Martin Carr reviews the sixth episode of The Orville season 1…
Buried beneath the sight gags, latex make up and tag team chemistry of ‘Krill’ sits a moral message. For five episodes the villainy at this programme’s centre has remained vague and ambiguous. As a species The Krill have been alluded to but there was little exploration beyond establishing their credentials. In this episode which represents the series midway point all that has been rectified. A history, religious belief system and sense of community is explored giving them form, function and more importantly relevance.
Reasons behind the separation of Mercer and Mallory from other crew members is merely an excuse to drop them and us into unfamiliar surroundings. There are jokes but these either lack force or sit awkwardly within the context of their situation. Grimes and MacFarlane jumping between guises for the purposes of their mission is what saves ‘Krill’ from being an exercise in formula.
As The Orville has gone on it has become increasingly watchable and perfectly paced, with high-end effects work and solid ensemble performances. Where ‘Krill’ differs is in the underlying moral message around cultural acceptance of religious belief, ethnic difference and ideologies in general. On a par with ‘About a Girl’ episode six sticks the right side of entertaining without resorting to preaching tactics or spoon-feeding their captive audience. There are snippets of dialogue which refer to issues of gender equality but MacFarlane veers away from the contentious, making his points concisely through precision and skilful writing. As for the remaining crew members they are left very much on the side lines.
Kelly and Ed get a moment during their scenes in shuttle bay while an arena for small talk moves from the bridge into the canteen. Aside from those moments of bonding which remains a hallmark of The Orville, it feels like you are amongst friends such is the speed with which fictional friendships have been established. Others might have labelled The Orville as a parody of Star Trek as a whole, but this became pastiche some time ago. Episodes are perfectly encapsulated, banter feels natural and polished while conflict resolution is recognisable without feeling stilted.
Irrespective of where The Orville currently stands I find it unlikely that Fox would want to cancel it. Expectations for anything high-profile are always overinflated and therefore no new programme ever reaches the mark. What Fox need to do is have faith and allow this show to find an audience rather than cutting it off below the knees in panic. For my money The Orville has put in a solid showing, delivered high-end entertainment with a low brow undercurrent whilst tackling some difficult subjects. Something to applauded rather than undermined and belittled for the sake of appeasing television audiences.