The Orville Revisited: Episode 1.2 “Command Performance”


After reading dozens of reviews of “Old Wounds,” the pilot episode of Fox’s The Orville, I revisited my own review. I had been afraid that I had been too harsh. Compared to many that I read, my review was a glowing one.

I hope that MacFarlane and his cast don’t read the reviews. Nothing breeds hate like success, and MacFarlane has created a successful career for himself. He knew that he was going to be a huge target when this show came out. And, he has been. A number of reviews even manage to fit the word “Giggity” in them.

What I haven’t been seeing, however, is a lot of hate from the Trekkies. I had assumed, mistakenly, that most of the bad reviews would originate in that quadrant of the galaxy. Instead, the diehard Trekkies are directing their ire at Star Trek: Discovery, which hasn’t come out yet. Many fans have enjoyed the retro, optimistic Trek feel of The Orville, and, after watching the second episode of the season, I certainly count myself in their number.

Episode #2 “Command Performance,” while not perfect, was better than the pilot, for my tastes. It felt like a mashup of Trek and The Twilight Zone, especially the galactic zoo concept. The comedic moments were perhaps a scootch less broad, coming from character and situation rather than just acerbic one-liners. There was a bit of drama, some action set pieces, and what amounts to a prison escape, which is certainly a common Trek trope. Jeffrey Tambour has a brief guest-starring spot as Captain Mercer’s dad. After watching Transparent it was odd seeing Tambour as anyone other than Maura Pfefferman. Lt. Alara Kitan, the young Xelayan Chief of Security, has to assume command of the ship in the absence of Captain Mercer (MacFarlane) and Commander Grayson (Bobbi Morse – I mean, Adrianne Palicki) when both are abducted and made zoo exhibits. Lt. Commander Bortus, a member of a single-gender species who is reminiscent of Worf, is third in command, but he is on a brief leave-of-absence while he sits on a egg he laid, his offspring with his partner Klyden. Lt. Kitan ends up defying Union orders to save the captain and first officer, in true Trek fashion. The episode has a satisfying ending, with an intriguing postscript: the hatching of Bortus’ egg. It turns out that Bortus and Klyden’s child is a female, which is—impossible?

I’m on to the masterplan here. I suspected it while watching the pilot, but now I know. This is a Trek series. Fox and Fuzzy Door Productions are packaging it as a parody, even though I believe there will be lawsuits if the show proves successful. Brannon Braga was listed as one of the executive producers, and Robert Duncan O’Neil (Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager) directed this episode. I understand Jonathan Frakes (Riker!) is slated to direct one as well. This show couldn’t have more of a Trek pedigree if Roddenberry’s ghost gave it his endorsement. Please don’t, Gene. The seasons of TNG you were involved with weren’t very good.

The special effects are amazing, and all of the characters are growing on me. I’m still withholding some judgment since I know the show is still trying to find its voice, but I’m optimistic. I think I’m going to like this series.

I’m still hoping that the series will continue to exercise restraint on its comedic elements. One reviewer compared it to a dramedy such as Scrubs, and I would be happy if the show went more in that direction. In fact, Zach Braff’s reveries on that series were a lot like Peter Griffin’s. Just sayin’.

I’m not going to make a preemptive strike against Star Trek: Discovery like many of my brethren, however. I’m optimistic for that series as well. The more Trek the better, by whatever name they go by.

This is a Trek show, and you should watch it.

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