The Orville: New Horizons – Mid-Season Review
The first half of The Orville: New Horizons delivers bold, brave and entertaining stories that remain largely politically neutral.
In an act of egregious injustice, the third season of Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville series has been flying largely under the radar. That’s a shame, because if the first half of the season is any indication, sci-fi fans are missing out on one of the best shows on television. Subtitled New Horizons, this third season largely follows the template of season two, while expanding the length of each episode across the board.
From the start, it’s immediately apparent that The Orville has moved firmly away from being “that Star Trek parody show,” and has now become a force all its own. That being said, the humor is still there, but it’s handled with appropriate care in an effort to take the source material more seriously. Given MacFarlane’s comedic background, that must have been difficult.
The Orville: New Horizons picks up shortly after the Union’s announcement of war with the Kaylon, the same android species as crewmember Isaac. The show wastes no time charting very serious and thought-provoking territory, all within the confines of fantastic storytelling that pulls no punches, and never asks for forgiveness.
From there, the first half of the season tackles a scary monster story and a rat-in-a-maze mystery before diving right back into uncomfortable territory. The episodes are all hits to varying degrees, with some standing out far beyond others as gripping and emotional. How a show like this manages to avoid backlash is anyone’s guess, but given MacFarlane’s fondness for TNG-era Trek, it’s not really a surprise.
Episode 1: Electric Sheep
What could have been a standard-fare story about hatred and discrimination became something much more important, especially as it relates to our modern day. Electric Sheep follows android scientist Isaac as he deals with a monstrous onslaught of discrimination from the majority of the Orville’s crew.
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At first, Isaac seems to take it in stride due to his unburdening of human emotions, but when Dr. Finn’s young son Marcus tells him that he wishes he would die, things change. Realizing that his presence on the ship is distracting the crew and causing distress to Marcus, he leaves a goodbye note before committing suicide with a concentrated EMP pulse.
It’s a shocking moment that begs the question as to whether emotionless beings could be driven to suicide if they believed they were no longer wanted. Though Isaac makes his decision for the benefit of the Orville’s operational capabilities, members of the crew mourn his death as they would any other being.
In the end, Isaac is revived thanks to some smart thinking on the part of John LaMarr, with some help from the reluctant Charly Burke, a new Ensign assigned to the Orville who lost her best friend in a Kaylon attack. Her character expands out in future episodes, but here, she’s instrumental in writing a wrong not for Isaac’s sake, but for Marcus.
One of the single-best moments in the episode occurs after Isaac is brought back, and converses with Dr. Claire Finn, who is also trying to come to grips with Isaac’s past actions. In one noteworthy moment of modern-day narrative brilliance, she utters the words, “People who try to take their own lives are unable to distinguish the future from the present. There is no problem so immense that it can’t be solved in time!”
It’s a poignant moment for both the audience, and Isaac, who is still struggling to understand human behavior. Those watching from the comfort of their couch may be suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, which is what makes the beauty of this particular scene so incredible.
Next, Finn then references the crew’s hostility and discrimination against Isaac, noting that he is still a member of the crew, and therefore an integral part of the social circle. She sums it up best with the words ” It’s a lot harder to hate from up close,” which is nothing short of spectacular.
Before the credits have rolled, it’s clear that The Orville has found the niche it established halfway through season two, and has decided to go full-tilt TNG. That’s a tough act to follow, but MacFarlane and his team seem to have nailed it. That formula would go on to work its magic in the next four episodes.
Episode 2: Shadow Realms
At its heart, Shadow Realms is little more than a typical monster-themed episode showcasing dark corridors and tension to build its narrative. That being said, it’s a fun romp while it lasts, and the relationship between Dr. Finn and her old flame Paul Christie – now a Vice Admiral – gets the job done.
It all starts when the Krill agree to allow the Orville to pass through their territory in order to reach an uncharted area of space. They soon enter a region devoid of stars, and wreathed in complete blackness with a strange alien space station residing inside the void. A biological spore manages to infect Christie, who begins exhibiting signs of change down to the DNA level.
Christie soon transforms fully into a grotesque alien creature capable of attacking other crew members and turning them into the same species, prompting Dr. Finn to come up with a novel solution to the problem.
Shadow Realms is standard-fare storytelling, but at least it’s done well. It’s by far the weakest of the first five episodes of the season, but there’s enough to see to make it interesting. The only misstep was Dr. Finn’s total indifference to the fate of a man she once shared a life with, which seems awfully out of character for her.
Episode 3: Mortality Paradox
This particular episode is a lot more fun to watch, though it appears to start off on a rather uninteresting note. The Orville detects a strange signal coming from the planet Narran 1, previously thought to be an uninhabited rock in space. To their surprise, Captain Mercer and his team discover a densely forested world with a 21st century high school smack dab in the middle.
It quickly becomes apparent that someone has laid some sort of trap for them, especially when Gordon is attacked in a bathroom by bullies demanding payment on behalf of their ringleader. When that ringleader turns out to be a gigantic hulking alien monster who attacks them on the football field, they realize something is definitely amiss.
Soon, the crew is led by the nose through different scenarios designed to create a sense of panic and impending doom, including a 21st century airplane going down in a storm, an attack by a gigantic alien squid, and Bortus nearly strangled by the undead corpse of another Moclan.
The episode does not end the way viewers would expect, but it does directly reference a previous episode in a fairly big way. It’s an interesting end to an episode that may have ramifications in future seasons, depending on where MacFarlane wants to take the story. All in all, it’s a great episode that keeps audiences guessing, while balancing just the right amount of humor and terror.
Episode 4: Gently Falling Rain
The second-best episode of the entire season so far is definitely Gently Falling Rain, a story that reintroduces a key character from past episodes in a big way. It all starts when the Orville is granted the honor of shuttling the Union President and his delegates to the Krill home world to sign an important and pivotal peace treaty.
Unfortunately, Captain Mercer soon learns that his old love interest Teleya, who once posed as a human named Janel Tyler, has been gaining political clout with isolationist Krill who do not wish for any treaty with their enemies. When Teleya ends up winning an election in a surprise blowout, she wastes no time arresting her opponent, the current Supreme Chancellor, as well as the Orville’s crewmembers and Union delegates.
After confronting Teleya in the wake of her victory, Mercer is led by two pro-treaty Krill to a young girl named Anaya, a half-human/half-Krill hybrid born of both. Mercer is shocked to meet his daughter for the first time, and it becomes clear that Teleya has deep feelings for her child, despite her hatred of humanity.
At that point, the episode veers off into gut-wrenching and incredibly sobering territory that takes the concept of abortion and drags it screaming into the light. It’s an incredibly bold move on the part of the writers, and tackles the subject head on from both sides in one of the most centrist ways imaginable.
Teleya openly rebukes humanity for its willingness to murder unborn children in the womb without so much as a thought, and she contrasts that behavior with Krill doctrine which makes abortion illegal. However, that takes on a whole new meaning when she shows Ed a holding cell where two Krill parents are brought in.
Under Krill law, the DNA of both parents is sequenced and used to create a facsimile of what their young child might have looked like. The simulated child then asks one of the parents “Are you my mother? I would have loved so much to be with you. I wish you had not sent me away,” prompting both parents to break down in tears.
Watching this scene, I felt gripped by the throat, and had a hard time fighting back tears.
This is incredibly serious stuff, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. Seth MacFarlane made it clear that this was a criticism of certain States suggesting laws be put into place to force mothers to look an ultrasound of their fetus before deciding on abortion, but it doesn’t pan out that way.
Of course, this is the point of The Orville. Pro-lifers will look at the episode and see a heartbreaking scenario that speaks to the evils of abortion, while pro-choicers will see it as an exercise in going too far. That being said, if MacFarlane thinks he’s making a case for the pro-choice side, I have a feeling it could backfire, especially given that 78% of women who see an ultrasound of their baby refuse to have an abortion.
The same could be said of the dichotomy between Teleya, an ultra-nationalist Krill, and her opponent, the Supreme Chancellor. Any attempt to link either of them to Donald Trump or other populist figures seems pointless, since both have their evil sides. It’s not really a discussion about Left vs. Right, but the dangers of xenophobia and isolationism, of which both can fall victim to.
At its core, Gently Falling Rain is an abortion debate with neither side holding all the cards. It’s highly doubtful that the writers and showrunners for The Orville are anti-abortion, but it’s clear that they share the same opinions as the majority of the country who do not view abortion as something to be celebrated like a religious blood sacrament.
It also makes the strongest argument for the pro-life side – namely Anaya, a girl who may yet become the linchpin in a stable peace treaty between the Union and the Krill. Had she been aborted, the results would be disastrous, and it’s clear that the show is trying to make a statement to those who view abortion as a form of contraceptive.
Episode 5: A Tale Of Two Topas
This brings us to the single-most important episode of the entire season thus far, and perhaps in the history of the show. A Tale of Two Topas revisits the incredibly controversial first-season episode About A Girl, which focused on the extremely uncomfortable and nefarious topic of child sex reassignment surgeries with the blessing of their irresponsible and revolting activist parents.
That episode ended on a sour and tragic note, with Bortus’ husband Klyden pushing for the sex reassignment surgery to turn their young daughter into a male, as per Moclan custom. For a long while, it seemed as if the show was going to put this topic to bed and never touch it again, but A Tale of Two Topas finally managed to right that wrong.
It starts off with Topa developing a strong bond with Commander Grayson, who is busy showing her the ropes of what goes into running a starship. It is Topa’s wish to take the Union Point entrance exam, but it quickly becomes apparent that she is drawn to Grayson due to kinship with another female.
Soon, Topa begins exhibiting behavior commonly associated with gender dysphoria, only in this instance, it is due to her being forcibly reassigned at a young age. Stuck in a body she never asked for, Topa begins falling into depression, and even goes so far as to ask Isaac what it was like when he committed suicide earlier in the season.
This sets the stage for Kelly to leave a trail of bread crumbs leading to a password-protected file that lays out the details of her sex reassignment. With a little help from a mystery source, she manages to access the file, and confronts both her parents in anger, demanding answers.
Bortus comes clean, but Klyden is committed to the Moclans’ single-sex society, even if means erasing women from the picture. A debate soon rages that questions the legal framework for Topa’s surgery to be reversed, including some pushback from the Union who do not wish to endanger the alliance with the Moclans at a time when the Kaylon are on the hunt for both.
Risking their careers, Ed and Kelly play stupid while Isaac, a non-officer on board the Orville, conducts the surgery to turn Topa back into the female she was born as. The episode ends beautifully, with Topa finally happy to be in the body she was born with, much to the chagrin of every Left-wing radical audience member seeking to trans the kids in our modern society.
It’s brilliant, and it’s joyous, and it deserves a standing ovation for having balls made of pure tungsten. It’s also a standout episode for actor Peter Macon, who takes the character of Bortus into previously unseen territory, including one scene where he breaks down in tears over the plight of his daughter Topa. Those who have seen this episode know that his behavior in the final act makes him sci-fi dad of the year, if not the decade.
It also comes at the most pivotal moment in the culture wars, following Disney’s “not-so-secret gay agenda” reveal, and the openness of the Biden administration pushing to transition kids and infuse them with confusing gender theory nonsense – even behind their parents’ backs.
Seth MacFarlane has always been an LGBTQ advocate, but he’s also never hesitated in criticizing the transgender movement, a fact which has made him the target of GLAAD in the past. Here, it seems clear that MacFarlane is fine with transgender people existing, but he clearly has a problem with society – or parents – forcing it on their kids.
It also champions the idea of womanhood in a positive manner. For too long, the Left have used women the same way they use minorities – as pawns to garner votes, and nothing else. With the radicalism of the Left on full display, now’s the time to sign the warning bell on their attempt to destroy womanhood altogether, while giving space for biological transgender males to take the spotlight.
The first half of The Orville: New Horizons is definitely at the top, and it deserves a lot more views. The show was created by Left-wingers who vibrate closer to the middle spectrum of politics, and it shows. MacFarlane and company know the value of not demonizing or attacking their audience, and instead present arguments from both sides, and allow individuals to decide for themselves.
Individuals… what a novel idea.
The Orville continues to reinforce the value of the individual, as opposed to the identity group, and how these individuals can work together for a better tomorrow. Some of it may be pie-in-the-sky, but there’s no denying that The Orville knows how to tell a good story, regardless of how many screaming Left-wing harpies they might alienate in the process.
That being said, this new Orville does misstep in one key area – the use of bad language. This could easily be a show for the entire family, but the migration from Fox to Hulu means that the writers can go a bit further when it comes to expletives. Though what’s present is relatively tame, the use of stronger language feels exploitative, and does not endear itself to its audience.
If MacFarlane is reading this, he should be aware that he doesn’t need to emulate the kind of writing seen in awful shows like Star Trek: Discovery or Picard. Leave the bad language at the door, and focus on the fantastic storytelling. Don’t alienate parents concerned about introducing their young children to this show, because there’s a lot of good for them to be exposed to.
Bounding Into Comics will review the latter half of the season once the final episode airs. Here’s to hoping it can continue on its current trajectory, because this is about as good as it gets in an age of empty-headed storytelling and extremist Left-wing political redundancy.