Under the guidance of ex-Starfleet humanitarian worker Dr. Aspen (Jesse James Keitel), the Enterprise ventures into a "wild west" area of space to rescue missing colonists who have apparently been kidnapped by a band of pirates known to actively pillage this area. Their ship is called the Serene Squall, and Aspen says the pirates will likely sell the colonists into slavery to the Klingons if they aren’t rescued. The Enterprise enters the region, which puts them out of contact with Starfleet and on their own, in a mission to find the Serene Squall and rescue the prisoners.
"The Serene Squall" is easily the worst outing for SNW this season, and it’s a bit of a deflation to see this promising show on the decline for the third straight episode. Still, this one stands out in its boring mediocrity compared to the last two. There haven’t been a lot of pirate episodes on Star Trek (they were long forbidden by Gene Roddenberry in the TNG days), with "Gambit" being the only notable exception. "Gambit" was middling, but it was a lot better than this.
Claire’s ex-husband, Admiral Paul Christie (James Read), who was her former professor way back in the day before they got married and then divorced, and who is now a top Union diplomat, comes aboard the Orville to negotiate passage through an area of Krill space that could open up entirely new exploration opportunities.
Included in this area of space are "shadow realms" that the Krill say should be avoided, because of the "demons" that exist within them. Because the Krill base this, like everything, in their religious fanaticism, Christie and Mercer are skeptical of the warning, and think exploration of this area of space is still important.
While making a visit to the Majalan system, which Pike visited a decade earlier, the Enterprise comes to the rescue of a Majalan shuttle under attack by a larger ship from a nearby alien colony. The Enterprise fends off the attackers, which crashes on the planet surface as its crew escapes. The shuttle’s rescued passengers are beamed aboard the Enterprise for protection. Among them are a young boy, his father, and a Majalan official named Alora (Lindy Booth), whom Pike coincidentally had some sort of romance with a decade ago.
The boy is the new First Servant of Majalis (Ian Ho), a young genius who is imminently scheduled to ascend to the throne in a crucial ceremony. The boy’s father, Gamal (Huse Madhavji), says he is the father in biology alone, as the First Servant actually belongs to all of Majalis. Alora seems friendly, and is really glad to see Pike again. Gamal seems a bit off, like something is wrong.
Season three of The Orville — moved from Fox to Hulu and now dubbed "New Horizons" — premieres some three-plus years after the second season ended. "Electric Sheep," the first installment — filmed more than two and a half years ago — serves as a re-acquaintance of sorts, with the Orville docked at a starbase for a retrofit and waiting to deploy for its next exploration mission.
But the episode first opens with a Major FX Sequence, featuring a huge battle between the Kaylon and Union fleets, and Marcus (BJ Tanner) running through the corridors of the ship trying to escape the explosions and mayhem. He’s able to get back to his quarters where Isaac is there waiting, but then Isaac suddenly goes into Red Mode and lunges at him like a predator. Marcus wakes up in a panic. (This opening sequence was released months ago to stave off impatient fans amid yet another delay announcement, except it didn’t contain the obvious reveal that it’s all a nightmare.)
"Spock Amok" is a low-stakes laid-back comedy that very nearly works because it just allows us to spend time in the company of characters who are shaping up to be very likable, and it doesn’t try to be too wacky. It doesn’t quite get to the finish line because, well, in trying so hard not to be wacky, despite its fairly wacky premise, it just sort of meanders its way through the hour while basically admitting it has no real ambitions.
This is fine, mostly because the cast gels well enough that they overcome the lack of compelling material. This is essentially a shore-leave episode with some minor inconsequential "Enterprise hosts some negotiations" plotting bolted on to give some of the characters something to do. From a character standpoint, it retreads one of the most examined issues in all of Star Trek — Spock’s troubled identity as a half-human half-Vulcan. (It opens with his dream sequence where a human Spock and a Vulcan Spock battle each other in the ring with lirpas, complete with TOS music.)