The Orville Season 2, Episode 11 – Aired Thursday, March 21, 2019
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Kelly Cronin
When a time capsule from 2015 is opened, Gordon uses the simulator to recreate the life of a 21st-century woman, with whom he falls in love. Meanwhile, our favorite Moclans experience the joy of nicotine addiction.
This is not really a science fiction story, at its heart. It is a quiet meditation on the importance of the interweaving threads of every life, making the same point as TOS’s “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” by way of TNG’s “Booby Trap” with a dash of “It’s A Wonderful Life” thrown in for good measure. It’s a nice episode with a chance for Scott Grimes as Gordon Malloy to spread his wings, but it’s not an episode you’ll need to re-watch when the Season 2 DVDs come out.
Warning: This is not the sort of episode that can be truly spoiled, because the plot is beside the point, but below this line, there be whatever SPOILERS are possible.
Boy meets girl
We open on the contents of a time capsule, spread out on the Orville’s conference room table. Star Trek: Voyager‘s Tim Russ guest stars as Dr. Sherman, a historian who is transporting these 21st-Century artifacts to a museum on Delta Pavonis. The capsule had been buried by the residents of Saratoga Springs, NY in the year 2015. Among the items inside it is an iPhone, thought to still contain data, though the circuitry is corrupted. Lamarr offers the help of his engineering team to restore the device, a suggestion which pleases Dr. Sherman.
Russ has only a few scenes, all of them plot-related, but it is always pleasant to see him on television. The last I remember seeing him was in an episode of Supergirl. He is a charming and warm presence.
When Yaphit and Lamarr are able to repair the device (“try turning it off and turning it back on again,” Yaphit suggests, tapping in to 21st-century Geek Squad expertise), Gordon Malloy expresses fascination about the digital fingerprints of an entire life, stored in this small device. They watch a video recorded by the phone’s owner, Laura Huggins from Saratoga Springs, a cute thirty-something girl played by Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester, who longs to be remembered beyond her years. Malloy is immediately struck, perhaps because she’s cute and vulnerable, or perhaps because he’s expressed bits of longing to be more than he is, too. Whatever his motivation, Malloy takes the phone to the Simulator Room and asks the computer to compile the text messages, videos, photos, voicemails, and other digital fragments, then extrapolate a simulation of Laura Huggins and her world.
Of course, Gordon falls in love. And of course, Laura falls in love with him. She is just off a messy break-up of a nine-year relationship with Greg, and trying to find her way forward. There are throwaway lines here and there about how strange 21st-century culture is to the Orville’s crew, but the show has always portrayed these people as our contemporaries in their taste in music, slang, and attitudes. When even the giant, exoskeletal aliens use 21st-century bro slang, it’s hard to make the case for culture shock in this instance. Instead, these bits are played for mild laughs along the way. This is not an episode about a future guy falling for a 400-year-old girl, this is a story about a guy and a girl, and that’s all.
The B-story in the episode is about Bortus and Klyden, that wacky Moclan duo, falling in love with another 21st-century item from the time capsule: cigarettes. This story also follows exactly the path you would expect it to, given what we know about Moclans. Will someone eat a cigarette? Of course. Will they get addicted? Of course. Will it cause tension in their relationship, leading to violence? Absolutely. The only benefit of this storyline is that it gives the Gordon/Laura story somewhere to cut to, and it is humorous to see Bortus puffing on a cigarette on the bridge of the Orville. Much like his quick fascination with mustaches a few episodes back, these moments are there for little light humor, not for any deeper meaning. Although, damn—is there anything Moclans won’t get addicted to?
Boy and girl fall in love
So Gordon and Laura fall in love. The episode takes its time here, building the relationship through lots of small scenes with light conversation and nothing of huge significance. The episode lingers, helped by light direction by Kelly Cronin. Scott Grimes and Leighton Meester have good chemistry, and neither overplays it. Malloy tells her as much of the truth as he can about himself, and she is impressed. Huggins talks freely about her life and dreams. She works in a Macy’s, but she wants to be a professional musician. Malloy attends a pub gig that she plays, singing Art Garfunkel’s ballad (penned by Jimmy Web), “All I’ve Got to Say,” apparently with new lyrics written for Meester to perform. She’s got a lovely voice—the producers of the show released a promotional music video of Meester singing the song the day before the episode aired (which you can see below). These scenes play out as you’d expect, but are done well.
And really, that’s all I’ve got to say.
Boy loses girl
Malloy starts to involve his friends in his relationship with Laura, and they express concern. Falling in love with someone who’s not real is something many characters on The Orville have had to reckon with this season, and references are made to Ed “banging” a Krill imposter, Dr. Finn’s relationship with Isaac, and Bortus’ Simulator Room addiction. There’s a good, necessary conversation about what makes a person “real” in a world of advanced computing and artificial intelligence. Ed stresses that he fell in love with someone who was lying to him, but he never lied to himself. Gordon insists that how we relate to someone is what determines whether or not they are real. It’s an irresolvable question, but it’s nice to see it addressed.
Laura invites Gordon and his friends over to her apartment for a game of Pictionary (do people still play Pictionary in the 2010s?) which Lamarr, Keyali, Mercer, and Grayson thoroughly dislike. Gordon and Laura have sex, and his relationship with her starts to impact his job performance. He gets calls from her on the bridge. He is late for work. And then she decides to get back together with Greg. Malloy is heartbroken, turning to his friend Lamarr for consolation in an amusing and touching scene.
It’s in this section that the episode starts to feel a bit long, and where I started looking at my watch. It becomes clear that Gordon’s relationship with Laura is not the actual point of the story, and so we begin to wonder what is.
Boy deletes the competition
When Malloy deletes Greg from the simulation—effectively editing Laura’s life story, making it less of an extrapolation and more clearly a fantasy—he comes face-to-face with the reality that the absence of one life can have huge ripple effects of unintended consequences. Without Greg’s encouragement and support over their nine-year relationship, Laura never found the courage to sing on stage, and has instead pursued her job at Macy’s as a career. She still looks like Leighton Meester, but she is no longer the dreamer and musician that Malloy fell in love with. Without Greg, Laura was not Laura—but with Greg, Malloy loses Laura. George Bailey is vindicated. Every life matters. Etc. etc. The rest plays out predictably—Gordon restores Greg to the program, and says his goodbyes, singing a final duet with her onstage at the pub in what is probably the true point of the episode.
Boy learns a valuable lesson
In the end, this episode is a quiet, pleasant reflection on the importance of every life, no matter how small, interspersed with scenes of Moclans smoking like fiends and smashing furniture. There are small laughs here and there, and when the credits roll, you feel as though you spent a pleasant hour and a half watching pretty people fall in love with each other.
Where does this episode fit in with the larger story being told by The Orville? There’s no real exploration of the grand theme of the season—whether people divided by deep differences can coexist with each other—and there is still no follow-up on Isaac’s betrayal of the crew three episodes ago. Isaac himself appears in one shot of one scene and is referenced in dialogue in another, but otherwise is not a factor in this episode.
I liked “Lasting Impressions,” but it will not leave me with … lasting impressions. It’s a light bit of romantic comedy with no real science fiction edge. Worth seeing, enjoying, and forgetting. Oh, and buy the new Leighton Meester CD!
- Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager’s Tuvok) appears as historian Dr. Sherman, I eagerly looked for a character named “Peabody” – to no avail.
- Items in the time capsule include: an empty can of Coca-Cola, a bottle of Instant Energy drink, a compact fluorescent light bulb, a Snickers bar, Fifty Shades of Grey, a can of SPAM, a bottle of nail polish, a pack of cigarettes, stereo headphones, a New York Yankees cap, about $2.02 in bills and change, a Purell dispenser, suntan lotion, ibuprofen, a copy of USA Today, a birthday card, flip-flops, Double Stuff Oreos, an X-Men tee shirt, sunglasses, a Fitbit, a toy minivan, Minecraft, and menus from a local pizza place and The Hungry Diner, as well as a copy of US Magazine. And of course, the iPhone.
- The Hungry Diner is a farm-to-table restaurant in Walpole, NH, on the New Hampshire/Vermont border. Saratoga Springs, NY is about 2 ¼ hours away. I’m not sure a time capsule buried in Saratoga Springs would include that menu, but it was fun to discover that it’s a real place.
- The X-Men film franchise is owned by Fox, which is currently owned by Disney.
- The song playing at Laura’s party is “Lips Are Movin’” by Meghan Trainor, which includes lines in which the singer claims to be from outer space, and wants to be her boyfriend’s “Number One.” Another song on the soundtrack is “Uptown Funk “ by Mark Ronson, heard in the pub scene near the end of the episode.
- Laura’s gig is at a “pub over on Dunhill.” I was unable to locate a “Dunhill” in Saratoga Springs, NY, but there are a great many pubs in what is a fantastic little college town.
- 838-555-0146—Laura’s phone number—does have the proper area code for Saratoga Springs, NY
- Kelly can cross one eye at a time.
- “Look at this: she’s clearly asking her friend where she can find the nearest repair service for her device, but instead of writing, “wireless telecommunications facility,” she just wrote, “WTF?”” — Sherman
- “The sensation is…wonderful! I feel like I have been standing my entire life, and I just sat down.” — Klyden, feeling the nicotine high for the first time
- “The device is not recognized.” The simulator seems to know exactly what we 21st-Century people most dreaded hearing.
- “Are those pajamas, or are you a NASCAR Driver?” “Oh, wait, let me guess – are you in a marching band?” — 21st-century guesses about Malloy’s uniform
- “God, they were on the verge of a major climate disaster, and there’s a whole page about teeth whitening.” “It’s a miracle the human race survived.” — Mercer and Grayson, reading USA Today
- “I don’t even have to be a huge success. I just want to be rich enough to be unhappy, but not enough to be miserable.” — Laura Huggins
- “You can’t just pick and choose which parts of your past you want to change and be able to know how it’s all gonna turn out.” — Kelly
Bonus: Leighton Meester Music Video
Preview for episode 212
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