Our newest episode starts with an alien civilization making the decision to send a signal into the stars.
Their message? “Is anyone out there?”
After the main credits, we are introduced to the new security chief. She’s a Xelayan just like Alara so basically, they don’t have to make any major changes to the scripts from here on out. I’d heard there was an affair between McFarlane and the previous actor and it didn’t work out or something. #MeToo I guess.
Anyhow the new chief is no-nonsense and direct.
We also find out Kelly and Bortus’s birthdays are only 6 days apart. They talk about having a joint birthday party but they get interrupted by the signal sent out in the prologue.
Realizing this is a first contact situation, everyone gets real excited.
The music does too.
Apparently, they make first contact when someone sends a signal into space looking for life. Once they get down to the planet, it’s all very friendly and nice. Until Kelly and Bortus mention that their birthdays are coming up at which point they go DEFCON 1 and arrest the whole group.
As it turns out, this civilization believes anyone born under a certain astrological sign are basically scum and deviants and put them all into concentration camps to live out their days. Including Bortus and Kelly.
We see a bit of the camp, how people are not only treated but how much they believe in their own captivity. Babies are purposely born prematurely to avoid the sign. When two people in the camp have their own kid outside of the sign, the wife tries to hide her but the husband voluntarily gives her up just so she’ll have a future away from the camp.
The crew stays trying to figure out a way to rescue Kelly and Bortus without guns a blazing.
They eventually realize this all started about the same time as a star collapsed and disappeared in that constellation about 3500 years ago. Using a solar sail satellite they are able to recreate the star, at least from the planet’s vantage point. The people see it as a miracle and change their society to this. Kelly and Bortus are released and finally celebrate their birthdays.
Wow. This was a great Orville episode. Unfortunately, that makes it a run of the mill Star Trek episode.
My wokeness radar went off at the beginning as it seemed to be another tired “Christians are terrible people” message but it really wasn’t. Instead it was a mish-mash of the Star Trek: TNG episode “The Devil’s Due” and any number of TOS episodes where Kirk wipes his ass with prime directive and irrevocably changing a society.
But that’s not a terrible thing.
The thinking that a star’s disappearance could radically influence a society isn’t a bad idea. Setting up a solar sail to look like a shiny pinpoint from the planet was a pretty clever scheme. And after the crew members were rescued, they discussed how they basically lied to the people and how that would affect relations later.
What would happen to the society? Was it a good or bad thing? These are all really strong concepts for this show and pretty well executed. I really liked the idea the victims in the concentration camps just accepted it.
They also kept the sitcom jokes to a minimum and the rest of the crew is starting to get more competent which is a good thing.
The big problem is the set up itself. While it’s an interesting concept, I couldn’t see a planet with a civilization that’s at our level of technology would be completely and blindly believing the astrology thing. They certainly had the technology to understand what stars actually are. There had to be a lot of people questioning the whole thing.
The Planetary Union’s rules on First Contact seem a little loose. I mean someone with a ham radio and a little know-how could bring down an alien race? We could do that probably since the 50’s.
I don’t think it would’ve gone over well here. Still not sure we’re ready for something like that. Star Trek waited until the civilization had warp capabilities. I feel like some first contacts happened because some drunk teenagers might have gotten a hold of some good radio equipment.
Still, all in all, it was a solid episode. No more preachy than any particular Trek episode and some clever writing. It’s good to see the trend continuing up.