Welcome back to Bleeding Cool's look at the second season of FOX's The Orville – and let me jump right in with this: Seth MacFarlane really seems to like picking on poor Bortus (Peter Macon) in particular, and it feels awkward and inappropriate.
I understand MacFarlane drew inspiration for the Moclan from Star Trek's Klingons – but as well-intentioned as he appears, it makes the character feel far more like a pariah. Whether the actions of Mercer (MacFarlane) and the Planetary Union are just when it comes to Moclan customs and traditions, it doesn't feel at times like they're accepting him for who he is. It's a similar identity crisis that puts Worf (Michael Dorn) – a Klingon child adopted by human parents – at odds between what's acceptable between Klingons and Federation in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
While Bortus and his mate Klyden (Chad L. Coleman) face marital difficulties, it's revealed Bortus loses himself in his "stimulations" through promiscuous fantasies in the holographic generator. He becomes evasive to Klyden, offering work-related excuses to avoid intimacy. The obsession is reminiscent of the ST:TNG episode 'Hollow Pursuits' where Lt. Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) tries to overcome his social anxiety by drowning himself in the Holodeck of the Enterprise with senior officers as characters in his fantasies.
The subplot of the episode involves a dying planet as the Orville observes the star about to consume it, but later finds out there are still inhabitants.
As relations reach a fever pitch, Klyden assaults Bortus and Mercer orders the couple to undergo therapy with Dr. Finn (Penny Jerald Johnson). While the counseling and doing things "the Planetary Union" way appear to work, the unintended tells the audience how unacceptable another culture is. Aside from the ceremony of 'Ja'loja' and taking a leave of absence/paternal leave to sit on an egg before his child is born, everything else it seems the Moclan way doesn't seem to be acceptable.
I'll admit it is nitpicky, but it's a complaint of mine of ST and The Orville where you have an alien race and no one in the Federation or Planetary Union thought of researching these customs, whether if it's Klingon or Moclan. As much as the crew of the Orville should be used to the unusual and exotic as an advanced society, most appear disgusted with Moclan traditions.
The part that makes it more MacFarlane and less Star Trek is how many different fantasies Bortus has. In fact, it keeps beating you over the head over and over just to fill time. Star Trek would actually use the time for more exposition to learn about the inhabitants so it would make the mission more meaningful.
This is one of the few things that frustrates me about The Orville. At times, it can't decide if it wants to be a comedy or drama. Sometimes the comedy works when the jokes aren't forced. Like anything MacFarlane has done, many times it looks like he's trying too hard to get a laugh and it borders of self-indulgence. He didn't need to focus on shaming Bortus the entire episode to get a 1-2 minute "lesson learned" resolution at the end – because it just ends up feeling cheap.
The Orville airs on FOX on Monday nights.