The Orville Season 1, Episode 5 – Aired Thursday, Oct. 5
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
In “Pria”, the crew of The Orville receive a distress call from a mining vessel that is stuck on a comet caught in the orbit of a star. After Ed Mercer and his crew save the captain of the mining vessel, a woman named Pria (guest star Charlize Theron), they welcome her on board with open arms. The welcome is a little too open for first officer Kelly Grayson, who soon begins to question Pria’s intentions.
The fifth episode of The Orville, “Pria,” is the most exciting – and funniest – yet, ably directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Jonathan Frakes. It features the first actual love interest for MacFarlane’s Ed Mercer, naturally bringing him into conflict with his ex and first officer Kelly Grayson. It also showcases Helmsman Gordon Malloy teaching Issac the nature the practical jokes in a hilarious subplot.
Theron’s Pria is equal parts love interest and enemy to Mercer. Grayson quickly starts to suspect Pria’s motives. She enlists Security Chief Alara to inspect Pria’s room on the Orville, even though Grayson has no probable cause of any wrongdoing on Pria’s part. Alara agrees, and they find a strange rectangular box hidden underneath Pria’s bed. When Kelly and Alara brings this to Ed’s attention, he dismisses it. He accuses Kelly of judging Pria too harshly. As events unfold, Pria’s true nature reveals itself to Mercer and the crew, putting all of them in jeopardy.
While the show’s narrative calls back to The Next Generation, the humor in the episode is what really shines. The subplot involving Malloy and Isaac concerning the underlying nature of practical jokes is the most successful aspect of the episode. The humor doesn’t always land on this show, but “Pria” is the funniest episode yet in the series. If Isaac is the Data of the show, then MacFarlane wonderfully plays with tropes by taking a familiar part of Data’s journey – the quest to become human and understand human behavior – and it takes it to an entirely new, hilarious level.
With exciting visuals and a truly hysterical subplot, “Pria” also sees a positive evolution of Mercer and Grayson’s occasionally dysfunctional relationship. Even though the “jealous ex” angle may feel perfunctory to some, it is nice to see a forward progression with these characters. Even side characters like Malloy and Issac get some development here, after being somewhat sidelined in previous episodes. Frakes’ direction was apparent with the episode’s truly cinematic action sequences. There were two moments, the episode’s teaser and a moment involving dark matter, that had the excitement and thrill of a feature-length film.
The character that doesn’t get the same treatment is the episode’s titular guest star, unfortunately. While Charlize Theron may be a big star, she honestly seems bored in the role. She’s no more spirited after she turns, either. She neither successfully pulls off seductress or villain, ultimately turning in a forgettable performance. It’s almost like she doesn’t want to be there.
As for the story’s inevitable twist, “Pria” doesn’t quite have the moralistic heft of some of Trek’s best sci-fi tales. Mercer is presented with a moral quandary at the end of the episode – whether to destroy the wormhole that leads to the 30th Century or keep it open – but the ending is too neat for the story’s demands. Other episodes, such as “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or “Future’s End”, ultimately dealt with the dangers and significance of altering the timeline in more eloquent, refined ways.
Fives episodes in, The Orville is slowly but surely at impulse speed and finding its footing. While there have been better Star Trek episodes dealing with time travel before – whether that’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or even the aforementioned “Captain’s Holiday” – MacFarlane still manages to tell an entertaining sci-fi romp. He may not have a firm handle on the tone of the show just yet, but “Pria” shows that he’s headed in the right direction.
- John Debney’s score was a true highlight this episode, echoing the work of John Williams and James Horner. There were even what sounded like homages to Horner’s Wrath of Khan score.
- Yaphit manages to hit on every female crew member he can, even non-crew members. He’s one horny gelatinous blob.
- We get the most extensive look at engineering in this episode, and the ship’s engineer – Steve Newton, played by Larry Joe Campbell – has his biggest role yet.
- Props on Malloy’s creepy Voldemort regenerated leg for being, well, creepy.
- The show’s visual effects were tremendous. The dark matter sequence, the wormhole, the advanced alien ship, and the weird squid-like creature featured some of the show’s best VFX yet.
8 clips from “Pria”
Behind the scenes on “Pria”
Watch a behind-the-scenes clip featuring Charlize Theron, who plays the episode’s title character.
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