I’m beginning to think giving Seth MacFarlane longer runtimes for this season of The Orville was a really bad idea. They say the final rewrite of a screenplay happens in the editing room, and now in three consecutive episodes we’ve had an editing room that’s far too lax. Nicholas Meyer once said that art thrives on restriction. Well, redundancy thrives on a lack of discipline.
Take the opening minute of "Mortality Paradox." We watch Talla’s shuttle approach the ship (with multiple shots), enter the shuttle bay and land, and then we see Talla get off the shuttle, walk up a spiral staircase and through a corridor, and finally into Grayson’s office. This sequence could’ve been done in 30 or even 15 seconds. Instead, it takes over a minute. Now, that’s not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but it’s indicative of the overall lack of economy and discipline here, and the tendency for this episode to be repetitive by showing us different iterations of the same idea.
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.)