Sunday, 5 May 2019



An absolutely brilliant episode which sees the culmination of the Moclan storyline that has run through this season. It shows just how far this series has come when you see the improvement between the well-meaning but flawed "About a Girl" from early in season one, to this, its direct follow-up. Both episodes deal with serious issues of gender identity, equal rights, misogyny, sexual politics, cultural value clashes and more, but this is a more focused, more intelligently delivered story. 

The growing divide between the increasingly open-minded Bortus and his strictly traditionalist husband is at the centre of this episode, standing in for the divide between the Union as a whole and the patriarchy on Moclus. Beginning with more Moclan engineers on the Orville and the couple's son Topa parroting Klyden's misogynistic values at school, the rift grows deeper when it becomes clear that the engineers are smuggling a baby girl away from Moclus. Supposedly heading to fellow Union member world Retepsia, they are in fact on their way to a secret breakaway colony inhabited solely by female Moclans, who turn out to be much more common than previously supposed. In a nice bit of continuity, the colony is led by Heveena (Rena Owen), the writer and activist who appeared in "About a Girl." She gives a dignified performance, although not without humour - this mostly serious episode has some of the best comedy moments in the series, not least Heveena's adopting of Dolly Parton as a kindred spirit and the lyrics of "Working 9 to 5" as a rallying cry.

It's clear that the colony will not be allowed to exist by the Moclans, so Ed suggests they declare themselves an independent state and present their case to the Union. What follows are some pwerful scenes at the Union Council, which bring to mind the Federation Council scenes from Star Trek IV, although more impressively realised. Moclus remains a vital strategic member of the Union, given that it is the principle weapons developer for the organisation (and Ed points out how incredibly short-sighted this arrangement is). Now that the Kaylon are an ongoing threat, their importance is even greater, and so the Union can't risk their pulling out of the alliance due to disagreement on this subject.

Although the Moclan patriarchal viewpoint is extreme, they're presented with respect, and the Council scenes are surprisingly even-handed, which stops the episode feeling preachy. Nonetheless, it's obvious we should be siding with Ed, Bortus and the rebels here. As Ed says, in one of the most biting moments of the episode, we need to be tolerant of other culture's beliefs, but some things are "over the line." The episode has such clear parallels with some cultures on Earth today. After all, each time the West goes to war with a Middle Eastern culture, human rights is given as the justification, but if that were really the case, we'd be at war with Saudi Arabia, instead of buying their oil and selling them weapons.

The most significant edge to the argument, to me, is that when people argue about respecting significant cultural differences and embracing moral relativism, they only ever seem to be concerned in those at the top of the culture. The downtrodden - who are, almost always, women and LGBT people - have their own cultural viewpoint swept under the rug, a subject of the culture but not a its proponents. This episode and the previous Moclan stories skirt closely to real life issues, and while Islamic, Middle Eastern and African cultures seem to be their obvious targets, the parallels with right wing Western, particularly American, politics are also obvious. Of course, the parallels between the Christian Right and Fundamentalist Islam are obvious, yet neither group will recognise that. There's also another subtext here, that of the misogyny so often present in gay male culture.

There's an awful lot going on in these Moclan episodes and there's still a risk for subtlety to be lost when dealing with too much at once. These latest episodes have handled it well, and honestly should be celebrated for tackling it head on.

Planets visited: Heveena's planet is within a star system, hidden within an absorption nebula in the vicinity of Nekkar, so over 200 light years from Earth.

New aliens: Some intriguing new faces make up the Union Council, as well as recognisable species such as Xeleyans, Retepsians, Gelatins (like Yaphit) and members of Dann and Olix's races.

The Trek Link: Marina Sirtis, aka Deanna Troi, plays the new schoolteacher aboard the Orville. Her co-star Jonathan Frakes directs the episode, while frequent Trek guest star Tony Todd (with roles on TNG, DS9 and Voyager) appears as the Moclan ambassador. F. Murray Abraham - Ru'afo in Star Trek: Insurrection - appears as the Xeleyan Council Chairman. With Ted Danson, Victor Garber and Kelly Hu reprising roles as Union admirals, everything feels comfortably familiar.


Ed and Kelly's relationship has become less of a focus in the second half of this season, but here it comes back to the fore in an excellent character piece that has worthwhile things to say on love, experience and growing up. It's an episode that brings to mind the TNG episode "Second Chances," which sees a duplicate of Riker created years earlier try to pick up his life on the Enterprise. Here, the route is more direct, with Kelly's younger self being brought directly from the past to the Orville. Pulling her from the very beginning of her and Ed's relationship is a canny move which allows their entire history to be put into context. 

The success of this episode lies primarily with Adrianne Palicki, who really impresses in her double role as the two versions of Kelly. The younger Kelly is a distinct version of the same character, thanks to some subtle acting work by Palicki. She's got a new hairdo and a lot of make-up on, but it's the little differences in her performance that make her believable as the same person, seven years earlier. Both Kelly and Ed have a lot of emotional work to deal with here, with Ed having the opportunity to get back together with the woman he loved, only to accept that he loves the woman she has become. They've both changed a lot in seven years and there's no going back. For all the silliness, heavy drinking and embarrassing stories, this is a mature exploration of emotional growth.

It's a nice touch that both Kellys bring something to the operation of the Orville. Older Kelly might have the experience and the command temperament, but younger Kelly thinks more quickly and has fresher knowledge from her studies, something which helps them come up with a way to escape a Kaylon assault. Something that made me smile was the fact that this happened in the middle of the night, with everyone reaching the bridge in their civvies and pyjamas. I've often wondered why ships in Trek have all senior officers on duty at the same time, as if a standard day-night schedule is in operation in outer space and nothing unexpected or dangerous will happen after half seven.

Then there's that cliffhanger. Discovery might throw twists and turns at every opportunity, but who cares about the reveal of the Red Angel or sudden jumps to the far future when Kelly decides to change her and Ed's whole history?

Planets visited: Earth, briefly, and Vandex 2, a gas giant with a seriously over-the-top ring system. 

Funniest scene: Bortus and Klyden cutting up the floor in the club simulation. Good to see them getting on again.


After that cliffhanger, we shift to a very different second part for the season finale. Although there's more than a little of the Voyager episode "Timeless" in here, this is the first time that an episode feels more like Star Wars than Star Trek, from the rebels, the costumes, the settings and the music, although there's a touch of Firefly in there too (particularly in the talk of Reaver-like scavengers). This is a tremendous, action-packed episode, which still makes time for the emotional beats between Ed and Kelly. It's fun to see Ed and Gordon operating as rogue agents in this alternative timeline, but perhaps the most fun is Yaphit as a resistance fighter. The unexpected appearance of a battle-hardened Alara is a nice touch too; good to see Halston Sage again.

It's a very clever bit of time travel, with Kelly's decision having huge consequences that are unforeseeable to her, but inevitably extrapolated from the previous episodes. Without their previous relationship, Kelly doesn't champion Ed for command of the Orville, so Claire doesn't sing on to serve with him, so she and her boys have no relationship with Isaac. Hence, Isaac is not motivate to protect them and turn against his people, leading to a Kaylon victory. It's an eminently logical sequence of events. The episode looks fantastic too, with a brilliant starship chase and some breathtaking stellar scenes (although they really do talk some bollocks about black holes in this episode).

It's a great finale for a season that's really come on in style and quality. There are some things that haven't quite worked: the lack of follow-up on Isaac's betrayal of the Union before his about-face. His only significant appearance, post "Identity," is in the previous episode where he works on the time technology, and no one mentions his previous actions, although here, the alternative Isaac is summoned, allowing some confrontation. All in all, though, both the core cast and the universe they live in have really come together.

Planets visited: Sarin IV, an ice planet which is basically Hoth, and a forested planet with a rebel base, which is basically Endor's moon. Sarin, or Delta Herculis, is a real star seventy-five light years from Earth. We also visit the Earth itself, devastated in this timeline.

The Trek Link: The writer of this episode, David A. Goodman, previously wrote for Enterprise and worked on some tie-in books for Trek, and before that, he worked on Futurama and wrote the fantastic Trek-parody episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before."

References: Ed suggests contacting the Calivon for help against the Kaylon; the Calivon were the hyper-advanced aliens who put him and Kelly in a zoo in season one. The alternative Earth is been stripped of all life, even fish, a callback to "Nothing Left on Earth, Excepting Fishes." The Kaylon have been even more thorough than that in wiping out all terrestrial life.

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