Last night was the second Sunday episode of The Orville before it moves to its regular time slot on Thursdays after Gotham. This episode features a “junior officer ends up in charge and has to figure things out” story and shows that The Orville is a better show when Seth MacFarlane isn’t on screen.
The bad news about the episode “Command Performance” is that the humor is still terrible. The good news is that bad humor is mainly in the Seth MacFarlane scenes and this episode isn’t centered on his character.
The episode starts with Captain Mercer’s third in command Bortus requesting three weeks leave to literally sit on an egg (it’s how his race reproduces). Since the captain is Seth MacFarlane, he has to make some culturally insensitive comments that fall flat as humor.
Then it’s off to answer a distress call that appears to be from a freighter that oh so conveniently has Mercer’s parents on board. There’s more terrible humor involving between Mercer, first officer ex-wive Grayson, helmsman family friend Malloy, Mercer’s mother and Mercer’s colon obsessed father.
Mercer and Grayson take a shuttle over to the transport to see his parents. Mercer leaves Lieutenant Alara Kitan, the security chief, in command as she’s the next senior officer with Bortas on leave. But when Mercer and Grayson board the transport they are mysteriously transported away and the ship is revealed to have been a projection leaving the shuttle docked to some sort of buoy.
Alara Kitan is no Tasha Yar or Tuvok. She’s only twenty-three years old and is more of a first season Harry Kim. She freaks out when she realizes she is now in charge during a crisis. Alara tries to get Bortus to return to duty and assume command but he refuses to leave his egg. She returns to the bridge and tries to be commanding. Unfortunately one of her first decisions, bringing the mystery buoy aboard, almost destroys the Orville.
Alara does some wallowing in self pity and doubt until Doctor Claire Finn gives her advice in the classic tradition of sci-fi ship’s doctors (with maybe a touch of Guinan in there too). Alara heeds the advice and the crew discovers where the captain and first officer were transported. It’s not good news.
Mercer and Grayson have ended up in a recreation of their apartment on Earth when they were married. Between bouts of rehashing what was good and bad in their marriage, they learn they are exhibits in an alien zoo. Adrianne Palicki has enough chemistry with Seth MacFarlane to make their scenes work despite MacFarlane’s efforts at humor.
The planet where the zoo is located is off limits to Planetary Union ships. The locals are technologically more advanced and look down on what they consider lesser species (like humans). When Alara contacts the Admiralty she is ordered to bring the Orville back to Earth to replace its two senior officers, who will be listed as lost in the line of duty.
Alara initially follows orders and has the ship start back to Earth. The crew, particularly Malloy, objects. Dr. Finn tells her she needs to decide between the safe choice of following orders or the risky choice of going after Mercer and Grayson. Malloy blasts her saying that if the situation were reversed Mercer would risk his career to save a crew member. Of course Alara has her “bite me” moment about her orders and the Orville changes course to rescue the missing crew.
While the alien Calivon won’t talk directly with humans or Alara’s species, they will speak with the robotic Issac since his people are similarly technologically advanced and snobby towards others. The Orville sneaks into Calivon space where Isaac and Alara travel to the zoo to seek the release of Mercer and Grayson. Their talk with the zookeeper goes awry with euthanasia procedures begun against the two humans. Alara steps up and saves the day by offering the zookeeper something even better that the human specimens in exchange - hours and hours of reality TV.
The episode ends with Bortus’ egg hatching. His mate notes that the hatchling is female. Since Bortus’ race is all male, this could be a big problem. We’ll see on the next episode Thursday.
For the most part, “Command Performance” was a typical first season sci-fi show episode. Not great but not total suckage either. Like I wrote at the top, the weakest part of the show is Seth MacFarlane and his humor. Maybe the show should go more in a SG-1 route with humor flowing more naturally instead of being forced. But I’m still watching.
- The Kermit figure has been upgraded to a larger size since the pilot episode.
- While the theme music is instantly forgettable, the visuals of the opening credits are very Trekish.
- Since I’ve watched far too much Face Off, I kept looking at Alara Kitan’s prosthetic face and ear pieces and wondering if they were silicone.