The Orville #34: Midnight Blue

"Another mountain girl!"

IN THIS ONE... Topa gets embroiled in the cause to smuggle females off Moclus.

REVIEW: Following up on the Moclan situation, specifically the male/female split after "Sanctuary" and Topa's gender affirmation in "A Tale of Two Topas", "Midnight Blue" brings things to a head with that society in order to put the Union in a tigh spot regarding the Kaylon. The end of the season is coming, and coming fast. The episode is about moving pieces on the board, and not about much else, which possibly makes it the weakest of the Moclan episodes. A fair SF adventure story, but they've gotten us used to piercing moral tales about gender issues. There are still some hints at our own society, such as when Molloy calls the Moclans out for being like those Right Wing Twitterers who attack everyone, but whine at the merest criticism they feel is levelled at them, but it's thin.

Topa, just as charming as in her previous appearance, here admits to a crush on Malloy, which provides a pretty funny scene early on. Though the show has become more and more serious since Season 1, Scott Grimes has usually been the comic relief you can count on, and his obliviousness here is quite fun, as are the reactions of the engineering crew who witness Topa's approach. I like that he really does have her back and asks to assist Mercer in the Council talks after she is kidnapped by the Moclans, but he doesn't really do anything. His outburst isn't really about her, but the Moclans' ultimatums to the Council, and don't affect the resolution. Still, it's sweet.

Topa is really put through the wringer (again) here. First, her idol Heveena recruits her to use the Orville's communications array to help the cause, in direct contravention of the deal struck in "Sanctuary", and - though we never find out how - the male Moclans know all this and take her to a black site where she is tortured, physically abused, and almost killed (very harsh considering it's happening to a young teenager, only 3 years old in real time). The show might have been a bit more relevant by having Heveena try to use her as a political pawn rather than as an actual agent, but in a way, that's what she becomes, forcing many a hand. Heveena is made to admit her crimes and put her colony at risk, the Union is forced to break ties with their strongest ally and turn the female colony into a recognized sovereign protectorate, and the Moclans are forced to eat crow. Kelly and Bortus rescue her in a damaged shuttle, leading to some okay action - firefights and Star Wars-style canyon dog fighting - and of course, they get to the Council hearing in the knick of time to prove the denying Moclans liars.

Ultimately, we're more interested in the actual character turns. Heveena gets a visit from a holographic Dolly Parton who uses her mamma's country wisdom to maker her do the right thing. Heveena's idolization of Parton as gone from a rather silly joke to a rather absurd "get" for a science-fiction show. When Dolly takes out her guitar to sing, I thought to myself that this was going to be painful padding. But the song ("Try") is a well-chosen one, and after a few bars, the soaring vocals and instrumentation cover Heveena's decision quite effectively. Otherwise, this is really Kelly and Bortus' show, sharing a weirdly intense gaze at one point when Bortus tells Kelly she's family. Like, surely they're not saying romance is in the air? Bortus' incredible outrage at what's happened - almost killing the torturer, raging at Council members, etc. - is deeply felt. And then a softer, more sensible Klyden returns - these events would make any parent rethink his cultural norms - and he's even come around to Kelly being part of the family. A little awkward, but touching all the same. We're perhaps happy the stabby divorce never came through.

Kelly helping raise Topa mirrors Troi helping Worf with Alexander.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Obviously, the political ramifications are important to the continuing story, but this is a rather plotty chapter of the Moclan story.