Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Orville--"Mad Idolatry"

     I am a few days late reviewing the first season finale of The Orville, but for good reason. I felt a little sick Thursday night. The ill feeling lead to a day long stint in the emergency room on Friday. The whole ordeal culminated in my sleeping through most of Saturday. Aside from a little weariness, I am okay now. So I finally watched “Mad Idolatry” this morning. What did I think of it? The episode is definitely a strong end to the inaugural season.
     The crew encounters a planet on the edge of uncharted space which suddenly appears out of thin air. Greyson leads a small team down to investigate. There is a small tribe of Bronze Age humans living there. While seeking a better look at them, Grayson spooks a little girl. She injures herself fleeing. After Grayson heals her with a medical device, the little girl assumes Grayson is a godlike figure.
    The planet phases out again to return in eleven days. The crew waits for its return to gauge the level of cultural contamination Grayson caused. When the planet reappears, seven centuries have passed. The situation is roughly the Middle Ages of Europe with Grayson worship substituting for Christianity with a brutal church subjugating its followers. Grayson is upset by the damage she has caused, but I unable to convince the church to acknowledge the truth of her status because they have a good thing going.
     On the planet's third reappearance, it is the equivalent of modern day Earth. The religion surrounding Grayson has persisted. There appears to be non-violent conflicts over what should be taught in schools and violent terrorist acts elsewhere. Grayson wants to go down to the planet and remain there to fix the mess. Isaac offers to go instead because of his millions of years lifespan. When the planet reappears eleven days later, the futuristic people return Isaac while claiming he did nothing to change their ways. It was all a natural progression.
     There is a subplot in which Mercer and Grayson play around with the idea of getting back together. He wants to, but she nixes the idea. Maybe she still does not trust herself not to make big mistakes. Whatever the case, I hope her refusal ends the will they/will they not get back together question for a long time.
      “Mad Idolatry' does not break much new ground. The idea of a planet moving faster through time while building a religion around something out of place is a well worn science fiction trope. No, VOY did not originate the concept with “Blink of an Eye,” although the idea of sending down a relatively ageless crew member did originate there. There is no villain here. Just a philosophical question about the development of civilization. Backward beliefs are simply part of h development. I liked the analogy religion, like the medical device Grayson used to heal the little girl, is a tool that can be used for good or evil, but is not necessarily good or evil in and of itself.
   Star Trek's prime directive, though? It is pure evil. The code of non-interference would call for Grayson to let the little girl die. I appreciated the jab at the muddled morality that has developed around the prime directive over the years.
     “Mad Idolatry” does not tread a whole lot of new ground. There is no real villain to speak of even though various time periods have their antagonists. The episode is thought provoking in terms of where bad ideas fit in with the development of civilization. I am not too thrilled with the idea one should not sweat the unpredictable consequences of one's actions because the results are part of a progression of events, but at least it made me think about the unintended consequences of a seemingly altruistic action. It is true you can never really tell where it will all lead to in the end.
     “Mad Idolatry' was not particularly innovative, but I liked it. The episode was a solid end to a consistently good first season. We must wait until most likely the fall for the second season. It is going to be a long, anxious wait.
      Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Orville--"New Dimensions"

     Here we are at the penultimate episode of The Orville's first season. If the time since the show's premiere seems short, hold on to the sensation. The show has been renewed, but it is not likely to return until fall 2018. We have a long wait ahead of us after next week's finale. It does not help one of the first season installments will be delayed until the second season.
     “New Dimensions” revisits the frequent theme of crew members struggling to believe in themselves. In this case, it is mercer and LaMarr facing self-reflection. Mercer is filled with self-doubt when he learns Grayson pulled strings for him to be awarded a command. He learns this while she is advocating for LaMarr, who is brilliant, but a goof off, to be promoted to chief engineer. LaMarr does not want the job because of the responsibility. Naturally, both Mercer and LaMarr face a crisis in which they both prove their capabilities to themselves.
     “New Dimensions” is not a bad episode, but it rehashes elements that have gone on before. A spacial anomaly causes yet another incident for the crew to overcome. Yet another crew member is torn up with self-doubt, but is proven worthy in the end. Mercer keeps flip flopping between a capable commander and a whiny, insecure teenager. Hopefully, the time until next season's premiere will give the writing staff a chance to develop some different character themes with which to work. The special effects were quite good. We got plenty of views of a 2-dimensional civilization and scenes of a shuttle towing the Orville to safety.
     The humor often falls flat here. I laughed out loud a couple times, but generally the humor was thin. For instance, Yafit excuses mercer of racism because laMarr is being considered for chief engineer even though he is next in line for the job. The plot line serves no other purpose that I can discern other than to be funny, but it really is not. Perhaps it is fluffy filler. Whatever the case, I did not see the point.
     Yes, I note the TNG homage. LaForge was promoted from the comm to chief engineering the same as LaMarr has been. It is a neat nod to one of The Orville's primary influences.
     Rating: *** (out of 5)