The Orville #20: Identity, Part 1

"Oh, man, I bet this causes cancer."
IN THIS ONE... The Orville visits Isaac's planet.

REVIEW: With Claire and her family growing so close to Isaac, it makes sense to end his mission and create some drama at this point. But were we ready for THIS amount of drama?! We've had Alara leave this season, so it wouldn't be impossible for Isaac to take a powder. He would be harder to replace with a like character, but the show has proven itself capable of straying from its status quo. His machine body conks out and the ship heads to Kaylon to get him repaired and maybe check on the world's decision whether to join the Union or not. Isaac is awakened so he can be debriefed, but also so he can say his goodbyes to the crew (or rather, vice-versa, since he doesn't have a sentimental gear in his body). This is where the jokiness comes in to a mostly serious episode, but all you can really remember is little Ty's face at losing a father figure. Man, that FACE!

So yes, Ty is going to slip away to Kaylon to find Isaac, and get into trouble, and lead the crew to a dark Kaylon secret - the genocide of their biological makers, and thus their intention to attack and destroy the Union and all biologicals in their corner of the galaxy - but that highlights a plot contrivance of the highest order. In order for Ty to do that, the Orville has to land/dock on the planet itself where normally, they would have sent down key personnel with Isaac's insensate body in a shuttle. Great effects ensue - the planet, natural light coming through the windows - but it's still mighty odd. And dangerous. As it turns out, the Kaylons use the opportunity to board and take over the ship, killing a number of security guards and capturing the rest (again, great effects as their heads open up to reveal internal laser guns). They'll use the Orville as a Trojan horse, spearheading a fleet of weapon-ships (do Kaylon even need to be in those big balls, or do they simply have Kaylon minds running them?), direction Earth.

The question that lingers is just what Isaac is thinking. He is so silent and naturally inscrutable (he has no face) that we can interpret his various moments however we want. Does he share his people's conclusion or not? Does he drop Ty's drawing because he "feels" no connection to it, or because robots can just memorize everything and carry it with them? Will he need to be "turned", is he working to sabotage the Kaylon effort already, or is he lost forever? More than the space opera plot, those are the stakes laid out by the cliffhanger. Is this The Best of Both Worlds of The Orville?

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE: Parallel storytelling, but The Orville got to the story of a machine culture that cannot abide biological beings before Star Trek: Picard did. A machine race rising up to destroy their ancient builders was first referenced in TOS' "What Are Little Girls Made Of?". Bolodon discs, the game Isaac plays with the kids, is 3D, a nod to Trek's 3D chess. The ship entering an atmosphere evokes similar scenes on Voyager.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - One of the most important episodes in the series, but points knocked off for some plot contrivances.

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