Review: “Majority Rule”
The Orville Season 1, Episode 7 – Aired Thursday, Oct. 26
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Tucker Gates
In “Majority Rule,” the crew of The Orville have been ordered to investigate the disappearance of some scientists researching an alien planet that is very similar to 21st century Earth. Commander Kelly Grayson leads a landing team which quickly discovers Sargus Four has a society based on eerily familiar “up votes” and “down votes,” which can have grave consequences. When Lt. LaMarr disrespects a statue of an historical figure, he becomes the latest pariah of “The Feed” and if he doesn’t make amends he will be in serious trouble.
While the previous episode (“Krill”) deftly balanced humor, action and morality, “Majority Rule” tips the scale more toward an exploration of social media with the most serious episode of the series yet. Seth MacFarlane is back writing this episode with similar results to his “About a Girl,” which was also heavy-handed in its allegorical storytelling.
With social media controlling every aspect of Sargus Four, LaMarr is arrested after receiving millions of down votes. Instead going through a legal system, he is subjected to an “apology tour,” where he must appear on televised talk shows to convince the population he’s truly sorry. Instead of a lawyer he is assigned a publicity agent (Steven Culp) who works with Kelly to try to (ironically) navigate LaMarr through the tour, but the interviews get progressively worse. As this is happening, Dr. Finn and Lt. Alara discover the missing researchers had been subjected to an apology tour of their own, which ended up with one dead and the other “corrected” with a lobotomy.
With so much of the focus on Lt. LaMarr, actor J. Lee rises to the occasion and makes the best with what he was given. He carries the episode, adding some spark to the various confrontation talk show appearances and he had a fun dynamic with Culp’s hapless publicity agent. However, “Majority Rule” was a bit of a missed opportunity to allow LaMarr some character growth. The last heavily allegorical episode (“About a Girl”) saw Bortus through a transformation as he grew to accept his daughter. With LaMarr, he starts and ends “Majority Rule” as the same abrasive, crass guy, even after given the opportunity to mature and grow.
While LaMarr awaits the final vote to determine his fate, Mercer and Grayson decide to intervene. They pluck a citizen off the planet, Lysella, to try and find a way to circumvent the planet’s justice system. While their solution does provide the episode’s funniest moments – Mercer and the crew fabricating heartwarming stories about LaMarr for “The Feed” – this solution doesn’t exactly match the type of Star Trek optimism the show aspires to embody. The ending of the episode feels like it wants to have a profound message, but ends up a bit like a cop-out. Lysella is returned and has another opportunity to vote, but she chooses not to, undoubtedly implying that change can start small.
“Majority Rule” does have some genuinely fun and inspiring moments. The idea of the crew forced to create sad memories to garner sympathy for LeMarr was very clever and also scarily apropos. It feels like a shrewd jab at how social media can be utilized today, sometimes for informative effect and sometimes for manipulative gain. Halston Sage and Penny Johnson also showed good chemistry with their own little buddy cop adventure, investigating the fate of the Union research team.
The Orville deserves credit for attempting to create a cautionary tale on a socially relevant subject matter. The whole “up vote, down vote” system feels especially applicable to our current dependency on validation through social media. There are several moments – such as Lysella complaining that no one will believe that she’s been to space if she can’t take a picture – that were both funny and resonated. The idea of “Majority Rule” is solid, but you may want to look elsewhere for more effective versions of this story, whether that’s “Nosedive” from Black Mirror or “Bread and Circuses” from The Original Series. In the end, “Majority Rule” regrettably gets more down votes than up, for another uneven attempt at social allegory.
- Early bridge discussion on “Parallel Species Development” seems to be The Orville’s version of Star Trek’s “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development“
- While they did attempt to not interfere with the alien culture, the Planetary Union doesn’t seem to have a “Prime Directive” and Ed even argued for making first contact.
- Steven Culp appeared as MACO Major Hayes during the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise and as Commander Martin Madden in a deleted scene from Star Trek: Nemesis.
- The Orville has some impressive technology. The ship’s computer was able to replicate a video in which Lt. LeMarr is greeted by his fake old dog after returning from a fake war. I almost shed some fake tears.
- The Orville’s shuttles have cloaking technology.
- Bortus can sing, or so he claims.
- Alara confirmed that the Orville is one of the smaller ships in the fleet, while much bigger ‘heavy cruisers’ exist elsewhere in the galaxy.
- Dr. Claire Finn is also given some additional backstory – we find out she had a long running friendship with one of the missing researchers, Lewis. Little details like that expand the mythology and history of these characters.
- Yaphit the gelatinous blob was missing from this episode, presumably sulking with Dr. Finn on an away mission.
- Although there were similarities to the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” Seth MacFarlane says he wrote “Majority Rule” well before and was actually inspired by the Jon Ronson book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
Clips from “Majority Rule”
Behind the scenes with ‘The Orville’ aliens
Fox has also released another behind the scenes video, this time featuring writer and science advisor Andre Bormanis talking about alien species on the show.
Preview for next week’s episode, “Into the Fold”
Keep up with all the The Orville news, reviews and interviews at TrekMovie.com.