REVIEW: “If the Stars Should Appear”
The Orville Season 1, Episode 4 – Aired Thursday Sept. 28
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by James L. Conway
The Orville encounters a gigantic artificial object in space which turns out to be a vessel that is slowly but surely headed towards its doom as it gets pulled in by a nearby star. The crew decide to go on board to offer assistance only to find a rural community that worship a being named Dural, that isn’t aware they are on a world ship, and are not exactly welcoming to the new arrivals.
So…sounds kinda familiar, doesn’t it? The plot is pretty much a direct lift from the 3rd season TOS episode, “For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky.” Perhaps because of that, the show feels like more Star Trek in both concept and execution than any other episode thus far. That may the only truly memorable thing about this story, which feels a bit pedestrian overall.
Beyond the central plot, we get to see more of the day-to-day life aboard the Orville, with the bridge crew complaining about the tedious nature of their mapping assignment, and Bortus and Klyden arguing over Bortus’ work/life balance. None of it adds to the plot, but it gives a sense of what life is like when the crew is between missions and things are slow.
The show has been making a point of fleshing out the supporting characters, and this week we learned more about Orville’s only robotic crew member, Isaac. We got to know more about his mission, his capabilities (including the very cool way he interfaces with a foreign computer), and even how his race reproduces.
After last week’s heavy subject matter, this episode is lighter in tone, with humor ranging from the sophomoric (no less than three dick jokes) to more character-based humor, such as Isaac not understanding insults, Ed not grasping military time, or Yaphet’s constant attempts to hook up with Dr. Finn. A couple of bits, one where Commander Grayson riffs on Friends while being interrogated and another one about Persians, felt out of place and fell completely flat.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any dark and surprising moments. The scene where Kelly is interrogated and tortured at the hands of high priest Hamelac (Robert Knepper) is surprisingly violent, showing that Orville is not going to shy away from strong subject matter. While it’s not at the level of torture Picard suffered during “Chain of Command,” it’s certainly graphic enough to rattle some viewers.
Guest star Robert Knepper effectively exudes evil as Hamelac, however he isn’t really given many dimensions to play and there isn’t a satisfying resolution. We never find out whether he knew they were on a ship all along and was simply protecting his own self interests, nor do we see if he gets any real comeuppance for his brutal interrogation of Grayson.
While the plot may be derivative of TOS, it is staged very much like a Berman-era Star Trek episode. Trek veteran James Conway gives the show a very clear TNG/VOY feel throughout. Overall, “If the Stars Should Appear” has some good character moments, but feels like your average Voyager or Enterprise episode. It’s not bad, but nothing that exciting either. And for a brand new show on a network notorious for not giving show’s time to grow, The Orville is going to have to up its game.
- Joel McNeely’s score for this episode is very TNG-flavored, with echoes of other sci-fi scores sprinkled in. Eagle-eared viewers should be on the lookout for some less-than-subtle nods to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Empire Strikes Back.
- This episode demonstrated the promise to tell truly stand-alone stories as it was actually the second to be produced, although they did add a bit to maintain continuity that Bortus and Klyden have a child
- Episode provided a good amount of prop tech and ship porn for fans of that kind of thing
- Biggest surprise of the episode was cameo of Liam Neeson as the long-dead captain of the colony ship.
6 clips from “If the Stars Should Appear”
Preview of next episode featuring Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron guest stars in the next episode of The Orville titled “Pria.”
Orville update: ratings steady after Thursday move + BTS on Science
Ratings for The Orville settled down closer to a 1.1 rating or around 4 million live viewers after the move to the regular Thursday timeslot. The show also demonstrating strong gains from DVR viewings of its previous week’s episode, especially in the 18-49 demographic Last night’s initial ratings held steady as noted by Deadline:
Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville (1.1) is showing some spunk. Against increased competition, including football, the space dramedy held on to its demo rating from last week and built onto its lead-in, Gotham (0.8), which slipped 20% from its season premiere last Thursday to a new L+SD series low
And TVByTheNumbers went as far as predicting Fox will renew The Orville for a second season, but it is still early to be making decisions like that.
Fox has also released a behind the scenes video featuring writer and science advisor Andre Bormanis (also former Star Trek writer and science advisor) talking about the science of The Orville.
Keep up with all the The Orville news, reviews and interviews at TrekMovie.com.