Review: The Orville’s Third Episode Tackles A Timely Subject With Mixed Results

REVIEW: “About a Girl”

The Orville Season 1, Episode 3 – Thursday, Sept. 21
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Brannon Braga

[NOTE: Review contains spoilers]

This episode picks up directly from the last one, when we learned that the newborn child of Bortus (Peter Macon) and Klyden (Chad Coleman) is a female. The two characters are Moclans, a single-gender species of men. In their minds, being born anything else is some kind of birth defect that must be rectified. Bortus approaches Doctor Finn (Penny Johnson Jerrald) about performing gender-reassignment surgery, and is taken aback when she flat out refuses. His attempt to get Captain Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) involved also falls on deaf ears. Things escalate when a Moclan ship arrives, with the intent of performing the surgery there. Mercer refuses to allow it, and ultimately a tribunal (with Adrianne Palicki’s Commander Grayson acting as one of the lawyers) is held on the Moclan home planet to determine if the surgery should be performed.  While all this is happening, Bortus has a change of heart that puts him at odds with Klyden, who has very personal reasons for wanting the procedure.

The show opens strongly, with frank discussions about gender and the cultural norms of different species. The Orville crew find the Moclan views on gender reassignment abhorrent, while the Moclans resent what they see as another culture attempting to force their own moral and ethical views onto them. Both sides make strong arguments, and the stage looks set for a very daring discussion about gender identity and one culture’s right to impose their moral beliefs on another’s. It was at this point the show took a turn, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it.

Bortus, despite pleas from crew mates, remains committed to the child having the surgery, afraid that a female born into Moclan culture would be an outcast. His views change completely after accepting an invitation from Malloy (Scott Grimes) and LaMarr (J. Lee) to watch Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yep. Rudolph.

Now don’t get me wrong – the story of Rudolph’s ostracization and ultimate acceptance is a great one, and while it definitely has parallels to the topic at hand, using a children’s Christmas story to motivate Bortus’ change of heart about a very serious topic threw me a bit. To be fair, this show is still very early in its run and this may be one of those instances where they’re experimenting to see what clicks when you try and mix drama and comedy together, but I don’t think it really works here.

Bortus tells Klyden that he is now against any kind of procedure, and Klyden reveals that he had the same surgery as an infant, and feels strongly that the baby should as well. It’s at this point where you start to see where the story may be leading. If Klyden was born female, and the baby is female, then there are probably more of them, right?

The story then moves to the tribunal on the Moclan home world, and this is where I feel that the story really starts to lose steam. There are humorous bits sprinkled in amongst the courtroom proceedings and while they add a bit of levity, I found them jarring. If the topic at hand weren’t so serious, the humor would be welcome, but when the stakes are so high it’s hard to find the humor appropriate.  And did the revelation that there was a woman living in secret on Moclan really surprise anyone?

The ultimate decision to perform the surgery is a surprising and daring choice, and the episode ends on a down note. It will be interesting to see if the show follows up on this in the future.

By the way, there were some genuinely funny moments, particularly when this poor fellow and his pillow get caught in the middle of an argument between Bortus and Klyden in the ship’s synthesizer room, which is the show’s version of TNG’s replicator.

The cast does great work here, with Peter Macon (Bortus) and Chad Coleman (Klyden) standing out. Macon has to carry a great deal of this episode on his very broad shoulders, and is more than up to the task.

Granted this is a small sample size, but thus far The Orville appears to be a true ensemble. Each episode has focused on a different member of the crew, and if this show lasts a full season they should have a pretty well-rounded cast of characters.

While I feel like this story didn’t completely work, I applaud them for telling it. Allegorical storytelling still has a place in the modern television landscape, and as the show rounds into shape I hope they’re able to tackle more topics like this in the future.

Clips for “About a Girl”

 

Orville Update: Dorn approves, Mythbuster cameos and more

Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG’s Mr. Worf) has given The Orville his Klingon thumbs up.

Fox released a new promo showing off scenes from upcoming episodes, along with hyping the good ratings for the show and the move to the regular timeslot on Thursdays.

Did you spot the hidden cameos in episode 2? Former Mythbusters Tory Belleci and Kary Byron played a couple of aliens. This followed the Rob Lowe cameo from the first episode. Perhaps this hidden celebrity alien cameo in Orville is going to be a thing.

Belleci and Byron in The Orville

Fox also released another behind the scenes video, this time focusing on the production design for The Orville.

Keep up with all the The Orville news, reviews and interviews at TrekMovie.com.

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