The Orville: All the World Is Birthday Cake
January 26, 2019 1:29 PM - Season 2, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The Orville makes First Contact and a new crew member joins the ship. [Official synopsis] Oh, and there's a joint birthday party!

The Orville Season 2 Episode 5 Review: All the World Is Birthday Cake (Diana Keng for TV Fanatic)
I've come to the conclusion from The Orville Season 2 Episode 5 that the show does best when its A and B storylines are closely aligned.

While the secondary plot here was Commander Grayson and Lt. Commander Bortus' birthdays, it was really more of an element of the First Contact A plotline.

And that works.
The Orville says superstition ain't the way (no, no, no) (Nick Wanserski for TV/AV Club)
First things first: tonight we meet the new Alara, same as the old Alara. Except now she has a side pony! Okay, that’s not entirely fair. From her very first introduction, Lt. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) demonstrates that she’s far more aggressive and confident than Alara was in her role. Arguably, Talla is who Alara would become at the end of her character arc towards self-acceptance. The show also has the good grace to lampshade the similarities by having Kelly point out Ed specifically requested a Xelayan replacement, despite that putting him in danger of being punched in the face. And besides, I like the idea that Xelaya has an entire subculture of women annoyed by the passive-aggressive intellectual snobbery of their home planet who just want to run off to the stars where they can enjoy the simple catharsis of kicking ass.
posted by filthy light thief (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Not a bad episode. I like the new Alara.

I had some quibbles with the plot holes in this one. Once they understood the problem was the culture's astrological beliefs they couldn't come up with a better strategy than restoring the old constellation? Like, couldn't they argue that being born on a different planet that their constellations would be completely different and the other planet's were not applicable?

And, pretty sure that they killed a few guards during the prison break attempt. I would imagine that still carries a few penalties. "Okay, well... looks like they get a pass on the star sign bullshit, but we're going to have to charge them with six counts of murder, attempted escape, and a few other major crimes..."

This is not to say I'm not enjoying the show, however.
posted by jzb at 4:37 PM on January 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


It did seem like it was a lot crueler to prank their entire belief system to make a very intellectual point about superstition than to just say "Hi give us our folks and we'll leave or you won't like us when we're angry." At least prepare them for what they can expect when the next alien ship shows up who doesn't care about the prime directive. But the thing about this show is that the whole point is to make a very intellectual point about superstition. A realistic take on how this situation would actually resolve isn't this show. And that's OK!
posted by bleep at 8:37 PM on January 26, 2019


I liked it fine, and boy was it ever an Old School Trek Message Episode + Seth McFarlane religious skepticism stuff, so that's fun. But it seemed like there were a lot of plot holes that could have been explained away with a quick line. (I.e., "How can you say our people are born criminals based on your star signs when they were born in a whole different star system?" "Our stars confer values across the universe. Even if your people were born a galaxy away, if they were born on such-and-such a date that means they're dangerous!") There seemed to be so many quick, easy ways to answer these questions, but we weren't getting any of them.

The new security lady was fine, but there was nothing about her to dispel my suspicion that now they'll just take scripts written for Alara and change a line or two. I would have liked to hear something from Mercer about why he was determined to have somebody else from this specific species as his security chief. Again, just a line!

I'm not sure how I felt about the holocaust allegory stuff. These space Nazis (or Naztrologists) never got quite as nasty as our own Nazis, but the parallels were obvious enough to make me a little squirmy. Space Nazis are a common sci-fi trope and DS9 for example got really, really blatant with dark WWII imagery and it was effective, but here the astrology stuff was just goofy enough that it felt a little weird when they'd cut to people in concentration camps. The premise couldn't quite bear that weight. I think it would have worked better if they didn't have the military brass walking around in full-on SS uniforms and the camps were more like fenced ghettos or something instead of being quite so prison camp-y. There are ways to suggest oppression without going full space Nazi, you know?

This one was directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, AKA Tom Paris from Voyager! I still haven't seen Discovery, but I'm guessing it doesn't employ Trek vets anywhere near as much as Orville does.

The title of this episode is a line from It's All Too Much, one of my favorite Beatles songs, but I'm not sure why the heck they used it here. In the original song the line is basically saying that the world offers plenty for everybody, so enjoy it but don't get greedy. How is that at all relevant here, beyond a reference to the birthdays of Kelly and Bortus?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:14 PM on January 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


I still haven't seen Discovery, but I'm guessing it doesn't employ Trek vets anywhere near as much as Orville does.

That was certainly true in Season 1 but they've been doing better so far this season. It's hard to compete with the sheer number of showbiz people Seth McFarlane knows though.

"How can you say our people are born criminals based on your star signs when they were born in a whole different star system?" "Our stars confer values across the universe. Even if your people were born a galaxy away, if they were born on such-and-such a date that means they're dangerous!"

Yeah, I wish they'd had this conversation too, and at least mentioned the fact that Earth had its own system of astrological signs (several, in fact). Felt like Seth McFarlane's bias creeping through a little too obviously to have a captain who knows Billy Joel and every 20th-century movie ever but can't say "No, my first officer is an Aquarius, which does not mean she's murderous, it just means she and I really never should've been in a relationship." The lack of any kind of look at say, crime rate statistics kind of irked me too. (I thought for sure the fact that all the supposedly-violent folks apparently just stood around completely passively during Kelly and Bortus's escape attempt would count for something, but nope!)

I also would've liked him to have at least tried, if not an outright aggressive negotiating stance, then at least a bit of a discussion of the Krill and of the fact that this planet is very poorly equipped to handle encountering an advanced race that imposes its own cultural beliefs on others in the same forcible way this planet was doing.

I do think the difference between this show's "we make first contact at the first sign of an attempt to make contact by the planet" and Official Trek's "we make first contact at the first sign of warp capability" is interesting to think about the implications of. This version certainly seems a lot easier to not fuck up, and in some ways a lot more logical, but it still has a lot of the same issues the Prime Directive always had and exacerbates a few of them. Sadly this show probably won't fully explore that stuff anymore than Trek ever has (and this week's Discovery shows that just-skimming-the-surface-of-the-Prime-Directive's-implications remains an unbroken tradition in Trek as well).

I'm tentatively okay with the new Security Officer. It makes sense to me that Ed would request another Xelayan, and honestly given that they just worked out a holodeck program for Xelayans to maintain their strength for indefinite-off-world trips, it made sense to me that the admiralty would grant the request too. The actress did a good job of painting a very different character than Alara was, too. My hesitation mostly comes from what the AVClub reviewer noted - right now she seems like Alara at the end of Alara's character arc, which leaves her with...nowhere to go. They're going to have to give her some different backstory and different issues to work through, which means more work than just changing who's delivering Alara's lines.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Orville's propulsion system is FTL, right? Due to time dilation, determining one's precise biological age wouldn't sync up with their (local) chronological age.

How far out is that black hole? If the locals noticed that the star disappeared ~3000 years ago, that means it's ~3000 light years away. That's a pretty damned impressive hack of their satellite system to fool them that the star had reappeared (although points for pointing out that the locals care nothing about spectral analysis, just position, but still - the parallax difference would be obvious as hell especially how close to the planet they showed the sail being deployed).

Interesting point that Talla essentially being Alara at the end of her arc! The actress is a bit older-looking so that maybe makes sense, and will have different difficulties to overcome.
posted by porpoise at 12:09 PM on January 27, 2019


I don't think Talla is supposed to be like Tara's final evolved Pokemon form. If anything I think she's supposed to be more like Tara's opposite, in that she's kind of arrogant and aggressive maybe. But we'll see. If that's the goal they could have done more to sell the idea.

Yeah, the whole thing with fooling the culture into thinking their star had returned was pretty wacky. I would have preferred some other resolution, maybe something where they figure out that these idiots have actually mis-charted their stars all along somehow, so the "bad" people were actually born under a "good" sign and the "good" people were born under a "bad" sign and overnight the president is one of the scary guys and now they have to deal with all that.

I was both impressed and horrified with the level of freaking violence in Kelly and Bortus' escape. It was a bloodbath! If they needed a quick out to explain how the astrology people overlooked that, maybe they could have had the president say, "Well, now that the star has returned and their star sign is acceptable again, we know that they had to be making the right decision to kill all those guards!" But there really should have been some comment about how Kelly and Bortus could blow away like a dozen space Nazis without any consequences!

As I said I did like this one overall, but there were some very weird plot holes that felt like they could have been easily avoided. McFarlane wrote it IRRC, and I suspect this was one where the boss was able to get it through without a lot of edits because he's the boss. McFarlane may prove to be the Chris Carter of this show, where he essentially created it and does a lot to make it what it is but the actual episodes he writes don't tend to be the show's best.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:04 PM on January 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


Wait, Tara? I meant Alara, obviously. Ugh, I never could get the hang of Sundays.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:39 PM on January 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


I thought the new B'Elanna Alara was pretty good, and even though it was in part a Neelix Bortis episode it was okay. The main problem is that one's birthday in the Planetary Union's calendar wouldn't tell you anything about when someone was born in Planet Crazypants reckoning.
posted by sfenders at 6:22 PM on January 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


I like how many of you would rather try to logic the crazies out of their belief system. It's so quaint. I'm sure after three thousand years of development that Seth frickin' McFarlane could present a line of reasoning in 40 days that none of the local society's philosophers had tried before, and could be explained to every one of the multi-billion inhabitants.

Or maybe just out-crazying them would work, a physical change visible to literally everyone on the planet at the same time, that fit their current belief structure.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:05 PM on January 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


Mercer's request of another Xelayan as security officer is reminiscent of Kirk requesting a Vulcan science officer in ST:TMP. Fortunately for Talla, the Orville doesn't have transporters.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


The use of “c-section” was either an egregious oversight or lazy. No way that civilization would use that term.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:16 AM on January 28, 2019


Yes! At that point in the show, I thought the gag was going to be that our guys were the ones going on about "Darmok and Jalad on the ocean," and there would be a ton of linguistic misunderstandings.
posted by tomboko at 6:12 AM on January 28, 2019


I'm sure after three thousand years of development that Seth frickin' McFarlane the first being they've ever encountered from a highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization could present a line of reasoning in 40 days that none of the local society's philosophers had tried before, and could be explained to every one of the multi-billion inhabitants.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure having an alien from an advanced species land on Earth and say "Look, here's how it is," would cause a lot of Earth's philosophers to re-evaluate even if what the alien was saying was stuff we'd thought of and dismissed years before. I'm definitely sure that the arrival of an alien envoy on Earth would not be met with the remarkable level of basically nonchalance that these folks had. Like, hey, aliens from another world, neat, let's have them over for dinner.

As to the practical considerations of communicating things to every one of the multi-billion inhabitants, well, just like most Planets of Hats, there seems to be a single centralized world government that has no problem doing that so I'm not sure why that would be a problem for the Orville, they can just hijack the president's Astrological Address system or whatever.

The use of “c-section” was either an egregious oversight or lazy. No way that civilization would use that term.

I assume there's some kind of universal translator at work that translates their local term for c-section into the nearest Union equivalent (which would be c-section). Same reason I'm giving them a pass on calling their planet "Regor 2" even though no single-planet civilization is gonna label their own planet anything "2"; I assume the Union already had a name for the planet and the translators are just translating the local name for it into the existing name.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:55 AM on January 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Orville seems to assume both that we want to see more ST:TNG-like shows, and that we haven't religiously watched ST:TNG before.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:18 AM on January 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was both impressed and horrified with the level of freaking violence in Kelly and Bortus' escape. It was a bloodbath! If they needed a quick out to explain how the astrology people overlooked that

When we got to the obstetrics scene I muttered, "Lordy, please don't let this be a platform for Seth McFarlane to share his feelings on abortion." Luckily, he used it to give his shallow take on religion, I guess.

If this civilization is based on the interpretations of the positions of celestial objects, the planet's history would likely include a lengthy war between the the northern and southern hemispheres concluding with the genocide of half the planet. If the stars don't lie, then half of the planet are heretics. Remaining rigidly absolutist about relative observations isn't compatible with peaceful coexistence. Maybe the Gilliacs were the warrior sign that exterminated the other hemisphere's heretics and now they're kept as prisoners out of a misplaced guilt for the historical atrocities they committed for the cause. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyhow, I pretty much agree with everyone poking holes in the big plot points but that doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the show. The Orville is to science like The Office is to business administration.
posted by peeedro at 8:48 AM on January 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure having an alien from an advanced species land on Earth and say "Look, here's how it is," would cause a lot of Earth's philosophers to re-evaluate even if what the alien was saying was stuff we'd thought of and dismissed years before.

And I'm pretty sure the rest of Earth's population who weren't philosophers would say, "screw you, I'm keeping my one true religion." We've spent the last few years with daily examples of a large number of people refusing to budge from completely idiotic positions they've held for as little as three years when presented with incontrovertible proof. You think if an advanced species landed in Central Park and said, "oh, Jesus? He's one of ours. Here's pictures of him on his 75th birthday" that people would just shrug and admit they were duped?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:53 PM on January 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


I, for one, welcome our new alien Son of God.
posted by sfenders at 7:16 PM on January 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


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