The Orville Season 2, Episode 3 – Aired Thursday, January 10, 2019
Written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong
Directed by Jon Cassar
When an arm wrestling match between Alara Kitan and Isaac results in a broken arm for Alara, Dr. Finn discovers that Alara is losing both muscle mass and bone density as a result of living in an Earth-normal gravity aboard the Orville, compared to the far higher gravity of her home planet, Xeleya. She must return home to re-acclimate herself to the higher gravity and regain her bone density and strength.
While with her family, Alara has to work through her relationships with her parents and her sister, while trying to resolve a terrifying home invasion. The result is an episode that is light on comedy but strong with familial themes and emotion.
EXIT, SAGE RIGHT
It has been known in the fan community for months that actress Halston Sage would be leaving The Orville, at least for some time. If “Home” is, in fact, Halston Sage’s swan song, writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong has fashioned a wonderful exit for her character. This is an episode that showcases Alara Kitan’s inner strength, much like last season’s “Firestorm” (also written by Chevapravatdumrong). Early in the episode, Capt. Mercer argues that Alara doesn’t just bring her Xeleyan strength to her role as Security Chief, but also a valuable “skill set.” During this episode, Kitan gets to display that skill set in spades – questioning witnesses, examining a crime scene, and fighting at a disadvantage against a much stronger, armed opponent.
Alara’s replacement aboard the Orville is an elephantine alien officer named Lt. Tharl, played by the booming-voiced Patrick Warburton. The character displays a tendency pointed out by TrekMovie user The River Temarc in comments from our review of the last episode, “Primal Urges”: “[The show has a] habit of creating highly realistic alien prosthetics and then having said aliens behave — and *speak* — like early 21st-century bros, down to the hipster accents.” Tharl calls the ship “sick” and “bitchin’,” and says his previous Captain had a “boner” for him, but “not a boner-boner, a professional boner.” I could have lived the rest of my lifetime without hearing that exchange, and been just fine. Tharl also eats noisily on the bridge (out of a Tupperware container, no less!) but otherwise does nothing to advance the plot of the episode. Don’t expect to see his character remain in the show.
YOU CAN DO IT
The family drama takes center stage in “Home,” as the episode picks up threads from “Firestorm” to depict the patriarch Ildis Kitan (the always excellent Trek veteran Robert Picardo) as a demanding intellectual who looks down on the choices his younger daughter has made. Mother Drenala (played by another Trek alum, Molly Hagan) is loving, but also does not understand why her daughter would join “the military.” Incidentally, “the military” is how everyone describes the Planetary Union fleet in this episode.
Soon after arriving on Xeleya, Alara pours out her pain in an argument with her father. “All I ever needed to hear from you was, ‘you can do it.’ That’s all, just once, and maybe it would have been a lie, but I needed that, Dad – I really needed it.” She sees her entire family as “rooting for me to fail,” and longs to be respected for the work she does, and for the person she is. This is a theme that will resonate with many young people going out into the world and making a life for themselves different from what their parents had expected.
When their home is invaded by a charming couple that quickly turns menacing, it is Alara who inspires her father to take action, telling him, “You can do this, Dad. You can do it.” And by encouraging her father with the words she herself had longed to hear, Alara brings about not only the resolution of the plot, but the family reunion she desperately needed. It’s very neat, but also heartfelt and real.
The menacing couple is played by Star Trek: Enterprise‘s John Billingsley and Kerry O’Malley. The two of them convincingly portray both the charm-with-a-hint-of-sorrow that their initial charade demands, and then make the turn to terrifying kidnappers and killers with ruthless efficiency. Honestly, the tone of a couple of the kidnapping scenes was quite intense, amping up the “V” component of this episode’s “DLV” rating.
One of the understated themes of this episode is that of class differences. Gordon Malloy describes Xeleya as the “best-looking planet in the Union,” and upon seeing its gorgeous CGI vistas up close declares, “You know, it’s places like this that make me realize… God, I’m trash. My family is trash.” The Kitan family lives in an enormous, modern-looking home, and own another palatial home on a remote resort island. They reach the island in an amazingly-designed, leather-appointed Xeleyan skimmer that looks like what Mercedes or BMW would build if they had anti-grav technology. They have a man who is a hired helper to maintain their vacation property, who himself lives in a tiny house elsewhere on the island, and when kidnapper Cambis Borrin takes a swig of the Kitan family’s Frizzian champagne, he declares, “Oh, Ildis, you’ve been holding out on us! Saving this for higher-class company?”
Class differences among humans are something that Star Trek rarely delved into, usually depicting the Federation as a utopian society with no class distinctions. The TOS episode “The Cloud Minders” contrasted the cloud-dwelling residents of Stratos with the zenite-mining Troglytes below. More recently, the first-season Star Trek: Discovery episode, “Choose Your Pain” featured an imprisoned Harry Mudd stating accusingly to Captain Lorca, “Have you ever bothered to look out of your spaceships at the little guys below? If you had, you’d realize that there’s a lot more of us down there than there are you, up here. And we’re sick and tired of getting caught in your crossfire.” Interestingly, in that episode, it was Starfleet that was seen as the higher-class elite, whereas in The Orville, the Union Fleet is seen as more working-class. It’s a fascinating difference to explore.
TRIVALVE SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE
“Home” also dips its toe into current-issue controversy through the motivations of Billingsley and O’Malley’s characters, who are seeking revenge against Picardo’s Dr. Ildis Kitan for writing a paper discrediting their son, Galdus Harona, who had been an outspoken opponent of a widespread vaccine. Ildis’ paper pointed out Galdus’ shoddy methodology and flawed conclusions, which led Galdus to spiral into a years-long depression until he eventually took his own life.
While not a focus of the episode like porn-addition in last week’s episode “Primal Urges,” by presenting this vengeful, kidnapping family as “anti-vaxxers,” The Orville makes a statement on the present-day controversy over the widespread use of vaccines. It is not unusual for Seth MacFarlane to take stands opposed to the public proclamations of Hollywood celebrities when he thinks they are wrong, and this seems to be another of those bold stands.
In the end “Home” delivers the most satisfying episode of the sophomore season so far. The show seems to be settling in, bringing a good mix of action, character drama, social commentary and humor.
- Jason Alexander returns as Olix the bartender, is he the Guinan of The Orville?
- The name of Alara’s home planet is spelled “Xeleyah” in the episode’s subtitles and in some promotional material – it is not clear to me if this reflects an official change in the spelling of this planet’s name, or is just a persistent typo
- Betting on the Isaac/Alara arm wrestling competition uses comscanner code 7-4-9-9-A-6
- Yaphet (Norm McDonald) appears in this episode and has a line, after being almost absent in the first two episodes of the season
- Captain Mercer’s hardsuit takes some visual cues from Iron Man’s armor
- Gordon: “Hang on – I’ve always wanted to try something on this planet. Brought this with me.” Tosses bottle outside shield, it crushes to the ground. Is there a connection between the class themes in this episode (“trash”) and Gordon littering?
- The picture of a wild eevek in the background in Alara’s room foreshadows the later appearance of the eevek on the Kitan family’s property and Alara’s stunningly-beautiful dream of riding an eevek across the beach at sunset
- “Yaphet’s six-month evaluation was last week, and he asked what our parental leave policy is.” “Why, is he thinking of splitting in half?” “We can’t legally ask him that.” Kelly and Ed, in a brief, funny bit
- “I have a theory. I think the soldiers and the intellectuals all secretly wants what the other has. The muscle wants the brains, and the brains wish they had what it takes to clobber the barroom drunk who gets out of line.” “Why can’t a person have both?” – Solanna Kitan and Alara
- Dr. Ildis’ article was published in the Xeleyan Journal of Science, titled, “The Mellara Vaccine, and its Effects on the Risk of Torin’s Syndrome: A Formal Dispute.”
- “I will not go on record declaring a vaccine is dangerous when it isn’t!” – Dr. Kitan
- The violence in this episode is heavy. Cambis forces Ildis to plunge his hand into boiling trivalve sauce and threatens to cut off one of Solana’s fingers with garden shears. Alara fights and kills Floratta, and shoots Cambis dead. Pretty grim stuff, Orville.
- “I don’t know you. I never even tried to know you.” “I wanted you to know me, Dad. All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me.” – Ildis and Alara
- “We’ve managed to create a finite area of stabilized synthetic graviton particles in the simulator.” – Lamarr, raising the question if the Orville has artificial gravity, why is this such a hard thing to pull off?
- Alara’s parting gift to Ed is a jar of pickles, a callback to Ed’s favorite command to Alara in the first season, to “open that jar of pickles” when confronted with a locked door.
- Alara’s goodbye montage is presented with no dialogue, over music only, and it showcases Halston Sage’s great smile. Her departure is reminiscent of the first-season exit of Denise Crosby’s Natasha Yar character in TNG. The Orville did it better.
- The alien with the vertically-stacked eyes in the arm-wrestling scene has a voice that sounds like Wallace Shawn. Can’t be him, though, can it?
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