The Orville: Primal Urges
January 4, 2019 8:20 AM - Season 2, Episode 2 - Subscribe

The Orville crew observes a planet being consumed by its star, Bortus is distracted.

In a more typical sci-fi plot, an astronomical observation turns into a rescue mission for the ship's crew. Klyden becomes frustrated with Bortus and files for divorce, but Dr. Finn provides couples counseling for the couple. The holodeck is indeed used for what we all thought the holodeck would be used for.
posted by peeedro (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Orville Wiki says:
Primal Urges underwent significant re-scheduling by the 20th Century Fox network. For most of 2017, the episode was slated to be the twelfth episode of Season 1 and to air on December 7, after New Dimensions and before Mad Idolatry but was moved to Season 2 for unknown reasons.
It kinda felt like a refresher to the Topa plot could have helped since it's been so long since About a Girl.
posted by peeedro at 8:28 AM on January 4, 2019

Ah, that explains the lack of dark matter stellar cartographer!
posted by Mogur at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yaaaaayyyyy Fox!
posted by Kyol at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2019

Man, as a big fan of the show I gotta say that episode was a real stinker. The exploding planet plot took way too long to get off the ground, and the Bortus porn addiction thing was just bizarre and gross. Was it supposed to be some sort of after-school-special-esque moral lesson? And the weird creature that sold him the program seemed completely off brand with the rest of the show. I thought they were building some great momentum with Ja'loga; I hope this was just burning off a crappy episode and they can get back in a good rhythm.
posted by Clustercuss at 5:33 PM on January 4, 2019

This felt very much in the spirit of 90s Trek, kind of building on Reg Barclay's holodeck addiction stuff but making it even more embarrassing. I liked this one, but oh, lord, was it cringey. It felt really weird tagging along for Bortus' sex fantasies, like we were seeing stuff we're just not supposed to see. I kept worrying we were supposed to be laughing at his fantasies, but it never quite got there. The closest it got was the horny hologram guys from the viral program, and even there I felt like the joke was that these characters were just so one-dimensionally, cluelessly horny more than it was a homophobic or sex-shame-y thing.

Sometimes I feel like this show is the Trek series we really needed in 2005 or so, something that's very much in the spirit of the Trek we knew while also striking out in new directions with a more flawed, casual and contemporary-feeling crew. Like, if Enterprise had been more like this, I think it might have saved the franchise. But it's interesting how the show can be so, so Trek but also not. Like, Bortus' species is clearly meant to be the Klingons and the divorce-by-murder thing was straight out of the Klingon playbook... but Klingons we've known simply wouldn't let themselves get addicted to porn. They're too hung up on "honor" and they'd sooner commit some sort of macho suicide. The whole one-sex race thing feels like a reflection of the Klingon way of life, where everybody is supposed to be super butch... but here it results in an entire race of turtle-headed, warrior gay guys, which (to its discredit) is someplace classic Trek never went.

They risked making Bortus unsympathetic here, and I was impressed by that. We saw him repeatedly making the same mistake, neglecting his responsibilities to march off to the holdeck, and they trusted us to accept that this was an addiction and that Bortus wasn't just being a selfish jerk. I was also impressed that the issue at the heart of it was Bortus' ongoing resentment over the forced sex reassignment of their child. But it's bothering me that Bortus and Klyden's kid is such a non-entity at this point, a plot point more than a character. Like, what does this child feel about what was done to them? Do they even know it happened? I'm really hoping that at some point the kid gets more lines and is given an actual choice about what sex they want to be. That would be what's best for the kid, and if Klyden can get over his macho BS I think it'd what's best for their marriage too.

It seemed like there was a lot of android-bashing here, which came across as kind of... racist? Species-ist? Admittedly Isaac was being a real jerk this week. Did they feel like they were making him too sympathetic, too soon, so they decided to remind us that he's kind of a pain in the ass sometimes?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:53 PM on January 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Excellent points, Ursula. I picked up on the "it's a problem" rather than selfishness pretty early from the lying; Bortus hasn't been shown to be "lazy" in the past.

I like Isaac as a character. My read of the first principles for the character is that its a synthetic* chauvinist (but not quite supremacist) so of course the character would present as a real jerk.

Similar to how I felt Lor from TNG was more believable as an AI than Data (but I suppose it was "retconned" that Data had directives added to his AI) since there weren't programmed-in directives to appear to value empathy except to be employed as a ruse.

re: cluelessly horny - I loved the gag where the holo dude got off on Isaac's smooth shiny head... and Isaac doesn't have a not reaction but also doesn't not-not have a reaction.

But, yeah, maybe it was a response to "too sympathetic too soon" but his development through interactions with the doctor actually feels more plausible than Data's developmental arc in TNG - where Data was programmed to (try to, and to strive to) be human-likable whereas Isaac's continually developing if-then cascades are more "rational."

*this gets a little complicated and I'm not sure the writers are even going that far and there's a ton of shorthand going around but, it feels like Isaac's synthetic peers are either highly standardized (everyone has the same stats) or that there's a numerical specification for traits such that individual suitability for a given task could be numerically assessed and the best unit assigned for the task such that competition isn't really a thing (but rather a caste-like system).

Huh, oh shit. I'd have to go back and rewatch (which I'm not going to do), but Isaac is a jerk towards people with skillsets/ abilities that are "numerically" inferior to his but is... less of a jerk? towards people with skillsets/ abilities that he lacks?
posted by porpoise at 7:44 PM on January 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd be interested to see Isaac's home planet, and I'm sure we'll get there eventually. When he was being felt up by the holo-dudes, it was great trying to imagine what was going through his mind. Maybe he didn't really care, but to me he seemed kind of embarrassed. Or perhaps... intrigued? (I bet this series will inspire a lot of smutty fanfic, if it hasn't already. Sometimes it practically writes its own smutty fanfic.)

I missed a couple of things from running off for bathroom breaks or whatever. Did we ever find out if the big rubbery holo-smut peddler alien guy was knowingly passing along a virus or not? Also, did they ever say there was a prohibition against crew members using outside programs in whatever-this-show-calls-the-holodeck? Thinking back, I feel like Bortus may have taken too much blame for whole virus debacle. I mean, the blobby alien guy is the one who sold him a program with a virus!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:05 AM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

There was a brief line when they determined the source of the virus where they referred to an unauthorized holodeck program, but it was pretty quick. So I guess there's some protocol for authorizing a holoprogram that doesn't inherently rule out third-party apps, but it seems like there's no alert or notification if one is used.

This season is off to a pretty poor start IMO. They have completely lost the momentum they had last season. I feel like Fox is burning off weak episodes early in the hopes that people's interest will carry them through until it gets better. Both episodes so far feel like the type you bury two-thirds of the way through a season when no one will notice.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:17 AM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I thought Bortus was holodecking in an attempt to overcome impotence. Going to extremes to find something that would get his juices flowing enough to satisfy his mate after that whole WTF thing with their daughter and unless I missed something Bortus calling his mate a 'she' . The rest... They should have sent down Issac and Bortus at the first sign of fuel instead of the wait and pick up pieces later. Let's grab a chunk of fuel at once or hey maybe let's just let it burn up an be shredded and pick up the pieces later maybe.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:44 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes zengargoyle I totally did a spit take when Bortus referred to Klyden as "she."
posted by porpoise at 2:05 PM on January 6, 2019

Wait, he DID?? If so that's gotta be a flub that somehow made it through. Their race being entirely male is a big plot point!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:11 PM on January 6, 2019

No, Bortus calls their child Topa a "her".

Back in episode 3 their child is hatched as a female, an extremely rare event among Moclans. There was a disagreement between Bortus and Klyden and eventually a Moclan tribunal decides that she will undergo a procedure to change her sex to be like the rest of the species.

In this episode, Dr. Finn discovers in couples therapy that this is when Bortus lost interest in "the sexual event" with Klyden. She asks if Bortus if he has been able to move on since Topa's sex change, he replies:
Perhaps I have not. I often look at Topa and I wonder if I should have fought harder to keep him female. But there was nothing more I could have done. No one could have stopped what happed to her except Klyden, and he did not. [turns to Klyden] I resent you, Klyden. I resent what you put our child through. And I do not know if I can ever move on.
Even with that, there's a distinction between Topa in the past (her) and Topa now (him). I read it as not so much Bortus misgendering his child, but emphasizing the transition and expressing his unhappiness that Klyden forced it to happen.
posted by peeedro at 6:03 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Peeedro, that squares with everything as I understood it but it sounds like zengargoyle and porpoise both heard Bortus refer to Klyden as a she, so I don't know what's going on. Either they both misheard/misunderstood something or there's something hinky afoot with this show's continuity. I already purged the episode from the DVR, so I can't check it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:37 PM on January 6, 2019

FWIW, here's the script (not actually the script, probably grabbed from the closed captioning data), the only two instances of the word "she" occurs in Ed and Kelly's banter about the name of the Nyxian First Minister:
-Minister Theeze, are you aware of what's happening to
-I think she said Theece.
-I think she said Theece, with a short "S" sound.
The only two instances of the word "her" is the line from Bortus I quoted and Ed reprimanding Bortus for endangering the "entire ship and all 300 members of her crew."
posted by peeedro at 8:59 PM on January 6, 2019

Whoops - yes I was wrong. This was the second "couples session." About 29:00 to 30:00-ish.

Finn: Have you two discussed what happened on Moclus?
Klyden: We discussed it many times since the tribunal. We agreed to move on. To focus on the future.
Finn: Bortus, do you feel that you have truly moved on?
Bortus: Perhaps I have not. I often look at Topa, and I wonder if I should not have fought harder to keep him female. But there was nothing more I could have done. No one could have stopped what happened to her except Klyden and he did not. I resent you, Klyden. I resent what you put our child through. And I do not know if I could ever move on.

I misremembered/ misheard.

Which is still kind of a big deal, but in a slightly nuanced and artificial situation (Topa used to be a 'her' and Bortus was referring to a past Topa).

Bortus really isn't over having his progeny gender reassigned because of his culture and his spouse's remaining in the mainline camp.
posted by porpoise at 9:25 PM on January 6, 2019

Ugh this was awful. Stupid handling of a stupid sci-fi trope plot. The big twist of the B plot is "they had a lottery. Oh the humanity." Ugh. I mean why not take all the children first, since they are smaller / weigh less / breathe less and you can fit more than 30? I know, sci-fi shows don't stand up to that kind of scrutiny, but they didn't even try.

And the A plot, god, just so awful. Bortus journey of self-discovery through porn and the destruction of an unknown sentient race of almost-humans. Yuck.

But the part that offends me the most is that it wasn't funny. Orville has two things going on. It's cheesy Star Trek fanfic. And it's bro fanfic, with dick jokes and vulgarity and silliness. They really need to make that second part land or else the whole show fails. Maybe it's just me, but was anyone laughing at any of the porn stuff? It just seemed cringey and awful to me. The part that should have been funny is towards the end, when John and Isaac are trying to fix the thing and the dudes keep hitting on them. That could have been hilarious. Instead it was just formulaic and stupid.

posted by Nelson at 10:37 AM on January 7, 2019

I mean why not take all the children first, since they are smaller / weigh less / breathe less and you can fit more than 30?

There was also more than enough room for another chunk of people, maybe as many as a dozen, to squeeze into that shuttle.

This season has been problematic for me. I really loved season 1, despite MacFarlane's propensity for jokes that run too long, or rely on the embarrassment of the subject. This season, though, it seems like some of that embarrassment is really focusing on shame (shaming Ed about his obsessive behavior re: Kelly, Bortus's shame over his porn addiction).

I've talked in various comments on the blue and green about the fact that I struggle with a particular compulsive behavior. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I identify as a love and fantasy addict (and attend a 12-step program to help learn appropriately connective behavior). Shame - ESPECIALLY shame tied to obsessive relationship behavior and use of pornography - is kind of integral to feeding my addiction, and seeing it on the screen the last couple of weeks in a show that I've truly enjoyed so much has been really triggering, to be honest.
posted by hanov3r at 11:07 AM on January 7, 2019

Nelson, I don't think this was supposed to be a really funny episode. There were a few laughs, but both the A and B plots were more dramatic and the dying planet stuff in particular was just sad. We weren't supposed to be laughing at the porn scenarios. In hindsight I'm actually impressed that the show treated them as seriously as it did. There could have been some kink-shame-y comedy in these turtled-headed guys making out, but this wasn't that. I wouldn't say Bortus was on any journey of self-discovery through porn. He was addicted to porn, using it to escape difficult issues in his life.

I feel like the first few episodes of this show had kind of a wobbly tone as it struggled to figure out how much it was a raunchy comedy and how much it was a Trek-ish sci-fi drama. But at a certain point it gelled into (let's be honest) a relatively straightforward Trek show where people just talk in a more 2018 way and there's an occasional shocking gag. If you're watching this expecting a Seth McFarlane comedy like anything he's done before, I think you're only going to be frustrated. This is something very different.

I used to enjoy Family Guy but burned out on it and haven't watched it for a long time. When I catch bits of old reruns now it does nothing for me. It feels like it was nothing but shock humor and the characters were designed to be two-dimensional and mean, so once the shock wears off there's nothing left. I knew McFarlane had some talent but to be honest I didn't think he had a show like this in him, something with actual characters and world building. But it sounds like the show isn't really clicking for you and it might be time to jump ship, no pun intended. Life's too short to watch something that you really don't like.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:02 PM on January 7, 2019

Oh I like some of the other episodes, and I agree with you Season 1 grew into something more like good Star Trek fanfic than dumb MacFarlane comedy. These first two episodes seem to have backslid some. I gather there's been some monkeying with air dates of these shows, maybe they come from earlier in the production timeline?

It never occurred to me that maybe this porn thing wasn't supposed to be funny. A Very Special Episode, perhaps, with some words delivered directly to the camera about how to seek out help if you too suffer from porn addiction. Awfully clumsy if that was the goal, and for once I'd rather have had some dumb comedy shtick to lighten it up.

The part of this episode which continues to be interesting is the Moclan society and its bizarro gender setup. Klyden himself was born female and reassigned at birth, and in a previous episode there's the whole story about their baby Topa also being reassigned. I like seeing sci-fi grapple with that kind of unusual gender and sexuality, and along with the Rob Lowe episode the Orville is delivering on queer-thoughtful scifi in a way I never would have expected. I just didn't think the detour into porn addiction was at all convincing.
posted by Nelson at 10:55 PM on January 7, 2019

So I finally got around to watching it and... Yeah. I don't know, honestly. While the subject of porn addiction was cringey as hell, on the other hand it was linking back to a serious story, and maybe the main sci-fi plot maybe dragged on a bit, it was good ol' sci-fi just the same.

I'm not ready to give up on it just yet, but if the next episode is just as meh as these first two, the rest of the season might stack up on my DVR for the mid-spring hiatus, if you know what I mean.
posted by Kyol at 8:53 PM on January 9, 2019

Nelson: I just didn't think the detour into porn addiction was at all convincing.

It was an ... interesting plot device choice (adding stress to the rescue, complicating Klyden's relationship with Bortus and bringing up old, emotional wounds in an otherwise cold individual), but I think Bortus' response to Isaac's question, where he said "I am curious to know how it feels." was rather thoughtful:
It is a call from deep within. Like a baby seeking its mother's teat. It feels as if nothing else in the world matters but satisfying the urge and achieving the goal my body has demanded of me. Then, as quickly as it began, it is complete, leaving a worn-out shell in its wake. And the only feeling I am left with, the only thing I know, is that a death has occurred.
It wasn't the best of TV, but more a nuanced and careful approach to addiction than I've seen elsewhere.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:15 AM on January 10, 2019

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