The Orville #23: Lasting Impressions

"You think he's working too hard?" "Gordon? Never."

IN THIS ONE... Gordon finds love on the holodeck.

Blood of Patriots gave Gordon something more serious to play, but Lasting Impressions will go down in history as THE Gordon Malloy episode. We know the character is unlucky in love, but this had been portrayed to date as the kind of loser who hits on women almost compulsively and deserves the rejection. Here, he becomes fascinated with a cell phone from 2015 found in a time capsule, and with Laura Huggins, its owner. He's clearly taken with her, but as a big watcher, I can believe his interest is mostly academic (possibly, these guys love the 20th Century's output most of all, because he can't recognize a cell on sight). This interest leads him to have the computer build a simulation based on all the texts, photos, etc. in the phone, and there's an immediate and tangible connection between him and the "real" Laura. Through her, we see a different side to Gordon, one that might reveal his earlier behavior as awkwardness and nerves. Put the right girl in his way, and he becomes normal, sweet and charming.

His friends still see the old Gordon, however, and they think this relationship is creepy. And it does head in that direction after, as predicated by the phone info, Laura's old boyfriend Greg shows up, and Gordon deletes him from the simulation. While Laura's personality isn't really changed by this, her life goals are, and it changes a crucial piece of her life. It's not expressly stated, but I feel like Gordon feel guilt about this, having robbed her of a passion (music), though it's essentially scripted like they lose something they have in common. But he's also meddled with the nature of an unscripted program, and it doesn't feel real anymore. He abandons the program - I don't think Kelly's words of wisdom (that's often her role - is it what makes her a good XO?) are necessary to that process - but not before he sees her one last time, turning her song "That's All I've Got to Say" (an America cover) into a heart-breaking duet. At least Greg seems to be a decent chap (even Laura's text messages imply she shouldn't have broken up with him). The lesson is one I agree with. You can't regret anything because it all made you a part of who you are. Kelly says it in the context of Laura being different without Greg in her life, but it also implies Gordon is different now that he's known and loved Laura. It connects to the overall theme of Laura wanting to be remembered (and more broadly, 2015's selfie culture), in how we remember our relationships by integrating them into our identities.

The subplot concerns Bortus and Klyden's discovery of cigarettes, and nicotine's highly addictive effect on Moclans. It almost acts like an alien virus plot, where something foreign is introduced on the ship, having deleterious consequences on the crew. Since humans haven't smoked in centuries, there was no way to tell what would happen, and since Claire can synthesize a remedy (after a short waiting period), it's played for laughs. The cushion full of hidden cigarettes is the best bit.

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE: While TNG did the time capsule idea with real, life (frozen) people in The Neutral Zone, Gordon's affair on the holodeck is closest to Geordi's with holographic Leah Brahms. While other Star Trek characters have fallen in love on the holodeck, Leah has the virtue of being based on a real person's records. Tim Russ plays historical specialist Sherman; he has played several roles in the Trek universe, but is of course best known for Tuvok on Voyager. The numerical inside joke across the entire 80s-90s era of Trek, the insertion of "47" wherever possible, is present in both Laura and Gordon's phone numbers.

REWATCHABILITY: High - You might call these low stakes, but for Gordon, they're as high as they get. A lovely, heartfelt episode that uses a science-fiction premise to explore one of the characters and uncovers hidden layers. I love this one.


Anonymous said…
This was such a "Black Mirror" style episode. One of the few Orville's that had me thinking.
Siskoid said…
The one with the direct democracy was more Black Mirror to me, but yes, totally, there have been BM episodes like this.
Anonymous said…
It should be noted that the duet originated in the animated film "The Last Unicorn", which also has a theme of necessary regret. One of my late wife's favorite songs (and films). I must admit, I wept watching that scene. But no regrets. . .