FOX's The Orville reminds us of the social value of science fiction, much like its inspired predecessor Star Trek long before it: we're blessed with the luxury of segmented fan bases, but ultimately we all work together in the same world. This week's episode "Sanctuary" appeals to many first-world folks, because so many are tone deaf outside their own sphere of existing influence. The Moclan intergender war is something many historians and societies struggle under patriarchal rule.
Issues from reproductive freedoms to even the right to just exist are dealt with here – and are also the same social struggles women all over our world still deal with to this day. In certain countries, women are subjugated to far greater oppressive standards then their male contemporaries, from appearance to social status – today, we see attempts to criminalize abortion in the United States with even a Texas lawmaker proposing the death penalty as punishment.
Are we in the first world so different than the barbarism we claim superiority over? Dialogue's regressed to the point of near silence, with too many preferring to shy away from discussing the topics when we should be morally obligated to confront them before matters deteriorate any further. This is far beyond a generic "progressives vs. conservatives" debate: it's about just having a conversation… which is what "Sanctuary" is predominantly about.
After discovering a female Moclan renegade colony, the Planetary Union is forced to confront and re-examine their relationship with Moclus – who are unabashedly misogynistic, forcing gender reassignment surgery to reinforce their status single-sex, all male society. Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon, in arguably his strongest turn of the season) was at odds with Moclan traditions: he stood firm, because he evolved to embrace the standards of the Planetary Union… to embrace all life forms as equal and the idea of feminism, which as an aside is often misconstrued as misandary.
The writing and directing of the series is far superior than most existing science fiction on film and television. Each time I feel the show shatters the bar of the genre, another Emmy-worthy episode blasts onto airwaves. While we can marvel at the longevity of shows like NCIS, The Simpsons, or Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the intrinsic value of The Orville can't simply be quantified – especially at a time when a show like this is much-needed. We've lost our way as a society, so we need the reminders of hope that the series provides.
Written by series star Seth MacFarlane and Star Trek alum Joe Menosky, and directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation alum Jonathan Frakes (one of the most talented and brilliant Trek actors going), the episode played all the right notes and keys – and hit them beautifully. The ignorant may cry foul that the show's "sanctimonious," but I counter that they are the reason why we need these reminders… need these kind of stories. Also? That they can eat a bag of d***s.
Special recognition is due for the rest of the cast, particularly Adrianne Palicki, Jessica Szohr, and Scott Grimes; with the all-star cast helped bring the sense of cinematic urgency at their best from recurring guest stars in Victor Garber, Ted Danson, and Rena Owen. One final thing "Sanctuary" reminded us of is how the show's positive critical attention has made it easier for the show to recruit quality talent to any role – big or small – like Kelly Hu, Tony Todd, and ST:TNG alumnae Marina Sirtis.
There's no other network science fiction show today that's accomplished what The Orville has accomplished – and nothing else FOX puts out comes close.
The Orville s02e13 "Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow": A time distortion affects Ed and Kelly's relationship.