Director: Jonathan Frakes
Writers: created by Seth MacFarlane, written by Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Cad L Coleman, Norm MacDonald
Duration: 1 hr
And the Orville keeps rolling along. The series is on a roll, and there seems to be little that will slow down the momentum and popularity of the show short of an awful episode, or maybe two. This week’s episode showed signs that it might be the first one I didn’t like but managed to pull itself out of that bin with a story involving time travel, some flashy special effects. The episode also included a well-done guest appearance by Charlize Theron who added not only some sex appeal but a nicely executed spin as the episode’s villain.
Pria featured a story constructed of components, one as part of the set up for the plot and the other as the payoff for a story that played on some tried and true tropes which by definition we have all seen before. For example, it was blatantly obvious Theron’s Pria had an evil agenda in mind and how Ed could be so blind to that was a little exasperating, Just how stupid are we supposed to think this guy is?
For better or worse it brought into sharp relief the relationship between MacFarlane’s Captain Ed Mercer and Palicki’s Commander Kelly Grayson. Pria raised not only a lot of questions about the believability of the organization they work for, making the ill-advised decision o ever assigning a man and his ex-wife to serve as the co-commanding officers on the same ship. It also emphasized how much the show has milked that ridiculous premise, and how much it’s wearing thin from being overused.
It began to seem the pair squabbling again, this time over another woman that Ed was obviously smitten with has run its course. And in light of the fact, the show made no pretense to hide the idea that Pria had a hidden agenda, Ed’s stubborn refusal to listen to any reasonable doubts and questions Grayson raised about their mysterious passenger began to seem hollow and even a little annoyingly overstated as the episode progressed. A subplot about the nature of humor and what’s funny and what isn’t was not enough to distract from this stuff which nearly spoiled the episode for me. It was such a relief when the story finally arrived at the payoff that I breathed a sigh of relief. If building tension was the point of this week’s show directed by Jonathan Frakes, it worked, maybe a little too well.
(*warning spoilers follow*)
The Orville gets a distress signal and responding to it discover a ship crashed on a comet fragment that’s on a crash-course with a nearby star. Taking a shuttle, Mercer, Alara, and Gordon make a daring rescue of the lone occupant, a woman named Pria (Charlize Theron), The shuttle gets caught in the star’s gravity itself and needs to be rescued by Orville’s tractor beam. I have a question. Whenever Mercer needs Alara to use her strength on something, does he have to use the same phrase every time?
The episode opens by introducing a subplot about humor and what is funny after Gordon attaches some Mr. Potatohead face pieces to Isaac while he is recharging, in an attempt to explain about humor. He describes practical jokes and challenges Isaac to do something in return for his prank. Later in the show, Gordon wakes up missing a leg which Isaac amputated and hid as his idea of a joke. It turns out medical science in the future can grow him a new one, and we are treated to the sight of an only partially restored leg when Gordon is called to the bridge just part way through the process.
Meanwhile, Kelley is suspicious of the ship’s new passenger and enlists Alara to help her find proof that something is amiss. It’s portrayed as an old-fashioned case of the queen bitch not liking the new girl getting undue attention on her turf. It’s the beginning of a cat fight. As her suspicions continue to grow Kelley mentions her questions about Pria to Ed who flat out refuses to listen and ascribes Kelly’s doubts and issues with Pria to being unreasonable and born out of jealousy.
It’s at this point the ship encounters a dark matter storm, portrayed by a pretty slick use of CGI as a dense asteroid field composed of invisible bubbles that threaten to destroy the ship. For the sake of the story, Gordon can’t deal with it and it’s Pria to the rescue as she navigates the ship through the field and out of danger. Of course, this only makes things worse between Ed and Kelly, and Ed ends up in the sack with Pria.
Soon after the discovery of a piece of alien technology attached to the ship’s systems brings things to head which reveals Pria as a time traveler from the future who plans to sell the Orville in the 29th century as a collector’s item. Attempts to remove the future tech nearly destroy Isaac, who, when he attempts to interface with it is blown across the room and gets fried pretty good by the resulting explosion. The ship travels through a stable wormhole that has been augmented by future technology, but once there the crew manages to escape back in time and escape the wormhole. Kelly and Pria have the knock down drag out catfight as expected, and Pria is taken prisoner. Ed orders the destruction of the wormhole and in true time travel story fashion, the destruction of the wormhole erases everything that happened, including Pria. Whew
Pria wasn’t a terrible episode, it just seemed somewhat clumsily written and a little too indulgent in reworking the whole squabbling ex-married couple thing again. That stuff is getting old beyond acceptable limits. It’s time to move on and get past that routine and show some evolution of the characters beginning to happen.