The Orville S01E03 “About A Girl” REVIEW

The Orville S01E03 “About A Girl” REVIEW

0 comments 📅28 December 2017, 21:02

Air date: 28 December 2017 on FOX in the UK
Writer: Seth MacFarlane
Director: Brannon Braga

Essential Plot Points:

  • The Bridge crew are all congratulating Bortus and Klyden over the birth of their daughter. The Moclan are even more reticent than normal and once the crew leave, Klyden tells Bortus ‘It must be done’.
  • In sickbay, because we can’t have nice things, Yaphit the amorphous alien crewmember Ed ran through in Old Wounds is sexually harassing Doctor Kincaid. He asks her out. She says no. He extrudes an unusually phallic tentacle. She throws him out. Mercifully, Bortus arrives to ask Clair a question. He wants her to perform a sex change on the baby… she instantly refuses.
  • Ed, Malloy and Lamarr are in a Wild West holodeck plot set up by Gordon. They face off against a Mexican outlaw, challenge him to a showdown and… it’s a dance-off. Gordon messed with the settings. Bortus arrives, demands to see Ed and explains that Claire has refused to perform the procedure. Ed is horrified. Bortus equates the baby’s gender to a cleft palate. Bortus argues that judging Moclans by human standards is unfair but Ed lays it down; he’s the Captain of a Union ship, the procedure would violate a hundred laws. It’s not going to happen.
  • The ship is in the process of destroying an asteroid that would have killed a nearby planet. They talk about the baby sex change and the bridge crew cheerfully reveal that they ALL know.
  • Minister Kabrak, a Moclan government minister contacts them and informs Ed a ship has been requested by Bortus to take the baby to Moclus.
  • Ed is straight up FURIOUS. As far as he’s concerned the baby’s safety is his responsibility. Bortus straight up threatens him and Ed calls him on it. Kelly points out this could escalate into a full-scale diplomatic incident, even a military conflict and Ed relieves Bortus of duty.
  • Later, off duty, Ed is having doubts. Kelly corrects him on it and Ed says he’s trying to understand a different viewpoint and try not to judge. Kelly retorts that you have to balance that against a universal code of ethics. And Ed has an idea about how to stop the Moclans viewing the female gender as a handicap…
  • Alara challenges Bortus to a boxing match on Ed and Kelly’s orders. It’s good-natured (ish) until Bortus unloads a little and Alara punches him across the room. Sick of his crewmates deciding what they think is best for his child, Bortus storms off.
  • Bortus goes home, ice pack on head. He lies about how he got injured and Malloy and Lamarr arrive to cheer him up. Beer! A movie! A metaphor! They watch Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Bortus… gets it. What was thought to be a deformity could be an advantage. Bortus, newly motivated, goes to talk to Klyden. Bortus argues passionately that their child may do great things as a female Moclan. Klyden refuses to believe his convictions will change and finally admits it…he was born female.
  • Bortus is furious and Klyden tells him he didn’t know until after they met. They’re both furious, and both holding their ground, when word comes in that the Klyden vessel has arrived…
  • Captain Vorak, the Moclan ship’s CO, won’t be negotiated with. Ed refuses to let him without Bortus’ consent and a standoff ensues.
  • Bortus demands Tribunal. Klyden is horrified. They’ll be publicly mocked. Bortus asks Ed to be his lawyer. He refuses. And volunteers Kelly. She’s had more training but is NOT okay with this until Bortus asks her to. Finally, she agrees and the Moclan ship, and the Orville, head for Moclus. It’s all one big city.
  • The tribunal begins. It gets very nasty, very fast. The argument is made that by the time the child is old enough to decide for herself, that she’ll hate her fathers for putting her through a childhood of alienation. The prosecution rests.
  • Kelly cross-examines the other Advocate who argues, again, that women are weak. Kelly calls Alara to the stand and asks the other advocate to reshape a titanium cube.
  • He can’t. Alara can though.
  • Kelly calls Gordon to the stand and asks him basic general knowledge questions. He biffs every single one.
  • Kelly argues that there is no valid claim for gender-based superiority. And rests her case.
  • The other advocate uses whether or not Ed is circumcised (we still don’t know, if somehow you were wondering) as a metaphor for the gender reassignment and how the obligation to protect a patient extends to carrying out the surgery.
  • Ed has an idea. He asks Isaac to look something up and brings Lamarr and Alara to a spot in the mountains. They find a cavern with a single life sign and it’s just what Ed was looking for…
  • They find a settlement inside the cave and a single, definitively female, adult Moclan.
  • Kelly is frantically playing for time back at the tribunal. At the last possible second, Ed and the others return with the female Moclan.
  • She testifies that her parents chose to not change her and voluntarily removed themselves from Moclan society. She is eloquent, passionate and it turns out…is the greatest writer in Moclan history.
  • The tribunal is adjourned.
  • Later, Bortus watches his child sleep. Ed and Kelly arrive and Bortus explains that whatever happens, he wants to stay with Klyden.
  • The council announces its verdict. The procedure will continue. Bortus is heartbroken.
  • Later, back on the Orville, Klyden apologises for everything that has happened. Bortus replies that the only thing that matters now is giving their child a good life whoever he becomes. And gives him a cuddly Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer…


Now we’re getting somewhere.

Three episodes in, The Orville takes a surprisingly graceful left turn into the sort of issue-driven character drama that made up a good 60% of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Continuing last week’s format of spotlighting a bridge officer it focuses in on Bortus. Not just that but the Moclan attitude towards woman, gender reassignment surgery and the pressures of wildly different cultures existing in the same space.

And, to our amazement, it works. Mostly.

This is the first episode where the comedy and drama elements of the show actually, largely, sync. The vast majority of the comedy comes from character or action rather than MacFarlane’s desperate need for pop culture references. They’re still in there, don’t worry but there’s about three and they all just about make the grade.

Likewise, for a Bortus spotlight episode, this is a pretty even-handed hour of TV. Kelly and Ed both get a lot to do, as does Alara while Molloy and Lamarr finally hit the marks the writers have been trying to get them to. Only Doctor Finn is badly under used and that’s a particular shame given the nature of the story. Hopefully her own inevitable spotlight episode will redress that balance.

The world building this episode is pretty solid too. The Moclans step up from a punchline to a race who are interesting, complex and on the verge of something epochal. The reveal on Heveena plays a little conveniently but it’s balanced (just) by the honest way the episode deals with the central issue.

There are two scenes that put this one over the top for us. The first is the moment Ed freely admits he’s trying to think outside his own natural biases. It’s not only a compassionate, smart approach it’s yet another sign that Ed was meant to be a Captain. He’s a good guy, and not a perfect one, and that’s vitally important these days.

The second is the fact that Bortus loses. It would have been so easy for the show to casually wreak vast societal change on the Moclan and get a feel-good win. The fact it doesn’t, but that this case clearly starts something major for the Moclans is an incredibly brave choice for a notional sitcom to make. Like Ed and the crew it doesn’t deal with the issue completely but it deals with it honestly and openly and that counts for a lot.

Of course, there are still problems. The crashingly unfunny scene with Yaphit for one, but this is another week of solid improvement and a show that’s definitely finding its feet. If you’ve been unsure about The Orville before now, skip the first episode and jump in either on “Command Performance” or this. Because after a wobbly start, this really does look like it’s going somewhere.

The Good:

  • After the bizarre makeup job last week, Adrianne Palicki actually looks like a human again.
  • The dance-off gag is actually pretty great.
  • There is an actual gag about Ed and Kelly’s marriage this week that’s funny. Seriously. We know! We checked! It’s actually good!
  • Bortus lying about Alara kicking his ass is kind of adorable.
  • Gordon’s joy at watching Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer is so pure.
  • ‘My God does the whole ship know about this?!’
    ‘Pretty much.’
  • ‘Let’s say you and I had a baby?’
    ‘…on purpose?’
  • ‘He just left his baby with two drunk dudes.’
    ‘Reminds me of my dad… I miss him.’
  • ‘You are…very FRAGILE… Captain Mercer are you aware of that?’
    ‘There’s an anti-bullying law named after me! Yes I’m AWARE of it!’
  • ‘I’m gonna need a pair of pants brought to the landing site!’
    ‘We will have pants waiting for you.’
    ‘He’s kidding.’
    ‘No I’m not!’
  • ‘I present myself to you as a woman, without regret.’

The Bad:

  • The boxing scene. Not because it’s bad but because neither of them have head guards or gum shields. Yes, we know it’s because you need to see the actors but seriously, that’s how teeth get knocked out, serious injuries occur and… okay we’ll stop now.
  • The Yaphit scene. Just no.
  • Gordon’s cross-examination is a decent gag but if he’s really that dumb, there’s no way he’d have passed Flight School.
  • Ed’s discovery of Heveena really could have done with being more fleshed out.

And The Random:

  • Bortus’ mate, Klyden, is played by Chad Coleman. Best known for his work on The Walking Dead as Tyreese he’s currently doing fantastically good work on The Expanse as Fred Johnson.
  • Rena Owen, who does great work here as Heveena, has previously appeared in Longmire, The Last Witchunter and all time classic, Once Were Warriors.
  • Continuing the run of good directors, this week the big chair is occupied by Brannon Braga. A veteran writer, producer and director Braga is one of The Orville’s production team and has previously worked on Voyager, Enterprise, the Neil DeGrasse Tyson fronted Cosmos series and many more.

Review by Alasdair Stuart


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