The Orville #36: Future Unknown

"The only life considered poor is one that's wasted on apathy."

IN THIS ONE... Isaac asks Claire to marry him.

REVIEW: Future Unknown is really two episodes smashed into one, and at that length, could easily have been separated. The problem is that the B-plot, in which the crew returns to Sargus Four (from the first season's Majority Rule) and pick up Lysella who is asking for asylum and causes "Prime Directive" concerns would have made a mid-tier TNG episode, and therefore comes off as a bit preachy. Plus, Majority Rule was only an okay episode and Lysella not the most sympathetic of characters, so do we really appreciate getting back to all that? As for the A-plot, Isaac asking Claire's hand in marriage and actually going through with it, they perhaps thought it lacked excitement, but truth be told, the Lysella stuff does too, so... I would have much preferred a self-contained character builder/romantic comedy to close off the season.

So let's get the Lysella stuff out of the way... Seems the social media planet has gotten worse (I hear that), and she's been trying to contact the Orville with a stolen com device. She asks to stay, but finds it hard to acclimate to Union culture (leading to some interesting talk about reputation as currency, the sort of thing that's taken for granted in Star Trek but deserves to be explained), though in reality, her real problem is accepting that the Union doesn't shower her world with the tech that might fix its problems. So when they agree to send her back, they catch her trying to smuggle engineering specs for all the cool stuff and Kelly must teach her about why there's a Prime Directive (revealing the Union once made a terrible mistake in sharing its tech). No matter how many special effects they throw at us in the unfurling of this plot, it still comes off as very talky, and when Lysella chooses to stay on the Orville after all, my reaction was, oh no, please don't have her become a series regular. I thought the weakest part of this premise was that the Union had no rules on how to handle it - she should have been sent to a learning center for proper integration and not have a passport to go back and forth according to her whims. Ed and Kelly keep telling us there are rules, but then not following them.

So the heart of the episode must perforce lie in the Isaac-Claire romance. After Bortus and Klyden renew their vows with some awkward hunting ritual (2 men enter, 1 man leaves, you might say - those poor actors have to run through the woods in not much more than their prosthetics), the Kaylon decides to pop the question himself. We get some comedy out of it, of course, but also some sweetness. Isaac acknowledging that he will outlast Claire, but take his bond to the limit by keeping a watchful eye on her descendants is what convinces her. That, and her kids being okay with it - Marcus in fact gives her a very Claire kind of response. John advising Isaac to play the field before committing draws righteous anger from her and he gets a good talking to. A competition for best man between Malloy and Bortus leads to the dullest bachelor's party in history (the girls have a better time with a Kaylon stripper), and an even worse best man speech filled with upsetting "jabs" until Malloy saves the day with a speech both funny and touching (it's true! he's very good at this!). And then there's the absurd moment of Isaac inviting the entire population of Kaylon to the wedding, filling the screen with ships. The vows are well written too, with Claire going for something poetic, while Isaac's is extremely mechanical. Ed and Kelly hold hands, it's sweet.

The title and surprise appearance of Alara at the end betray the fact that they weren't sure if the show would return for a fourth season. A wedding is a positive place to end things, but also open things up for new dynamics. Just in case, the original cast is back together for a moment. And the time-travelling sandwich returns as well. And we end on Malloy singing a song, a nice goodbye if it is one, but I do hope there will be a Season 4. I've been critical of the longer run times in "New Horizons", but generally, the episodes have been strong, and I think there's still lots to tell.

WHERE SOMEONE HAS GONE BEFORE: Starfleet has picked up asylum seekers before, sometimes with success (Saru for example), sometimes not (the poor soul in Who Watches the Watchers). Lysella's tour of the ship reminded me a lot of Lily Sloane's in First Contact. Captain Mercer takes his officiant's speech verbatim from "Balance of Terror".

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - While there's no denying the wedding offers all the laughs and the feels, the grafted B-plot is a drain on resources and attention span.