While creator Seth MacFarlane rebranded his sci-fi series as The Orville: New Horizons washing away its Fox past into its Hulu present, it looks like it's returned with a furious vengeance for season three. The cold opening revealed the trauma, scratching at the surface of the survivors of the Kaylon invasion showing Marcus (BJ Tanner) running through the Orville's hallways dodging debris left and right. As he returns to his mother's family quarters, he wakes up from the nightmare. This is your minor spoilers warning.
The season two finale saw the Planetary Union barely survive the invasion in part thanks to the efforts of the Orville's lone Kaylon crew member Isaac (Mark Jackson), who implemented a massive EMP blast to disable himself and those other Kaylon who took over the ship. The aftermath sees the significant resentment and hatred toward Isaac for his actions and mortal being including a mess hall story from the newest bridge officer Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters), who shares what happened with her during the conflict losing her best friend on her previous ship.
As word gets around quickly, we learn from Isaac that's been a recurrence from multiple members of the crew opening showing their disgust from his continued presence. With Isaac's lack of emotions, he continues to be in observational mode as naturally, Capt Ed Mercer (McFarlane) remains largely naive about the degree of seriousness of the current unrest. The title of the episode "Electric Sheep" is an obvious allusion to the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? challenging audiences on how to measure awareness and what that truly means.
The themes of the episode are forgiveness, remorse, and patience, which I feel for the most part Star Trek covers pretty well. Forgiving an enemy is pretty difficult as we have seen numerous times throughout Trek canon, even with The Original Series final film The Undiscovered Country (1991), with Kirk still harboring prejudice against the Klingons since one killed his son in The Search for Spock (1984). I'm surprised that The Next Generation didn't have more pushback with the Worf character since the series wasn't that far removed from TOS timeline. The Klingons and Federation were at war for a very long time. Following TNG, we haven't seen much of any fallout of the post-Romulan-Federation war in the current canon.
MacFarlane, who directed and wrote the episode, knocked this out of the galaxy because professionalism only goes so far when it comes to heart-wrenching loss on a grand scale. While it's explored several times more indirectly than directly on Star Trek, The Orville manages to capture the tension within the microcosm. Shit gets real deep & left open-ended. There are no easy answers sometimes. Even as far as premiere standards, there are numerous triggering moments I must warn about as far as themes go as you dive deeper into this episode. Winters, Tanner, Jackson, MacFarlane, and especially Penny Johnson Jerald turned in some seriously powerful performances. Jerald's status as the emotional soul of the show was never in question, but this is seriously Emmy worthy. Check out our interview with Winters here.
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