately does prevail, I felt her epiphany came too easily in the end. Sage does a nice job showing how vulnerable and terrified Alara is at the beginning and displays nice range as the character becomes more confident later. It seemed clear in the pilot that Alara would be one of the key characters, and putting her front and center early on suggests that she’ll play a large role going forward.
Mercer and Grayson’s dilemma will remind viewers of a couple of different Star Trek episodes as well as The Twilight Zone, and in the interest of not spoiling anything, I’ll leave it at that. The show puts on its own unique spin, though, resulting in some good character moments between the two leads.
Not all of the plot points get wrapped up. The show leaves us with a cliffhanger involving Bortus’ child, which leads directly into the next episode, which will be directed by Brannon Braga.
There is a very amusing scene at the very beginning involving Ed’s parents (Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor in a great cameo), but otherwise the humor is far more low key than what we saw in the pilot. There are several moments of real crisis in the show, and they are treated with complete sincerity. Those who feared that MacFarlane wouldn’t be able to resist pressing the joke button all the time will be pleased with the tone they see here, which feels similar to a TNG-era Star Trek show.
Overall, a good second effort. The show is still trying to find its voice, and it clearly makes progress here.
Orville episode 2 airs Sunday night + 5 clips
“Command Performance” will air on Fox this Sunday at 8:00 pm eastern, following an NFL doubleheader. It then moves to its regular Thursday time slot on September 21st at 9 pm.
Fox has released 5 clips from the episode.
Orville Update: Trek cameo hints, FX & ship details and did you miss Rob Lowe too?
Yesterday morning Seth MacFarlane held an AMA on Reddit and talked mostly about The Orville. When asked if we can expect any Star Trek actor cameos MacFarlane revealed “We got one or two in the lineup.” He also revealed that in the universe of The Orville there isn’t a Prime Directive.
If you are a fan of how things are made you may want to check out a detailed feature on FXGuide about how visual effects for The Orville are made. Fox also released a behind-the-scenes video about the USS Orville model and visual effects.
Finally, did you notice that Rob Lowe played the blue alien in the awkward bedroom scene from the opening of the pilot? Here is a closer look from Lowe’s Instagram.
Keep up with all the The Orville news, reviews and interviews at TrekMovie.com.