The Orville: A Tale of Two Topas
June 30, 2022 12:00 AM - Season 3, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Kelly helps Topa prepare for the Union Point entrance exam, causing tension with the Moclans.

We also get a payoff from previous seasons: Bortus singing!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A lot of callbacks to seasons 1 and 2, including a nice bit of video editing where they use the simulator to revisit a past event.

I really liked this episode, and the music department really nailed it.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:09 AM on June 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

I have a weird feeling about expression of emotions in this episode. I'm sure I get what the writers were trying to portray in having Topa happy and smiling in the end but, when that's the only time we get to see a Moclan smiling in the episode and Bortus and Klyden have spent almost every screen moment being either stoic or very, VERY angry (aside from one very private moment of Bortus crying), it feels like it's pushing the "men aren't allowed to have positive emotions" trope.
posted by hanov3r at 8:45 AM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Felt like the whole alien tomb thing was filler, or a false start. An unfulfilled McGuffin, as it were.

Also, doesn't Topa still have to find out that Klyden also was born female?
posted by zadcat at 11:43 AM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is a remarkably thoughtful piece of pro-trans science fiction. Not just good for Seth MacFarlane, properly good.
posted by 4th number at 7:03 PM on July 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

This episode is a piece designed to convince, an argument aimed at the Klydens of the world.

The question Mercer asks Klyden is the thesis here, paraphrased: You, a person whose identity as a parent is very important to you, are currently choosing adherence to the bigoted parts of "your culture" over having a relationship with your child. How's that working out for you, really?
posted by 4th number at 9:31 PM on July 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

I continue to admire the way Seth MacFarlane has just gone for it this season. I know he chose to move away from Fox, and I wonder if it was specifically so he could do these kinds of episodes?
posted by rednikki at 2:22 PM on July 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

Felt like the whole alien tomb thing was filler, or a false start.

I think the only reason for it was a plot device to allow Admiral Howland to make an unexpected visit. She cruised in on the ship that showed up to take custody of the site, right?

I really like that the show is going in these directions and that it's defied expectations. If anybody from Hulu is reading - renewing The Orville is a guaranteed way to keep this subscriber.
posted by jzb at 2:52 PM on July 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Man, I don't know if Seth McFarlane is a _lousy_ director or if this was filmed in the deepest of Covid precautions, but eeeeeeevery damn shot was the same head on squared off shot with no sense of rhythm in the edit, no reactions, no wide shots, and maybe the occasional clumsy over the shoulder shot. Ecch.

I didn't mind the conclusion to the Moclan story and I think they handled the subject matter well - aside from the whole "there's no actual way the Moclans would have bought this justification and excuse" that they sort of hinted at in-show. But man it was a painfully amateurish feeling show for a crew with as many years in the industry as they all have.
posted by Kyol at 7:48 PM on July 6, 2022

Great episode. My only gripe is that it was really long, and started to really feel it through the back half. But had a lot going on and was jam stuffed, so not drawn out unnecessarily, just think maybe it would have benefited from being a two-parter.
posted by General Malaise at 1:21 PM on July 7, 2022

I seem to recall a TNG episode where someone insults someone else in Klingon (or maybe it was Romulan?) by calling them an "ignorant topa" pronounced just like Topa's name in this episode. I wonder if that was coincidence ?

I thought it was a pretty strong episode actually, it held my attention all the way to the end which they haven't all managed to do this season.
posted by some loser at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2022

Well this was lovely.

What I liked most about this episode was its absolute embrace of alienness. Not just the Moclan concept of gender but also their odd emotional affect. And then Isaac.. wow. To have him performing the surgery, clueless about how to have "bedside manor". And then the reveal he didn't really care about Topa's happiness at all, it was a bid to improve his status in the crew. But not malicious for that, his Kaylon brain just acts differently from humans. All just utterly alien and in the best possible way. The ST:TNG shtick with Data is that he was an android but deep down he had a human heart of gold. I like that Orville rejects that, that Isaac truly is a robotic being with completely alien motivations.

But the main story is Topa's gender. And that was a real affirmation of a decent approach to complicated gender and identity issues. I was a little confused at first because I was trying to see this through the lens of a transgender story. But that way doesn't work. It's an intersex allegory instead. Similar concept but sort of the mirror image. Same answer though; respect the person, drop your own preconceptions of what their gender "should" be, listen to them and do right by them.

Kind of shocking to see Bortus and Klyden have a complete schism over the treatment of their child, to the point Klyden leaves. I mean good riddance, he's been an asshole all along. But also it's way outside the line of the usual American TV parenting stories. Usually the happy conclusion is the two parents coming to a consensus about how to treat their children. It's quite transgressive what they did here instead, that Bortus and all their friends choose one side and Klyden leaves in a huff. I hope next season we see some outcome from that; either Klyden apologizing and asking for forgiveness or maybe coming back with a righteous, awful fury.

Also loved seeing Kelly go absolutely 100% to bat for Topa. And confessing that she was reckless, and out of line, but also doing was seemed necessary and right. It's a lot more subtlety than this kind of story usually gets.

I never would have expected a Seth Macfarlane joint to have a complex, nuanced treatment of gender identity. Bravo.
posted by Nelson at 10:03 PM on July 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

Bortus' concert was a well done counterpoint to Topa's operation.

(Plus, despite the serious subject matter and tone, Bortus got yet another opportunity for a hilarious line delivery when he angrily shouts, "That key is too high!" at young Ty Finn performing the piano accompaniment.)
posted by fairmettle at 11:05 PM on September 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

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