The Orville #6: Krill

"O wise and powerful Avis, cover the loss of our vehicle."
IN THIS ONE... Ed and Gordon infiltrate a Krill ship.

REVIEW: This is the episode where the big enemy race is fleshed out some so they're not just Romulans with scales. What you want from the enemy race is a clear opposition in values, and if we look at Trek examples, we find the Klingons are war to the Federation's peace, the Romulans and Cardassians are treachery to the Federation's honesty, the Ferengi are greed to the Federation's post-scarcity utopia, and the Borg are conformity to the Federation's belief in individuality. With the Krill, Orville dares be a bit more controversial, though the idea seems quite natural in a post-9/11 world. This enemy race opposed the Union's secular humanism with zealous faith. And yes, it evokes extremist jihads, but also Christian fundamentalism. Any dogma that would place a "chosen people" above all others is dangerous, and the Krill are extreme in that science fiction fable kind of way, but no more absurd than human groups with the same kind of ethos. They just have more powerful means to achieve their ends. To the Krill, no other species have souls, so must be removed from the territory Avis, their god, has granted them (i.e. all of existence).

This is a dark, dark episode. Ed and Gordon witness church services where a priest repeatedly stabs a human head in a bucket. They prevent a genocide by burning an entire Krill crew to death with UV rays. And though it invokes the trope of the "turnable enemy" in sympathetic school teacher Teleya, that's not where it goes. Despite having shown their souls (so to speak) by saving the kids from a fiery death, Teleya nevertheless comes out of it angry and declares all those children will grow up to hate the Union for killing everyone else they knew (presumably their parents). And here this was going to be a peaceful mission to just take pics of the Krill Bible so the Union could find common ground. The ending is more DS9 than TNG.

This is all so serious, Gordon's comedy shenanigans feel particularly out of place. It's not clear to me that they NEEDED a good pilot, but as an undercover operative, he's the worst. Latching on to the name Avis and how it relates the present day offers some homonymic amusement, but a lot of what he says is just stupid and if this weren't a comedy, they'd have been exposed within seconds of boarding the Krill ship. I don't know if part of the problem is that he doesn't look like himself in the make-up. Krill make-up is so heavy, I could be made to believe they were played by other actors and dubbed over. Gordon's Krill looks more like Alan Tudyk than Scott Grimes. And MacFarlane looks like himself only marginally more. It's weird. But there are some good gags before we get to the darkness, the show as usual taking the stuffing out of space opera tropes, like Ed asking for an opening a channel and speaking too soon, or just how non-functional alien armor is.

"Krill" is an important episode and not just because it sets the cultural template for the Union's greatest (for now) enemies, but because these events will be revisited. Look for Teleya to return, but also note the opening scene in which Isaac offers to sleep with Alara after her break-up with a fragile crewman. Season 2 will explore this idea, if not this particular couple.

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE:
Lead characters put in alien make-up to infiltrate other species is a Star Trek trope (first started in TOS' "The Enterprise Incident"). From that same source, sending a valuable captain on a black ops mission. The Krill are going to destroy Rana 3, a reference to the genocide on Rana 4 in TNG's "The Survivors".

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Highish - An important world-building episode that takes no prisoners (metaphorically anyway), but your mileage may vary as to whether it managed to juggle its vastly different tonal textures.

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