The Orville #19: Deflectors

"Locar didn't hurt you. He didn't hurt anyone. All he wanted was love. And yet because of you... his life is over."
IN THIS ONE... Bortus' old flame visits the ship. Kelly's relationship falls apart.

REVIEW: What looks to be a Bortus episode when his brilliant (and extremely tall) ex-boyfriend shows up on the ship is actually a Talla episode, which means it was probably an Alara episode. The signs are there. Alara being unlucky in love would have motivated her affair with the unusual Moclan, and we know the reference to dating a human applies to her as well. But I think it works better as a Tall story. First, we needed one. She's new and not quite well defined, so the episode is valuable in giving her more personality and background - we learn that she's from a military family, so very different from Alara, and we certainly see her trademark flashes of anger and outrage in action. But Talla's outsider status perhaps works better with her opining that Ed and Kelly should be together (which motivates her own romantic impulse), and certainly with the anger she shows to Klyden at the end. It's kind of brave to have such enmity between recurring characters on the show, but I don't know that it would have been in Alara's character. And with Alara, you wouldn't have had the very funny bit where, after Talla says this must be the weirdest thing to ever happen on the Orville, Gordon and LaMarr rattle off some of the show's greatest hits in delicious deadpan.

The big trick this episode pulls is make you believe it will be an out-of-bounds romance story, and then Talla's prospective lover gets shockingly murdered and it turns into an emotional murder mystery. Ultimately, it's one of those feints where the victim faked their own death, and had Locar not framed Klyden for the murder, Talla would surely have found a way to let him go. What it holds on to regardless of the perceived genre, is the LGBTQ+ story. Locar admits to being attracted to women, which carries a penalty of life-time imprisonment on his planet. The Moclans are problematic allies. We've seen this since very early on (episode 3, in fact), and they were always designed to be Right Wing extremists to the Liberal Union. Biology dictates culture, so they are bred to be misogynists, heterophobes (one of the subversive things the show does is make the Right-Wingers all necessarily gay), warmongers, and as Bortus says here, deeply attached to tradition. Their values are so different from those the Union cherishes, we have to wonder if war is coming and what that will do to Bortus. While he's a more moderate Moclan - he knew about Locar, was disturbed by it, but did not turn him in - it's still very difficult for me. Talla crosses a line several time with how judgmental she is of him and his culture and there's some raw, restrained emotion coming off him in waves. Not to mention her only suspect is initially Klyden, who we WOULD believe could commit murder, as he is a truer example of his culture's values. He didn't do it, but he still sent a man to the stockade for simply being different, something else for Bortus to bottle up.

In the shadow of all this is Kelly's subplot. She's broken up with Cassius - ironically because she's doing to him what Ed did to her in their marriage - and he gets really needy in trying to win her back. Watch for a (voice) cameo by Bruce Willis as a living flower-gram, and it's kind of fun seeing Ed play the understanding girlfriend (though he's more than a little biased, so you may arch your eyebrows at this). Cassius finally admits defeat and leaves the ship, which all around, gives this episode a Deep Space Nine "heavy lies the head" feeling. There is one happy ending, Klyden's, and Talla makes sure he can't enjoy it by refusing his thanks and telling him in no uncertain terms that if he sees her in a corridor, he should turn and walk away. Powerful moment. The Orville seems to always imagine the scene after the corresponding TNG episode would have ended, and take a step outside the maintenance of a status quo. In this case, it's hard to imagine even a DS9 relationship breaking down in such a permanent way.

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE:
Systems tests/upgrades has traditionally been used on Star Trek to get special guest stars (and problems) aboard ship. The holodeck program uses a studio back lot much as all the old Trek series have. In "The Outcast", Riker entertained the possibility of a relationship with a member of a species with a single (legal) sexual identity with similar tragic results. The murder investigation using the holodeck has strong parallels with the TNG episode "Identity Crisis". The frame-up job while the "victim" hides somewhere on the ship was first done in TOS' "Court-Martial". Talla orders the computer to play the simulator at time index 1701.7, a clear reference to the Enterprise's number (and since there were 6 ships by that name, the 7 could be the Orville which follows in its thematic wake).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Though it jerks your chain a bit and is a remix of old ideas, what really puts it over the top is raw emotion.

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