The Orville #29: Mortality Paradox

"Here's to reality, with all its troubles."

IN THIS ONE... The crew investigate what seems like a 21st-Century high school on a supposedly barren planet.

REVIEW: I'll say it again because it's very relevant to this episode - just because you have more time to play with doesn't mean you HAVE to fill it. Consider: The show begins with a long fx shot of Talla arriving by shuttle, then walking the halls to the bridge. Fine. Then, an away team uses a shuttle to go down to a planet and we get the whole thing, from embarkation  to the flight down. And when a second away team goes after them, again, embarkation, etc. Combine this with a repetitive episode where everything is an illusion, and you have a recipe for boredom.

Mortality Paradox will mostly be remembered for the first illusion as Mercer and his team find their way to a 21st-Century high school. It's not the most captivating environment to replicate and it also doesn't make much sense given that some of these are taken from the characters' memories, but not always, no consistency. But it does have its moments - Gordon vs. the bullies, Bortus vs. the popular table - and if it had stuck to its guns and played the whole thing as a high school puzzle where the crew must "resolve the plot" in some way, it would at least have satisfied the show's remit of presenting Trek plots with a silly twist. It doesn't. The biggest bully is a giant troll from Lord of the Rings, then we're on a plane crashing into a mountain, then in Moclan morgue, then fighting a sea monster... Even the return to the ship after destroying the holographic projector is a lie, as is the Kaylon battle that follows (which makes all the long explanations in that section pointless). There are a LOT of special effects - putting the lie to the idea that we visit 21st-Century places for budgetary reasons - and the sense that the show is showing off its ability to create spectacle, but we can never invest in any single set piece.

Each "episode" ends with someone in the group thinking they're going to die, their eyes become blank, and they later feel like they were frozen, outside their bodies. Once it happens a couple times, you're just waiting for it to happen again and again, which adds to the tediousness. Don't ask why only one person thinks they'll die in the plane crash, the episode doesn't want you to. So it seems like a foregone conclusion that the return to the ship would be fake (first, why isn't the second away team there?), because Talla hasn't had her moment. The twist is something else, however, as Talla never returned to the Orville from her vacation, so she's a fake. In other words, that last deadly danger served no purpose and was for no one. Oops!

Turns out this was a sequel to Mad Idolatry all along - the people who deified Kelly in that episode are in a time frame 50,000 years ahead of their last meeting with the crew, and are now Tron-illuminated immortals who can do anything, except die, so this was a recording of what happens when someone does face death, you know, for research. Her New Age explanations sound smug as hell and take forever. Mercer makes a comment about experimenting on living beings that she quickly dismisses. They're trying to half-heartedly squeeze a lesson out of this lemon. Whatever.  She promises (I'd rather say, threatens) a future meeting. Dear, I hope it never happens.

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE: Advanced aliens recreating places and people from Earth history - sometimes forcing the crew to take on period roles - has been a Star Trek staple since TOS (see, in particular, Shore Leave, Spectre of the Gun, and The Savage Curtain), but TNG did it too (The Royale, for example). There are many bored god-like immortals in that universe as well, but Q is the prime example.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Perhaps even more tedious when you know what's going on and there's no mystery.


Dr. Johnny Fever said…
Long time reader... first time poster (I think)

"just because you have more time to play with doesn't mean you HAVE to fill it"

THIS. The key to successful communication is brevity, and these long extended scenes of FX with no purpose pull me completely from the story. It's a shame because I really enjoyed seasons 1 & 2 of "The Orville". Those seasons were appointment TV on my big screen, but season 3 is now officially played on my iPad while I do something else.