“Twice in a Lifetime”
The Orville Season 3 (New Horizons), Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, July 7, 2022
Written by: Seth McFarlane
Directed by: Jon Cassar
An accident involving the Aronov device sends Gordon Malloy back in time to the early 21st Century, and it’s up to the crew of the Orville to bring him back. But the ethics of time travel quickly become murky, leaving Captain Mercer to make one of the hardest decisions of his career.
Once again returning to pick up story threads from the first two seasons, “Twice in a Lifetime” manages to find new twists on standard time travel tropes by focusing on the characters involved and the heartbreaking decisions they have to make. Following on the heels of one of The Orville’s best episodes last week, episode 306 manages to equal or even top “A Tale of Two Topas” while centering on the show’s least compelling character, giving him a chance to shine.
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Time to write a book
Season 3 of The Orville seems to be all about revisiting storylines from seasons 1 and 2 and bringing closure to them. Out of the six episodes that we’ve seen so far, five have been direct continuations from previous episodes. As I’ve mentioned before, that has the benefit of adding depth to the universe of the show but has the tendency to make that universe feel somewhat narrow. If you’re going to do this, do it in a way that respects the characters and has genuine emotional truth to it—and Seth MacFarlane and his crew are doing just that.
This episode picks up the “Laura Huggins” thread that began in episode 211, “Lasting Impressions,” where Gordon Malloy uses the data on a young 21st-century woman’s cellphone, placed into a time capsule in Saratoga Springs, NY in 2015, to reconstruct her life, eventually building a simulation in which Malloy interacted with a computer-generated Huggins and fell in love with her. There have been brief mentions of the events in this episode since, but “Twice in a Lifetime” allows Malloy to actually meet the real Laura Huggins.
This happens thanks to the tweaking done to the Aronov device, a gizmo that served as the MacGuffin in the very first episode of The Orville, “Old Wounds.” Originally used to rapidly age a banana, the device appears briefly in 206 “A Happy Refrain” as something Isaac is studying, and then becomes the plot driver for episodes 213 and 214, first accidentally plucking a younger Kelly Grayson from the past and bringing her to the Orville, then making it possible for the subsequent damage to the timeline to be repaired. The device is also what makes possible the semi-canonical stories told in issues 5 and 6 of The Orville comic book series, written by series Executive Producer David A. Goodman, which take place between 213 and 214. Gordon gets thrown back in time in an accident during a battle with the Kaylon, who attack in an attempt to get their hands on the improved Aronov device.
This episode also moves two other storylines along which have their origin in this season: the Keyali/Lamarr romance and the Burke/Isaac conflict.
I don’t know how a person for whom episode 306 is their first entry point into the show will perceive it, but for those of us who’ve followed the show since its inception, these tendons and sinews connect everything into a satisfying whole.
I haven’t got a paragraph
At the center of the plot for this episode is the time-travel story, a staple of all science fiction in general, but also of The Orville since its debut. Executive Producer Brannon Braga is known for his love of time travel stories, but they always raise the question—given all the time travel stories we’ve seen in science fiction shows and movies from Back to the Future to The Terminator, from The Time Machine to Somewhere in Time, from Star Trek to Doctor Who and beyond—is there really anything new that can be done with a time travel tale?
The answer here is a resounding “yes.” While the overall plot of this episode leans heavily on the structure laid out in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, with the crew breaking up into teams in contemporary California, one team searching for a way to repair their time travel technology and another looking to bring someone back to the future, the freshness here comes from these particular characters and the choices they make along the way.
There are some very fun little bits of business, including a visit by Ensign Charly Burke and Isaac to a biker bar that is reminiscent of similar sequences in The Terminator and Terminator 2, where an artificial life form comes into conflict with burly bikers in a bar in order to get their motorcycles. But what makes it fun is that the artificial life form is Isaac, holographically disguised to look like actor Mark Jackson. That the reedy Jackson defeats the powerful-looking Ritchie in an arm-wrestling competition is funny but expected. How he pretends to be losing, to make it believable is fresh and funny. The scene is also a chance for Burke to show sassiness in some context other than her anger toward Isaac, which up until now has been her only real character facet.
Another fun section also involves Burke and Isaac pretending to be a married couple to gain entry to a vacant house that’s up for sale. They need to get into the basement of this house in order to drill for dysonium to power the Aronov device, which requires persuading the realtor that they are in love. The dialogue along the way is humorous, and the scene in the basement where Burke confronts Isaac about the death of her lost love is well done, and hopefully will bring closure to a storyline that feels like it’s run its course.
Similarly, the Keyali/Lamarr scenes are a mixture of classic tropes and fresh character moments. At the party that opens the episode, the two are always together, but later in engineering, Keyali helps to work a pulled muscle in Lamarr’s back with her Xeleyan strength. The humor and logic in this scene comes from our knowledge of both Keyali’s superhuman abilities and Lamarr’s legendary reputation with women. That it ends with a smash cut to fevered kissing is perhaps to be expected, as well-worn as that trope is.
I’d like to make a speech
The core of the episode is the dilemma of what to do with Malloy when the Orville arrives back in time ten years after Gordon did. In the intervening time, he initially laid low, but after waiting three years he made a life for himself, finding the real Huggins, developing a relationship, getting married, and having children with her. He’s become a charter pilot and loves the life he has. When Ed and Kelly come for him, he doesn’t want to go back. When they force the issue, he responds with threatened force in self-defense. In the end, the trump card belongs to Mercer, who tells Malloy that the Orville will just go back ten more years and retrieve him before he ever made contact with Huggins, thus erasing his contamination of the timeline.
The verbal conflict here is powerfully written by MacFarlane and even more powerfully delivered by Scott Grimes. His character has been among the least-developed in the show’s three seasons, and while Grimes has shown he can sing and can pull off a joke, he has yet to be given the chance to really chew scenery with his acting. “Lasting Impressions” in season 2 was good, but here he shows that he really has the stuff. “A Tale of Two Topas” was a showcase for Peter Macon, Chad Coleman, and Imani Pullum, and this one is Scott Grimes all the way. That he rises to the occasion and delivers a truly heart-rending performance was unexpected, and a wonderful surprise. His scenes with MacFarlane also draw out the best acting Seth has done on the show so far.
And in true The Orville fashion, their argument is well-rounded, displaying two people with valid points of view and solid logic in their favor. Neither one has a clear-cut moral high ground, and both are passionate and committed to their duty. For Ed, it’s his duty to the timeline and to the Planetary Union, but for Gordon it’s his duty to his family and the woman he loves. It all comes down to a difficult decision for the Captain, and if the making of that decision isn’t quite on the level of Captain Kirk stopping Bones from saving Edith Keeler, it at least lives in the same neighborhood.
Unfortunately, some of the impact of it is wiped away when the crew returns to their home time, and Malloy essentially absolves Ed of the difficulties of his decision.
That’s all I’ve got to say
Two more things to note, then I’m out of here. First, music plays a huge part of this episode, with Grimes on an acoustic guitar singing “That’s All I’ve Got to Say” at a party in the opening, and the score swelling with an orchestral version of the same song as a bookend at the episode’s close. While we’ve heard the wonderful Leighton Meester singing the song alone and with Grimes on harmonies in the past, this is Grimes’ first chance to sing it solo, and he really is wonderful. This is a show that pays close attention to its music, and at times it’s so good that even I can pick up on it.
Secondly, the special effects are amazingly on point here, and with a particular hard sci-fi edge that is deeply appreciated. The close-up shots of the ship throughout are gorgeous, and the design of the bridge with the large skylight in the center allowing for breathtaking space vistas is put to tremendous use here. Of course, we have an obligatory chaotic space battle with the Kaylon in the teaser—which sounds petty to mention, because every battle with the Kaylon this season has been movie-quality and exciting—but in every episode? What really stands out are the effects when the Orville is traveling through time, whether through the use of the Aronov device or through Lamarr’s brilliant use of Einsteinian relativity. The red-shifted streaks of the relativistic travel sequences are both beautiful and a mark of the show’s attention to real science every now and again.
Long story short, it’s hard to decide which was the better episode, this one or “A Tale of Two Topas,” but that’s a fun discussion to have.
- A lot of the costumes in this party scene are Star Trek-esque, with some that resemble Next Generation uniforms.
- When Malloy, Burke, and Bortus take a “selfie” at the party, Bortus’ “big smile” is something to behold.
- Early on, Lamarr says they can tune the temporal field to the “exact millisecond,” but that does not seem to be the case either time the ship attempts to go back in time.
- In my review of the first episode of this season, I noted that the theme music for the show has been re-orchestrated to be a more epic version, but for some reason the intensity of it had diminished. This episode, it sounded to me like the theme has been intensified with additional horns. Am I imagining that?
- I don’t know what “pattern delta-five” could mean when racing through a constantly-changing debris field.
- It’s weird having a communications screen pop up in the middle of the main bridge window while racing through a debris field and the window is your main line-of-sight means of navigation.
- The shot of Gordon racing through the hallway echoes Marcus Finn doing the same in first episode
- The obituary for Gordon Malloy in the past is an odd artifact that raises some questions: First, where did it come from? If the Orville downloaded it from Union Central in their present, then what does that say about damage to the timeline? If not, then where did they get it? Also, the obituary says that Gordon is survived by his wife and son and two granddaughters. Lauren is pregnant with her second child in 2025; what happened to her second child? Malloy’s obituary says he loved his German sports car, but in this episode he’s driving a Toyota Camry—I guess he buys the nicer car in the future?
- Ed and Kelly go back to find Gordon in 2025; presumably, Jean-Luc Picard and his crew have just recently left Southern California.
- When the shuttle leaves and returns to the ship, they have to fly carefully past the cool new fighter that they got in episode 301 and haven’t…ever…used.
- Is that the exact same bar as in Terminator 2?
- This episode is quite religious—Jesus Christ is mentioned five times!
- “Well, why wouldn’t you just keep it? Then you could have two sandwiches instead of one!” “If Commander Lamarr had not followed through with his intent to send the sandwich into the past, it would have caused a temporal paradox.” “In which case, an entirely new universe would have branched off from this one, all because of a sandwich.” Gordon, Isaac, and Lamarr.
- “We have already failed.” “Not necessarily. See, that’s where temporal mechanics gets muddy. It’s all in flux.” “Our behavior is, as yet, a variable. Until and if we make the attempt to rescue Lt. Malloy, we are existing in a superposition of several possible timelines.” Bortus, Lamarr, Isaac.
- “Somebody already had ORVILLE, with an R. I was so pissed. OVILLE was the best I could do. Sounds like a shitty band.” Malloy talking about his vanity plates.
- “Well, you know, it’s like watching your little brother make a bunch of stupid mistakes. Yeah, he’s an idiot now, but you can see him learning, and growing, and you know that someday all those mistakes are gonna turn him into a smart guy.” Malloy with an optimistic view of the past.
- “Oh, no. I am losing.” Isaac, making it look convincing.
- “Gordon tells me you work out of the Boston area. You must be Sox fans.” “Yeah, yeah. I mean, it gets cold out there, so socks are uh…” “Socks are important.” Laura, Kelly, and Ed – not quite “Do you guys like Italian?” but it’ll do.
- “No. No, I’m not your lieutenant. I’m not your helmsman, I’m not your crew. I’m Gordon Malloy, and this is my house.” Malloy
- “Temporal law can blow me.” Malloy
- “I’m a human being. We’re social creatures. Without each other, we die. Was I supposed to die?” “To protect the timeline, yes.” Malloy and Mercer.
- “Ten years ago, I wanted it. More than anything in the galaxy. But not now.” Best line delivery of the episode.
- “Even when the pandemic came – you knew. When everything around us seemed like it was falling apart… you told me it was gonna be okay. And I believed you. Because… you know. Don’t you?” Laura to Gordon; it’s interesting, when Picard and company went back to 2024 in Star Trek Picard, Season two, the pandemic is not even mentioned.
- “Well, this is the main living area. Plenty of room for just the two of you, or if you’re looking to start a family. I’m assuming you don’t have kids yet?” “Negative. Insemination has yet to occur.” Realtor Nancy Weber and Isaac.
- “No matter what, I will always love you both. Do you understand? Always. This family is stronger than time. And no matter what happens, no one can take that away from us.” Gordon to his family.
- “In the old days, we would’ve finished off that bottle and drained two more.” “Yeah, well, we were younger.” “You’re right. Let’s try for three.” Kelly, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
EXTRA: Gordon Malloy’s obituary
Gordon Malloy, Pilot and Flight Engineer, Dies at 96
Mr. Malloy died peacefully at his home in Pasadena, California, on July 12th, 2068. He was an exceptionally skilled pilot and maintenance mechanic for a local charter airline. He moved to Pasadena from rural Connecticut in 2018 and married his beloved wife, Laura Huggins, a singer and teacher, the following year.
Little is known of Mr. Malloy’s life before he moved to Pasadena. According to acquaintances, he earned his private pilot’s license in his late teens, and was largely self-taught as an aircraft mechanic. Colleagues described him as one of the most intuitive and insightful aerospace specialists they had ever known, with a knowledge of engines, arerodynamics, and electronic flight systems surpassing that of many graduates of top-tier universities.
In a career spanning more than three decades, Malloy logged some 25,000 flight hours in a variety of commercial and experimental aircraft. He was certified to fly contra-rotating twin propeller planes, single, twin, and triple engine jets, and, late in his career, hypersonic trans-atmospheric vehicles powered by liquid, hybrid-solid, and metallic hydrogen fueled rocket motors. His favorite flying machine was a single-seat, jet-powered stunt plane he designed and built himself.
Although he clearly had the skills and the experience, he never sought to break records or impress his fellow pilots with extraordinary maneuvers, preferring to keep a low profile and spend his off-hours tinkering with the engine of his German sports car and home-built stunt plane. He received numerous offers to fly privet aircraft for wealthy business executives and famous celebrities for much mor emoney than he earned on local charter flights but as far as anyone knows he never availed himself of these opportunities.
After work, Mr. Malloy spent most of his free time with his wife and son. He was a devoted father and loved to take his family hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and in the first weeks of summer, on cross-country drives to the coast of New England.
His wife Laura described him as a homebody and a bit of a prankster. Even in the most trying times, she said, Gordon could always make her laugh. He enjoyed watching old movies and classic sitcoms, and attending his wife’s occasional musical performances at local clubs and coffee houses.
Malloy retired from the aviation business in 2049, but continued to consult on various transportation-related engineering projects, focusing in his final years on magneto-electric propulsion systems for hovercraft. His passion for aircraft mechanics and flying was exceeded only by his love for his family. He is survived by his wife Laura, his son Edward, and his two granddaughters. Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Mr. Malloy’s name be made to the Altadena Cat Sanctuary.
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