The Orville #10: Firestorm

"I think it's only prudent at this time to advise everyone to be on the lookout for pies."
IN THIS ONE... Alara faces her fears after feeling responsible for the death of a crewman.

Though it reminds me of specific TNG episodes (see below), Firestorm feels like a Voyager episode, and not a good one. Essentially an agglomeration of "horror" set pieces, many of them apparently informed by the popularity of Stephen King's "It" (a clown and a giant spider), and there's a point where you know it's not real (killing Nurse Park, embedded in the show in the previous episode could be believed, but Gordon no) and then final twist. It at least has the virtue of giving me a twist I don't think I've seen before exactly, but it's a bit like a Silver Age Superman story where, at the end, we need a massive infodump to re-contextualize everything. Basically, Alara got herself memory wiped and put herself in a simulation where she would face all number of fears to see if there are buried phobias that would prevent her from doing her job effectively (as, in this episode, she blames herself for the death of a crew member after a surprise fear of fire stayed her hand).

So let's talk about Alara, because it's really at the heart of my problem with this episode. The fact is, I like her too much for her main character traits to be doubt and insecurity. Firestorm is not the first "Alara doesn't trust in herself" episode, and it's not the last (the actual last will be one of her best stories, period, but it's motivated by a change in circumstance, at least). It feels regressive at this point, and at only the 10-episode mark, redundant. The story line does afford us the chance to meet Alara's parents and introduce a difficult family dynamic - she's not just the black sheep, she's seen as an underachiever - and look, I'll take Robert Picardo in anything I can. Great casting.

I think the funeral is a nice piece of business, and Halston Sage really gives it everything she's got as the distraught Alara... Everything before it's a simulation has value, but even if you might like individual set pieces (like Penny Johnson playing Dr. Finn as a psychotic killer), it's hard to care about what follows. Ultimately, it's a lot of people telling Alara it wasn't her fault, which makes the ending redundant in addition to being cheesy.

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE: Imagination run amok was done in TNG's Where No One Has Gone Before (which includes a scene where Picard opens a door and almost falls into space), while being along on a ship is right out of Remember Me. It was on Voyager, however, that the crew had to deal with an evil clown. Speaking of Voyager, Robert Picardo (the EMH) plays Alara's father. Molly Hagan is her mother; she was the first Vorta ever seen on DS9. Seleyans are portrayed as the Vulcans of this universe, intellectually superior and dismissive of small-minded humanity. The episode was directed by Brannon Braga.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Maybe I'm jaded because I've absorbed too much genre, but my patience for narratives that don't matter because 1) much of it never really happened and 2) it deals with an issue that was already laid to rest, is pretty low.



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