The Orville: Sanctuary
April 12, 2019 11:44 AM - Season 2, Episode 12 - Subscribe

The crew discovers that visiting Moclans aboard The Orville are harboring a secret.

In Review: The Orville – Sanctuary (Ian Cullen for SciFi Pulse)
The Orville gets rather political this week with another story focusing on Moclan culture and a difference of opinion that could see Moclans leaving the Union.
(... or forcibly modify the gender of over 6,000 female Moclans -- ed.)

A smart and kinetic The Orville makes the case for independence (Nick Wanserski for TV/AV Club)
I was a little surprised when tonight’s episode began. It took some real chutzpah for The Orville to return to a story line about a Moclan engineer with a culturally taboo secret that endangers the crew only five episodes after “Deflectors” (FanFare). Even Ed wanly trying to draw attention to this seemingly commonplace occurrence by noting the ship is beginning to feel “like a taxi cab” wasn’t enough to deflect that unless “Sanctuary” had a real worthwhile story to tell, the episode would be an astonishingly lazy retread. How pleased I was, then, that “Sanctuary” had a real worthwhile story to tell. In fact, probably the tightest, most engaging story told on The Orville yet.
And a stray observation from Nick: I get down on the 20th century pop culture references, but how down can I be about Dolly Parton? None down, that’s how much.
posted by filthy light thief (33 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Woo more politics!
posted by zeek321 at 12:41 PM on April 12, 2019

I think it was handled pretty well, for trying to build the conflict and find a resolution of a huge political matter in one episode. They could have easily stretched it out over two or three episodes, but were able to rely on past details a bit.

Also, I think it was worth everything for this exchange:

Heveena: I know nothing of your Earth. Is it like Moclus?
Ed: A little, I guess.
Heveena: The females on Earth do they write?
Ed: They do.
Heveena: To be free to create. To make art.
Ed: Well, you know, you can access Earth's cultural database from here. You'll find centuries of art of all kinds from the women of Earth.
Dolly: Tumble out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen Pour myself a cup of ambition / And yawn and stretch and try to come to life
Heveena: Who is she?
Ed: That's, uh, Dolly Parton.
Dolly: Out on the street -
Heveena: Oh.
Dolly: - the traffic starts jumping / With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5 Working 9 to 5
Heveena: She speaks with the might of a hundred soldiers.
Ed: Yeah. Yeah, I guess she does.
Heveena: This is the voice of our revolution.
Ed: Well, you know, there's actually a whole bunch of stuff -
Heveena: No!
Dolly: - It's enough to drive you / Crazy if you let it -
Heveena: It is she.
Dolly: - 9 to 5 -
Ed: Okay, then.
Dolly: For service and devotion -
Ed: *quietly* Go, Dolly.
Dolly: - You would think that I would deserve a fat promotion ....
posted by filthy light thief at 1:10 PM on April 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

It was an intelligent compromise for an extremely charged situation. Fun! I will be inevitably disappointed but I hope the worldbuilding and political complexity just keeps going up.
posted by zeek321 at 4:21 PM on April 12, 2019

I kind of hate that this episode was so good. I think this show is mediocre overall but now when I say that people will be able to bring up this episode and I'll have begrudgingly admit that it was excellent.

That compromise was so realistic and so horrible though, ugh.
posted by yonega at 6:08 PM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Kinda nice to see Marina Sirtis have a cameo here. More unofficial endorsement of the show by Trek? Weren't there other alumn like Tim Russ, Ricardo, and Billingsley?

Nice callback to Doohan showing up one episode, and Kelley handing off the pilot, for TNG.
posted by porpoise at 7:38 PM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

While I kind of like the episode on the political side, the cartoon-ization of the violence was really a negative.

Yes, female Moclans adopting Dolly Parton is funny*, but there were a few bits of fight choreography that made me - wait, what?

The gravity of the negotiations and stakes feels cheapened by the itchy & scratchy-depth violence. When the violence isn't corny, the rest of it kind of debases it.

Star Trek's space battles were never anything to write home about, but the space battles here are really pathetic/ cartoonish. The proposition of "shields" changes things (one of the only things I liked about ENT was that their shields and hulls were... plausible-ish-ish?) but combat between space vessels of these sizes have rarely been handled well.

I guess it all has to do with how much energy density you can achieve and how much peak energy output you can maintain (given "shields"). Basically, given near-absolute protection against kinetic damage, whoever has the most efficient power supply wins (all other things being equal, such as deciding how to apply that power/ energy and when).

If I'm going to whine about this episode - Bortus' kid turning out fine in the end after one talking to... I know I'm asking too much for there to be 30 seconds of screentime of her being on the brunt end of sexism, or her bully-ee being protective-against/ scared-of her which is the seed crystal for her change in behaviour.

*edit: AND COOL, from what little I know about Parton, I understand that she's a darned allright person, all around
posted by porpoise at 8:22 PM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

It may have been the case that everyone was pulling punches, phasers set to stun and all that, on both sides. Nobody wanted a war; nobody was out to slaughter anyone. Just incarceration and forced sex changes. The on-the-ground battle stakes were weird. Ditto above the planet where it would have been very bad(TM) if any permanent damage actually occurred to or from either side.
posted by zeek321 at 10:02 PM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Bortus' kid turning out fine in the end after one talking to...

And it’s really not clear why, or wtf is up with Klyden.
posted by corb at 10:58 PM on April 12, 2019

wtf is up with Klyden

Well, there's some serious self-hatred in there, as he is a product of the forced-reassignment regime, but more generally, we're on some kind of journey with Bortus and Klyden (their marriage is one of the emotional centers of the show) but I have no idea where it will end up. We know that divorce is fatal on Moclan, and besides, they've already tried that, so it'll be something else - but what?
posted by Mogur at 5:12 AM on April 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Perhaps Klyden will transition back. That would be a very interesting story line.

More unofficial endorsement of the show by Trek? Weren't there other alumn like Tim Russ, Ricardo, and Billingsley?

Yup, all three. Are there any Trek alumni who dislike the Orville? I got the impression it's being treated like Galaxy Quest: recognized as being born a loving homage to Trek.
posted by fatbird at 12:34 PM on April 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

It would be crazy if Klyden and kid transition back. Too interesting so probably won't happen, but one can hope.
posted by zeek321 at 12:58 PM on April 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't know. Seth McFarlane likes to court controversy, and that storyline would definitely fit the bill. Star Trek has always gotten a bit of latitude for being sci-fi. It would be topical as fuck these days. And the more I think about it, the more Klyden's expressive self-loathing seems to be setting the stage for that.
posted by fatbird at 1:04 PM on April 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

The Orville: "Topical as Fuck"
posted by zeek321 at 1:59 PM on April 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hey this was great! Love the idea of Klyden transitioning back. It'd be quite a turn. Right now I'm just like "why doesn't Bortus DTMFA already". Klyden has been despicable for awhile now. But understanding him as a self-loathing victim could work.

I want to call attention to the casting here, they have some amazing guest actors. The Marina Sirtis cameo, sure, this show is collecting the whole TNG set over time. But F. Murray Abraham? Good lord, that's sure ambitious casting. Victor Garber and Ted Danson recurring is no slouch either. Rena Owen is also great as Heveena but I guess she's not quite as famous. Anyway Macfarlane keeps being able to bring in some Big Deal supporting actors and it's fun to watch.

I thought the gun battle to 9-to-5 was hilarious. Yeah it doesn't stand up to examination and it's a cartoonisation of violence. But one of the the themes of Orville is working with how silly the Trek tropes are, and in that context this was pretty good. I just keep waiting for the Orville's answer to Amok Time. We sorta had it, what with Bortus finally taking the piss, but the show chickened out before having the homoerotic arena fight scene.
posted by Nelson at 10:00 PM on April 13, 2019

Right now I'm just like "why doesn't Bortus DTMFA already". By Moclan law (IANAML), Bortus would have to kill Klyden, and he's not willing to do that (although he might let Klyden kill him if it came to that).
posted by Mogur at 4:25 AM on April 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah I remember that episode. Maybe he could just send Klyden away so he's not living on the ship. Oh, but then their son, what happens to him? Bortus' domestic life is a pretty sad situation when you think about it. No wonder he was seeking out marriage-replacing porn on the environmental simulator.
posted by Nelson at 8:24 AM on April 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know I need to suspend disbelief with a show like this, but the logical inconsistencies in the story always bug me. The female Moclan's greeted the Orville crew with guns and seemed to be hyper defensive. So why did they need two people from the ship to come down to protect them? Seems like they would already have been fighting to defend themselves and the Orville crew would have at most showed up to pitch in. And, why was Kelly able to fight in hand to hand so effectively? Aren't Moclan's stronger than humans? Seems like multiple Moclan soldiers would have overpowered her pretty quickly.
posted by willnot at 8:27 AM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

And, why was Kelly able to fight in hand to hand so effectively?

Yeah, it's the Klingon problem. Can't have our heroes lose a fight to a warrior culture soldier (though I'm not sure why), so the warrior culture looks a little more impotent every time.

I'm actually not sure why they feel the need to have Kelly (or any human) go toe-to-toe with a Moclan. There are lots of tactical options that aren't about wading directly into a scrum, and the writers would preserve some martial credibility for the martially credible race.
posted by fatbird at 9:16 AM on April 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was kind of iffy on 9-to-5 being the theme song for the Mochlan feminist revolution at first, but seeing the battle with that song as its soundtrack was awesome. It was fine with me that the violence was cartoon-y, it was just meant as a metaphor for the fight against misogyny anyway. That metaphor was also why Kelly went down to join the battle. It was her fight because she's one of 100s of soldiers that Dolly was giving voice to in 9-to-5, fighting for her place in a man's world (the ship).

Also, Dolly Parton has an amazing voice and seems like a very cool and community-oriented person, so if anyone is going to sing a song of revolution, why not her?

Anyway, I thought this was a pretty good episode. There have been others that have pulled harder on my heartstrings and that I've just enjoyed more, but this was definitely well done. I feel so bad for Bortus, his domestic situation sucks. His husband's parenting choices are so infuriating. I don't think that he and his husband are such a bad match as partners per se, but I think they're TERRIBLE co-parents, and that's going to come to a head at some point.

This has become one of my favorite shows. I love how hard they're leaning in on being the new Star Trek. And it's actually a pretty adult show, in that the characters are dealing with sophisticated and adult problems (political questions, co-parenting, loneliness, dating with kids, etc). I would never have expected that, but I'm delighted.
posted by rue72 at 9:51 PM on April 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was fine with the Moclan women taking 9 to 5 as their anthem, UNTIL it was used to score a battle scene and the stakes went right out the window. I know the show is still partly a comedy but the use of this goofy song just didn't work for me when the action onscreen was supposed to be stuff we cared about.

This is actually the second time that Kelly and Bortus had an extended, violent firefight, following the one at the Nazi astrology prison camp. But that one had way more actual fatalities, while in this one they (presumably) had their guns set on stun to avoid starting an actual war.

I've noticed that Isaac has hardly been in the show since he came back to the good guys, and that's surprising. He basically became a villain, then changed his mind, and then promptly vanished. You'd think we'd be getting a lot more time with him, seeing how he feels about what happened and what the crew feels about him. Hopefully there's some of that coming soon.

I do suspect Klyden will renounce his misogyny and become female eventually, if Bortus and Klyden don't split up first. Klyden doesn't actually seem like a bad person at heart, but he's done so much awful stuff now that it would take a big change like that to redeem him. And then Bortus would have to figure out if he can even be romantic with a female, that just might not be how he's wired, so that could be an interesting new way for them to be loving again but still struggling and miserable.

I'm talking like this show has a future, but we don't know that yet. As I write it's still on the bubble for renewal. Come on, Fox! Renew this surprisingly lovable Star Trek ripoff already!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:19 PM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

It seems like Klyden completely identifies as male, though? That was part of his argument for doing gender reassignment surgery on Topa, that he'd undergone it himself and was happy his parents had made the decision on his behalf because he actually was male anyway. He was also worried that Bortus wouldn't think of him as "really" male anymore once he found out that he'd originally been AFAB. I would be pretty shocked if he transitioned at this point, he just doesn't seem to at all think of himself as female and he seems to want to participate in Mochlan culture in ways he couldn't if he were female.

Out of that family, I think Topa is the one most likely to end up transitioning to female. He's growing up in an environment with tons more gender diversity than Mochlan, and who knows how he will feel about his gender reassignment once he finds out.
posted by rue72 at 10:50 PM on April 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I suspect Klyden is badly over-compensating. As a trans person I've met transfeminine people who did all sorts of extreme, destructive and stereotypically "manly" things in a desperate effort to deny their true feelings, and I think that's probably Klyden's deal too. He may feel like he's not truly a man on some level so he's trying too hard to be manly, acting like a misogynist and wanting nothing to do with women on the ship. As Bortus pointed out, Klyden can't even look at Kelly.

It wouldn't surprise me if Klyden transitions but Topa doesn't. Klyden seems to have a lot of turmoil inside but so far Topa's biggest problem seems to be his unhappy parents.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:08 AM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Eh, I'm not seeing it.
posted by rue72 at 7:21 AM on April 15, 2019

Oops, sorry -- pressed post too soon.

I'm not seeing it because to me, Klydon seems like any garden variety Mochlan misogynist. If anything, he's actually way less rabid than a lot of them have been. And he would lose everything if he transitioned now. It seems like it would be a nightmare and puritanical/cruel for him to be transitioned to female at this point. I feel like it would just be based on him having been AFAB, not based on him actually being female now.

But we'll see! Who knows what'll happen.
posted by rue72 at 7:31 AM on April 15, 2019

The Marina Sirtis cameo, sure, this show is collecting the whole TNG set over time.

Also, this episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes (his second episode) and written by Joe Menosky who has writing credits for episodes of TNG, DS9, VOY and STD. Menosky did write some stinkers but he was co-writer for Darmok, so there's that.
posted by peeedro at 7:52 AM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not seeing it because to me, Klydon seems like any garden variety Mochlan misogynist. If anything, he's actually way less rabid than a lot of them have been.

Excellent point. He's had way more exposure to non-Moclan culture than nearly every other Moclan we've seen. Also, Bortus (who obviously loves the Union) wanted to marry him in the first place. Oh, and also Klyden agreed (or, at least, failed to kill Bortus in time) to live on board a Union ship where he knew there would be females. Could he come the rest of the way and embrace Bortus' point of view?
posted by Mogur at 9:59 AM on April 15, 2019

It seems like it would be a nightmare and puritanical/cruel for him to be transitioned to female at this point.

I meant that he might choose to transition, not that he would be transitioned against his will.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:54 PM on April 15, 2019

"Star Trek's space battles were never anything to write home about, but the space battles here are really pathetic/ cartoonish. "

Is there even a theoretical space battle scene that wouldn't be? My understanding is that realistic space battles would be unfathomably boring, two ships extremely far apart, with unflashy attacks that don't make for good entertainment. I didn't see anything worth grumbling about here that you couldn't grumble the same about Star Wars, Trek, SG:U, GotG, Valerian, literally every sci fi joint with a spaceship battle. I think The Expanse is the only thing I can recall to break that mold.

I enjoyed this episode, I think the show's really found its footing by now, which is faster than even the best Trek series manage to do it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:57 AM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Every time Kelly gets to fight, I enjoy nice flashbacks to Agents of Shield, when Palicki played Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird. Incidentally, you have a subtle nod to the feminist power punch of Mockingbird's "Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda" cover/statement with Kelly being thrown into the mix of this particular fight. I was, though, kind of puzzled with the lack of resistance by the Mochlan women who had seemed pretty on their game when the Orville crew arrived.

I've come to look forward to this show every week, if only because it's so earnest in its intent and construction.
posted by Atreides at 12:22 PM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's interesting to think that the Mochlan culture kind of mirrors and then extends the old thought experiment/stand up comic routine "What if men could give birth? I bet they'd be real assholes about it/abortion would be legal/menstrual supplies would be free" - in this universe they were such assholes about it that they decided to stamp out women completely and pretend they don't exist. It's a pretty chilling and interesting idea that I don't think is being done justice in this setting. The choice of "9-5" didn't resonate with me like it did others here. To me it felt like Seth hamming it up again and kind of cheapened the whole thing when another choice could have lent it a little more weight.
posted by bleep at 6:24 PM on April 16, 2019

Like think about Handmaids Tale but instead of keeping the women as brood mares, they don't need women at all and nobody gets to be who they are. I mean it's pretty dark. Maybe, if they're doing this the right way, if somebody out there can put themselves in Topa's shoes and think, what if I was forced to have a man's body even though I'm not a man? Maybe it could do some good.
posted by bleep at 6:36 PM on April 16, 2019

I agree that 9 to 5 was really jarring in an otherwise dramatic sequence, but I think that's the show stumbling as it finds its way between being a sci-fi parody and a more straight-up sci-fi show. It used to stumble like that a lot more, with tonal shifts all over the place, but it's gotten better so now when it does stumble it really stands out.

I didn't have a problem with the Moclan women adopting it as an anthem, I thought it was cute and the actress who played the wise Moclan poet lady did a fantastic job reading out those lyrics like she was giving a sermon on the mount. You could see how it would be a profound song to these women who've been oppressed their whole lives and had never heard anything like that. But to Earth ears it's kind of a bouncy, goofy song, and that made it seem really trivializing when people were getting shot. Maybe they should have picked a song with just a little more gravitas, something superficially campy but with more of an edge. I don't know what it could have been. She Works Hard for the Money? I Will Survive? Heck, there's probably another song in Dolly's own catalog that would've done the job better.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

When the Orville shuttle first landed, the female Moclan warriors surrounded them with guns drawn very quickly. But when the Moclans came to round them up, the only weapons the women had were those they stole from the Moclan men after Kelley and Bortus started shooting.

While enjoyable, this show makes no sense. Ever.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

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