The Orville #11: New Dimensions

"Why did she place you in command?" "She says it's 'cause I'm smart." "I would be happy to inform her that you are not."
IN THIS ONE... LaMarr is considered for the position of chief engineer and the ship encounters a two-dimensional world.

REVIEW: Designed principally to give J. Lee more to do, albeit at the expense of the LaMarr-Malloy double act on the bridge, New Dimensions actually has three intertwined plots that feed off each other and I like that. Even the silly teaser with the boys putting a piece of Yaphit in the buffet so Bortus can eat eat is part of the plot, as John will later have to get a work performance out of Yaphit, who isn't just naturally in line for the post of Chief Engineer here, but also obviously thinks John is an idiot. With all the competing stories, you'd think there'd be less room for humor, but you'd be wrong. The comedy bits of business thrown in land quite nicely, from the "plant guy" whose name Ed can never remember, to the idea of a bridge cat (YES PLEASE!!!) and Isaac petting Malloy since he considers him no smarter than a pet. The "prideful ass" bit. Needy Dann and the gum drop. The Doctor Who, Sesame Street, and Peanuts references (that should cover every viewer)...

To some, the revelation that John is actually one of the smartest people on the ship won't ring true. Now, I've known people who purposefully torpedoed their grades so they could keep hanging out with the cool crowd, so that story checks out. Though the Union is a post-scarcity utopia like Trek's Federation, I don't think the parent franchise ever explained how the economy works as well as The Orville has - with money gone, the currency became reputation, being good at what you do. But what if you didn't have that ambition? Again, believable. And because I've known this was coming, I've been watching attentively to see if John really IS smarter than the average officer. And yes, several times over the previous ten episodes, he's had the big [tech] idea, or jumped on another character's notion and built on it with speed and cleverness. J. Lee isn't the strongest actor on the show - I find him a little flat - and maybe that's what doesn't sell the keen mind that's supposed to be under the chill, jaded exterior. Be that as it may, his problem here isn't intelligence, it's whether or not he has any leadership. And of course, the episode will allow him to find it inside himself.

Due TO his reputation, Kelly has to go to bat for John, which makes her blurt out something about having fought for Ed once. Cat's out of the bag (but not the bridge cat - BRIDGE CAT FOR SEASON 3, WRITE IN NOW!!!), Kelly used her connections to convince the admiralty that Ed deserved the Orville's captaincy, in part because she blamed herself for his slump. This sends him into an insecurity spiral, the kind of hand wringing I find ridiculous coming from characters who otherwise show absolute confidence (WB superheroes, also looking at you). So I like Kelly's analysis that his ability to see things from every side, necessary for strong and empathetic command, covers everything but himself. He's his own blind spot, and that's a good way to explain the comic (read: pathetic) side of Ed. Unlike Firestorm, which has a similar crisis of confidence, New Dimensions' lesson is one of team work, of helping and accepting help, and that no one gets to where they are alone. Ed still pulls a "have to prove myself at all costs", but between his story and John's, the episode manages to say something more useful than Firestorm did.

And of course there's the SF plot of the week, with the two-dimensional civilization looking gorgeous as the Orville glides through it, out of phase. The science is something musty, but Ed/MacFarlane (he wrote it) references Flatland, which gets some measure of respect from me (the show is so pop culture-happy, that I might have expected Cosmos instead, but Flatland is better because it ties into John's story, the man who has "more sides to him" and is thus more valuable, than it first seemed). There's plenty of jeopardy, opportunities for mistakes, and for our two insecure guys to show who they really are in a crisis.

The Enterprise encountered two-dimensional beings in The Loss, but we never got to see their world. Geordi La Forge, like John LaMarr, was moved from the bridge to Main Engineering after a season so as to facilitate stories in that section of the ship and give the character more to do. The Captain insisting only he can fly a shuttle mission to save the ship is something Picard and Janeway did a couple times, as I recall.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A perfect mix of character development, heady science-fiction, adventure, and comedy.



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