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‘The Orville’ delivers an excellent drama on a real issue

"A Tale of Two Topas" tackles a current-day controversial issue using the classic Star Trek (TNG) style. It does so with heart, feeling, empathy, thoughtfulness, messiness, ugliness, and no shortage of emotional and plotted complication. It’s all the more effective because of its straightforward take on the material. This is an episode that demonstrates how properly existing at the vertex where the intellectual and the emotional converge can result in something pretty great.

This episode uses science fiction to just barely put a twist on a current-day issue. In this case, it’s the matter of gender identity as seen through Bortus’ and Klyden’s child, Topa (Imani Pullum) — born female but reassigned male (unknown to him), shortly after birth as a result of the deeply misogynistic Moclan culture. While Topa is shadowing Grayson to learn more about how the crew operates, he reveals to her that he has been feeling "incomplete" and "unhappy"; he has realized there is something wrong deep within himself. In a rather alarming development, Topa goes to Isaac and asks him what it felt like to be dead. Isaac explains that being dead was not unpleasant, because it was merely a state of nothingness. Isaac wisely reports the conversation to Grayson.

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