The Orville: 2.05 All The World Is Birthday Cake
The Orville continued its winning streak this week as the ship made first contact with an alien race and dealt with issues of persecution, segregation and bigotry. Tackling social issues is part of what makes the show so much more than a comedy series, though it continues to maintain a sense of levity to the preceding.
It was the classic 'an insidious secret at the heart of society' scenario we've seen on plenty of sci-fi shows. The command crew of The Orville were invited to tour the planet after making first contact, an exciting prospect for both parties, before Claire began to question the elephant in the room - why were there so many c sections taking place instead of natural birth? It was only when Kelly announced her and Bortus's upcoming birthdays that the penny dropped and all hell boke loose.
The idea of people being segregated from society and held in camps because of their birth date was a pretty dark take, a commentary perhaps by Seth MacFarlane on astrology and it's continuous impact on some many people's lives. The idea that astrology had impacted an entire advanced society was a surprise turn of events, having a profound impact Bortus and Kelly, whose birthday just happened to fall in the wrong period into a work camp and left the crew helpless to save them.
Of course the question was raised over why the superior technologically advanced Orville couldn't just attack and break them out, raising an intriguing morale question; was it right to use superior force just because the Union didn't uphold the same beliefs as the planet they had made contact with? It was a tricky dilemma for Ed and the crew, with the episode spanning several weeks as they sought to find a diplomatically solution to free their shipmates.
In the end it was new crew member, security chief Lieutenant Talia Keyali who found the solution - trick the planet into thinking that the star that had been died and led to this superstition belief, had been reborn. This led to a great but of sci-fi drama as the crew crafted a fake star using solar sails, one that perhaps wasn't completely ethically right. After all, they had deceived an entire planet, turning it's society upside down just to free two crewmates.
While All The World Is Birthday Cake explored the issues well, the ending felt rushed. One minute Kelly and Bortus were about to be executed and the next they were celebrating a belated joint birthday party on the bridge while there was a throwaway line about the massive shift in the planet's society and the potential fallout of their actions. The episode could have done with five more minutes to explore than fallout fully.
Still, it was the happy ending we as the audience wanted as much as the crew. And it was hard to sympathise with the alien populace and their treatment of its people purely because of their birth date. But it did treat the issues carefully, making sure not to paint the aliens as stereotypically evil - at least outside the camps. The fact that The Orville attempted to offer an argument on both sides of the issue shows just how much care goes into the show which could otherwise exist as a standard sci-fi spoof.