In Episode 3, “About a Girl,” The Orville warped right into Federation territory, took a story that Trek lovers have been wanting, and gave it a twist that’s sending fans rushing from the neutral zone and right into Orville territory. As a Star Trek fan myself, I couldn’t resist thinking about the beloved series all through this episode, and I felt pretty happy with what The Orville delivered. It gave us an honest Star Trek worthy ethical dilemma, threw in some humor, and completed the show with a twist ending that will affect the characters in future episodes. Was it perfect? No, of course not. But it was enjoyable to watch and had some great Trek-worthy moments.
Spoilers for The Orville Episode 3 below.
At the end of Episode 2, we learned that Bortus and his partner Klyden had a baby girl. We were led to believe that Moclans are monogender race, but it turns out that females are born sometimes — approximately once every 75 years or so. However, the Moclans don’t need females to breed and being a female is considered a disability in their society.
After watching Rudolph, Bortus realizes that his views are wrong and they should let their child grow naturally, deciding for herself when she’s old enough if she wants to be male or stay female. (As a fan of the old time Rudolph, I loved that this was the catalyst for his change of heart.) He decides that his child might do amazing things as a female. But Klyden isn’t on board and still wants the sex change operation that Dr. Finn refused to do.
Because the parents can’t agree, they have to attend a Moclan tribunal where their daughter’s fate will be decided. Kelly Grayson ends up being Bortus’ lawyer because she took one year of interplanetary law (and because Captain Mercer really didn’t want the job.)
During the trial, she tries to prove that females can be stronger and smarter than males. This part fell flat for me. Deeper questions could have been addressed during the trial that might have opened up some truly memorable discussions. The issue wasn’t whether any females could be stronger or smarter than men, but whether Moclan females were truly handicapped in that society, or if they brought something unique that was worth keeping them intact. Throughout the trial, I kept wondering what was the root of the Moclans’ strong dislike for females. Is it really just because Moclans are military-focused and females didn’t fit in as well? Or was their a real disability with females that we we didn’t know about?
I kept hoping there was a backstory about the females that would turn things upside down. I wanted to find out there was a true cost to being female besides being outcast, something that would make the moral dilemma that much tougher. Maybe females only have half the life span of males due to a genetic flaw, for example. Or maybe from an evolutionary standpoint, introducing females would somehow disrupt the egg-hatching procreation of their species. Nothing like that was revealed, but I kept waiting for it.
Mercer eventually found a female living in a remote cave and brought her to the trial. It turns out that she’s been writing under a pseudonym and is the Moclans’ most famous author. I loved this part. It was a twist and this information disproved the Moclans’ theories about women.
Although I really liked this episode overall, there were some moments in the show that I was less-than-thrilled with. In a society that is so intermixed with other alien races, I would think it might be tougher to immediately assume a different alien species should follow your species’ moral code. Honestly, I would expect Mercer’s and Grayson’s opinion to be the minority on the ship, as the majority of people would have learned to respect other alien races and realize that human values shouldn’t necessarily be ascribed to them. I would also expect them to dig a little deeper into the reasoning behind the alien’s belief before making a judgment. What if there really had been some type of serious disability they didn’t know about?
The struggle that most of the crew of The Orville had with the sex change is something I would expect to be more prevalent in the universe of a show like Enterprise, where the crew really is exploring and meeting new alien cultures for the first time and just now figuring things out. But despite my feelings on this, I still really enjoyed hearing the different characters talk about the Moclan’s culture and hear Bortus describing being female as something similar to being born with a cleft palate. Even with my slight concerns, this was a great episode that explored a tough topic in an engaging way that fans will keep talking about for quite a while.
In the end, the tribunal ruled that the baby should have a sex change operation and be a male. The big revelation about the female author just wasn’t enough. By the time the show ended, the operation had happened. I was expecting a different kind of ending, but I was glad the show was brave enough to give us an ending that we’d feel conflicted about. I’m glad to be this early into the season and know that a “happy ending” won’t always happen.
And I like that Bortus plans to stay with Klyden because they’re mates and he loves him, despite Klyden’s role in their child’s sex change and Klyden’s revelation that he too was born female but kept it from Bortus. It’s good that the characters will be working through this. And I loved the small touch of giving a Rudolph toy to their baby. They won’t hide this decision from him, I’m betting.
I also really enjoyed the humor in this episode, such as when Bortus left his baby with his drunk colleagues. And the scene on the holodeck: I was never a big fan of holodeck stories on Star Trek, so I loved the little twist with the dance off. Let’s have more holodeck scenes like that.
There were a lot of moments that reminded me that this show may be similar to Star Trek, but it has its own unique personality — and that’s a really good thing.
The Orville is showing that its heart and style makes it a worthy television successor to Star Trek. It may not actually be Star Trek, but it seems to have every element that Star Trek fans would want to see. In fact, we saw a story a little bit like this in The Next Generation‘s The Outcast, which also ended on a down note (and a slightly-less-similar but still worthy contender in Babylon 5 too.)
If you’re wanting a Star Trek fix, this show will deliver it. When CBS’ new Star Trek premieres in a few days, it will be interesting to compare fans’ reactions to both shows.
What did you think about this episode? Let us know in the comments below.