The Orville: Lasting Impressions
March 23, 2019 4:01 PM - Season 2, Episode 11 - Subscribe

The crew opens a time capsule from 2015.

Gordon looks to the past to find love in a middling The Orville (Nick Wanserski for AV/TV Club)
There are boundless storyline possibilities to pursue when writing for a science fiction show. Not every week has to confront god-like space clouds, or warring civilizations that manifest some internal struggle of human psychology, or anything heavy and intense like that, but “Gordon falls in love with a simulation of an aspiring singer/songwriter from 2015” doesn’t feel like an idea that should have made it past musing out loud during the writer’s meeting. I’ve read a lot of feedback from viewers that are tired of this season’s emphasis on the crew’s interpersonal relationships, but I’ve found that to be the strongest and most unique aspect of the show. More so than the workplace comedy antics, or the space adventuring (though I’ve changed my mind about that after the Kaylon episodes), the way The Orville handled friendships and love is the most confidently told and fully-formed. So it’s a bummer that “Lasting Impressions” felt like a dull retread of stuff the show has already touched on in more interesting ways. And the b-story was Bortus and Klyden continuing to be dicks to each other, so there was no reprieve there.
posted by jzb (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I enjoyed the episode but it felt like a "let's keep the costs down" episode, and a Yet Another Relationship episode. On the plus side, I liked Gordon a lot more by the end of the episode, but they're not exactly doing much with Bortus & Klyden beyond comic relief here.

I imagine some folks are going to feel doubly frustrated after the Kaylon episodes that really demonstrated the show's potential to do exciting SciFi. The Orville is fun for me, but I'm wondering how likely it is that the show's fanbase is going to grow or that it will live up to its potential.

Fun seeing Tim Russ, pity they didn't give him more to do in the episode.
posted by jzb at 4:12 PM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


Ugh.
posted by Kyol at 9:11 PM on March 23, 2019


Had Talla not been in this episode, I might have wondered if this was one of the episodes carried over from last year, or even if it had been delayed from earlier in the season. Gordon's comparison of Laura to Isaac felt clunky, given recent happenings, and having a Gordon-super-heavy episode immediately following a Gordon-heavyish episode felt unbalanced. Almost none of the other characters had anything to do.

I get that the smoking scenes with Brotus and Klyden were supposed to be the comedy relief, but other than when Klyden gleefully ate the cigarette, I wasn't happy with a second addiction episode for Bortus, especially another one played for laughs.

The show is already 20th/early 21st century heavy. Perhaps the same(ish) storyline sent in 2115 might have been more appealing? But I felt like we were already here with Geordi and Leah Brahms. I don't mind homages to Trek, but this fell flat to me. (I liked the song, though.)
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 9:30 PM on March 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


I liked this one, although I would agree that it felt weird having two Gordon-heavy episodes in a row. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if this was Fox tinkering with the airing order again. They're infamous for that stuff.

Seeing Tim Russ was a shock, partly because other than a bit of salt and peppering the man does not age. It was kind of a nothing role, so hopefully that was just an introduction to the character and they'll have him back to do something more interesting. McFaralne really does seem determined to bring aboard every Trek person he can find. (IIRC Wil Wheaton is one of McFaralne's pals, so I think it's only a matter of time before Wheaton turns up on this show too.)

Here's a pretty fun curio: Scott Grimes (AKA Gordon Malloy) played one of Wesley Crusher's teenage pals on Star Trek: The Next Generation! It's a couple of deleted scenes, and having grown up with the show and seeing the reruns a gazillion times it's really weird for me to see TNG stuff I've never seen before... with a teenage Gordon in it!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:26 AM on March 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


The sight gag of Bortus dramatically revealing one cigarette, then one more cigarette, then one more cigarette, then five thousand cigarettes at once was kind of funny.

Also the throwaway of Ed reading the paper (from 2015) and saying something about how they didn't realize they were on the edge of a catastrophe and just ran teeth-cleaning ads. I know it was about climate, but I also like to think it was about Trump. Ed, of all people, would know the history of the time.
posted by Mogur at 4:56 AM on March 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


So - being the nerd that I am... Really, holo-simulations keep running in the background, after the user leaves the "holodeck"?

Wow, talk about interesting ramifications. (let alone the question about how much ship processing power could be consumed from running a bunch of background simulations... not like they can offload the AI/details to the "cloud"...)

Next - the guest researcher was so excited by how much they could learn from the phone - yet no one ever tried to run a similar simulation with some other historical data previously? (This cannot be the only artifact that survived - they have simulations with historical media, and they like the "classics" for movies and music...)
posted by jkaczor at 11:53 AM on March 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


let alone the question about how much ship processing power could be consumed from running a bunch of background simulations

I'd assume that when people aren't interacting with a program the computer is running an extremely simplified version without any visuals or anything. Or it might be that the computer isn't really running the program in real time, but just comes up with new stuff as needed. Like, if you were telling a kid a story, that's probably consuming a lot of brain power as you're telling it, but then the next day if the kid asks you, "But what happened years later?" you can just come up with something right then. I'd assume that's how something like Animal Crossing works too. Your little animal friends aren't actually having adventures while you're away, but when you come back the game quickly figures out what would have happened while you were gone.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:25 PM on March 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


That's an interesting question about background simulations, but exploring it would be boring tv.

Agreed with Ursula that, like computer games, a lot of the background "physics" isn't computationally intensive, whereas rendering highly detailed scenes in 3D is.

Gordon receiving a call from the real-time simulation was funny, but the simulation itself could easily take 1/1,000,000th realtime.

The interesting question for me is how much the ship AI delves into the data to run extrapolations from previous communications - and whether it's able to interface with historical records to compare how the simulation aligns with history. ... and to what depth the ship AI will run the simulation when left to its own devices.

But this all implies that there is some massive digital dark age (a war between competing formats? worldwide EMP explosions?), which isn't a first.

Also, another super-TNG-ey episode where Geordi falls in love with a holo simulation of a specialist engineer... Leah Brahms, who runs into him later and finds out he romanced her holo.

But I guess the implication here is how much something like a ship AI a Turing complete/ sentient and whether such an AI could generate a sub-AI that is also.

Agreed - Gordon becomes more likeable demonstrating self-introspection. otoh, Grimes is 47 yo, Leighton Meester is 33, but I really liked how Kelly talks to him about it.
posted by porpoise at 3:43 PM on March 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


question about background simulations, but exploring it would be boring tv.

Oh, I don't know... TNG had... someone visits the holodeck and battle with some sort of villain, who discovers that he is a virtual character and starts taking over the ship... (But yes, I don't want a complete re-hashing of TNG tropes)
posted by jkaczor at 6:23 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Hey, I recognize that song from The Last Unicorn!

I usually can find something to love about every episode so far, and I do like the relationship stories, but this one was kind of ehh. As mentioned above, we just had a Gordon story, and we just had a Bortus addiction story. The texts coming in when the simulation wasn't running strained credulity a little hard for me.

Also, I kept waiting for some plot twist involving Tim Russ' character! I just assumed they would have more for him to do.

I admit I did laugh at the pillow full of cigarettes.
posted by tomboko at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I actually liked the B story more. The A story was uninteresting and non-revelatory and didn't even really have anything interesting to say about either the present or Gordon or anything, and yeah, I've seen that story an awful lot in my sci-fi fiction stories, so either step up to the plate and knock it out or try something different? I mean, OK, if we're going to go with the premise that the Orville is actually a relationship show and not a sci-fi show or a workplace comedy in space show, I guess? But that feels like a bait and switch.

On the other hand, the comedic b-story? Yeah OK that was fun, I'm easily amused by Big Serious Moclans feigning for a nicotine hit, what can I say.
posted by Kyol at 1:25 PM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this episode. It was oddly placed in the season, being so Gordan-centric and so relationship-heavy. But the episode itself was great. It really hit the tone right -- very humane and gentle and sincere, while still clearly for adults and about adult problems and worries. To me, that gave it a very Star Trek: The Next Generation feel, in a good way.

It was also interesting how internal Gordan's story was. You could tell by his choices -- to keep going back to the simulation, to invite his friends to "meet" Laura, to try and change the simulation so he could be with Laura -- that his feelings were very intense. But he didn't articulate those feelings pretty much the whole time, not even when Laura broke up with him. I thought that was interesting in terms of characterization (of course, how internal he kept everything makes me think about how Gordan was supposedly an alcoholic when the show started), and I also thought that showed some trust on the part of the show, in that they trusted that the audience would understand what everyone was feeling and where everyone was coming from without having to spell it out entirely or get saccharine. Also, since Gordan had been so inarticulate through the whole drama with Laura, when he finally told Kelly that he was lonely and worried that he'd never find love, it had a lot of impact (I thought, anyway), because that was the first time the intensity of his words matched the intensity of his actions/behavior. And because it was the first time he outright gave his perspective on the whole situation.

Gordan has been growing on me for a while, but I think this episode was interesting in that it didn't make Gordan seem more interesting or likeable or cooler, really, it just showed that he had more depth of feeling than he'd shown before. Which does make me connect with the character more. That's an interesting/sophisticated choice, writing-wise, and I think a very good one.

The cigarette addiction storyline wasn't great in and of itself, but I thought it was necessary to the episode as a whole, because of how it reflected and re-framed Gordan's story of becoming dependent on the simulation. The crew's reaction to Brutus's addiction to cigarettes was just like their reaction to Gordon's growing emotional dependence on the simulation -- worried, a bit disgusted, as non-confrontational as possible.

I think that having the cigarette storyline echo the simulation storyline kept Gordan's story from having to become too maudlin and overblown, because the cigarette story was this ongoing, onscreen reminder of how intense, relentless, and destructive cravings/needs can be, and made a sort of "threat" hang over Gordan's storyline, too. Also, I thought the "explicit" addiction storyline needed to be about a fairly innocuous "drug," like cigarettes, in order to keep that lightness and (relative) lack of melodrama -- I mean, cigarettes are unhealthy, but nobody was worried about Brutus suddenly endangering everyone or having big personality changes or any huge and immediate consequences like that because of his chain smoking. Thank god.

Also, like I said, it's interesting to me that Gordan is supposedly an alcoholic (although the show kind of dropped that early on), and this was clearly a story about dependence and cravings and needs and trying to fill a void in an inappropriate/sad/desperate way, but the show didn't go in the direction of linking any of that with his ostensible alcoholism explicitly. I'm kind of happy they didn't, but it makes me wonder what's in store for the character.

I wish they hadn't had Leighton Meester play a one-off character, though, because I absolutely love her and wish she were on TV all the time. I wasn't really happy to see Jessica Szohr, because Vanessa Abrams was such a drag on Gossip Girl and I guess I still hold it against her (hahaha) -- but if her being on the show means that we get her former castmate, too, then I'm all for it!
posted by rue72 at 1:34 PM on March 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed the episode. The smoking b-plot was interesting to me because you don't see cigarettes in media very often anymore, and I notice because seeing them definitely makes me want to smoke. It's interesting how impactful that media depiction is, I'd wager there'd be significantly more smokers globally if every show and movie had a realistic number of smokers depicted.

A weird thing about their anti-smoking attitude is that they seem to be fine with other vices, alcohol is bad or your health but they still serve it on ship casually. Plus, if cancer is a trivially solved medical hiccup for their technology level... A lot of the stigma against smoking seems like it would go up in smoke. Especially if future cigarette companies weren't interested in actively addicting their customers beyond the inherent ones of nicotine/tobacco, you'd think it would be another luxury or amenity for occasional use. Tobacco smells good, mild stimulants feel good, and smoking feels good. I'm not buying a cancer-cured society is going to have a huge stick up its ass about smoking when they can trivially eliminate reasonable objections to it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:03 PM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I was initially taken aback that the simulation would keep running when it was suspended, but then I got to wondering if it was an app on the phone Gordon generated that was sending the text. He created the phone as a separate device and asked that it be linked to the simulation. It's not hard to imagine a cell phone shaped device at this point in time would have enough computing power to generate its own text messages or phone calls and then update the simulation.

My bigger problem was that Gordon could have had the computer remove the competing love interest from the program right after the couple broke up. Just have it readjust parameters so he meets the love of his life an hour after the breakup and they never communicate or even see each other again. Then she's still a singer and has all of attributes he liked that her ex helped her develop, but there's no chance of her reconciling. That doesn't give the clean resolution or the sacrifice the writers wanted from their plot, so I know why they didn't do it, but it's a shame they couldn't address it in some way.

I didn't like the B storyline, but I hate smoking and don't like seeing it in any context.
posted by willnot at 5:16 PM on March 25, 2019


A weird thing about their anti-smoking attitude is that they seem to be fine with other vices, alcohol is bad or your health but they still serve it on ship casually. Plus, if cancer is a trivially solved medical hiccup for their technology level... A lot of the stigma against smoking seems like it would go up in smoke.

I mean, I try to avoid being around smoking because I have breathing problems. Which exist probably at least partially because my mom smoked while she was pregnant hahaha. Maybe cancer is trivial to deal with in the Orville future, but there would probably be sinus and/or lung problems still out there.

It also seems like a bad idea to smoke on a spaceship because all the air has to be manufactured/recycled and it's a relatively small enclosed space ("small" compared to the Earth anyway). Plus, none of the people on the spaceship actually own it, and I doubt the Union would be delighted about smoking on their ships because of the risk of property damage (like yellowing those ridiculous white corridors or burning those endless carpets).

But I hear you on how refreshing it is to see people smoke on TV. Like 75% of what I enjoyed about Burn Notice was Michael's mom smoking all the time. Honestly, I liked his mom altogether. But I'm always predisposed to smokers. It's also like the ONE thing that I like about Amy on Brooklyn 99, and I don't think we've even ever seen her smoke on screen, the characters have just mentioned a few times that she smokes when she's stressed.
posted by rue72 at 6:51 PM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Just have it readjust parameters so he meets the love of his life an hour after the breakup and they never communicate or even see each other again.

Maybe if Gordon had thought of that, and tried that first, things would have worked out like he wanted. But the way it played out, I think Gordon realized that things just weren't meant to be with this woman. If she was a real person and not some video game character (and he obviously regarded her as real) it was wrong to play God with her life and alter her reality so she'd love him again. She chose the other guy, and if that's what she wanted, that's how it had to be.

Their age difference stood out to me, but I don't know how old they're supposed to be. Maybe he's 40 and she's... 35?

When she mentioned working for Macy's or Nordstrom or wherever it was, and then we saw the store, I wondered if it was a product placement. But then she said she despised her job, so I don't know. I also wondered if there was some product placement going on with all the close-ups of the phones, but I don't recall seeing any logos. So this episode was either stuffed full of product placement or maybe there was none at all!

The cigarette stuff only bothered me in the sense that Bortus and Klyden are starting to seem so unhappy together that it's becoming kind of tragic they'd stay a couple. We need to see them have some good times to balance out all this scrapping and unpleasantness.

Talla sure was adorable cosplaying as 1990s Janeane Garafalo!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:18 PM on March 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna pretend this episode never happened.

Seriously, the only thing good about it was that Gordon was sorta sweet to his animated love doll. I was cringing that he and John were gonna go all PUA on her. Perhaps they save that for their other holodeck adventures.
posted by Nelson at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Possibly the most interesting thing about this episode is that it is literally ripped from today's, well, if not headlines then at least magazine articles. The idea of constructing a virtual personality from a persons writings has been kicking around for a while, and people have been exploring it with chatbots for some time. The surprising thing for me was that this wasn't already a completely common practice, with the benefit of x hundred years dev time.

I can see where Nelson is coming from with the animated love doll comment, and that was mirrored to a degree in the crew's reaction - but barring quibbles about the feasibility of actually creating sentience from patterns detected in one's digital footprint, and observing the fact that even for love dolls, some people's emotional connections to such things are very real (which the show conveyed quite well), that was a slightly different problem than the one that made me feel uncomfortable:

To wit: the idea of Gordon remaking the turing-test passing, sentient (let's assume sentient, because I don't have a strong belief in magicalness of physical or biological embodiment) entity to suit himself. I mean, in the end it didn't work, but only because the end result also didn't suit him.

I mean - that's an interesting question. Does that constitute some kind of extremely problematic mind wiping or is Mark 2 Leighton Meister a whole new being? If the simulation gets uninstalled, is there really any value to resetting the status quo for a final duet beyond giving Gordon positive feels? That controlling aspect really takes it into love doll territory and Gordon is unfortunately silent on his reasoning why it is the right thing to do.

That said - I don't watch The Orville for in-depth analysis of the implications of artificial psychology (Isaac is a painful character for me), and despite my qualms about the road taken, this was one of the first times I've really gotten the feeling that they were trying to do some actual sci-fi rather than affectionate sci-fi pastiche.
posted by Sparx at 7:54 PM on March 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Rue72 and GoblinHoney, if you really miss the conceit of smoking in popular entertainment media (it looks cool! it reminds you that we basically ban it from movies & TV shows now! if you're a smoker, it's your moment to connect deeply with the character/s, most likely), then you should watch Daybreakers.

It's a movie about vampires, so if you're horror-averse or squeamish you may balk at the plot. But it does show that when cancer's no longer a threat, smoking becomes incredibly popular (for all the reasons you both mentioned and the "it just looks cool" factor).

It's currently available for streaming on Hulu. (You can also rent it via Netflix DVD subscription or pay $3.99 to stream it on Amazon Prime, I believe).
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2019


That controlling aspect really takes it into love doll territory and Gordon is unfortunately silent on his reasoning why it is the right thing to do.

I was totally squicked out by this. I mean he does it after arguing to Mercer that she's a real person. Reminded me of Passengers, I think it is, where the guy
[...click for spoiler]... on a hundred-year space voyage wakes up due to a malfunction, sees a woman he wants, and wakes her up too so he won't be alone, irrevocably altering her life.

I guess another reason we know that time travel isn't possible is that you don't constantly have entitled self-centered dudes showing up to woo women from their history they've become obsessed with, thereby altering that history.
posted by XMLicious at 5:56 PM on May 11, 2019


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