Review: “All the World is Birthday Cake”
The Orville Season 2, Episode 5 – Aired Thursday, January 24, 2019
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill
When the Orville receives a transmission from a previously unknown species, the crew is delighted to make first contact. Meanwhile, new security chief Lt. Talla Keyali joins the crew.
“All the World is Birthday Cake” works when it’s exploring the adventure of first contact, but muddles around in a confused daze when it comes to portraying the conflict with the alien culture. The dazzling joy that opens the episode is worth the price of admission, but don’t think too hard about the conclusion, or you might strain your brain.
Warning: Don’t go all Giliac on me if below this line you find SPOILERS!
SAGGITARIUS: THE ARCHER
“All the World Is Birthday Cake” opens on what turns out to be the initiation of a SETI-like program on an alien world. What at first seems ominous and dark turns out to be a risky decision of the leaders of what we will learn to call Regor 2 to trigger a broadcast into space, with the message “Is anyone out there?” It is a teaser filled with wonder and hope and the drive for exploration, and it ignited the passions of this Trek fan’s heart.
After the opening credits, we join the Orville as they receive the transmission, and when the crew realizes the import of the broadcast, they immediately begin to prep the ship for first contact. The camera work becomes sprightly, the music swells with strings and horns, characters cheer, smiles break out on every face, and the ship springs into action. You really get the sense that this is what these people live for – making contact with new cultures and new civilizations.
It’s hard to stress just how awesome this whole first part of this episode is. Star Trek has always expressed a deep and profound joy at the idea of first contact with a new alien species. The TNG episode “First Contact” outlined the Federation’s procedures regarding first contact, and many episodes of every Trek series have focused on new encounters with alien races. But while Picard and company displayed a mature, intellectual approach to making contact, in this episode, The Orville shows delight in the idea, and that was very cool. Great credit for this surely goes both to writer Seth MacFarlane and director Robert Duncan McNeill, well known to Trek fans as Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager, who returns to The Orville for his second time behind the camera.
The crew land on Regor 2, in a quadrangle that will look immediately familiar to Trek fans as the grounds of Starfleet Academy from the 2009 Star Trek movie, and in front of a building that appeared in the Voyager episode “Random Thoughts.” The quad is packed with extras as Ed and Kelly engage in playful banter, handshakes are exchanged, and tours of the Regorian capital city are begun.
It’s fun to watch Bortus try to appear impressed with Regorian technology as they proudly show him their SETI broadcast array (Bortus: “It’s nice.”). It’s even more fun to note that new crew member Lt. Talla Keyali is even less adept than Bortus at hiding her feelings.
TAURUS: THE BULL
While this part of the plot unfolds, we get to meet The Orville’s new chief of security, Lt. Talla Keyali, played by Jessica Szohr. Talla is Xeleyan, like Halston Sage’s Alara Kitan, and possesses the Xeleyan super-strength gained from growing up on a high-gravity world. She displays this strength in a fun sequence at a state dinner with the Regorians, displaying a bit of a sense of humor, as well.
We meet Talla when Captain Mercer does a “welcome aboard” interview that borrows a number of beats from Captain Picard’s first meeting with Commander William Riker in TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint.” In that episode, Picard tests Riker by asking him about his refusal to allow his previous captain to beam down on an away mission to Altair III. Riker stated that he prioritized preserving his captain’s life over obeying the captain’s order to let him join the away team. In this episode, Ed Mercer questions Talla about an incident in which she punched her captain in the face, knocking him out cold, in a bid to obtain emergency assistance from a fiercely matriarchal alien race. In Riker’s case, the test was of the officer’s integrity. In Keyali’s case, the test is about her quick thinking and response to threats.
Later, when an unexpected conflict with the Regorians’ religion lands Mercer, Keyali, and Finn in a holding cell, the Xeleyan again utilizes both her strength and her sense of humor in protecting her captain. And near the end of the episode, it is an idea from Lt. Keyali that leads to the resolution of the crisis. All in all, it is a solid introduction to the character.
CAPRICORN: THE GOAT
This episode also gives us a more detailed look at the Planetary Union’s approach to first contact, and how it differs from Star Trek’s protocol. Starfleet’s approach is methodical, involving extended clandestine study of societies that have developed warp drive leading to high-level diplomatic efforts. The Planetary Union’s policy is quite different. In part due to a more exuberant nature, and in part due to concern over a society making first contact with unfriendly species like the Krill, the Planetary Union jumps at the first opportunity that presents itself. “When a planet reaches out into space, as you have, whether by ship or by transmitted message, that’s when we permit ourselves to make our presence known,” Ed explains to the First Prefect. “You asked if there was anyone out there. It’s Union policy to answer.”
It is fun to debate which approach shows more wisdom, but it’s not clear to me which is better. While the Federation approach seems more measured, we have seen even with careful consideration, trouble can still happen. And the galactic politics of The Orville could be quite different with potential dangerous rivals jumping in, creating the need for more haste.
SCORPIO: THE SCORPION
All of that works so well, it seems a shame to talk about the things that don’t, but that’s just what has to happen when we get to the main conflict of the story. During a tour of a Regorian obstetrics ward, Dr. Finn notices that the Regorians are performing unnecessary emergency C-sections to deliver babies that are dangerously premature. She is told that this is to prevent them from being born “Giliacs,” people prone to violence and extreme destructive behavior. Later, at the state dinner, the First Prefect reacts in alarm upon hearing that it is nearly Kelly’s birthday, and Bortus’ as well, immediately ordering their incarceration. It turns out that this is a planet governed by a very strict belief in astrology, and those born under the sign of “Giliac” are considered dangerous malcontents and are placed in concentration camps for their entire lives for the good of society.
This is all alarming and well played, but when the diplomatic efforts to retrieve Kelly and Bortus begin, all sorts of holes are skipped by in the plot, making the aliens who had earlier seemed hopeful and adventurous now seem backward and naive. Creating straw man aliens as a way to make the heroes seem more intelligent and advanced is a kind of lazy writing trope that The Orville has previously avoided and is disappointing to see. There’s no reason given, for instance, for why the Regorians wouldn’t release Kelly and Bortus into Captain Mercer’s custody, with a requirement to take them off-planet. Instead, the First Prefect becomes immediately hostile and implacable and rebuffs any attempts at negotiation.
Worse yet is the solution devised by the Orville’s crew. They contrive to light up a new, fake star in the Giliac constellation, using a satellite with a reflective sail to simulate the light of a new star. The effects work here is impressive, though the Orville’s shuttle doesn’t look any less like a fake CGI minivan when it has what looks like a cartop carrier attached to it. There is some dialogue about how the solar sail is equipped with technology designed to fool any planetary scanners into reading the light in the sky as a star, but there is no mention of the fact that it’s easy to distinguish between objects in near orbit and objects that are far off in space, using simple triangulation. We routinely determine the distance of objects from Earth with great precision. Surely a people who base their whole way of life on the relative positions of the planets and stars and have ringed their own planet with satellites designed for the sole purpose of determining the precise position of those objects would not be fooled by a light in low orbit of their planet, no matter what spectra of light it’s giving off. The whole idea just seems ill thought out and unlikely.
The business in the concentration camp plays out with no subtlety and very little actual suspense. During a prison break attempt, Kelly and Bortus blithely shoot – and presumably kill – a handful of security guards each, and while there’s an excellent scene at the end of the episode discussing the morality of lying to an entire planet, there’s not even a hand waved at the advisability of killing a large number of people in an attempt to circumvent their unjust laws. While I believe an argument could be made that their actions were justifiable, I would have at least liked to have seen a nod to the question.
The whole thing wraps up way too quickly. The new star appears in the sky, and the prison guards and the Warden immediately halt the execution of the prisoners who had just killed half a dozen of their comrades, and whom they were in the process of summarily executing. Suddenly we are on the bridge of the Orville having a joint birthday party for Kelly and Bortus, and we hear that though next to no time has passed, the entire Regorian religion has changed, all the Giliac camps have been emptied, children have been returned to their parents, and light has dawned. It’s all far too quick and passed over with scant lines of dialogue. What this means is that none of that was really the point of the episode. But if not that, then what was the point of the episode? What was this episode about? Religion? No, the episode doesn’t care enough about the Regorian religion enough to invest it with any consistency or feeling. Extremism? If so, then the extent of the show’s message is, “extremism is bad, huh?” And how does the B-story, the introduction of Jessica Szohr’s character, connect with any of these possible themes? It’s a puzzle, and one that can’t be easily solved.
YOUR HOROSCOPE FOR TODAY
“All the World is Birthday Cake” is a well-directed episode whose first half is so delightful that it makes one willing to overlook the shortcomings and inconsistencies of the second half.
- The title of this episode is apparently taken from the song “It’s All Too Much” by the Beatles
- Regorian astrological signs include Panaji, Corobahn, Valeigh, Wasanda, and Giliac.
- On Moclus, astrology is known as Da’Klaya.
- Xeleyans don’t have an appendix
- Ted Danson has a cameo as Union Admiral Perry
- Modernism of the week: Gordon and Lamarr make a Jib Jab video of Kelly and Bortus dancing to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.”
- The month of Giliac lasts for 30 days – then why are some of the c-sections Dr. Finn observes being done “months” early? That makes no sense!
- Would the Regorians call a surgical birth a “c-section”? “C” there is short for “Caesarean section,” and refers to the myth that Julius Caesar was born in this way. Also, wouldn’t the c-section Dr. Finn observes be a scheduled c-section, rather than an emergency?
- “What’s going to happen when the Regorians find out that the star is fake?” “We just lied to an entire planet, and I don’t know what the ethics of that mean. But that lie meant freedom for an entire portion of the population, so the short answer is, I don’t know.” Talla and Ed
- There’s a fun discussion on the Bridge about a possible joint birthday party for Kelly and Bortus, given the proximity of their birthdays, but Bortus isn’t having it: “I prefer my birthday to be my day.”
- “You know, we could make up fake names, they wouldn’t know.” “Why would we do that?” “I don’t know, I always hated my name, I just figured this is one of those times when you could pick your own name. I could be Chad, you could be Maxine…” Ed and Kelly bantering
- “On behalf of the people of our world, welcome to Regor 2.” “On behalf of the Planetary Union, welcome to the galaxy.” First Prefect and Ed
- “In the vast emptiness of the universe, we have found a fullness of cultural diversity. And when a first contact unfolds like this, the cosmos becomes a living, breathing organism. So that within that emptiness, we become a way for the universe to know itself. We are honored to know Regor 2.” “Wow, that was pretty good.” “Thanks, I plagiarized it from like nine different things.” J. Michael Straczynski must be delighted that his Babylon 5 cosmology is alive and well 400 years from now.
- “So [your culture] really is a utopia. No societal burdens.” “I mean, we still have, like, in-laws, and things like that, but we’ve come a long way. We believe that everybody deserves a chance at happiness. We believe that we all do better when we all do better.” Science Prefect and Ed.
- “The stars don’t lie.” A common Regorian saying, apparently.
- “Look at you. People from another world. But still Giliac trash, no matter where you’re from.” – Regorian Warden
- “Our weapons are hundreds of years more advanced than theirs! Why can’t we just-” “That’s exactly why we can’t. We have to find another way.” Cassius and Ed
- “Bortus, you have a kid, any suggestions?” “Will there be an egg?” Kelly and Bortus
- “You know, you have my pity.” “Your wife has mine.” Warden and Kelly. Not Kelly’s best comeback, ever.
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I really liked this one, and for once I didn’t guess the reverse, the astrology angle (probably because astrology is something I barely even think of as still existing.) As bad as the shuttle still looks (even with fancier cg lighting, apparently), there was about a second or two of the solar sail deployment that looked awesome before it went bad like Ashe’s arm.
Assuming the impossible and that this show limps along for another couple seasons or winds up on netflix, have a feeling this issue with the planet, like the Krill thing, will be a case of birds coming home to roost on Mercer down the line in a show calling into question his competence. Or you could always do a clip show recounting all the times he has left a different kind of mess behind him when departing a lot of planets.
That solar sail did look nice when it first deployed.
A surprisingly strong episode once again let down by the laziness of the resolution.
Great review. I agree completely that the directing was superb and I think the level of SPFX is pretty consistent in terms of giving the show an overall feel. I mean that as a positive. Bringing the shuttle into the city was perfectly done and in keeping with the not-quite cinematic level of detail but still executed awesomely. Unfortunately, I was completely bothered by the lack of consequences from Kelly’s and Bortus’s killing spree — to the point of distraction, which was then exacerbated by the blithe conclusion and happy faces. The other irksome part of the show was several unnecessary and ill-placed jokes — especially Talla’s sarcasm in response to the Prefect’s outburst. John Rubenstein’s acting was playing for keeps and the jeopardy his intensity portrayed was one of the best of the series. But the jokes were mostly smug and out of place. The show has gotten so much better at balancing the drama and humor (“Will there be an egg?”) that now when it’s misapplied, it seems stark. Kudos, though, for continuing to address social issues with stand alone episodes giving us those old time Star Trek feels. Looking forward to more Orville.
“But the jokes were mostly smug and out of place. The show has gotten so much better at balancing the drama and humor (“Will there be an egg?”) that now when it’s misapplied, it seems stark. ”
Jokes? There aren’t any jokes in this show anymore. It seems it wants to be 99% drama now.
My least favourite episode so far. It felt like a bad Voyager episode in pretty much every way. And all the ideas in Birthday Cake were, ahem, half-baked.
I also miss the humour and edginess of last season.
@Jack — couldn’t have summed it up better. A very bad episode of VOY.
The resolution was beyond terrible, and made no sense whatsoever. None of it did really from start to finish.
I agree that some of the creative absurdity from Season 1 is missing. Perhaps MacFarlane is trying to cater to the weird reviews that miss the point of this amazing sci-fi spoof.
I miss humor from last season as well. And I feel like last season needed more of it.
That sounds like the criticism of Woody Allen in “Stardust Memories” when his fans say they liked his previous movies better because they were funny and his producer (Laraine Newman) says that he has to add “more reality” to his movies. Woody Allen’s reply to her is that “You can’t control reality. All you can control are art and masturbation which are two subjects where I am an authority.”
By the way, this was an excellent review.
Denes nails all the good and bad of this episode. The first 20 minutes are terrific. The premise is even a good one, that even a civilized society could be dictated by something as odd as astrology. But the conflict is contrived and the resolution is even worse. Why the leader of Regor 2 (why would you call your planet #2 anything is another question), didn’t just instruct the two “Giliac’s” to stay on their starship and never come back is absurd. Let alone all the diplomatic attempts to retrieve them being met with such obstruction. That guy is the worst possible leader imaginable, especially for a civilization trying to reach out to other planets. There wasn’t any reason given for his stubbornness, just defiance for the sake of defiance. At the very least give us something about “the laws of our nation dictate my actions, and my hands are tied” or something like that. If “Giliac’s” are so violent, why would you want them on your planet at all?
The reflective sail was just such a terrible concept with a ton of problems. It may have fooled the capital city for perhaps 30 seconds, just long enough for an extraction team, but not for decades to come.
Also as Denes pointed out, it seems like the real burning questions were just swept under the rug. Another one is the turmoil of their cast system being disrupted (if we are to believe they are actually fooled by this reflective sail at all).
It would have been better to simply have an extraction team ready to pull the crew out of the encampment, and have the “new star” serve as a distraction. Then when the Regorians figure out what’s going on it causes all sorts of diplomacy problems. Admiral Sam Malone isn’t happy with Archer and just leave it at that. We don’t need a perfect happy resolution with everyone smiling and joyful. Politics and space travel is a messy business with lots of things that can go wrong.
@Steve — the second he called his planet “2” my eyes were rolling. I’ve never understood that, unless it literally was a colony established on a planet named the same thing, a la “North Dakota/South Dakota” — “Earth 1/Earth 2”.
I wonder if this is an old story Braga had in his file cabinet, which had been rejected by the writer’s room the last 10 times he brought it up during his tenure at Trek …?
I thought this was going to be about babies born via caesarean or natural birth. The astrology thing seemed a bit weak in comparison and having the new officier save the day felt a bit formulaic.
I’m surprised no one on the crew thought to point out that as they were born on different planets, the star signs they were born under would be different.
@GQMF — I kept waiting for that, but the writing this season is terrible. It’s like none of them understand how people really talk. To be fair, this new race wasn’t interested in letting them get a word in edge-wise, but the problem with that is all the awkward pauses in the poorly written dialogue that would have allowed it.
I’m still not sure how anyone thought having the missing star come back was going to result in their crew, or anyone else, being released.
Especially after presumably killing a bunch of guards.
I’m surprised there isn’t a union extraction protocol in case situations like that happen. Ted Danson literally didn’t seem to care with his “they might already be dead” or some such comment. Leaving them there for a month would have only increased that possibility.
With an outlook like that for its people, I wouldn’t want to work for the Planetary Union.
They could have made a deal to take back their people and all the Giliacs. If they are a burden on their society they should be happy to let the Orville take them all away and find another home for them. Instead of just keeping them in camps. Not a great solution, but better than the way things ended up.
The more I think about this episode the more I dislike it.
If they hated the Ipecacs so much, why didn’t they just ban coitus nine months (or whatever the Regorians’ gestation period is) before the sign of Ipecac?
First contact episodes are my favorite, so when this episode started I was really geeked about it, but then it went south. I think first contact episodes work best when the conflict is the result of a third party or outside force and in the end our heroes can end up helping out their new friends.
That said, wasn’t there technically a first contact episode this season when they saved those people whose planet was being eaten by their star? That episode was primarily about Bortus and his addiction, though I would have loved to have seen more about those people. Saving them should have been the A story of that episode.
Sorry, this just reminded me of every time TOS, TNG or Voyager did an episode about one-off, cheap-looking aliens who live in the Greater Los Angeles area and just can’t stand one incredibly stupid thing.
Sorry there’s not enough CG planets for you. They need real locations sometimes.
And most of on-location Doctor Who was shot in quarries and later near Cardiff. I don’t really care, but it’s always nice when the budget lapses get rolled with creatively. The makeup was bad, the outdoor space used with prominent unadulterated palm trees was silly. They don’t have the budget of premium series to play with (yes, that includes Discovery, but I don’t mean to contrast here), but they aren’t stepping up their creative game on the production side, and most importantly, the script is as trite as trite can be. Astrology world. Social media world before this powered by Likes. These are very simple ideas MacFarlane comes up with that are just not my cup of tea.
From what I understand the show as a whole is more Star Trek than Discovery so will have to disagree there.
@Ian — oh thanks for reminding me about how incredibly stupid their makeup was. Since the baby had the same silver markings, the only logical idea of it being some sort of ritual tattoo goes out the window, and now they seem to have some kind of silver compound that manifests itself as an identical birthmark?
Yeah, there’s no subtlety with the ORVILLE, they distill the problem down to one blatantly obvious thing, failing to give any nuance — hitting the audience over the head with it. It’s the biggest mistake Star Trek makes on occasion, and ORVILLE trades on it …
I loved this episode despite it’s shortcomings. Very TNG-like. My favorite episode of this season, so far.
Here at TrekMovie.com, we have a saying, that “every episode is somebody’s favorite.” That’s awesome, you enjoy it, and don’t let anyone tell you different! To me, this episode’s high points are better than anything else this season, but its low points bring it down in my personal rankings. I’d put it above “Ja’loja,” which was the season low for me, and above “Nothing Left On Earth Except the Fishes,” which was just bland. Above this episode, I’d rank “Primal Urges,” which I felt tackled a difficult and timely issue with surprising intelligence and sensitivity, and “Home,” which is so far the best episode of the season, combining true emotion with a compelling story. But that’s just my ranking! Thanks for reading!
I agree almost entirely with your ranking order here, although I thought “…Fishes” was pretty good. But it’s worth nothing that, by episode count, we’re still in TNG’s awkward first season, and they didn’t even start to find their footing until halfway through the second. I’m optimistic.
I’m curious how their ratings are doing compared to last season. I heard it had a good premier. But I have found nothing after that.
Great episode. Kelly and Bortus shooting the guards was this show saying “We’re not Star Trek”. Trek generally avoided the consequences of violence. Our heroes just stunned people, etc. This was much more real.
The ending was morally ambiguous, again unlike Trek. That’s much more modern storytelling and refreshing. And you can be certain this decision will come back to bite Mercer, you can see the setup a mile away (much like the overly nice girlfriend is an obvious setup in the previous ep).
Terrific job directing by MacNeil, particularly that scene where the shuttle lands and they first meet. Also great casting choices (as usual for this show), the guest stars were character actors who really immersed you in the reality of the situation.
This show was even worse about avoiding the consequences of violence. Kelly and Bortus had a pointless shootout where they flat out killed lots of guards, and they just got captured at the end of it anyway. That’s just filler and an excuse for a shootout, and what’s worse, there were no consequences at all for them. The star appears, they get released, Bob’s your uncle. Star Trek episodes would get flayed alive if they were so lazy in how they resolved their plots.
And a lot of that was because they wanted to take themselves seriously. Had they returned to their light and silly roots, none of that would matter. Their “message” would still get across. the episode would have been more enjoyable and the ridiculousness of climax would be overlooked.
The ending was morally ambiguous, again unlike Trek.
I mean, that’s an awfully selective reading of things.
First off, Trek has had plenty of moral ambiguity — “A Private Little War,” “Space Seed,” “The Perfect Mate,” just to name a few off the top of my head, not to mention much of DS9 and DISCO. And secondly, this didn’t seem *that* morally ambiguous, despite Mercer’s line. Everyone got off the planet alive, the Jilliacs were freed, Baby Kelly was reunited with her mom, and the PM embraced “change.”
Give me a break, whoever wrote this sort of arrogant review. Trying to make sense of Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek spoof takes all the fun out of “The Orville”. It’s a satire. Your resistance is futile. Chill out.
But a lot it doesn’t *feel* like a satire — the first episode of this season, perhaps, which was awful.
I really don’t think it’s clever enough to be a satire. It’s cosplay with ambitions of grandeur as far as MacFarlane is concerned.
Sigh. The Orville is going over the cliff this 2nd season almost as fast as Discovery did in their first season. Where are the laugh out loud jokes? Where are the gags? Every episode this season has been amazingly dull. I thought it was reported that they had a number of more comedic episodes this season. We are 5 episodes in and none of them had more than two chuckles in them. And most had one. In this one, it was Bortus’ “egg” line. And even that wasn’t a big laugh. Just a chuckle. Which is the best they have done this season. The first season had a number of lough out loud moments.
It bears repeating. With the jokes, this is a great TNG homage. Without them, it’s a bad TNG rip off.
This is actually the first episode I’ve watched since the second episode of the series, mostly because you and others have said the humor is gone. You and I come at it from different angles– I don’t want the humor.
But I think we agree that without it, it’s a very bad TNG rip off. I’d agree with Jack and CC that’s it’s like a pale imitation of a bad Voyager episode. The characters are bland, the story is uninteresting, and the writing isn’t much better than you’d get from a high school play.
I hope, for the sake of the show’s fans, it gets back to being a comedy.
To be fair, it never really was a comedy. It had more comedic elements last season. But it always straddled the line. Even last season I felt it needed to be a comedy with dramatic bits sprinkled in rather than a drama with a bit of comedy sprinkled in.
Isn’t it better without the jokes? That was the complaint about the first season right? So what’s the problem?
No! It’s NOT better without the jokes! I never complained about the jokes in the first season. In fact, I thought they needed to go for MORE jokes! These first 5 episodes are what happens when you remove the jokes. The show is sinking. At this point I am watching only due to the goodwill they earned from the first season.
A lot of people would disagree with you on wanting more humour. They saw a criticism and they fixed it.
That was certainly MY complaint, but it’s fair to say that without them, MacFarlane doesn’t know how to deliver a high quality sci-fi drama.
From the reviews I’ve seen on YouTube apparently he does…unlike Discovery…
@ML31: Putting on my best Samuel L. Jackson voice, “allow me to retort.” The jokes were sophomoric and never funny in the least. (Urinating once a year? “Bitchin'” Tharl? Really?) If I want funny, I’ll watch a good British comedy, thank you very much.
No, it’s nowhere near as good as Star Trek; the crew is less interesting, and the acting is much weaker. But they’ve given us a few thought-provoking episodes that toned down the stupid humor: the 2D aliens, the social media episode, “Home,” and now this. I like it enough to keep watching, which is more than I can say when this series started.
Now allow me the same, TRT. I honestly do not care if the jokes are toilet humor, British style satire or slapstick. All I care about is ‘am I laughing?’ Not every joke works. But if enough do then I’m enjoying it. This season, they have injected a few jokes here and there. None of them have been good jokes. NONE. Sure, there has been a light chuckle here and there. But nothing like some of the laugh out loud gags that appeared last season. It makes a difference. It IS possible to make some thought provoking stuff and still deliver on the laughs. It just requires better than what they have given us thus far this season.
And BTW… The social media episode last year gave us some pretty idiotic antics from Lamar and Malloy. That, I felt, was too much even for a comedy. But everyone likes different stuff. Bad jokes can be tolerated so long as there are still enough good ones. This season is devoid of good jokes and the show is suffering big time from it.
@Dénes House — I’d argue that finding out as much about a culture before contacting them is always better. The later concern that an unfriendly species might make first contact exists in the Trek universe as well, yet does not change their approach. That concern is easily mitigated by establishing surveillance of the planet to alert the Federation or Union as to the arrival of unfriendly species.
While even in Trek things go wrong with that approach (I’d seriously call into question the methodology which sent Riker disguised as a local for any reason), but it became clear in ORVILLE that they were able to learn quite a bit about the culture from oribit after the fact, something they should have minimally done before making first contact. They didn’t even know where the message was coming from — was it an official planetary transmission representing the will of all the people, or just one faction of local governance. ALl of these things at a minimum should have been investigated. Instead they just showed up clueless in the dark. I kept waiting for something terrible to happen as they walked up to the leadership.
While other problems could still result even with Starfleet’s methodical approach, far less is likely to go wrong than in ORVILLE’s reckless approach, made all the more cavalier by the casual way in which the characters treated the encounter with their inane banter — as if First Contact had never gone wrong before. No, I don’t think there was much thought put into the ORVILLE’s approach by the writers at all.
That concern is easily mitigated by establishing surveillance of the planet to alert the Federation or Union as to the arrival of unfriendly species.
Didn’t we see an accelerated first contact in TOS “Friday’s Child” as a result of the arrival of Klingons? (And for that matter, in “a Private Little War,” Lt. Kirk told his friend, ten years previously, where he was really from.)
More broadly, though, I agree with you — the Orville crew is constantly getting into problems that a bit of cultural observation would have prevented (“this society likes astrology,” “this society is social-media based,” etc.)
That’s a great argument, Curious Cadet! And you’re probably right. What keeps me from fully embracing it is reading Memory Alpha’s entry on first contacts and seeing the word “disastrous” pop up time and time again. Even with all the mature care and sensible policies surrounding Starfleet’s first contact protocols, they still mess it up all the time. I guess that points to how difficult it is to bridge the cultural gap! And it also points to the fact that this is a TV show, and a story of a first contact that goes perfectly smoothly, with no difficulties, would be sorta boring. :)
If you live on Regor 2, do you really say Regor 2? Have I been mispronouncing Sol 3 as Earth this whole time?
I brought this up on blu-ray.com and there is a huge back&forth about this over how the UT works as a result. I kinda wish I hadn’t said anything.
THANK you. That Trek-ism has always bothered me. It still pales in comparison to the ludicrous “fake star” solution. The notion that the Regorians wouldn’t triangulate on a low-orbiting satellite to confirm its position (and immediately expose the fraud) is preposterous. I’m afraid the handwavium was strong with this episode.
@CmdrR — Yup. It’s one thing for The ORVILLE crew to call it by their identification, but entirely another for the planet to refer to themselves that way — unless they really are a twin planet who chose to name themselves accordingly.
One more thing worth mentioning that the reviewer did not… It seems that another TNG lift Orville has taken is the idiotic notion that there is no currency in the future. But at least in the Orville’s case the currency of the future is status/accomplishments. Whereas in TNG (according to what was said in First Contact) humans have shed the desire to improve their life situations somehow.
I don’t think that’s what FC was trying to say at all.
Then the scene was amazingly badly written. That is taking what Picard said to the next logical step. He said something abut how in the future there was no money and the desire to accumulate wealth was no longer a driving force.
It was finely written, you just draw poor conclusions.
Since you interpreted it differently, as have others (not just here, elsewhere over the years) then it is very possible it was NOT as finely written as you like to think. Unless that was the writers intent.
To be frank here, you’re the only person i’ve ever seen draw a different conclusion, in the 20+ years since its release.
A: Anecdotal. And B: You might want to put yourself out there a little more.
I guess you haven’t seen my tinder profile!
@ML Picard in FC specifically said “we work to better oirselves”, which is exactly the opposite of what you got from that scene.
So you think accumulating wealth is the only way to improve one’s life situation? Then you missed the entire point of what both Picard and Mercer said.
Um, no. If you’re referring to the scene where Picard and Lily are sneaking around the Enterprise-E, he says that the acquistion of wealth was no longer the driving force of 24th century human beings; they now “work to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity”. Hardly the same thing as shedding a desire to improve their lives.
Yes, Scott, I agree completely with you. I don’t understand how people can totally misread that. Fascinating.
It seems that some people define quality of life simply by accumulation of wealth.
That is a simplistic view and a very negative way of looking at things. And not at all the spirit of what I said. You took what I said and turned it into an absolute. Although, I am not a professional writer. So there are times where intent can become confusing I guess. So let’s put it another way. Things still have a value or worth. Before currency, that value was determined through bartering. So I’m guessing in the future society reverts back to that? Now that I start to think about it I guess replicators would render value somewhat meaningless. Which opens up another can of worms…
Not really. Value can be based on pride of accomplishment. Your painting has value because it’s beautiful, not because someone paid a lot of money for it. But that sort of post-capitalist thinking is alien to western culture, and a lot of people have a very hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of removing money from the equation.
Not to get too tautological, but money is only necessary in a society where money is, well, necessary. If you eliminate it because everything is readily available, you’ll have no reason to acquire wealth, nor to base your status on it. Think about it: does someone buy a huge house because they really need five guest rooms, or because they can be seen as being able to buy a huge house?
If money is removed from the equation then something MUST take its place. As I said. People still have needs. Supply and demand still exists even when no money is involved. The painting will still have a subjective value to the individual. But it’s worth will be based on how many paintings there are and how many people want it. That worth will be measured by something be it an accepted currency or other objects or tasks. Currency, this far, has seemed to work the best for this sort of thing.
And no, I did not say accumulating wealth is the only way. It’s always fun when people turn what is said into absolutes. It would seem to be you who missed the entire point of what was said.
All that is great, ML, you’re not necessarily wrong. But this is Star Trek, a fictional universe, not a real world economy.
@Afterburn — either way, the replicator really takes that out of the equation. Let’s say someone creates an original painting, and someone wants it — the replicator makes an exact duplicate for them, indistinguishable from the original. Therefore the original loses its value. In fact anything can be replicated so supply and demand loses any meaning.
Even individuals are not unique with the holodeck — one can theoretically gain access to individuals through interactive holograms for the experience if not the real thing.
About the only thing I can imagine that creates a real problem with supply and demand is real estate. There’s literally only one beach-side property at a particular geographic location. So I’ve always wondered how such residences would be managed in a world where wealth is not a factor — lottery? In which case, what’s to stop someone from participating in the lottery to gain a residence they don’t want? And what would compel them to give it up to someone else if there’s literally nothing that person could give them, that they couldn’t replicate themselves? Title? Power? Star Trek would have us believe that people don’t care about such things, but certainly that could be used as currency, if nothing else.
In fact anything can be replicated so supply and demand loses any meaning.
Firstly, replicator and transporter technology are the most implausible of Trek technology conceits — pretty much impossible, for numerous physical reasons. They’re really just magic wands that allow the shows to move along. But, let’s put that issue aside. Original items, like the painting in my example, can’t be replicated. Labor can’t be replicated. Services, as in the service industry, can’t be replicated. As you mentioned, real estate can’t be replicated. And replicators — such as they are — have to be constantly maintained, as we saw saw with regard to overworked O’Brien in DS9. Replicators also have to be built. The materials and labor involved in building replicators must be substantial. And replicators need energy to run on, probably good deal of energy…
(cont) Who’s going to do all of that work? Really nice workers who don’t want anything in return, for the “accomplishment” and “self-improvement” of repeating the sames tasks over and over again for the hundredth or thousandth times? Who’s going to mine the dilithium, or create the anti-matter, or whatever powers the energy grid that powers the replicators? Really nice workers who get soul-fulfilling satisfaction out of mining dilithium or building power plants? Someone has to sit there — day in, day out — and push the buttons that make the robots and machines work. And that person — those people, the workers — must have the proficiency at their jobs that comes with much repetition and experience. The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment of repeating the same tasks will decrease in relation to the number of times that one repeats them. Workers are bound to want to spend their time doing other, more fulfilling things, such as being with their families or taking in some art or playing space racquetball or romantic/sexual behavior. Time, fuel, labor and material supplies aren’t unlimited and neither (again, in practical terms) is the demand for them. Supply and Demand wouldn’t lose meaning in TNG’s utopia; they’d just have more noticeable impact in certain markets (elastic) and less in others (inelastic).
” The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment of repeating the same tasks will decrease in relation to the number of times that one repeats them. ”
This has me thinking of that scene in Tapestry when Picard was some lower officer delivering reports. He was muttering to Q asking if Q was entertained by seeing him as a “dreary man doing a tedious job.”
Right, good example. According to TNG’s own premise, that should never happen.
Regarding real estate:
Things change when holodecks and holosuites exist, and even transporters: why do you need to live by the beach when you can just transport there whenever you want?
Once replicators and transporters are in play the very DESIRE for these things diminishes. The point is that our desire for travel, leisure, and material goods would plummet if everything were free and/or readily available on a whim. If everyone had all the money in the world, what would people do to feel better about themselves?
Picard is saying that in that scenario, people would choose to better themselves in more personal ways rather than material. “I’ve got more money than you” is replaced with “I’m smarter and more skilled than you” or “I’m more helpful and generous.”
We can argue up and down whether that is what would happen, but that is what Star Trek is positing.
why do you need to live by the beach when you can just transport there whenever you want?
Because you can’t see the beach from your living room and breathe in the salt air all the time with a transporter. And I’m not sure that transporters are so common and cheap that everyone has one in their home. Also, beaming to a beach is a trip of sorts. You have to beam to a transporter near that beach. I understand that all of this pie-in-the-sky stuff is what TNG posited. I was pointing out how it doesn’t make sense economically, in addition to it being hard to imagine how it could ever be physically possible. I think it was a good thing that DS9 sort of did away with the everything is free notion. There’s science fiction and then there’s fantasy.
On DS9 they suggested that beaming had some sort of transporter limitations, be they financial, energy driven or otherwise. I recall Sisko claiming he used up all his “beaming credits” early on in his academy days to go home most weekends.
@Afterburn — I don’t disagree. I thought about that. The holodeck solves a lot of problems like that. And you’re right about transporters too.
But the fact remains, actual physical locations are the only things that can’t be duplicated. Whether that has value or not can be debated. But, everything else can be copied down to the atomic level with exacting precision.
The other thing that can’t be duplicated, evidently, are dilithium crystals. So those who want to explore space are then forced to exchange something for the opportunity to be taken into space — e.g. join starfleet, become a merchant trader, etc. So that at least offers some explanation as to why people would agree to become subservient to someone, and perform menial work.
The future is a socialist utopia where everything is free is one of the more pie-in-the sky conceits of TNG. There will always be some sort of currency due to the fundamental laws of supply and demand — wants will (in a practical sense) always be unlimited, while goods and labor will (literally) always be limited:
D: Hey, I’m really enjoying that painting of John Lennon that you made for me. Would you make me one of Paul McCartney, too?
S: No, I’m really not feeling up to it.
S: Sorry, bro.
D: I’ll give you something if you do it.
S: OK, give me X so that I can trade it for Y, which I really want. That’ll motivate me to do the painting. It’s a lot of work, you know.
D and S: If only there were some sort of universal object that we could trade for the goods and services that we want whenever people don’t feel like giving them to us for free. . . .
And this is why I will never get paid to write. Excellent example.
As soon as I saw the uniforms in the pre-credit scene I said “Nazi episode”.
The score that played as the crew prepared for first contact and travelled to the planet was amazing.
I found it interesting that both Orville and STD had plots that involved “non interference” on the same night. Almost the same dialog in a couple of spots.
they could have made this a 2-parter with an archaeological dig. and then resolved to:
A- reveal an undocumented historical event, and had a cool couple moments doing oh I don’t know- SCIENCE… then
B- Tied in that event to current culture as to where the myth arose. (we never learned after all why the people feel the way they do). Maybe they would have rejoiced at some empirical evidence. I mean, isn’t that the weapon to combat all extremism- Evidence.
I always liked 2-parters in Trek and X-Files. this could have been been better but i like the story either way. the author is oddly harsh and trollish, really casting aside the fact that every other hour long show has to keep things moving along and must expedite plot. Like star trek NEVER did those things.
@William Pealer — the whole idea really, for a culture this advanced, that they seriously rely on astrology is ridiculous. It’s one thing to ship all the Giliac into camps and claim they are bad people. It’s quite another to proclaim all the people born in a different month great leaders and have them all meet those expectations, et al. While a caste system can influence how people turn out, it would become painfully obvious that the month someone is born in doesn’t guarantee their outcome, or future, and eventually the whole thing collapses — unless a corrupt government maintains power by enforcing the caste system. That’s the real story here, and ORVILLE, which for some reason is trying to take itself seriously this season, totally missed telling.
Then again, to quote an article I read about India, a spacefaring nation, in (I think) THE ECONOMIST a few years ago: “all Indians believe.” And then there was Nancy Reagan and her astrologer…
The only way this episode makes any sense is if the leaders know that their system is a house of cards. And even then it still doesn’t make sense.
This kind of episode is a great example of why ENT’s third season, which basically consisted of a triology of three-part episodes, was such an ingenious format. It really gave the chance to explore complex plots. (Something that “New Eden” might have benefited from, too.)
It was the 4th season that had two and three part episodes. The 3rd season was the Xindi season long arc.
Without the tedium of a serialized narrative that never resolves anything…
I just LOVE this show! I hope they continue making The Orville!
During the dramatic shots of the ship approaching the planet, did you hear the trumpet part of the musical score? Very “Wrath of Khan”-ish!
I was thinking the same thing. I thought the score stood out on this episode, overall.
@HB — It’s a John Debney score. Their editors are clearly temping with all the Star Trek movie soundtracks, and Debney’s the guy you hire when you want to knock-off the cue from another movie — he’s the absolute best at it. Unfortunately it doesn’t help establish an original musical identity for your own show, and that’s one of ORVILLE’s problems. Bruce Broughton’s MT is absolutely terrific but the rest of it sounds like a hodge-podge of cues from various Trek films and episodes done sideways. However well executed.
Hey, CC, thanks for the explanation! Very impressive.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THE Orville
As others have pointed out, the end resolution on this one was pretty flimsy. That said, I still liked it, mainly because I like this crew. I like the way they interact. I like this universe they’ve created. As others have also said, I agree going back into more humor would be advisable – this show works best for me when it stays in its own lane; ie. keep it light, humorous and include some sort of relevant social commentary. This one had a great look and feel, and since I don’t take this show so seriously the plot holes are forgivable. Another enjoyable hour. Hi, Ted Danson! And I’m beginning to think Bortus is the man Worf should have been. Stronger, tougher, more stoic and one hell of a lot funnier. Looking forward to more Orville.
For me, the plot holes would be amazingly easy to overlook if the show returned to it’s light and silly tone from last year. If they want to take it seriously, the ridiculous solutions need to stop.
For once, I think you have a point. If the serious stuff is to have resonance, then you can’t give them the easy out you’d give a parody show. I don’t think I’d had it spelled out for me quite that way before, but I do agree that they need a higher standard in these instances. It’s like when I jump all over the dumb stuff in a Daniel Craig Bond movie — to me, the crazed stuff that works fine in a moronic Roger Moore movie shouldn’t get a pass in what is supposed to be more serious fare, but I often find that to be a seriously minority viewpoint.
Reading the review and people’s comments, I think I must be watching the Orville with a different perspective. Of course there are logical inconsistencies and if one wanted to find flaws in thinking through every detail of the plot’s execution one can do so.
But to me, I am so, so grateful that in 2019 there is a science fiction show that is making social commentary in a way that is both thought provoking, meaningful, and points the way to a positive future while being entertaining. To me, having such a gift is one hundred times more important than trying to find holes in the plot or in the details. Talk about missing the forest from the trees!
Today we live in a world where science is not respected. Where people in power reject scientific consensus and scientific illiteracy is considered an advantage because it is not “elitist.” I don’t mean to get political, because I know that’s not what this site is about. But it is a fact that people who led the House science committee (until very recently) had no background in science, and were promoting their political ideologies, instead of policies based on science. So along comes a show that points out the dangers of believing in psuedo-sciences, like horoscopes. Horoscopes are everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I get asked what my sign is, and how muc more rare it is for me to find someone who is interested in hearing about actual astronomy without their eyes glazing over in boredom and they tune out. But if I tell them my sign, so many people’s eyes light up with interest and they are happy to talk about it. This is in 2019, not 1519.
God help us. Or at least, the Orville is trying to help us. That’s a lot more important than nitpicking for technical inconsistencies. There’s meaning in this show. I celebrate it. Thank you, Seth.
Well said! Despite its (sometimes glaring) flaws I eagerly look forward to each week’s installment of The Orville, am grateful for each new episode, and frankly am amazed that the show exists at all. I just hope that Seth’s clout at FOX will not only keep the show on the air for years to come, but also at the same level of quality we’ve enjoyed up till now.
@Scott Gammans — Seth’s clout will only last as long as the ratings support the minimum financial needs of the show. Disney now owns Fox and they are not likely to keep producing a show unless they get a full license fee from FOX, and FOX is not likely to pay that if no one is watching just appease a producer who hasn’t done much for them lately otherwise. More than likely, if ORVILLE has the delayed audience and fanbase they claim, Disney will sell it to Netflix where advertiser dollars won’t matter.
I hear you. Still, my heart sank about 20 minutes into this episode when I realized how the plot was turning. Possibly because the first 20 minutes was so very good.
Exactly, and well put, GarySeven. Any show which looks towards improving the human condition as a whole (which I personally think Orville does), especially while keeping a light and humorous tone to it, deserves kudos. As does its creator. Plot holes and real science aside, this show does make actual and relevant points about the world we live in. To me, anyway.
@Gary Seven — if people who cling to horoscopes can’t see the forest for the trees already, then a silly episode about it, with glaring inconsistencies is only going to make them entrench their beliefs further. If someone wants to argue against a foolish position, then they’d better do so in a logical way, otherwise the flaws in their own argument, however trivial, will be used to reinforce the very thing the episode tries to discredit. If the producers assume their audience is stupid, then they will lose them.
Agree,. It’s sad though about how dumbed down it has to get and a majority of the viewers still don’t get any of the society items that we are living in now which they are trying to show.
@Rob Schnack — the problem with dumbing down something, assuming that’s the only way the general public is going to get it, can be seen with the term “Global Warming”. It’s a very simple concept, but not enough thought was given to defining it for what would be a skeptical public. In dumbing it down to its root cause, they gave those people a substantial club to beat the scientific community with. The very people who resist the realities of the root causes of climate change only need point to the current record-setting polar vortex to disprove “Global Warming”. One poorly chosen term has discredited all the science behind it. And that’s what ORVILLE has done for whatever message they were trying to convey with their sloppy narrative.
The first truly disappointing Orville episode felt like a second season Voyager leftover, complete with a contrived plot twist that doesn’t hold water, and equally contrived solution. Somehow, it never occurred to anybody to say something like: “They are no Gilliacs, silly. There are entirely different constellations in our part of the universe, and different constellations mean different signs with different traits. But don’t worry, we aren’t angry at you, it’s quite an understandable mistake.”
But well, at least it serves as a reminder that the 90s Trek wasn’t all perfect. There’s a reason why Berman & Braga got their nickname “the killer ‘B’s” ;)
If you want to take it seriously then quite frankly there was no need to imprison the alien Gilliacs. Just allow them to return to their vessel and vow never to return. There was no logical reason for them to keep the aliens. If they feared they would be antisocal violent then let them go and let their Union deal with them. Regor 2 can then just wash their hands of them. But again, had the episode been, you know, funny, the same point could have been made and since we are all laughing we can forgive the silly way its presented.
There was no logical reason for them to keep the aliens.
Well, no; but then again, religious dogma is not always logical, is it?
It seems not interfering with their laws by staging a rescue (where they could have used their weapons on stun) would have been a less relations-damaging resolution than tricking them. Assuming that sail fools them for longer than a minute, it could have massive ramifications if they happen to start integrating Giliacs, and then later find out they were fooled. Mercer seems to be relying on the fact that they’ll evolve and realize the folly of their ways so that when they find out the truth, it’ll all be cool with them. But considering how advanced they are and they still hold the same beliefs, it does not seem like it’ll be a quick change.
@MattR — right. Scotty turned all the power off in Bread and Circuses, causing a distraction. They could have done something similar and rescued their crew, seizing an opportunity. Once this culture seized their crew, effectively kidnapping them, and then told the ORVILLE to leave and never come back, they effectively lost all rights they had as a new potential member of the Union. So it’s hard to see not using their advanced technology to rescue them. Regardless it wouldn’t even take that.
The truly sad part here, is that many of these writers worked on Star Trek, and this is the what they’re passing off as good sci-fi now.
Ted Danson is in this?! This show just got more respect from me.
For some reason I have always pictured him as playing an Admiral.
This pretty much nails how I thought about the episode. I really had a hard time with Mercer thinking the diplomatic solution was to basically say, “Astrology, really?” as the means to get Kelly and Bortus released.
I loved the premise of this one and there were cool moments but the plot holes and contrivances were ridiculous. The whole reaction by the aliens was totally irrational, especially given that the visitors were born on different planets with likely completely different constellations. Seems like Mercer would have made that argument and at the very least they would have been asked to leave and not simply jailed with prisoners who had never seen aliens before.
The immediate acceptance of the new star during the execution scene was totally absurd as well. That would never happen. A society that entrenched in its mysticism would never simply change course that easily.
I feel like they could have gone a slightly different route and had a story that made more sense. It just seemed like everything that happened was way too convenient for the plot and not very plausible.
I like the Orville… I really do. That said I think the fact that they shot and killed dozens of people is horrendous. And then to not even have remorse about it was awful. I remember this is one of the things I hated about Andromedia – the total lack of respect for killing.
Yes, this was a poorly written episode from the standpoint of first contact. The ship should have stayed in orbit and covertly observed the planet for a period of time before sending in the first contact team. Also, they should have an orderly process for first contact, certain specialists who are trained to be careful. No one in their right mind should send the Captain, the XO, the Second Officer, the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief of Security all together on a landing party. Contact protocol should also make it clear that the team will leave if asked and offer no further contact; however, the entire team must leave and not be held by the planetary authorities or there will be hell to pay.I also have a problem with the lack of a prime directive with the Union. Simply having a planet broadcast a signal shouldn’t be enough to determine if the planet is ready for contact. Introducing science or technology that could be damaging to that culture before it’s ready should be a factor considered by Union crews (a problem with episodic TV, the characters don’t appear to learn from their past history such as when Kelly was considered a god on one planet).Finally, I agreed with another commentator that a rescue mission with Orville crewmen with their weapons set on stun would have been less damaging than having Kelly and Bortus kill a bunch of the natives and have Mercer lie to these people and mislead them with a trick. That probably would ruin any chance of good relations in the future once the natives found out how they’d been misled. The episode just made the Union look unprofessional and slip-shod in its execution throughout.
And again, none of that would be a real issue had it been treated in a comedic manner.
The crew’s shoddy first contact methods could even have been the subject of the humor.
When someone asks you if Kelly is God, you say: “Yes!” Kelly is always right. I will listen to Kelly. I will not ignore Kelly’s recommendations.
Isn’t that from BABYLON 5’s Susan Ivanova?
I couldn’t watch this the logical fallacy was just too strong to ignore. It does not make any sense at all that they speak English when they are suppose to be a completely separate civilization…
That’s yet another thing that took me out of the story. Sure, TOS did the same thing, but that was 50 years ago, and we’ve since had it explained away as attributable to a universal translator. I kept thinking, well maybe the Orville’s crew have universal translators, but they didn’t even address it — in fact, every species that the Orville has encountered speaks American English, and the issue has never been addressed. I need to know that the writers are at least one step ahead of me, or else it seems like they’re incompetent. This is where some viewers will do the job of the writers for them and say, “Well, I’m sure they have universal translators.” But, that’s a TNG technology and we’re watching a different show, albeit one heavily influenced by TNG. I need to be told just once how these magical things are happening in the world of The Orville.
To be honest, that is a thing I never really cared about. They all speak English so audiences can understand what the actors are saying. That is something I can easily suspend disbelief for.
Thank you! I actually dislike episodes that involve the Universal Translator because it calls attention to how illogical the whole premise thing is.
Absolutely agree. And while we’re at it, lets be glad English is still the standard in the U.S. I may get smacked for that last bit, but so be it.
They all speak English so audiences can understand what the actors are saying.
I know, but how do the aliens understand what the humans are saying, and vice versa? It’s not one of those things where we’re shown the two cultures speaking in their native tongues with subtitles, and then it switches to all spoken English with no subtitles and the implication is that it’s for the audience’s benefit. We’re never given any reason why the aliens and humans should be able to communicate with each other. Are they speaking different languages or are they all speaking American English? If the former, then how do they understand each other? If the latter, then how did the aliens learn American English?
“I know, but how do the aliens understand what the humans are saying, and vice versa?”
Point is that it doesn’t matter, and if the shows had to go to such lengths to explain it all the time, and were always constrained by an established internal logic, you’d be so bogged down that there’d be no room to tell a story.
It’s one of those things, like time travel paradoxes, that you just have to suspend for a space-bases sci-fi series. Like superheroes and comics. It’s enough to accept that people have extraordinary abilities, we don’t have to examine the logic and science behind those abilities.
Point is that it doesn’t matter, and if the shows had to go to such lengths to explain it all the time, and were always constrained by an established internal logic, you’d be so bogged down that there’d be no room to tell a story.
I just don’t feel that way. All they’d have to do is take 15 seconds to say, “Make sure you tune your Gigitties to program 9 before we land, or you won’t be able to communicate with the Regorans. And then on with the story. And then we’d all be a little curious: hmm…I wonder how those Gigitties work…. And, then, maybe next season they’d drop another bit of information about the Gigitties and how they work. That sort of thing is part and parcel to sci-fi. Writers dream up fantastical technology based on real technology turned up to 11. But, I will directly challenge you on your statement that you don’t care about the internal logic of the story. I believe that you do care, and that if the internal logic continues to grow inconsistent, there will come a point when it bothers you and takes you out of the story. The language issue might not rise to that threshold for you, but there are things that would.
You make a good point about time-travel paradoxes, though. Time-travel (within the same universe) is one of those conceits that, if you’re sufficiently informed, is almost just a magic wand being waved at this point. I say almost, because even physicists like Sean Carrol will say that there’s a tiny chance that one could time-travel within the same universe, though he doesn’t believe that it’s possible. And, if one did time-travel within the same universe, events would unfold in such a way as to preclude paradoxes. For example, you simply would not be able to kill your parents, due to events beyond your control. But, yeah, we all know that a time-travel story is just a way of getting characters into certain types of situations, where they’re fish out of water, with god-like abilities, such as superior knowledge and technology than everyone else in that time, and perhaps a chance to correct regrettable past events…
(cont.) It’s a very compelling trope, and no wonder that it’s so commonly employed. We’d all love a chance to go back in time and live something over again knowing what we know today. So, yes, we suspend disbelief. But the point I’m making is that we at least have an explanation for what’s happening, and our suspension of disbelief is based on the way or degree to which it’s happening — we can’t do it today, but maybe some day… There’s always that tiny possibility that we could actually time-travel within the same universe that we can base our suspension of disbelief on. But, when paradoxes happen in the story — events that just don’t make sense — then, yes, it does knock me out of the fiction. Though, if the time-travel trope has been used in service of a compelling theme — a theme that doesn’t lend itself readily to any other plot device, like seeing your younger self in real life and thereby learning something about yourself — then I can forgive the logic problem, though I will still notice it and be taken out of the story for a moment.
You can not feel that way all you want, it doesn’t change the facts.
And what facts are those?
I recall someone once asked a TNG producer how the Inertial Dampeners work. He replied, “Very well, thank you.”
I recall someone once asked a TNG producer how the Inertial Dampeners work. He replied, “Very well, thank you.”
And that’s a clever answer. I’m not asking for a fully realized technology — of course that’s not feasible, neither dramatically nor technologically. What I’m asking for, and what TNG’s inertial dampeners provide, is a science fiction concept that addresses the issue and fires the imagination. Technological innovations of today, such as the MRI and ipad, were inspired by rudimentary science fiction concepts in TOS and TNG. Since TNG went off the air, a real universal translator has been invented. It takes 10 seconds to offer up a science fiction concept that explains how the humans and aliens all understand each other. Maybe The Orville will just nick TNG’s universal translator. Or, maybe they can come up with something original. The point isn’t that it has to be all or nothing — I’m not one to make the perfect the enemy of the good — the point is that they should address the issue so that the audience has some mysterious black box, that seems like it could possibly some day exist, about which we can wonder what is inside.
Because, as Afterburn said, then every episode would get bogged down in linguistic studies and processes and we would never get on with the story. It’s one of those things that you just have to accept for the sake of the show. Just like Trek never deals with relativity. To do so would make the show WAY more complicated than it needs to be. Just accept that everyone understands each other’s language and time for ship board people is the same for planet based folks.
Because, as Afterburn said, then every episode would get bogged down in linguistic studies and processes and we would never get on with the story.
That never happened with TNG, which was far more scientifically detailed than the one-time, 10-second explanation I’m asking of The Orville.
Just like Trek never deals with relativity.
They don’t need to deal with relativity because the ships don’t move at relativistic speeds. Warp technology warps space around the ship decreasing the distance that the ships traverse. And they did deal with the ramifications of warp technology in Season 7’s “Force of Nature,” which actually made for a compelling story.
I agree with most of the points in this review.
Whether you like The Orville’s approach to first contact, I guess, depends on whether you’re in the mood for a story that reflects gritty reality or a more lighthearted, pollyanna, wouldn’t it be nice if… kind of fiction. In reality, astronauts of the future will have every reason to be extremely wary of first contact situations such as the one portrayed in “All the World is a Birthday Cake.” Look at the diversity of values, morals and taboos that existed amongst humans of the 20th Century, which is when we first sent signals and spacecrafts out into space asking for a reply. Imagine an alien species meeting 20th Century humans. Humanity’s reaction might well have been (and might still be) along the lines portrayed in DS9’s “Little Green Men” or in the movie, CONTACT (1997) — i.e. fear, paranoia, panic and aggression. So, skipping merrily down to a new planet singing tra-la-la without any plan of what to do if things go south is one way to portray a first contact situation, but it’s not one that I find compelling. I agree with the rest of the review, though.
This episode appears to be meant as a cautionary tale about holding irrational beliefs, which is a theme that TNG’s “Who Watches the Watchers” did sooo much better. And absent humor, which “All the World…” has almost none of, this episode lacks a fresh angle or element to differentiate it from a low-grade TNG knock-off.
This episode is lousy with bad science. The (non)passage of time creates diegetic logic problems that leap out of the screen — for example, the Orville can apparently travel deep into the galaxy in three seconds. The reviewer already mentioned the star-distance issue, and what Roger Ebert called “the idiot plot,” which is when characters are made to be unreasonably stupid in order to advance the plot. There’s no good reason for the aliens to keep Kelly and Bortus captive, at the expense of the state, and thereby running the risk of a potentially destabilizing effect, instead of simply kicking them off of their planet.
There’s no good reason for the aliens to keep Kelly and Bortus captive, at the expense of the state, and thereby running the risk of a potentially destabilizing effect, instead of simply kicking them off of their planet.
Again, that’s a bit like saying “there was no good reason to intern Japanese-Americans during the war.” You’re right, of course, but fear can make for irrational decisions. And that goes doubly for racial (or in this case, “zodiacal”) hatred. The society on Regor 2 went beyond mere astrology and had something more like an extreme caste/apartheid system. There are antecedents in real life.
The River Temarc
The difference is that Japanese Americans were American citizens or legal residents. FDR put them in camps out of fear that they might conspire with an enemy that had attacked and declared war on the US. Kelly and Bortus aren’t even the same species as the Regorans, have never lived on Regor 2, and there’s nobody for them to conspire with. Putting their imprisonment down to irrationality is just another way of having an idiot plot — the characters are stupid or the characters are completely irrational, and that’s why they’re doing these things that keep the plot moving forward by preventing a resolution to the crisis of our protagonists. If the Regorans are acting out of fear, which they are, then they would quickly figure out that getting Kelly and Bortus off the planet is the best way to get the Orville to leave. So long as the Regorans hang onto Bortus and Kelly, the Orville has a reason to stick around. A state leader of reasonable intelligence and wherewithal would be able to understand this. The only way for him not to understand it is to make him a bonehead or completely irrational. Hence, the idiot plot.
BTW, I happened to see this article recently which supports what I said about the theme of “Primal Urges.”
www .thedailybeast. com/watching-porn-is-ok-believing-in-porn-addiction-is-not
I know this isn’t Star Trek and they don’t have to play by the same rules, but rushing into first contact without any standard vetting procedures make the characters and their entire society look stupid. I’m not saying they have to do duck blinds like TNG, but just winging it is completely irresponsible. Took me right out of the episode.
Guards, just doing their jobs, killed.
I grieve for their children.
Let’s not get too carried away. There were “guards just doing their jobs” at Sobibor, too.
I thought there was a very clear implication in the lead guard’s manner that they kept their charges in line with abusive behavior, probably rape. If that wasn’t intended, then the director misled, but I think it was deliberate, and probably to help assuage any audience feeling that anyone should feel bad for them to get ventilated during the escape.
One thing pretty much all 1hr sf space shows get wrong is the drop-in/fix-things/leave thing. When I was working with another writer on an idea I had in the early 90s, we realized that the right way to go was to make the size of the show fit the subject; if it was a dense issue, it’d be a three-episode show on that planet. You could still have whatever runners or subplots you might have in a different show (though I’m not big on that kind of plotting unless you can weave and wrap it around the main story), but it lets you do the subject justice, instead of just lip service.
I think I started thinking about storytelling differently in the 80s, after reading David Cronenberg state that to do teleportation right, he’d have needed at least a miniseries to explore it properly. That crystalized the flaw in storytelling that you can or should solve everything in an hour. Even if it is one where your guys ‘lose,’ if there are important stakes, they should lose big. (maybe this is why DR WHO has lots of long eps? I dunno, because except for a terrible half hour of Tom Baker dealing with a toy tank, plus the american who movie and the entirety of EARTHSHOCK, I’ve never watched the show.)
So for those folks who are saying this ep or that should be a 2-parter, I agree … except I don’t know that the folks writing this stuff even think in those terms, especially given the the paucity of episodes they have.
Not Orville’s mission. Lighten up. Or we can just go full-bore on your implication and adopt the viewpoint of Dr. Steven Greer of “Disclosure” fame: the Great Reality is that all of the interstellar/intergalactic space-faring civilizations are peaceful…and PEACE KEEPERS. Their fleets exist to PREVENT Space Wars. They quarrantine any planetary civilizations about to go inter-stellar if they have NOT yet given up their warring ways. War will not be allowed to go interstellar. Furthermore they actively INTERVENE stealthily (so much for Prime Directive) to help that planetary society to give up war as obsolete and unnecessary, and PREVENT them from destroying themselves (NO nuclear war will be allowed, WWII provoked this Intervention). They apparently follow a different Prime Directive: Universal Love and care for their humanoid brethren throughout the Universe.
Oh don’t worry about us fans of Orville going all Giliac on spoilers. We hold our love object more lightly and playfully than do Trek Fans of Trek productions. I like this episode a lot too. I thought they could have tried a different approach to free their crew members: different planetary systems, different stars are seen in their skies, no “Gilliac” situation occurred from their perspectives on their birth planets. But that wouldn’t have helped their own hapless citizens under the “Curse of Gilliac”. But I’m also pleased with the way events unfolded anyway. Onward to the next episode.
It was a fair assumption that by the time they notice the solar sail deception, they will have also outgrown their belief systems in the “childhood” of their culture…unless a further episode shows up where the gods Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Neptune, etc, show up and declare to Capt. Mercer: “We beg to differ with you”, and then who mourns for the subjects of Apollo?
Sorry. I think I was referring to the ST episode “Who mourns for Adonais”??
@kitbaschcanon — they were a space-faring race, with satellites in orbit around the planet. It’s not plausible that they wouldn’t discover this fake sun in their orbit at some point. And what happens if the technology malfunctions? Again, this was a totally unbelievable solution to this story.
Part of me thinks it was written as the end of an initial draft which had more comedy, and then was stripped out of it in an effort to conform it to the more serious tone this season has taken.
A pity if they short-change the comic portion.
Someone from the ship’s crew gets incarcerated during a diplomatic mission to a less advanced planet due to a ridiculous law… Sounds like the TNG episode “Justice” to me. (Remember, the one wherein Wesley commits the hideous crime of accidentally falling into a flower bed.)
Good think that the Orville show makers chose this library for their location shots, instead of… the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant.
@BOP — Oh it’s totally a rehash of that episode. Braga doesn’t have any more original ideas. He probably wanted to make that episode a planet based on astrology, but got laughed out of the writers room.
That said, the episode was quite a bit more topical in that such laws were being debated at the time (still are), and had one of the crew violate the local laws. This situation was more akin to the crew member being a carrier of disease — in which case, the decision to retain the person, rather than expel the person is strange, nor was that decision explained.
The rehashing of trek ideas is one of the many things that really hurts my enjoyment of Orville. It’s hard to get immersed in a story when I can pick out every Trek episode that each element was pulled from. I’m constantly stopping and thinking “wait, which episode was that from?”
@Afterburn — and it continues with this weeks episode of “A Happy Refrain”. It was a shameless knock-off of “In Theory”, which would have been much better served if it had incorporated a sub-plot of any kind as that TNG episode did. 48 minutes struggling through a milquetoast rehash of a recycled idea with which Braga clearly demonstrates he’s run out of ideas.
I think REFRAIN’s strength is that it DOESN’T fall into the a/b plot thing — having the moustache runner is just the minimal amount of distraction from the main story.
As to Braga having run out of ideas … going by the credits, Seth wrote and directed the episode, so I don’t know why you think Braga had much to do with it at all. That’s like blaming John D. F. Black for TNG’s THE NAKED NOW rehash when he had nothing to do with it outside of writing THE NAKED TIME a couple decades earlier.
I have no problem with blaming Braga for all sorts of terrible things, but why do it when the result is not his — plus it is probably the best the ORVILLE has ever been?
Bird of Prey
Good call. I forgot about that one. It is more “Justice” than “Who Watches the Watchers.” Both of those TNG episodes have themes about irrational beliefs, but the plot of “Justice” is much more similar.
It’s not a direct rip-off of Justice because ATWIBC is a critique of a modern, industrialized society that still clings to a superstitious, supernatural belief system. It can also be a critique of a dogmatic religion wielded by the government, and this further aligns The Orville with the outlook of Roddenberry. So there are other Trek episodes that better fit that bill, but the non-interference issues arising from incarcerated crew persons parallel Justice. (Justice is further complicated by advanced aliens who watch the simple Edo and are worshipped as gods.)
Discovery seems to be going another route. If their Captain Pike were around, he might tell the Orville crew to keep an open mind about the power of astrology.