Part of what I love about The Orville is the way it avoids long term adversarial story lines and focuses more on weekly problems to be solved. It definitely hearkens back to the Star Trek series of old. For me, it has a very early season Star Trek: The Next Generation feel that is appreciated. As someone who misses the camaraderie of that crew terribly, I have loved every minute of this show.
In this week’s installment, what seems to be a big problem will have a not-too-predictable solution. And what seems like a rather innocuous first encounter quickly becomes a life-threatening situation.
Last week, we lost Alara and truthfully, I’m still not over it. The show must go on though, so we were introduced to a new Chief of Security this week in “All The World Is Birthday Cake.” Lt. Talla Keylai is the same species as Alara, but that is where the similarities end. She’s brash and intense with a splash of sarcasm, and the first thing we learn about her is that she punched a previous captain “into next week,” because she had to. I got the feeling that Mercer isn’t so sure about her after this exchange. But of course she is going to get the chance to prove herself. Don’t worry — she will.
Cmdr. Kelly Greyson has been hemming and hawing about asking Bortis to share a birthday party with her, since their birthdays are so close. When she finally asks him, Bortis turns her down cold. Bortis has a very “Warf”-ish personality that I love. He’s so dry, he makes a desert look like a rain forest. And apparently it’s not even a species trait, because his partner Klyden is nothing like that. He is good for at least a couple laughs almost every episode, but I digress. This birthday planning isn’t just cute… it’s foreshadowing. Stay with me.
Talla picks up on microwaves carrying a message and, once decoded, everyone is thrilled that “Is anyone out there?” is a clear indicator that they are headed for their first official First Contact mission. Mercer gives the order to head towards the planet, and he, Kelly, Bortis, Talla, and Dr. Finn head down to meet the inhabitants of the new planet.
It’s a very earth-like civilization, and they are greeted warmly by government officials in a big city. Everyone is friendly and eager to learn about each other, so a tour commences where Dr. Finn and Talla get to see the medical facilities. Their technology looks very much like what we would recognize as a normal hospital facility and equipment now, but it is quite primitive looking to the Orville crew. The first taste of a problem comes when Dr. Finn realizes they are performing c-sections early for seemingly no reason. When she questions it, the medical staff seem shocked that she doesn’t know. Apparently it is to prevent them from being born “gilliac”. We don’t know what that is yet, but it won’t be long before it creates a problem for our crew.
At a dinner that evening with the Rigorite government officials, Kelly announces that she and Bortis have a birthday coming up, and before she can even finish her statement, the First Prefect and his staff are shouting for security. No one is really sure what is going on, but the entire crew is arrested, and Kelly and Bortis are separated from the rest. It’s not until after samples are taken from Talla, Mercer, and Dr. Finn to prove their birth dates that they are allowed to meet with the First Prefect and find out what is going on.
The Prefect explains that a gilliac is someone born under the sign of the Gilliac, a constellation. The belief is that a gilliac is innately violent and, as such, needs to be separated from civilized society. Kelly and Bortis have been moved to a camp for gilliacs, and the crew heads back to the Orville and are told not to return.
Kelly and Bortis step out of a truck wearing red jumpsuits and meet immediately with the camp leader, a pompous and arrogant warden of sorts. He is quick to inform them of their place, and this sets off a weak attempt to free themselves, which only gets Kelly kicked around. Any further insurrection will result in their death. Again, this is some thinly-veiled foreshadowing.
Back on the Orville, the crew is meeting with Admiral Perry (Ted Danson) who makes sure they understand that they cannot use force to retrieve their crewmates, because it would send the wrong message to the Rigorites. Obviously, the crew is not happy with this order, but they decide to make another diplomatic trip to see the Prefect, hoping to reason with him. The Prefect has just announced the arrival of Gilliac and reminds his people that they must turn over any infants born under this sign to officials. People are doing this willingly; let that sink in.
Back in the camp, Bortis stops a hungry man from taking food from a pregnant woman. (This couple will be important to the story later in the show.) We learn that the couple fully believes they belong in this camp. This belief is so deeply rooted for these people, that they are willfully staying in the camp where they are treated like criminals, because of the sign they were born under.
Mercer and Talla try to reason with the Prefect again, but they are unsuccessful. Talla is obviously losing patience with his explanations and lashes out at him, dripping with sarcasm more than once. Ultimately, they return to the Orville empty handed, at which point Perry informs them that they have 24 hours to get back on mission. Leaving Kelly and Bortis behind is not going to happen, so we are treated to a brainstorming session in the conference room with the whole crew. I love this so much because of its Star Trek: The Next Generation feel. We know they are going to figure this out, but this scene is the obvious turning point. Once the meeting is concluded, there is this moment where the camera focuses on Talla, and it becomes obvious that she’s got the answer.
Before we get the answer from Talla, we go back to the camp with Kelly and Bortis, where Kelly is helping the pregnant woman deliver her baby. (In a previous scene, the First Prefect held a telecast to announce that they have successfully exited the sign of the Gilliac and have entered a more prosperous sign.) The fact that this baby was not born gilliac within a gilliac camp means that the woman either has to give it up or hide it. She decides to hide it, but the father is conflicted. Giving the baby up means a better life, even for this ridiculous reason. When the inspectors come in to the bunk to inspect, the father gives up the baby to them in a deeply emotional scene. Kelly and Bortis decide enough is enough and decide to overthrow the camp.
Back on the Orville, Talla is explaining that the Rigorian belief in astrological power is deeply rooted in the destruction of a star three thousand years ago. Her plan is to force them into rethinking their beliefs by putting a fake star back into the constellation where it had been. While they figure out how to pull it off, we are given a look at Kelly and Bortis’ progress at the camp. Bortis has stormed a watch tower and collected handguns and grenades, which is another modern-day parallel. They run around in a sequence that is reminiscent of A-Team, shooting and throwing grenades, but once they blow open the front gate, they are immediately overpowered and sentenced to death.
While this is going on, Malloy and J Lee are deploying the “Sun Sail” that will reflect the sun’s light and give off the appearance of a star. Amazingly (or maybe not so much), the “star” lights up the night sky at just the moment the executioner is about to pull the trigger on Kelly. One of the Rigorites yells out at the sky, and everything stops.
The First Prefect decides this new star ushers in a period of “Change,” though we don’t get to know what that means exactly. Kelly and Bortis, however, are now safe and sound back on the Orville and having a joint birthday party, despite Bortis’ need for his birthday to be “his” day. It is during this party that we see a moment between Talla and Mercer, where he commends her for her excellent work and, as a nod to their earlier conversation, tells her she can “punch him in the face anytime.”
I will admit, –I still miss Alara, but Talla just might be a good fit. I’ll give her a chance.
The Orville airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.