Review: ‘The Orville’ Delivers A Glorious Feeling In “A Happy Refrain”

“A Happy Refrain”

The Orville Season 2, Episode 6 – Aired Thursday, January 31st, 2019
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Seth MacFarlane

Issac and Dr. Finn try a new experiment and Bortus grows a mustache in a generally quiet and compelling story, with outstanding acting from Penny Johnson Jerald and Mark Jackson. Throw in some live music from MacFarlane’s love of musicals and you’ve got an enjoyable episode.

The crew gathers to listen to the Union Symphony in the shuttle bay.

Warning: SPOILERS BELOW

Good mornin’

In its short lifespan, The Orville has shown an affinity for character pieces. The season premiere, “Ja’loja”, was a relatively plot-less story that dealt with the private lives of several members of the crew, and this episode, “A Happy Refrain”, focuses on two characters, Dr. Claire Finn and the ship’s android, Isaac, whose budding romance takes center stage.

The seeds of a Claire/Isaac relationship were planted in the first season episode, “Into The Fold”, and the writers have sprinkled in moments between them in subsequent episodes, making the notion of Claire developing feelings for Isaac more plausible.

The basic plot resembles the fourth season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “In Theory”, where Data attempts a romantic relationship with a shipmate who has feelings for him. Both stories hit similar beats, but The Orville takes the story in its own unique direction, thanks to strong writing and sensitive performances by Penny Johnson Jerald and Mark Jackson. 

Claire chats with Talla about her feelings.

Love is where you find it

While aiding Claire with a medical journal paper, Isaac brings her a banana, noting that she “becomes cantankerous after 16:00 hours” if she hasn’t eaten, and also notes that she has changed her hair, an observation she clearly appreciates. Later on, they have a quiet chat after her son Ty’s piano recital, where Issac, who is Ty’s piano tutor, is very complimentary of his musical abilities and tells her she should proud of him. These early scenes seem relatively innocuous upon first viewing, but in retrospect it makes you wonder if Isaac was already attracted to Claire, but just didn’t understand.

Issac brings a banana for Dr. Finn, in some obvious foreshadowing.

Claire slowly begins to realize that she’s developing romantic feelings for Isaac. Unsure how to proceed, she visits Kelly, who–after reaching for a glass of wine and recovering from shock–wonders if Claire is projecting what she wants to see from Isaac. She tells Claire to take a shot, but reminds her that, “He can’t love. Make sure you don’t get hurt.”

Isaac is clearly The Orville’s Data analogue, and while the characters appear very similar on the surface, it’s the differences between them that help drive this episode. While Data strives to become more human and is a highly regarded member of the Enterprise crew, up until now Isaac has viewed all of his experiences more dispassionately, seeing his time on the Orville as nothing more than an assignment, and tends to interact with his shipmates in a very straightforward and sometimes blunt manner. That attitude is what initially informs his relationship with Claire.

Kelly’s advice is borne out by Isaac’s response when he agrees to go to the symphony with Claire, telling her that “such an outing would yield substantial data regarding human behavioral patterns.”

Having never gone on a date before, he seeks out the Orville’s resident lothario, LaMarr.  Isaac takes his advice to heart (as it were), and charms Claire by showing up for their date carrying flowers and dressed in slacks and a button-down shirt. On their way to the symphony, Claire tells Isaac she is nervous, and Johnson Jerald conveys that beautifully in her body language by the somewhat timid way she holds her hands.  It’s a very sweet “first date” moment, one of many little touches Johnson Jerald uses in her performance.

Isaac rocks his “corporate casual” look for Claire.

Would you?

At the symphony (a beautifully staged sequence in the Orville’s shuttle bay), the orchestra plays the classic “Singin’ In The Rain.” Later, over dinner in the simulator, Claire tells Isaac that the song reminds her of just how much she misses rain, and how the simulator on board the ship can’t really replicate the experience of being in a rainfall.

Because Isaac views the date as more of an experiment than an experience, he reveals to Claire that, in the interest of efficiency, he has downloaded her personnel file, begins rattling off various facts about her, and has adjusted the simulator environment based on that information – everything from the restaurant setting to the food they’re eating is based on what Isaac learned through researching her file. This puts Claire off a bit, telling Isaac that doing that robs the date of any kind of spontaneity and removes any of the excitement of getting to know someone for the first time.

Realizing that she was not satisfied with how their date went, Isaac tries to make adjustments, and gets advice from the bridge crew. Ed tells him he should try surprising her, and he and Kelly relate a story of how one time Ed had surprised Kelly by baking her a cake. Isaac, of course, takes this story literally, and shows up in Claire’s quarters at 3:00 a.m. with a chocolate cake and tells her he wants to take her on a date. Claire begins to realize that things aren’t going to work and that Isaac sees the relationship as nothing more than data, telling him “I can’t even kiss you.” She decides that it would be best if they returned to their previous platonic relationship.

Faced with another failed attempt, Isaac again seeks out LaMarr, who advises he take a more dramatic approach.

Claire receives a message to meet Isaac in the simulator, and when she arrives finds that he has run the restaurant program once again and programmed the simulator to have him appear as a human (played by Isaac actor Mark Jackson, finally able to show his face, whose British accent is more pronounced without the “machine” filter they use on his voice). He has also deleted all of his Claire-related background files, making things more spontaneous and allowing him to “discover” more about her. The effect on Claire is dramatic, and the pair share their first kiss and then consummate the relationship. A scene like this could easily become awkward and possibly laughable, but the direction and performances give it a great deal of emotional weight.

Afterwards, Claire talks to Kelly and Talla, telling them how great the experience was, how it’s “the best it’s ever been” for her sexually, and that she’s in love with Isaac.

Isaac, on the other hand, determines that he has successfully completed his task, and wants to end the relationship. He once again seeks advice from LaMarr, who tells him to make himself unappealing to her, so that she ends the relationship and “no one gets hurt, at least not as much.” This leads to one of those “should I laugh or shouldn’t I” scenes in Claire’s quarters, where she finds Isaac slouched on the couch, dressed in a “wife beater” undershirt and white underwear briefs. He behaves boorishly to Claire, who demands to know why he’s acting that way. He explains that he has now experienced “the full arc” of a human relationship, and because of that believes that their time together is at an end. A heartbroken Claire throws him out. The Orville has sometimes struggled with its attempts at “dramedy,” but I think it’s done perfectly here. The scene veers from one initially played for laughs to something far more serious, when we see how sad and upset Claire gets as she realizes just how little Isaac understands about relationships or the emotions at play.

“Android in an undershirt” – great name for an indie rock band.

I’ve grown accustomed to her face

Isaac experiences the fallout from his decision and is confused by it. He gets the cold shoulder from his shipmates and learns that Claire has gotten a new piano tutor for Ty. Mark Jackson has a tough assignment on this series, spending all of his time with his face completely covered (with the exception of one key scene in this episode) and denied the use of his face in order to emote, but he really shines here, as he’s able to convey Isaac’s confusion with a tilt of the head or a pause, as it becomes clear that he is no longer sure of himself.

Returning to the bridge, he makes an error while scanning a binary star, and runs a diagnostic to investigate the problem. He discovers that attempting to delete all of his Claire-related files (at her request) is the cause, and that due to the way his systems work, he has grown used to having her around and cannot simply “delete” his time with her. He is, effectively, attached to her. Ed advises him “be creative” to do what he can to win her back.

Claire then receives a call to the bridge, and when she arrives, Isaac plays “Singin’ In The Rain” over the ship’s speakers and activates the internal water system, causing it to rain. He apologizes to Claire, telling her that relationships only work when both people are trying, and that he would like to do just that. Claire asks why she should take him back, and he tells her that his internal systems would function more efficiently if she does, which Claire recognizes as the android equivalent of saying “my life is better with you in it.”  They kiss, and the episode ends with them entering the simulator, hand-in-hand.

Cute moment, but good thing the ship is self-cleaning.

I’m dancing and singin’ in the rain

Up to this point in the show’s run, Claire has been more of a caregiver to the crew and mother to her two sons, so it was great to see her step into the spotlight. Presumably, their relationship will be an ongoing part of the series, and watching them attempt to navigate it and learn from each other should make for some interesting stories.

Much like “In Theory,” a story like this can go south in a hurry if not handled with a great deal of nuance and care. Seth MacFarlane’s script tells a sweet love story that allows a very unconventional romance to evolve at its own pace, which is delivered by wonderful performances from Penny Johnson Jerald and Mark Jackson. Johnson Jerald runs a gamut of emotions, from puppy love to utter heartbreak, as Claire tries to wend her way through a very unique relationship. Her performance in this episode is my favorite of the entire series. Jackson’s performance is marked by small moments that say a lot, and it was a great surprise to see him come out from behind the mask, something I hope we see more of in the future.

This was a great episode and my favorite of the season thus far.

The Union Symphony in “A Happy Refrain”

Brief Bits

  • There are times when the show REALLY wears its Trek love on its sleeve. The establishing shot of the Orville at warp is framed exactly like many of the opening shots of the Enterprise in TNG.
  • Gordon convincing Bortus to grow a mustache and the crew’s reaction has nothing whatsoever to do with the central story but was a nice bit of comic relief.
  • Isaac bringing Claire a banana could be seen as a callback to the “anti-banana ray” gag.
  • Ty was playing Chopin’s “Chanson De L’adieu” at his piano recital.
  • The Union Symphony was portrayed by the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, which performs the music for The Orville.  The conductor is played by Mark Graham, an industry veteran and the show’s head of music preparation.
  • The Union Symphony played the “MGM Jubilee Overture”, a composition written in 1954 to commemorate the studio’s 30th anniversary, and features a medley of classic pop songs, including “Singin’ In The Rain.”
  • The ship’s simulator is getting a lot more use this season. It’s been seen as a restaurant, a bowling alley, and a place where the crew can get their groove on.
  • Much like his TNG counterpart, Isaac appears to be fully functional. No word on whether he too is programmed in multiple techniques.
  • Norm MacDonald comes out from behind the blob in this episode when Yaphit decides to follow Isaac’s lead and assume a human appearance while in the simulator.
  • Based on the amount of lingering beauty shots of the Orville throughout this episode, I’m guessing the show came in a bit light on time. 
  • According to LaMarr, the quantum drive engine makes a thousand trillion independent calculations every millisecond.
  • No human has ever visited Isaac’s home planet Kaylon 1, which is populated entirely with artificial life forms.
  • Isaac’s mission aboard the Orville is gathering data for the Kaylon for their assessment before joining the Planetary Union.
  • Claire is from Baltimore, Maryland.

Norm MacDonald as Yaphit in human form

Bortus will not be a part of any Movember celebrations any time soon

Orville visits a binary star system


Keep up with all the The Orville news, reviews and interviews at TrekMovie.com.

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Aus Trekker

Another brilliant installment from Seth and the team. The Orville continues to demonstrate its commitment to carrying on the Star Trek spirit.

Curious Cadet

@Aus Trekker — if by “brilliant” you mean a shameless knock-off of TNG’s “In Theory”, then I guess … 48 minutes struggling through a milquetoast rehash of a recycled idea with which MacFarlane and his writing staff of Trek veterans have clearly demonstrated they’ve run out of ideas. Of course, YMMV.

Cody

I prefer it over drastic new ideas like severed baby heads.

Curious Cadet

@Cody — ORVILLE already did severed heads … I recall they stabbed them repeatedly … so I guess DISC doesn’t go far enough for you then?

Jack

@Cadet Any reason why you’re being aggressive to folks who liked the episode?

slider

Probably one of those ‘fans’ who wants to hate on a legit Star Trek show.

slider

Yea.

Laughable Recruit

Wow so edgy, sorry you didn’t enjoy the episode

ST:EXP

I don’t see it as a shameless knock off. He’s giving his spin directly on TNG episodes. They aren’t hiding it. And you have to realize it’s presenting this format to a very new generation of TV viewers. It’s not just the 40 and 50+ year olds milling around these comments sections.

I’m very happy that this series exists. I’m enjoying it. I know what it is. I know what they’re trying to do.

I mean… Seth M. is on the actual TNG commentary track for the blu-ray episode of “Cause and Effect”. So I’m waiting for their take on that episode…

Michael Hall

Without having seen it this seems better to me than “In Theory,” frankly. At least there’s no silly, unrelated B-plot about crewmen getting killed by subspace technobabble. Nothing wrong with MacFarlane taking the material and making it his own.

slider

Discovery has ripped off every Trek show at least a dozen times already. The writers for STD have no creative ideas going and you’re criticising this show?!

Not only carrying it on, but expanding upon it.

How lucky are us Trekkies right now! Those of us who pine for the golden years of the early 90s have The Orville. Those of us who love Star Trek, but have an open mind to seeing what an expanded notion of its universe would be like have Discovery. And just around the corner, we have no less than three additional series in the bullpen, each of which sound radically different from each other. A Trek for every taste!

As much as I would love to see what a Quentin Tarantino version of Star Trek would look like on the silver screen, or to have just one more adventure with the Kelvin crew, for me personally it wouldn’t be the end of the world if neither of those came to pass—I’m pretty satisfied with the current state of affairs on TV! For my money, we are currently living in the FOURTH golden age of Star Trek, and as far as I’m concerned, The Orville proudly stands as a part of that expanding mythology.

Curious Cadet

@Scott Gammans — CBS got the message. Instead of suing Fox for copyright infringement, they’re giving nostalgic fans pining for the early 90s, Sir Patrick Stewart back. It will be interesting to see what happens to ORVILLE’s ratings when the Picard series debuts, assuming ORVILLE hasn’t been cancelled yet. At least they will presumably be treated to some decent writing and acting for a change,

You know you (and a few others) love trot this phrase out, “copyright infringement.” I’m tired of seeing that thrown around. The are tests for copyright infringement and they’re not exactly easy hurdles to pass. I’m no lawyer, but even a reasonably well informed person can see that you can’t copyright space ships that travel faster than light, color coded uniforms, and an idea of a galactic union of planets. These are all concepts used in science fiction before (and after) Trek existed. You may not like what they’re doing, heck CBS may not like it either for all I know, but you can’t go after something for having vague similarities.

kmart

Good points, MW. All you have to do is go back to 1978 and see when there were multiple lawsuits over BSG’s similarities to SW. After Fox sued BSG for copying, Uni sued Fox for ‘stealing’ the droids from SILENT RUNNING, something Lucas had openly admitted to when unsuccessfully courting Doug Trumbull to do his VFX.

Clearly BSG wouldn’t have happened without SW, but the fact that BSG creator Larson had pitched the show as ADAMA’S ARK in 1969 took them off the hook, even thought the style of the dogfights and other space stuff was clearly heavily-SW influenced (and actually shot by nearly all of core members of the SW VFX team, using the same equipment employed on SW.)

Having said all this in defense of ORVILLE, I still think Alec Peters is absolutely guilty of infringement and a lot of other things and believe he should have faced a significant punishment for just a fraction of his misdeeds. Compared to Peters, Trek poaching by the ORVILLE is amateur hour (but I sure wish the look of the ship interiors on the show was less TNG-inspired and more contrasty.)

kmart

Oh, yeah, I loved this episode.

skyjedi

I’m sure it has nothing to do with former members of ILM and Dykstra working on it, or Ralph McQuarrie. And Lucas feeling like he funded the R&d for Galactica.

kmart

with respect to VFX, the once and in many cases future ILM guys on BSG felt the Galactica work showed a great deal of refinement on what they did for STAR WARS. I interviewed Dennis Muren about 25 years back and he was still very proud of that shot with the three cylon raiders doing a flip and descend that you see on the credits.

Most of the ILMers who worked on those first hours of BSG were still invited back to ILM when it moved north to Marin for EMPIRE; most of the ones who weren’t invited stayed with Dykstra to form what later became known as Apogee.

Marja

But aerial dogfights are from WWI and WWII. Lucas said he wanted the dogfights in SW to be like those filmed in WWII and after.

As to infringement, what Matt said. Honestly, do you think FOX would have let McFarlane launch “Orville” without consulting their legal department?

Personally I wish the similarities to TNG weren’t SO obvious, but I enjoy the show. It’s very affectionate, even though some aspects of Seth’s world view as expressed on the show are ones I find a bit tiresome in parts (I am REALLY glad Kelly and Ed are getting along now.)

As for Mr Peters, less said the better. UGH.

Curious Cadet

@Matt Wright — I’m well aware. It’s part of what I do professionally. But fair enough, I’ll tone it down. It doesn’t mean that ORVILLE doesn’t walk a fine line on infringing IP though, a very fine line which they’ve likely crossed already.

Cadet

it’s fine you are not into the show. But if you are just here to troll and stoke up ORV v CBS Trek resentment, then I suggest you move on from the ORV reviews. If you don’t have anything to say about the episodes, then you are just trolling.

If CBS legal thought there were an IP infraction with Orville, it would have landed in the courts long ago. As long as Fox can make a reasonable argument for parody, there won’t be any action beyond strongly worded letters. I may be mistaken, but I recall that CBS tried to sure p0rn producers for their Trek knockoffs, and were rebuffed in their efforts on the parody defense.

ML31

I don’t think parody status makes any difference. You cannot copyright a genre or the idea of the “rogue cop who plays by his own rules” wouldn’t appear in countless movies and TV.

Denny C

It will be interesting to see how Picard impacts Discovery, not the Orville since the Picard series will likely outperform Discovery on All Access.

As for copyright infringement, the series wouldn’t have moved forward if FOX thought there was any real concern of lawsuits from Paramount and CBS for what is obviously an homage to Star Trek. That would be like AMC suing SyFy for Z Nation. MGM probably had more ground to stand on with “Forbidden Planet” when Star Trek launched in the late 1960s.

Afterburn

I agree there’s no infringement, but disagree with your second point. Lots of shows and movies hit theaters and TV screens and get sued, and if you google it, there’s probably 10-15 shows currently under suit for infringement by rival networks, writers, artists, and other creators.

Curious Cadet

@Afterburn — CBS has absolutely discussed whether to sue FOX over ORVILLE and continues to keep a watchful eye on it. However, major studios suing each other isn’t usually how it goes, unless it’s egregious enough. Fox is walking a fine line, most likely crossed it a time or two, and CBS is letting it slide in light of the bigger picture. Again, as I stated, they have likely taken a clue from ORVILLE in launching their own Picard show, for which ORVILLE has done nothing if not fuel a demand.

Jack

“CBS has absolutely discussed whether to sue FOX over ORVILLE and continues to keep a watchful eye on it.”

Source?

Marja

LOL, I wonder how many times the George Romero estate has sued every flippin’ zombie film/show/book out there

Afterburn

I’m no fan of this show but I don’t think “Picard” will have an affect on ratings. I don’t think anyone is watching orville as if it’s some sort of Star Trek methadone. I think people genuinely like it, and if another Trek series comes along they ALSO like, they’ll watch both.

Curious Cadet

@Afterburn — sure, the ever shrinking audience I’m sure likes it, Trek fans or no. However, there are many TNG fans who come here regularly to proclaim ORVILLE as “real” Star Trek in contrast to DISC. So make of that what you will.

Ad Astra Per Aspera

It’s worrying that you get slammed for making a negative comment about the show but people are freely allowed to decry Discovery, call it’s executive producers “hacks” and complain without making any new points….

Jack

Show me where CC or anyone else was “slammed” for making a single negative comment?

@AP “it’s fine you are not into the show. But if you are just here to troll and stoke up ORV v CBS Trek resentment, then I suggest you move on from the ORV reviews. If you don’t have anything to say about the episodes, then you are just trolling.”

@AAPA – yeah, I saw that, too. Hardly a day goes by when the usual suspects aren’t busy slamming Kurtzman produced Trek, singing the praises of Oroville as the real deal, with nary a warning about trolling. If you own the sandbox, you make the rules.

Cygnus-X1

Did somebody say Kurtzman-produced Trek

Ad Astra Per Aspera

Rather interesting that the site admins haven’t said anything about this- yet are very quick to come down on long standing members of this community who state they don’t like the show. The bias on display is staggering.

Orville’s ratings are tanking now. The Picard Show isn’t likely to siphon off viewers – as its been pointed out people are free to watch both shows.

Cygnus-X1

Phil

I just looked it up. The Orville’s ratings have been holding steady at a little over 3 million viewers for the past 4 episodes, after a drop-off from the season premiere, which is common. So, I don’t know how you’re characterizing that as “tanking.” For the sake of comparison, DSC appears to have a viewership of around half that of The Orville, based on the total number of CBSAA subscribers, which was just 2.5M in August.

ML31

A: This “copyright infringement” stuff is ridiculous. You cannot copyright a genre.
B: The Picard show will likely not affect Orville’s ratings one bit considering the Picard show is on the limiting All Access while Orville is on over the air Fox. Assuming Orville is even around next year. I do not know how its numbers are but the quality of the 2nd season has plummeted.

Michael Hall

Well-said on all counts, Mr. Gammans.

I like them both also. They are unique in their own way. What appeals to me the most about ANY story is its mythology (and scifi/space mythology is my favourite), and Star Trek has an extremely rich mythology – an effort to do Star Trek now like the Orville (with all the characters we know and love) is doomed to fail IMO (which is what TNG did BTW). It has gone far beyond that, which is why we have things like the the spore drive and the Red Angel (or even the Pah Wraiths or the Delta Quadrant or the Xindi).

The Orville is a new show with new characters and environment. So it can afford to start its own mythology and build it up over time. But once it has done that, coming back to a show like this I doubt would work.

GarySeven

I agree with Brian, thus was a sweet, funny, touching, and creative episode. And I agree with Aus Trekker too, the Orville is carrying on the Star Trek spirit. To me it’s like Star Trek, but after it has a drink or two.

To me it’s like Star Trek, but after it has a drink or two.

That’s great :-D

GarySeven

Thank you Matt. I love Shuttle Pod and all of you guys are great, but you’re my favorite of that talented crew.

HubcapDave

It’s carrying on Berman-era Trek format, not spirit.

kmart

hubcap,
To quote from David Gerrold’s pre-TNG comment about TV drama, BermanTrek is all about format becoming formula. BermanTrek was not about transcendence because it lacked any spirit-spark.

PEB

kmart you hit the nail on the head.

khambattafan

Thanks for that insight, Chakotay.

KevinA Melbourne Australia

HaHaHa! ‘To me it’s like Star Trek, but after it has a drink or two’
Summed up perfectly!

Danpaine

Excellent phrase. Absolutely right.

…..and a couple lines of coke, with a meth chaser.

Linda Thompson

I thought the bowling alley was a nod to TOS. The bowling alley on the blueprints that never made it into the series. I loved this episode.

I thought about that too :-)

Terrific episode. Very much a riff on TNG, but that’s not a problem, as I see it. This is the television equivalent of jazz — playing an old song in a new way.

CmdrR

My druthers would have this episode in pieces over several weeks. But, it’s an excellent boost to two characters who need one. I want to see Yaphit and Isaac fight over Claire. I really do. Yaphit never got to talk with her after their forced dalliance.

Curious Cadet

@CmdrR — you said it brother. Every time it came back from commercial, only to pick up the same story thread, I eventually became bored and exasperated. Even TNG’s “In Theory”, of which this was a painful rip-off, had a subplot that made such a lame story palatable. And to think this episode was actually about 6 minute shots longer than a regular TV episode.

Elmore F Smoak

Cadet:
“Every time it came back from commercial, only to pick up the same story thread”
-You mean like many shows? Isn’t that how most DSC episodes are? If you don’t like the show then don’t watch it, you don’t need to try to convince other people it’s bad.

Richard J. Mueller

I am sorry, but I am an avid Star Trek fan since the original and I found this episode largely unbearable. The premise and the acting were just not believable. It was terribly out of character for both Isaac and the Doctor. For me it is the worst Star Trek episode ever.

AJinMoscow

Still can’t get myself to watch it anymore after slogging through S1. It’s just too derivative of TNG.

PEB

To me, after trying to give it a chance, it always feels like the worst of Voyager episodes. Like it’s all going through the motions.

Elmore F Smoak

Why would you even bother commenting on a review for a show you don’t even watch?

Orville Fan & STD Anti-Fan

Well, too bad for you. But, as they say, one man’s derivative is another man’s treasure.

Ernie

Chanson De L’adieu, also known as Tristesse.

Another great review of this criminally-underrated series; thank you! Although I still maintain that The Orville is season eight of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I will admit that I used to add “with jokes“ to the end of that comparison. No more. It took about a dozen episodes, but I think it’s been clear with these past few installments that Seth MacFarlane has been consciously zeroing in on the ideal mix of humor and drama for this gift of a series. Still, up until last week, I was worried that the sweet spot would never be found. And then there was last Thursday’s episode. For me, this was the first installment where The Orville stepped out from the shadow of TNG and became it’s own unique creation. I won’t even try to match this eloquent review; suffice it to say, I laughed, I cried, and was genuinely moved by this story. Penny and Mark were nothing short of brilliant in this episode, and Seth (who both wrote and directed this installment) finally hit on the winning formula. Frankly, up until last Thursday I was just about ready to give up on the Isaac character altogether… he was so one-note and dreary and obnoxious. Now, I am now totally shipping the hell out of these two characters, and will be deeply disappointed if we don’t revisit this couple in future episodes. (psst… you guys really need to include a screenshot of Mark Jackson showing his face in the episode!) Remember what a fantastic fifth and sixth season we had with TNG, and (with one or two exceptions) what an utter disappointment the final season was? Up until last week, I felt like The Orville was the seventh season that we should’ve had all along. Now, with last week’s episode, I… Read more »

Curious Cadet

@Scott Gammans — I want a prescription for whatever you’re on. “Finally became it’s own unique creation” with the most derivative TNG episode yet? Presented in the most bland, plodding way imaginable? Wow. Enjoy it while it lasts, because based on this seasons ratings, it’s almost certainly going to get cancelled by FOX, and shelved by Disney.

Tiger2

Curious Cadet, maybe it would be nice not to attack everyone who likes the show? I don’t get people like you, you’re CONSTANTLY offended every time someone says one critical thing about Discovery but then you come here and remind everyone why The Orville is the worst show since Baywatch Nights and rip away anyone’s enjoyment of the show. At least realize your own hypocrisy over it.

The guy was pretty balanced and said he didn’t like the show until now. But you basically attacked him for enjoying it and telling him you can’t wait until its cancelled? Really?

And no I don’t expect a response from you, but I know you read them and most importantly you know I’m right. Uncalled for. You can give your opinion but stop trying to take people down a notch because they have the nerve to enjoy something you don’t. Why do people act like you have to choose one or the other? I say this as someone who thinks both The Orville and Discovery are just ‘OK’. It’s just so bizarre to me.

It’s all good, Tiger2. I feel sorry for the negative nellies for whom hating something isn’t enough—they also feel the need to put down anyone else not sharing that POV. Sad!

Tiger2

I just wish some people can be less hypocritical about these things. I hear constantly ‘well if you don’t like Discovery then don’t watch it’ and yet many of these same people do the exact same thing here and then have the gall to attack someone for simply saying they like something. Not just disagreeing, straight up questioning you for liking it. Its unreal.

Maybe they should take their own advice and simply not watch this since its clearly akin to having their teeth being pulled out weekly. I’m done.

The River Temarc

The reviewer says that based on this episode, ORVILLE surpasses TNG. Really? I mean, really? The show with the tin woodsman in his tighty-whities beats “The Inner Light?”

There are some episodes of the ORVILLE that I have enjoyed, but my reaction to this review is that I’ve got ask for some of that prescription as well.

On the positive side, I will say that for the first time, the show gave me a genuine belly laugh: “I don’t drink on duty.” “I’m in love with Isaac.” “Two glasses of Chardonnay, please.” And the staging of the orchestra scene was beautiful.

kmart

Temarc,
‘Surpassing’ by going in a different deeper direction with the same material, a direction that also seeks to reveal more about the human condition through its science fiction setting.

I make a connection with some (certainly not all) of the ORVILLE characters. That’s much more than I can say for DISCOVERY. As much as I like Tilly, I keep thinking she is Barclay-lite in her appeal … and that means except for Mount (going by the one free ep of s2), there’s nobody I’m engaged by. So at this point I’d characterize DSC as a failure in SF, as Trek, and as human drama. ORVILLE is a mess, but something that still periodically makes me smile or be happy for downer endings, which were the earmarks of TOS for me too.

Curious Cadet

@The River Temarc — There were some nice moments in this episode. But such moment do not a series make. I think every episode has some good moments, but overall MacFarlane just doesn’t seem to have figured out what this thing is supposed to be in general. I really enjoyed the idea of the last scene, with the rain on the bridge, but it was so ridiculous in context of the drama that I kept being taken out of it. One doesn’t really want that when trying to engage the audience.

Jack

Nope, nowhere in this review does it say, or even suggest, that Orville surpasses TNG (either this episode or overall).

“Both stories hit similar beats, but The Orville takes the story in its own unique direction, thanks to strong writing and sensitive performances by Penny Johnson Jerald and Mark Jackson.”

We live in a time where people are increasingly lying about what news stories are saying. Let’s not do that here.

Danpaine

Hear Hear, Tiger!

GarySeven

“As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.”

khambattafan

Yes, I have noticed CBS supporters on the internet, who say if you don’t enjoy Discovery, then just move on and let others enjoy it. Then these same people will bash The Orville at every opportunity, as an offensive rip-off of Star Trek (they also like to falsely claim that the episodes are filled to the brim with fart jokes, and invoke Family Guy). Folks, if someone sets out to do a tribute show to pre Abrams/Kurtzman Trek, you’re aren’t exactly breaking news by calling it a Star Trek rip-off. What makes it more than a “fan film” is MacFarlane and co. have implemented their own half-comedic sensibility. An episode like the last one finds the perfect balance of drama and comedy, is fresh enough with its timbre and story beats, that calling it just a retread of In Theory is disingenuous.

ML31

CC, you’ve hated the show since the pilot. I’m wondering why you continue to comment in the episode threads? This is not like Discovery which was trying to latch on to 50 years of fandom. This was a brand new product with no fans or loyalty behind it upon startup. I mean, I’ve read a Trek comic book and novel or two and have no desire to to into the article threads about them and start ripping on them about how pathetic they are and openly tell people I want those things they may or may not enjoy to vanish. I’m thinking that you must be secretly watching this show you say you hate every week. Therefore, there MUST be something you find promising in it…

ML31

“but I think it’s been clear with these past few installments that Seth MacFarlane has been consciously zeroing in on the ideal mix of humor and drama for this gift of a series. ”

I think it is clear what he wanted to do from day one. Based on how Fox marketed the show (especially the firs season) I think he sold the show as more comedy than drama and has been slowly reversing that since the pilot. S2 is more like what I think he wanted from the beginning. And it’s not working. For this show the ideal mix of humor and drama is a LOT of jokes and little bit of drama. But that is not what Seth wanted.

I respectfully agree to disagree, ML31. Exhibit A: “Krill” and “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes”. Change the characters (substitute Picard for Mercer and Barclay for Malloy) and I could see these two episodes as season 6 and 7 TNG installments.

ML31

OK. But what set “Krill” apart was the fact that it had a number of jokes that actually landed. TNG never did a comedy. The closest they came was whenever Q showed up. And even then it was only moments.

kmart

The first couple Barclay shows were very funny. But you’re right, most of the laughs I associate with TNG have to do with painfully bad performances (sorry, but Picard’s mindmeld with Sarek just busted me up, to the point I was almost crying I laughed so hard) and hokey VFX (CONSPIRACY has a phaser beam that must take two seconds to cross a room, it just crawls.) Oh, and the Worf lines. I really dug a lot of Worf’s lines, owing to the delivery.

ML31

Worf’s best line was a Q episode… “Captain, I protest. I am NOT a merry man!”

kmart

‘I don’t understand their humor either’ is still the only intentional laugh-out-loud line I remember from s1.

Tiger2

That line Worf says seems to become iconic lol. That line and ‘Death to the opposition’ when he played baseball against the Vulcans on DS9 are the ones I see constantly repeated.

ML31

For me and my buddies, the 2nd most repeated Worf line is “If you were any other man I would KILL you where you stand!”

Come to think about it, Worf had all the iconic TNG lines it seems!

Tiger2

I meant in terms of the comedic one. I think that line for FC is definitely a more memorable quote in general. Especially since he was saying it to Picard at the time.

Jack

I like the comedy parts — when it works, it’s a solid workplace comedy where the workplace happens to be space (and it’s not in any way a Trek spoof, as some others keep calling it here). It works when the comedy comes from the characters. They’re funny.

I wasn’t crazy about the heavy-drama episodes. To work, I think they have to be really, really well done and have solid, important ideas (which I’m not sure Birthday and Fishes had).

Cygnus-X1

I’m still rooting for this show to get better and come into its own, and like I said, I’m happy that people liked this episode. But, I’m honestly perplexed as to how people can be familiar with TNG and also be so impressed by “In a Happy Refrain.” If I’d never seen TNG then I’d find some of the concepts in “Refrain” intriguing. But, the main sci-fi conceit of Isaac’s pathways becoming used to Claire’s input is lifted from TNG’s “Legacy” (Data explains to Ishara Yar how his pathways come to anticipate input from people, which is missed when absent). “Refrain” takes that TNG/Data concept from “Legacy” and pastes it onto Isaac in an Orville episode that imitates the plot of yet another TNG episode, “In Theory.” As such, there is nothing original about the dating-an-AI plot of “Refrain” until the ending. I’m genuinely curious as to how one can be familiar with TNG and also be impressed by this Orville episode. What’s the appeal of this episode? Is it mostly charm? Do people just like the characters a lot, and it doesn’t matter that you’ve heard the story before? I really wanted to like the ending, which was obviously going for a nice feeling. But, like I said, it just sends such a bad message thematically vis-a-vis the human condition.

Jack

There’s nothing that’s totally original, period. Shakespeare borrowed like crazy. The art is in how you tell the story.

Cygnus-X1

Jack

Yeah, but I’m not saying it’s all-or-nothing. Taking a general concept and developing it into a new thing is all well and good. “Refrain” takes its main sci-fi theme (Isaac’s computer pathways getting used to Claire’s input) and nearly its entire plot from two TNG episodes and a VOY episode. And this is on top of the character, Isaac, already being a knock-off of TNG’s Data. The only thing original about “Refrain” is that its thematic statement (a happy ending for Claire and Isaac) is a reversal of “In Theory.” And, as I explained above, I think it sends a bad message to have Claire entering (after she already knows better) into a one-sided relationship with a machine that can’t share her feelings and is, by his own admission, only in it for his own upkeep. It’s a matter of degrees and what you do with the concepts that you lift. As T.S. Elliot said: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

chris-leo

LOVED the episode. I also disagree with one point of this critique. The b-story with Bortus’ mustache had everything to do with the main story, because Clyden HATED it, ‘causing tension in their marriage, and making Bortus shave it off, finally, to keep a happy home. So that story spoke, as did the Finn/Isaac story, to the changes, negotiations, and compromises we make in mating.

kmart

Hey, that’s a sharp observation. Good one, C-L!

another angle

Hate to say this, but the mustache didn’t cause tension, but continued the tension in Bortus and Klyden’s marriage. Those two have been through so much, and yet they keep on trying to make their marriage work, not only for themeselves and Topa, but for Moclan and Union relations as well.

kmart

It spiked the tension. Believe me, I had a similar experience when I had a weird skin sensitivity and stopped shaving for three weeks. My wife was like, you’re not coming to bed with that growth on the lower half of your face!

Jack

It bothers me a little that Clyden’s become a one-note, stereotypical, nagging sitcom wife. What does he actually do all day? And are all Moclan marriages this one-sided and miserable?

ML31

I got the impression he’s a stay at home mom. And yet another thing this show lifts from TNG. Families and schools on board. Which they could have considerable fun with if they wanted to go back to making jokes again…

Nishi

We already saw this in ST:NG when Data explored dating. It was a weird and unbelievable then and it was especially so in The Orville, although it had funny moments like Isaac being a slob in underwear.

Tiger2

Its definitely weird lol. Someone like Claire would be snatched up in a minute on that ship and out of all people she falls for Issac. But I won’t lie, I’m curious to see where they will take it now.

ML31

That was the funniest scene of the season and this season needs a ton more of that type of gag. I guess I’m in the minority here when I say I do NOT want a TNG clone. I want FUNNY Orville back.

therizino

Bortas with a mustache can be seen as a call out to Data growing a beard

J_Randomuser

Great episode, laughed out loud multiple times. The best joke easily was Norm McDonald actually making an appearance as the holo-projection of Yafat. Flipping hilarious.

Its a love letter to the Berman era, and I’m thankful for it!

Danpaine

That Norm McDonald scene was great, as was the beer-drinking on the couch scene. This episode knocked it out of the park for me.

90s trek

Yeah, this one worked out really well. I enjoyed it. Orville is best when it’s doing slice of life suff like this. It’s when it tries high concept stuff like last week it becomes a tonal nightmare. More of these character pieces , less crazy zodiac sign people.

ML31

Disagree. Orville is at its best when it is laced with FUNNY jokes. Be them dick jokes or otherwise. This entire season, with precious few exceptions, has been a snoozefest. I’m wondering how the numbers are. Part of me is hoping the ratings are dipping and if they get a 3rd season order they realize the mistakes they made and return to being more of a comedy.

Elmore F Smoak

“I’m wondering how the numbers are.”
-That’s the second time you have said that in this comment section. You know instead of trolling you can just look that up right? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Orville#Episodes

ML31

Yes. Because I have not been able to find out what the numbers have been. I’ve looked it up on line but the best I found was the premier episode ratings. Nothing since. Never occurred to me to look at Wikipedia as I don’t 100% trust what Wikipedia says about things. I’ve seen some incorrect data there. I’d rather find a more reliable source, thank you.

Elmore F Smoak

I don’t think there is global conspiracy to fake orville ratings on the wiki. Doesn’t matter though since next to all the ratings they have those weird number things in brackets like [47]. Those are call are “references” that point to “reliable sources”.

ML31

Wikipedia is not a reliable source. Period. The references are more reliable than anything found on that site. But I prefer to just look for the source directly. You want to trust wikipedia, fine. I don’t.

kmart

With the way popular or off-stated views become facts, it’s best to quadruple check everything, especially if you start with wiki or imdb.

Plus there are a lot of very reliable places that still offer numbers that defy history. The fact that all the sites now say TMP made 139 mil — even though all through the early and mid 80s, the 175 worldwide number was solid.

kmart

And what I really find troubling is that 139 figure seems to take form after the threatened audit of Paramount’s books by Shatner & co around 1985, which suggests that the 175 figure got revised downward officially to 139 before anybody could confirm the books had been getting cooked. The very solid figure of 55 or 56 in domestic rentals by the start of 1980 translates out to a domestic gross of between 110 and 135 milf, depending on whether you use the 2x or the then-popular 2.5x multiplier. Considering that TMP was the one TOS film that actually did business outside the US, that seems to make the int’l earning very meager indeed, and therefore questionable. Again, 175 seems like a very reasonable number, with 139 pretty darn low — but 139 is a number that makes it seem like TMP might actually be in the red, given the 44-46 mil they usually admitted as the budget and the idea that you have to make 3x budget to break even with cost of prints and advertising (and TMP did have a record number of prints, something like 850.)

Jack

Yeah, I’m wondering if he toned down the comedy after gripes from people on sites like this. Note to anyone making a show: stay off the Internet.

I like when the jokes make sense in the universe of the show. And they’re increasingly seeming to.

ML31

No, I think he toned down the comedy as the show went on last season and this season is more like what he wanted to do from day one. I feel like he had to sell it to FOX as more comedy than drama. But eventually he wanted to just remake TNG.

Colin

I liked this episode, especially so after watching Discovery. Discovery is a darker show, so it is good to end the night with lighter fare.

Jovy

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this show! First-rate team of writers. Clever and witty.

Tiger2

I been watching every episode this season but sadly I been disappointed with most of them (although I haven’t hated any of them). But I must say this one I truly loved! It was a great episode and yes, ‘heart warming’ is probably the word. I did think about the episode In Theory (and crazy enough rewatched it a month ago) but unlike that one, this one did a much better job IMO because I actually did feel for bad for Claire. Data is obtuse but he at least acknowledges when he has hurt someone. Issac only sees it as another observation he can learn so it hit hard when he never took in her feelings in, especially when they slept together. They never got that far on TNG and it was mostly a crush/getting over someone else type of situation. Here it hit harder although you can’t blame Issac. He is what he is.

As absurd as the whole thing is, it was nice to see them together again holding hands. I have not been that absorbed in the show but this one and Home have easily been the best for me. Now I’m curious to see how they are going to play them off for the rest of the season.

Cygnus-X1

Ugh… Well, I’m glad somebody liked this episode.

“A Happy Refrain” doen’t just resemble TNG’s “In Theory;” it’s a knock-off with a different ending and no B-story. All of the aping of TNG up to this point has seemed like the sincerest form of flattery. But “A Happy Refrain” is so similar to TNG, apart from its ending, that it’s given me the impression that Seth MacFarelane really needs help in the writing department. If “A Happy Refrain” were a parody of “In Theory,” or even if it were mainly a comedic episode, then there wouldn’t be a problem. But, it’s a serious episode with about as much humor as the original (“In Theory,” that is). The high point of “A Happy Refrain” is the beginning bit about Worf’s — err… I mean Bortus’s mustache, which is funny until nagging, hen-pecking, whiny Clyden enters the story to nag, hen-peck and whine until Bortis gets rid of it. Gosh I wish they’d kill off Clyden. That would be awesome, and no one would be expecting it. Anywho… what’s really ludicrous about “…Refrain…” is that Finn even says that her mother taught her to “have an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out,” and then, what else does Finn do at the end of the story but let her brain fall out? “In Theory” showed us the cold, hard truth about AI — they don’t have emotions. . .

Cygnus-X1

(cont.) You can try to project your own emotions onto an AI, as Jenna (“In Theory”) and Finn both do, but you’re only fooling yourself. That’s the lesson of “In Theory,” and it’s a good lesson. If you let yourself fall in love with a machine, when the machine doesn’t love you back, that should teach you your lesson. Unlike Jenna in “In Theory,” Claire decides to ignore the lesson at the end of “Refrain” in an absolutely foolish Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky, happily-ever-after musical ending that sends exactly the wrong message about the human condition vis-a-vis AI. “Refrain” also sends the wrong message about being a good judge of character, so much so that it plays like a rebuttal to Maya Angelou’s famous line: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” And then there’s the nonsense about Isaac not being able to live without Finn. Sheeesh give me a B-RAKE. The super advanced AI, who regards humans as lesser lifeforms, can’t get over a week-long pseudo-romantic relationship that he undertook purely as research, in which he never had any vested interest? Come on, man. But, let’s put that aside…

Cygnus-X1

(cont.) Let’s grant that Isaac isn’t looking out for Claire’s best interests, but only his own. So, when for no good reason, Isaac can’t get over his brief stint with Claire, he decides, despite having hurt her the last time, to go back for more. And, Claire, of course, decides to ignore her mother’s very good advice about not letting your brain fall out. All of Claire’s co-workers at this point should take Claire aside and be good friends by telling her that this fella just can’t give her what she wants, needs and deserves. And, why did they all get bitchy and bad-mouth Isaac when he broke up with Claire, anyway? Don’t they know perfectly well that Isaac is no more capable of having feelings about Claire than they are each capable of shutting their own emotions off? It’s like getting angry at your dog when it fails to help you with your taxes. The whole thing is so stupid.

Cygnus-X1

I’m really not understanding what MacFarlane is trying to do or thinks he’s doing with The Orville. He’s scaled back the comedy so much that the episodes are now just knock-offs of TNG episodes rather than parodies of them or satires in their own right. And TNG did these stories soooo much better. I mean, it’s like Justin Bieber doing Beatles covers. The main problem with The Orville in its first season was its internal conflict between humor and sci-fi. In Season 2, that conflict seems to have been resolved by making the show a TNG knock-off. The season opener, “Ja’loga” was OK. “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting the Fishes” had some nice moments. I think “Home” was the high point of the season so far. Of the other three episodes, one is a cautionary tale about alien porn and the other two are TNG knock-offs. Look at the TNG concepts that been lifted to make this series — warp drive, holodeck/simulator, replicators, the Federation/the Planetary Union, shuttle craft, the uniform color coding (albeit with a variation in the colors), Worf/Bortis, Data/Isaac… If The Orville isn’t a TNG parody, and it’s not a TNG-inspired satire, then what’s it trying to be? If it’s really trying to be a TNG knock-off, then I guess it’s succeeding. But, if that’s the extent of the show’s ambitions, it seems like a waste of talent and resources.

Marja

LOL I like your analogy with the dogs and taxes! I was equally puzzled by the bridge crew’s bitchy reaction, and (as kmart says below), Mercer talking shite behind Isaac’s back a couple of eps ago.

kmart

Cyg, try doing a DS9 look at this. Clare is like root beer. She grows on him. For all we know, she may be the pivot point in the future when his people decided to shut down the human race for the good of the galaxy and he has to choose sides (again, like odo/kira on ds9, now that I think of it.)

I’m not disagreeing with your observations … just coming to a different conclusion. My wife trots out that Angelou line like clockwork about all sorts of things … but she still loves me despite my massive failings. A really advanced AI might have a subroutine that is long inactive due to no need for it, and the doctor pushed that figurative button. I don’t know where the ORVILLE is ultimately going (tho I’d guess cancellation is most likely to happen before a happy ending), but it might just be as simple as ‘love conquers all’ turns out to be the theme of the show.

Cygnus-X1

kmart

it might just be as simple as ‘love conquers all’ turns out to be the theme of the show.

But, AI’s can’t love! They can’t even like! Advocating a one-way loving relationship with someone who can’t empathize with you to even the slightest degree, let alone love you back, is a terrible message to be sending to people, unless you’re trying to ruin their lives. Maybe if Isaac were a poor, downtrodden basket-case who desperately needed someone to love him, then, at least, one could find Claire’s kindness toward him redeeming. But, Isaac never had any need nor even any desire for Claire! She’s the one who desperately needs someone to love her. And it’s nothing short of a tragedy for her to delude herself into continuing a relationship with Isaac after she’s seen major red flags and already gotten out of it once relatively unharmed. It’s all a terrible message to be sending, like advising someone to go back to their wife-beating boyfriend after they’ve managed to get out alive.

kmart

Once you push the number of connections beyond a certain point with computers, you can (in sci-fi stories) get them to wake up. I’m not saying consciousness bestows emotional capacity, but what if it contributes? I don’t think I can wholly buy the blanket ‘ai can’t love’ thing, not in the ORVILLE universe anyway. The fact Mercer has been a little snotty talking behind Isaac’s back an episode or two ago really set my teeth on edge, as it was beyond unprofessional, and the captain was not under extraordinary outside influence at the time, so there is no convenient excuse either. I can’t see why they’d go there unless there is some reverse coming.

Cygnus-X1

kmart

I think that Isaac’s own statements about himself, his own reactions to humans and his own behavior — having no compunction whatsoever about mimicking a romance with Claire purely for the sake of gaining information — shows us that he is incapable of empathy or love. If Isaac were human, we’d describe him as a sociopath. If the show (or anyone) wants to make the claim that AI are capable of love, then they really need to offer some sort of rationale for why we should believe it. Because a machine feeling love doesn’t make sense without some sort of explanation. And frankly, that’s a tall order that sci-fi writers for decades haven’t tried to fill. The point of AI in sci-fi, dramatically speaking, is typically that they can’t feel human emotions. And why would they? Emotions like love are the product (per our limited understanding) of extremely complicated endocrine and neurological functions that have arisen out of mammalian evolution. The feeling of social “warmth” is a definitively mammalian attribute. If they’re going to sell us on a computer being warm and loving, I’m going to need some sort of explanation beyond electrical signals taking the path of least resistance and corrupted data files.

Cygnus-X1

Also, AI’s not being able to feel human emotions is typically their reason for being in the story — precisely because they are different in that significant way from humans and thereby teach us something about ourselves.

kmart

Your points are AI in Sci-Fi are all good, and taken. But I still think that since we know little about his tin kin or about the political/diplomatic situation between Our Guys and His, that there could be plans within plans or whole aspects of silicon culture that haven’t been delved into. (They may not even have been thought up yet, for that matter.) The original, seriously weak ending for TMP had vger realizing it couldn’t or wouldn’t learn anything from us, and just departing. We don’t know the motivations for why Isaac is really aboard outside of what’s been said, which seems more like a launching point for a reverse than a good explanation.

Cygnus-X1

kmart

Well, I hope they take some of your ideas about Isaac and incorporate them into the show ASAP. As of now, I can only react to what I’m actually seeing.

ML31

I don’t recall if this was The Simpsons or Futerama but I recall some chaotic scene where a robot was running around on fire saying “why oh why was I programmed to feel pain?”

Cygnus-X1

ML31

LOL — I remember that. It was The Simpsons.

ML31

I think it’s supposed to be funny. The problem is, the jokes weren’t landing so it just came across as mean spirited. More so since they are trying to be a more serious show.

kmart, that’s exactly my pet theory. The Kaylon will turn out to be sinister, and Issac will choose to help his crew (and his “love”) triumph in the ensuing conflict. (Frankly, at one point during the episode I thought this plot line would start playing out.)

kmart

And just to be contrary, it could be Isaac will side with his kind, and Claire will have to drill him with a zap gun. There’s a lot of reverses for the sake of reverses on the show, kind of a MAN FROM UNCLE compulsion, so a lot of them don’t seem that shocking because you know SOMETHING has to monkeywrench things.

Marja

I had that thought too.

ML31

” or even if it were mainly a comedic episode, then there wouldn’t be a problem.”

That is my main complaint about the entirety of season 2. Without the humor, the show is a bland TNG rip off. I don’t want a TNG rip off. I don’t even want to see TNG come back.

Marja

I just hope when they do re-institute humor, that it’s less ‘junior high guy stuff’ and actually witty. I don’t mind the working man’s humor, as it were, commenting humorously on aspects of the job, but the humor was a very awkward fit in Season 1.

ML31

I didn’t find the humor awkward in season 1 at all. The show skewed towards comedy. So the gags and goofy solutions worked. The jokes this season have been far more awkward. “2 minutes and we’re a baked potato!” Was the audience supposed to laugh? Was that supposed to lighten up a tense situation? The joke wasn’t even funny. Season 2 feels like they may not exactly know what they are yet. Season one felt like they knew exactly what they were.

kmart

You can also futurize contemporary expressions to take the uncomfortable edge off anachronistically modern dialog in SF. I’m always uncomfortable hearing the expression ‘out of gas’ in far future stuff, it even made me wince on FIREFLY in an ep I dearly love. So I remember that in the first spec script I sent to TNG, that upon hearing of yet another special alert from Starfleet, I had Riker mutter, “Someone’s probably lost a tribble,” a riff on Bond’s “Someone’s probably lost a dog” in THUNDERBALL when Moneypenny tells him every Double-0 agent in Europe has been called in.

kmart

There’s also a component with ORVILLE that for me, defies expectations with what gets a laugh out of me. It is kind of an indefensible position, but I liken it to Harlan Ellison admitting he found something charming in the immensely mega-(meta?) stupid moment in ICE PIRATES when a robot gets kicked in the nuts. Not sure the same material would work if in other hands or universes. We’re a long ways out from 1967 when TREK could go from hard drama and action-adventure to A PIECE OF THE ACTION and I, MUDD and somehow keep most of the audience along for the ‘ride’ without getting the flinch/dismissal that comes even a year later with SPOCK’S BRAIN.

CaptCrash74

I know it is not a big detail, but did anyone notice the LP album cover framed in Kelly’s office?
It is Journey’s 1981 Escape album.
Kind of neat, considering the theme has always integrated and used the 20th century music rock genre.

Denny C

That’s a great cover, too. It’s about as 80s as it gets.

Danpaine

What a great album.

Marja

I remember Ed telling Cassius, Kelly’s boyfriend, to play her some Journey song for the sake of romance. Last thing I’d want, but YMMV :^)

Spiked Canon

This and the holodeck orgy episode will be the reason this show doesn’t get a 3rd season. It REFUSES to take itself seriously which irritates me. I know it’s Seth McFarlane, but it’s his dream to have a “Star Trek” show and he’s blowing it. This could be a GREAT show!

ML31

I think we are getting mixed messages from season 2. The problem is the show IS taking itself too seriously. In EVERY episode! The show only works when it is funny. The biggest laugh this season came in this episode so at least that. But it was the only big laugh of the season. Every other gag (that worked) elicited a mere chuckle. And there haven’t been many of those, either. One, maybe two per episode. A pretty shoddy ratio.

Marja

Personally I thought the parody of TOS’s ‘Amok Time’ [Bortus must return to his home planet for the Pee Ritual] was quite funny.

ML31

That worked well as a joke in the first season. But setting up an entire episode around it just didn’t work. It DID have potential but Seth didn’t use it. The whole show could have been the crew laughing at the pee ritual in one way or the other. Maybe even learning something in the end. They did something similar on the Mary Tyler Moore Show making fun at a somber situation. The episode Chuckles Bites the Dust was super funny.

Jack

” The whole show could have been the crew laughing at the pee ritual in one way or the other. Maybe even learning something in the end.”

No. No way, The episode wasn’t about the ceremony. The ceremony was just a plot device for the character stuff. And it totally worked.

I also don’t think it was a parody of Amok Time, in any way. The show takes it seriously. And nothing is being mocked.

ML31

No. You misunderstand. I did not say they were mocking it. I said they SHOULD have. Such a ceremony was rife with material for laughs. Yet they didn’t go there at all. And because of that I found the episode amazingly dull.

Jack

I understood what you said — I just think it worked as a ‘day in the life of’ show.

Someone else above said it was mocking Amok Time — and I don’t think it is. And I don’t think it needed to. Just my opinion.

ML31

I see the Amok Time connection. I wouldn’t say it parodied it. First of all, it needs to actually make fun of the ceremony to parody it. That episode didn’t do that at all. And next, if they did decide to make fun of Bortus’ pee ceremony, the Amok Time connection would only be peripheral at best, the way I see it.

ML31

This was the best episode of the season. However thus far that has been a very low bar to set. ISSAC’s break up stunt in Claire’s quarters was the funniest bit in the season. But that was the only real highlight of the episode. This show is now living entirely on the goodwill it generated from the first season. Season 2 has been a HUGE let down. There is no need for a pale TNG ripoff. But making it light with humor and gags sets it apart. They have moved away from that.

I’ve said it before and will say it again. Orville works best as a comedy with dramatic bits rather than a drama with comedic bits. This is painfully obvious at this point. For the love of God… Bring back the jokes!

Adam

Ugh… I was skeptical of this episode going in (as I was of TNG’s “In Theory”), and it met my rather low expectations. Couldn’t see the chemistry between Finn and Isaac, couldn’t take the “now that he’s a hot guy I’m in love with him” reaction from Finn, and could see the breakup coming a mile away. And now they’re “back together” based on making it rain? Sorry, but I like a lot of the Orville; Isaac seems like nothing more than a poor man’s Data…

ML31

To each his own. I find Issac WAY more interesting than Data ever was.

Marja

To me, they’re interesting in different ways. So far Isaac has been a total robot, created brilliant but unfeeling. Watching him and Claire navigate a relationship should be interesting. They will only be able to relate sexually in the Simulator, for one thing. Otherwise, unless Isaac learns human body language, it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.

I was very annoyed by Isaac’s voice at first; that did indeed seem like a straight-up copy of Data. I’ve gotten used to it now. I still wish they’d made a different choice, perhaps having the robot speak British English, for one [since the actor is British to begin with].

ML31

The Data connection was pretty obvious. As is the entire look and feel of the show. But I like the idea of ISSAC being from a planet of artificial beings rather than a one of a kind robot that no one can reverse engineer for some goofball reason.

kitbashcanon

Another great episode, and maybe Isaac can lose the mask more often? Lots of nice little humorous touches. I liked the banana gift…I get “hangry” too sometimes. I was half expecting the “is that a banana in your pocket?” joke to surface, but none of the resident comedians were in the scene.

Marcelo

The Orville can be uneven as it continues to find its footing, but this was a phenomenal episode, mostly because of Penny Johnson Jerald who is just sensational. Your observation of her first date body language is spot on, and after seeing her as Sherry Palmer and Kasidy Yates, it’s nice to see a different side of her range as an actor.

The actor playing Isaac was also excellent, not just in robot form but in human form as well. It’s amazing what the eyes can do to give character to someone.

The ship beauty shots did pad the time a bit, but they’re all super gorgeous – Orville is really taking its beauty shots to heart this season – my sense is they asked for a bigger effects budget and got it, and they’re showing off how much prettier they can make the show. Imagine if TNG had those visuals…

Curious Cadet

@Marcelo — while I agree with you that the actors are what sell these poor stories, one has to be careful what focuses the audience’s attention. In an effort to latch onto anything interesting I began to take note of the performances, particularly the subtleties of Issac’s movements (reminiscent of Data of course, but unique in their own way). I was delighted to see the holographic transformation of the character, and thought that was an amazing way to ‘skin’ someone, going a step further than changing the persons skin tone as we saw in VOY.

I would actually disagree that they got a bigger effects budget. In some ways I feel like the effects are not as good as they were last season. Given the broadcast ratings, it’s unlikely they got a much bigger effects budget. It seems like a lot more “bottle shows”, so to the extent they are spending more, it’s likely they’re moving the money around more effectively.

Marja

‘Bottle shows’? They’ve been on a planet in several episodes so far this season.

In fact the central government buildings in ‘Birthday Cake’ looked a lot like nuTrek’s Starfleet Academy ;^)

Tiger2

I almost think Curious Cadet is getting paid to put the show down lol. At least be accurate about it. You’re right, the last THREE episodes before this one all took place on a planet. In fact, I think only two so far this season has taken place completely on the ship.

ML31

I’m stunned he is even still watching it. At least his post suggests he watches it. The thing is, if I watch a full season of a new (or not part of an existing franchise) show and it’s bad, I don’t watch it anymore. Not sure why he is such a glutton for punishment. Sometimes it only takes a few episodes for me to abandon shows.

Tiger2

What’s funny is I had a few people telling me (who all seem to be gone now) I should stop watching Discovery last season because I was simply critical of it. But yet they would ignore ANY praise I gave the show or anytime I said something positive about it, only focused on my negative issues (which admittedly was a lot lol). But the point I’m making is if I really hated the show or just WANTED to hate the show there would be nothing in it I would’ve found redeeming in the first place. I would only be focused on the negative all the time and nothing more. Or put down anyone who was positive about the show, which I have never done. If that’s ALL I was doing, then yeah I would’ve agreed with them why am I watching it? But I wasn’t watching it to hate it, I was watching it as a fan to hopefully see it improve, which I feel like its doing now if still not great.

I think people critical of both Discovery and Orville probably want to like them end of the day. But if you hate literally everything about it and basically waiting for it to be cancelled to gloat about it instead of just wanting it to be improved, then that tells you everything about their motives frankly. That’s the point you do wonder why are they watching it then and every week at that? I guess boredom maybe but I think literally just to put it down. ‘Hate watching’ is a real thing but something I never understood myself.

ML31

Last season I was told to not watch Discovery myself many times. I could not stand what I saw. Yet here I am checking out the 2nd season. Had I hated Orville right from the start and it lasted the entire season, I would have bailed for the 2nd. The difference? I had no previous investment in The Orville. Star Trek carries with it nearly 50 years of being a fan. I see Discovery as following my favorite sports team even during years that they suck. You watch and grumble but are hoping to see them get better.

Cmd.Bremmon

This show looks as bland and boring as TNG/Voyager.
Pass.

Orville Fan & STD Anti-Fan

Enjoy your STD. I will enjoy Orville at least as many seasons as TNG/Voyager, hopefully.

Ratings are not suggesting a seven year run for Orville, even by Fox’s low standards.

slider

Same with Discovery (wink).

slider

Thank you!

slider

For all those whiners out there…

Sorry, don’t want to sound like a Discovery fan (wink).

Michael Hall

This actually sounds quite nice. I’ll look forward to giving it a look.

Danpaine

Loved it. That whole moustache/fire department conversation on the bridge was great. Once again, I come away from the episode feeling upbeat and lighter than when I went in. Some very humorous dialogue going on in this one, with a warm sentimental tone. Nice work, Orville. This show hits me in all the right places.

Marja

I gotta say, Bortus rocked that mustache

Orville Fan & STD Anti-Fan

Exactly. That’s something Trek was able and used to do, i.e making the viewer feeling good after watching it. Orville seems to be achieving that same effect. Kudos to Seth & Orville Team.

Tiger2

I did lol when I saw the mustache. I’m not in love with Bortus like so many seem to be but he is growing on me.

Kev-1

Thought they did this one as well as they could without getting sidetracked into a “robots can’t love” premise — they took it a bit further than that. Great laugh when he knocked over the table. I’m guessing they must have drawn CGI water over the set? Like the individual stories — sometimes you get clinkers, sometimes bits of greatness. I expected zero from this series and have really enjoyed it.

kmart

If that was CG water, it was the best ever. Looked to me like they really soaked that control room set, there was the little splashbackandups that you see when you pay attention to droplet behavior.

Combination of real water and CG water. They rained down on people on a green screen stage sitting in replicas of their bridge chairs. Then, they were composited into the bridge set, and CG water drops were added for the control panels.

https://twitter.com/TomCostantino/status/1091215661605552128

Kev-1

Thanks. Couldn’t see them watering those panels.

Yeah it looked super real, as I was watching I kept thinking “no way! no way they’re ruining the set for this.”

kmart

Wow! and again for emphasis Wowwee wow wow! If there was a series called BEAT THE VFX GEEKS this should have been a ‘explain how this was done’ question.
Sincerely,
(almost) totally jaded writer of VFX articles

Hugh Phistagash

Finally an episode that wasn’t a snooze fest.

Joshua J. Slone

I really loved this episode. The similarities to Data and the specific TNG episode are apparent, but to me this was a case of a familiar premise allowing the differences to stand out. The more I see of Isaac, the more Brent Spiner’s data seems emotional–both from his increased capacity to use standard human facial expressions, and that while Data was always said to be without emotions he clearly acted out of desires for personal growth and to become more human which give him a simple emotional component. And yet with all this apparent humanity, Data’s attempt at a relationship went nowhere fast. Isaac, on the other hand, is unabashedly robotic and does not want to be anything else. And yet, even his pragmatic robotic actions were enough to form a close connection to Claire and her sons over the course of a ~year, even to the point that he found himself more troubled by the loss of the relationship than Data did.

And of course a big difference to the TNG episode is that that was a one-off thing, whereas this is a change in the status quo of two main characters, so we’ll have a chance to see how this might work out longer term–or at the very least through the end of the season.

Ian

We’ve mentioned “In Theory” a lot, but I’m surprised no one pointed out the early similarities to Voyager’s standout “Someone to Watch Over Me” – the use of a classic song to bond them, the holodeck date, the socially awkward half of the couple curious about a social experiment…
The episodes diverge after the first date, for the most part, but it was a very familiar storyline.

Cygnus-X1

Interesting point. I’d forgotten about “Someone to Watch Over Me.” It does have similar plot elements, but thematically it’s a different story in that Seven asks the Doctor to give her tutelage on dating, so the Doctor is not under any illusions about her motives. Whereas in “In Theory” and “In a Happy Refrain,” the human is under a false assumption and subsequently becomes disillusioned with the android would-be love interest (because he dumps her in “Refrain” and because she realizes that he can’t share her feelings in “In Theory”). You’re right, though, about the similar plot elements — bonding over a song, the holodeck date — I think it’s likely that MacFarlane nicked those from “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Marja

I enjoyed the performances very much, and I liked the twist of Isaac “needing” Claire in his own special robot way. It was a good change of pace from the alien/android-wants-to-be-human approach.

And when Isaac took different form, did anyone else notice that Mark Jackson kept his eyes rather blank, while assessing? Which to me was a perfect transition from blank robot face to human-appearing face. You covered the nuances of Johnson-Gerald’s performance very well.

I do wish they had spent a bit more time at the binary stars; it would’ve been interesting to hear Ed or Kelly’s take on it after Isaac “failed” and left to diagnose himself … that might have been a good minute. I’d really like to have more proof that the captain and first officer KNOW some astro-science, instead of just giving orders to, and managing, the people who “drive them around.” I know they’re trained in First Contact, but surely they had other specialties at the Union starfleet academy?

May I say again how extremely good the SFX/imagining of the space “exteriors” are. Beautiful every time.

ML31

Am I the only one who notices Issac wiggling his fingers a lot?

Odenot

What Star Trek failed to do for the most part is to use real phenomena or places in space and tell stories about that. A planet with higher gravity than Earth, have we ever seen that in Star trek? I know there was a binary star system in Discovery’s first episode but I guess it is more likely that some look like the one shown in the Orville. That was the good part in that episode. The rest I found rather boring. The whole concept of rehashing TNG is not a brilliant idea in my opinion. To me it is too close for comfort. It is a parody but then it isn’t. I am not against structuring a season with standalone episodes but they could have done that without using Star Trek as the main reference point. Still it is funny and entertaining at times and they’ve had good ideas.

ADeweyan

It’s no wonder the show came in a bit short on time — there really wasn’t a B plot. The closest thing we get is Bortus and his moustache.

This isn’t a complaint. I’m delighted the creators are confident enough to focus on a single story — especially a small, personal story — without having to have some whiz-bang effects-laden B plot to have broader appeal.

Obiwanjacobi

Sometimes I wonder if I only tune in for the beauty shots of the ship. They are becoming increasingly clever.

Could the sheer amount of ship shots be a joke in and of itself?

kmart

Only if you’re doing a TMP parody.

I think the ship work is very good, but almost too daring, because these recent paintscrapers don’t seem to have the motion blur set right, and it is looking hokey/no-blur like FARSCAPE and STAR TREK TFF. IF you’re going THAT close, better trot out the physical miniature they used for the initial establishing shots and shoot that with a proper shutter rate. (if you don’t get the smear/blur right, a close pass even with a physical model will look wrong — again, witness ST 5’s strobing spacecraft — but you’ve got actual built-in cred for the close views, assuming the necessary level of detailing is present.)

Obiwanjacobi

Given The Orville walks such a fine line between homage and parody, it may not be a stretch to consider they are feeding our desire for “starship p@rn” ala the TMP.

I understand they built a CGI Orville AND a physical model. I’ve assumed thus far that they have been using the real thing for the majority of fly-bys. I’ve marveled at all the motion control / lighting work that tracks around the model ship and her ample nacelles (ahem, rings?). The triumphant return of a long-dormant art form, I’ve thought. A result of hours of hard work by the next Jon Dykstra. But if these “beauty” shots are just CGI, that is kind of a bummer. Perhaps I am naive to think these “impossible” shots are real. Curious does anyone know if the ship sequences are motion control model or CGI?

kmart

They only shot five or six days of motion control miniature work, so there are only a small handful of model shots — supervised by TNG’s Rob Legato — which were then reused a lot. They were mainly created to serve as an ideal and reference for the CG that is usually employed. Go to studiodaily.com and hunt around, I’ve got an article there from about a year back.

Obiwanjacobi

Very informative article! Actually gives me more respect for the CGI, and another reason to continue watching. The way the light shines off the ship made me think it was the real model. Fooled me!

kmart

Was on blu-ray.com and was astonished to discover the rain on the bridge was a vfx shot. They shot actors on chairs being pelted by water in a greenscreen environment, then comped them into the real set. I swore I could see droplets splashing up off console surfaces, this is utterly incredible ‘invisible’ vfx work. Can’t remember the last time (ever?) I was so utterly and completely fooled by a full-screen effect that was playing for even a fraction of the time this scene lasted.

Cygnus-X1

I just watched the ending again. There are droplets splashing up off of the console surfaces. I guess they must have shot the water splashing off of some other surface and superimposed it onto the set.

kmart

I want to look at it again as well, I’m thinking there has to be more to it than just what was shown on that vid blu-ray.com linked to. You’d need a greenscreen buck perfectly aligned to existing surface, and even then I think it would be a hard sell, given how bright and clear everything is. However they did it, however, they did it well. The stuff you cite shows how by establishing a view that completely sells an illusion, you can buy suspension of disbelief for the rest of it, assuming your plan is good and your execution solid.

It’s kind of like the aliens-going-through-the-turnstile in CE3K, where they shot a real state line crossing booth, then built a matching miniature that corresponded to its contours exactly as seen through the camera, and were able to run model UFOs through the miniature, then matte that over the actual location, thus making it look like ufos flew through (rather than in front of or behind) the reall locale, complete with interactive lights that ‘seem’ to splash on the real booth. It’s a near-perfect illusion in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (though you can kinda see the faint impression of the stick the ships are on if you freeze frame), but that was done at night, and ORVILLE’s stuff wasn’t just one shot and was done in conditions that were hardly ideal for hiding any kind of image defect.

Probably my favorite ‘invisible’ vfx in TREK (or to be precise, a TREK-like phenomena) since the foreground miniature shot with Kirk & Spock by an elevator and a skylight after the simulation at the beginning of TWOK.

Jack

“Probably my favorite ‘invisible’ vfx in TREK (or to be precise, a TREK-like phenomena) since the foreground miniature shot with Kirk & Spock by an elevator and a skylight after the simulation at the beginning of TWOK.“

Wait, what? I’ve seen that movie hundreds of times — there’s a vfx shot there?

kmart

It’s not VFX per se, but it is an in-camera special effect, a foreground miniature. If you freeze frame on the wide shot after Kirk says to Spock “It had the virtue of never being tried,” you’ll see K&S in the distance against part of the wall they had been walking along, next to a lift door. However, the overhead skylight with plants is actually a quarter scale foreground miniature, as is the foreground, which is platformed and features what looks like an immense celestial sphere – but is probably just the regular-sized one later seen in Kirk’s quarters and also in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (these movies used a TON of stuff rented from a place called Modern Props — that’s why you saw the same consoles in KNIGHTRIDER and AIRPLANE 2 that were filling up the Regulae Station and the Rylos base of Operations in THE LAST STARFIGHTER.) Don’t feel bad if you didn’t catch it … according to Mike Minor, who put the whole thing together over the weekend before shooting, it fooled the film’s editor too, who went around asking, ‘What foreground miniature shot?’ when trying to answer a question during editing. The trick is to pump a lot of light onto the set so you have enough depth of field to keep the model in as sharp focus as the background. They do some awesome ones in the two Arnold CONAN movies and in DUNE that are both spectacular and convincing. A guy named Emilio Ruiz did those — he spent decades doing stuff like that, there used to be a website dedicated to his stuff that was all in Spanish, but I used it a lot, because pictures of his stuff was worth ten thousand words. I’d also recommend looking up nzpete on google… Read more »

kmart

I had my head on backwards, I thought the info was supplied on blu-ray.com, which I cited again below, but it was actually Matt Wright who supplied that stunning info. Many apologies, and I wish I could edit these posts accordingly to afford credit where it belonged.

Notrub

You mentioned that Dr. Finn is from Baltimore, Md. Penny Johnson Jerald who plays Dr. Finn is also from Baltimore. I liked the way that mixed that in to the show.

slider

Looks like a lot of fun.

Richard

Having come from STTOS viewed on a small B&W TV as a youngster, then on through the good (and bad) motion pictures and new TV series, The Orville really captures the feel much better than Enterprise or the dystopian Discovery. Heck, it even feels like with a name change you could be watching a ST episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2L8cKCoBXs