The Orville: 2.12 Sanctuary
The rituals and beliefs of the Moclan race have provided The Orville with some controversial, thought provoking narratives. There are certainly elements of Star Trek's Klingons and even Ferengi in their design but Seth MacFarlane has taken their development one step further, looking at racism, sexism and persecution. And while Peter Macon's Bortus has provided some laughs these last two years, he's also become a gateway character to some these thought provoking issues.
In fact, it was season one's About A Girl that really demonstrated that The Orville was far more than a Star Trek spoof, as Bortus's child was born a girl and went on trial to stop her undergoing surgery to become a boy - and lost. It was a challenging episode, examining the persecution and eradication of the female gender and this episode was very much a direct sequel to that, bringing the issue to light as a Moclan couple stowed away their secret daughter on board the Orville and Bortus was forced to chose between his race's beliefs and his own personal values.
Faced with his own son attacking other females in class and his partner Klyden revelling in the Moclan's backward ways, Bortus made the brave choice to let the girl and her parents flee his home planet, leading to the reveal of a secret sanctuary within a nebula housing thousands of female Moclan, living in secret and away from persecution. Rena Owen's Heeva made a welcome return after About A Girl, leading the female underground and fiercely working to establish the rights of her people.
Sanctuary became about two key on-going developments; Heeva and Captain Ed Mercer travelling back to Earth to find a way to grant Union acceptance of an independent colony away from the patriarchal Mochlan race while Kelly stayed behind with the Orville to defend the sanctuary against a Mochlan warship coming to take the females back, force gender correction surgery and then imprison them. We've seen the crew's growing concern over the Mochlan's beliefs, and this episode saw it come to a head with the very alliance threatened.
The recent Kaylon invasion has had a massive impact, so much so that the very morals of the Union were put into question. The Mochlans threatening to succeed from the Union left a very dangerous issue; as providers of Union weaponry, their removal would leave the rest of the fleet open to another Kaylon attack. And so it was up to Ed, Heeva and recurring Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) to try and convince the council that the rights of the several thousand females was worth more than the security Mochlan weaponry could provide.
The highlight of this of course was Keeva's appreciation of the wise words of Dolly Parton. After discovering her iconic song 9-5 in the Union's cultural database, using Parton's words to make an impassioned speech to the council was both wonderful and cringe-worthy. Ren Owen delivered a bold, fun performance, balancing the line between sympathetic and strong leader. I hope we get to see more of her again.
The stand off against the Mochlan warship reminded me heavily of Star Trek: Insurrection; the battle in the nebula to defend the planet while the Union's own moral principles were put into question bore a striking resemblance to that move. Was the appearance of that film's villain F. Murray Abraham as the Union Chairman a coincidence?
And of course, we had yet another tie to the Star Trek mythos this episode. Not only did Jonathan Frakes return to direct this latest episode, but fellow Star Trek: The Next Generation alum Marina Sirtis was the last actor to guest star on The Orville, playing the new school teacher. And it was wonderful to hear Sirtis use her real accent for this role.
Sanctuary had a lot packed into the episode; the fragile alliance with the Mochlan was put at stake and I was genuinely surprised that it didn't end with their exclusion from the Union. But it also continued to build this universe well and I'm sure it is only a matter of time before the Mochlan conflict arises again - and Bortus and Klyden's relationship inevitably falls apart. Of course, with only two episodes left this season, it will probably open happen if The Orville gets a third season renewal. Let's hope that happens soon!