Warning: Spoilers ahead for "The Orville" season 3, episode 4
Following last week's shock revelation that the episode "Mortality Paradox" was worthy of a perfect 10 out of 10, we were obviously extremely excited to see this week's offering.
We mentioned last week how, when "The Orville" plays to its strengths, it excels. It's all about context; it shouldn't be compared to "Star Trek" — not really — or any other current sci-fi IP. Given it's unique blend of drama, action, comedy, music and nods — both large and small — to all of science fiction and even contemporary pop culture, it should instead perhaps be thought of as the "Galaxy Quest" TV show that tragically we never got. And while this point has been made in the past, it's definitely worth mentioning it again.
And while this week's installment of the Hulu (opens in new tab) series, entitled "Gently Falling Rain" — for reasons we shall come to shortly — is extremely entertaining, there are a couple of reasons why it's not quite as good as last week's episode. Almost, but not quite. And we'll come to those reasons too, shortly.
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It seems "The Orville" is going back to events past to further develop them and why not. Last week we saw a throwback to the Season 1 finale "Mad Idolatry: and this week the beautiful world building in "The Orville" universe continues by taking the story back to a character called Teleya (Michaela McManus).
You may, or may not, recall in the amusing Season 1 episode "Krill" (S01, E06) Captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) are sent on an undercover mission to infiltrate a Krill ship and obtain a copy of their equivalent to a bible, called the Anhkana, to better understand the Krill culture.
This treasured book is the basis of their extreme, unrelenting worship of their god Avis and it gives them a sense of divinely ordained superiority, rendering peaceful coexistence with other species pointless. Or at the very least, extremely challenging. In this episode, Mercer and Malloy are forced to kill quite a few Krill in order to escape, but they go out of their way to save Teleya and her class of young Krill children.
Following their rescue, Teleya is taken by the Planetary Union and apparently tortured. We learn this in the Season 2 episode "Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes" (S02, E04) when Mercer begins dating a young lieutenant named Janel Tyler. While en route to a romantic getaway, their shuttlecraft is attacked and captured by a Krill destroyer and during his unfortunate incarceration, Mercer discovers that Tyler is Teleya.
Following her escape back to Krill territory, she willingly volunteered to undergo an extremely painful trans-cellular, micro-grafting surgical procedure to make her look human and fool the Orville's bio-scanners, since a holographic disguise would naturally be detected, all of which was for a covert Krill mission to infiltrate a Planetary Union vessel, specifically the USS Orville.
The impersonation trope is familiar in TV sci-fi: in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Dukat was a Bajoran in much of Season 7; "Star Trek: Voyager" had Seeska and even in "The Original Series" the Klingon Arne Darvin was surgically altered to appear human — a forerunner to the events of "Star Trek: Discovery" where the Klingon Voq was also altered to appear human and then assumed the identity of a captured Starfleet officer, Lt. Ash Tyler.
However, when that Krill warship itself is attacked, by a race called the Chak'tal — who look like a cross between the Remens from "Star Trek: Nemesis" and the Mondoshawans from "The Fifth Element" and curiously who we haven't heard a peep from since — Mercer and Tyler/Teleya are able to evacuate in an escape pod. They land on a nearby Earth-like planet and face a race against time to contact the Orville before their alien attackers find them. Having to work together naturally presents certain obstacles and once they're rescued, Mercer allows a Krill cruiser to come and collect her in the hope that this gesture will go some way to one day establishing peace. So, clearly that didn't work.
We open on the planet Krill, which itself is an indication that the world building is being taken up a gear in this third season of "The Orville." Turns out that Teleya is leading a breakaway political movement on the Krill homeworld that's vehemently opposed to the peace treaty talks currently in progress between the Planetary Union and the Krill government, following their — temporary at least — unification after the Battle of Earth against the Kaylon fleet.
The Orville meanwhile is bringing a number of delegates, including President Alcuzan (played by the legendary Bruce Boxleitner), Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) and Speria Balask (played by Lisa Banes, the actor that the episode is dedicated to) to Krill for the treating signing ceremony. Unfortunately, this historic event happens to be taking place during an important political election on Krill. Despite the Krill Ambassador's (John Fleck) confidence, Teleya wins and immediately imposes martial law. Consequently, the landing team is imprisoned and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) is forced to leave orbit and take the Orville to neutral space.
With the whole delegation facing execution, Teleya sends for Mercer who appeals to her to not to continue with any of this. Unwavering in her determination, he is ordered to return to his cell, only to be secretly sprung from the streets of the city by several unknown Krill. He is carefully and quickly taken to a mundane apartment where he's introduced to an unnamed Krill (Tara Buck) who then introduces Mercer to his…daughter. Yes indeed, turns out that during the time he was courting Janel Tyler, they had hanky-panky and little Anaya, whose name means "gently falling rain" is the human-Krill hybrid result.
Meanwhile, the Planetary Union fleet has amassed an impressive armada and we are going to be treated to a space fight of a scale not seen since said Battle of Earth. Knowing that he has to confront Teleya Mercer surreptitiously sneaks back into the Krill Chancellery. This episode is more of a reflection of the modern day socio-political climate than we've seen before in Season 3 and there's no way that Seth MacFarlane could've ever predicated that one of the main issues focused on here, this week — the issues surrounding unwanted pregnancies — would be dominating the headlines of every international newspaper around the world … but by a staggering and very sad coincidence, it is.
As the Planetary Union fleet emerges from Quantum space the tension is beautifully built by the accompanying score, as we have come to both love and expect from MacFarlane. There's a even an orchestral nod to the "Return of the Jedi" score by John Williams, specifically, the "The Battle of Endor part I" arguably the only music to have playing when you're part of a huge fleet of starships emerging from hyperspace only moments before a massive battle against seemingly overwhelming odds.
We've talked before about how the in-universe laws of physics can affect the immersive experience, in particular when a starship the size of the Orville suddenly starts doing handbrake turns, which is exactly what we see in this episode. While it's fun, what might have helped would've been either just a throwaway line about having to divert all available power to the inertia dampening fields would've helped, or a quick cut to crewmembers doing faceplants on the walls and windows inside the ship. Or both.
President Alcuzan is wounded during the attempted execution, but Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee) and Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) have undergone a newly developed emergency microdermal makeover known as Directive 21. It's basically achieves the same effect as the holographic disguises Mercer and Malloy used the first time they were aboard a Krill vessel in the episode "Krill" (S01, E06) but this is considerably more reliable. Using stun grenades to disable the enemy, they disable the Krill and get to a shuttle. What follows is a gorgeous chase almost at street level, through the Krill capital city, before finally reaching the Orville, which in turn gets the hell out of there, sharpish.
While it might not rate quite as highly as last week's installment, "The Orville" is still very much at the top of its game. The twists and turns in the plot keep you enthralled and wondering might in the name of Avis, or Hertz, for that matter, is going to come next. The dialogue is solid and the performances are perfect. Moreover, now that the show has invested into some serious world building, the only limitations are those of your own imagination.
The first and second seasons of "The Orville" are available to watch on Hulu (opens in new tab)and Disney Plus (opens in new tab) in most countries, and packages in the US start at $6.99 per month. New episodes of season 3 will drop every Thursday. Viewers in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK can watch on Disney Plus (opens in new tab) with accessibility coming soon for Japan and South Korea. Viewers in Latin American can watch on Star Plus.