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Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Orville 1-06: Krill (Quick Review)

Episode:6|Writer:David A. Goodman|Air Date:12-Oct-2017

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures I've finally done it! I've finally reached an episode of The Orville not credited to Seth MacFarlane! Not that I had any problem with MacFarlane's episodes, it was just starting to seem like he'd written the whole series by himself.

This one's called Krill, which is at least one letter more than Pria, though it's still another tiny boring title. It's very disappointing when Star Trek: Discovery is pulling out names like The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry and Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go MadThe Orville writers need to step up their game.

The writer responsible in this case seems to be David A. Goodman, who wrote the Star Trek episode of Futurama and four episodes of Enterprise, so his sci-fi credentials seem to be sound. The director on the other hand, Jon Cassar, has never worked on Star Trek... but he did direct 65 episodes of 24 (plus 24: Redemption). So I'm hoping for gritty, ultra-high stakes action taking place in real time across Los Angeles, and at least one helicopter. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was one of the most successful and beloved films in the franchise and it only had a helicopter on screen for like 30 seconds; imagine how well The Orville would do with a full minute or two.

Anyway, this is one of my quick reviews, so it's basically going to be a scruffy stream of thoughts and opinions without a recap. There will be SPOILERS though, for this episode and maybe earlier ones. Plus I'm throwing in a free bonus spoiler for you from the first few minutes of third season Next Gen episode, The Survivors. So look forward to that.

On this week's episode of fun lighthearted comedy series The Orville, Ed and Gordon go undercover aboard an alien starship to learn more about their culture, with hilarious consequences! I didn't expect everything to go entirely according to plan, but I can't say I saw it ending with Ed holding a class of frightened children at gunpoint while Gordon burned their parents alive with overcharged lightbulbs. I mean damn, man.

The episode asks the question 'What do you do when you're facing a group of people who seem to be fairly decent, aside from the fact that their religious fanaticism compels them to kill you?' and it's a shame it can't answer it as that'd be really helpful for some of our problems in the real world right now. The Union and the Krill can't ever get onto the same page as long as that page says 'we have the divine right to blow you up' so either something has to be done about that or some loophole has to be found. Unfortunately, not every culture lives next to a 'show the truth' button that plays a captain's log from God and opens up the sunroof to show the stars... though in this case that's probably a good thing as they'd likely get fried.

The Union earns massive Star Trek points this week, as their response to getting hold of a Krill shuttle isn't 'let's tear it apart to learn its secrets' or 'let's use it to get military intel', it's 'let's go photograph one of their bibles to understand them better'. Not even steal, just photograph. Unfortunately, they also earn Star Trek points for deciding to send two members of a starship's bridge crew on the mission: the wise-cracking captain and the best pilot in the fleet (who also wise-cracks). They couldn't have picked worse people to blend in with a stoic generic alien warrior culture who do not use contractions, which is crazy because Bortus was right there! Also, Kelly used to do this shit all the time on Agents of SHIELD.

So this is a heavily Ed and Gordon focused story with no B plot, with the other characters only getting to shine in the brilliant teaser where Bortus eats everything. Again Team Orville revels in their differences while Team Krill rejects everyone outside their own species as being soulless and plans to nuke them. But ironically it's a young Krill displaying curiosity about their differences that gives Ed the idea on how to burn his crew alive.

The Krill have shown up a few times already but this is the first time we see what kind of society they have, and it seems that their stock sci-fi villain behaviour isn't an inherent part of their nature. The Krill children we see here acted very innocent, inquisitive and basically just like humans in rubber masks (which is interesting because they don't usually stick heavy prosthetics on kids in series like this). It seems to take years of indoctrination before they grow up to become walking clich├ęs, and by that point they've had so much of their imagination and curiosity drained out of them that most don't even react to Ed and Gordon acting completely out of character. The Krill crew must have noticed the weirdness, but it falls so far outside their normal experience that it doesn't occur to them to care about it. At least that's the justification I went with to keep my disbelief suspended, because holy shit Ed and Gordon are bad at blending in with these people.

Though they did successfully scan the book, so they got the job done. Plus they managed to discover and foil a plot to destroy the Rana 3 colony (unlike the Enterprise crew, who arrived too late to save the Delta Rana 4 colony from an unprovoked attack by the warlike Husnock in Next Gen's The Survivors). Also, they managed to return their salvaged shuttle along with an entire Krill starship, complete with a prisoner to interrogate and a computer full of intel and gruesome literature. It's a pretty epic victory for Ed and Gordon... and yet it still feels like a defeat. The two of them made the most moral choice they could at every turn, saving 100,000 lives and a roomful of children in the process, but they were sent there to find a way to make peace and instead they ended up killing hundreds. Plus those children now have an actual reason to hate the Union (and probably a lot of paranoia about adults being humans in disguise). Even the schoolteacher from ship who just launched a nuke at a colony ends up high roading them over that one. She's certain that the Krill crew were morally in the right the whole time because her religion says they were.

But hey, I wasn't likely they'd make peace with their main antagonist just six episodes into the first season. I didn't expect they'd reveal they had children on their ships though; that's going to make things awkward from now on.

I keep saying the Krill look a lot like a typical sci-fi bad guy race, with prosthetics and outfits along the lines of the Scarrans in Farscape, the villain in Galaxy Quest, Krall in Star Trek Beyond etc. But they also look really good, to me anyway. In fact, I'm finding it easier to take these guys seriously than the new Klingons in Star Trek: Discovery, and I think that crack about them being space vampires had to have come from a writer who's seen Star Trek: Nemesis. The makeup team managed to make Seth MacFarlane look like a badass, which is impressive enough, but they also gave him and the other actors a mask they could act through. I've learned not to take that for granted.

The episode strays a little closer to parody than usual, with jokes about the struggles Ed and Gordon have with the absurdly bulky alien costumes, but I think they really nailed the mix of comedy and drama this time. Ed even admits that he's using humour as a defence mechanism to take his mind off the mortal terror, and Gordon... is just Gordon. He managed to see the funny side of having his own leg cut off in his sleep, so it makes sense that he'd continually risk their capture by making dumb jokes. I could've done without his obsession with 20th century car rental companies though, mainly because I didn't get the references. All the other stuff, the hailing frequencies not being open, Bortus eating a napkin, Ed telling the kid to go play in traffic, Gordon getting stabbed in his new leg, that was great. I'm starting to think that this is actually a good TV series!

So overall I'd have to say that I really hated watching this episode. I mean yeah it's well produced, funny, unpredictable and maybe even slightly thought-provoking, but man it was so hard for me to sit through those scenes of Ed and Gordon chatting to the Krill crew. Seriously, I found it uncomfortable to watch because I got so embarrassed for them. The episode was like a horror movie for me; I wanted to go hide behind the couch every time it seemed like Gordon had pushed his luck just a little too far and it was about to jump cut to the two of them chained up in a dungeon. Though on the other hand, no one brought up Ed and Kelly's marriage problems, so maybe it's actually the best episode yet! It's not a knock it out of the park, all-time classic kind of story but it's a good version of what it is, and if they can keep up this level of quality they'll be doing well.

The Orville will return with Majority Rule. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'll be watching Discovery's Choose Your Pain. Probably.

Hmm, I'm starting to feel like I didn't type 'Ed and Gordon' enough times, maybe I should go back through and fix that. You're welcome to leave a comment by the way.

1 comment:

  1. I found it uncomfortable to watch because I got so embarrassed for them.

    Ah, I'm not the only one who feels secondhand embarrassment for other people, even fictional ones.