The Orville kick off its explosive first two-part story.
The Orville kicked off its first ever two-part story in style with Identity, an episode that finally delved into the origins of my absolutely favourite character Isaac. The artificial lifeform from the planet Kaylon has been a member of the crew since episode one, an emissary sent to evaluate his race’s potential entry into the Union. Largely presented as the show’s very own Data, his attempts to understand humanity have delivered plenty of laughs and surprisingly heartfelt drama, culminating in his relationship with Claire in recent episode A Happy Refrain, the best episode of the season so far.
Until now. Identity Part 1 blew every episode before it out of the water with laughs, tears and a shocking reveal that turned the show on it’s head. If you’re going to deliver your first two-parter, you’ve got to give the audience a decent cliff-hanger. Star Trek: The Next Generation gave us the shocking Best of Both Worlds Part 1. The Orvile gave us the Kaylon invasion of Earth. It turns out they weren’t the enlightened android race we presumed them to be. If the Krill are The Orville‘s mix of Klingons and Romulans, then the Kaylon might be the show’s very own Borg.
The show’s creator Seth MacFarlane apparently had this plan in store since he conceptualised Isaac in episode one. And he’s played the long game for as much as he can, delivering a loveable Android that rescued and bonded with kids Marcus and Ty, cut off Gordon’s leg for a practical joke and went on a date with Claire. When he shut down at the start of the episode, there was immediate concern from all involved. When the Orville arrived on Kaylon and Isaac confirmed his mission was complete, there was sadness and joy. Ty was devastated, Claire was hurt and the crew threw him a big send off, complete with cake and a terrific performance by Gordon on vocals. No one suspected the danger in their midst and knowing what we know now will make a re-watch of old episodes like Into The Fold feel very different.
The joy of being a two-parter was that the episode take its time to build the story and play with the audience’s expectations as much as the crew, culminating in that shocking climax. Identity Part 1 began as an attempt to save one of the ship’s crew, mixed with a quasi-first contact scenario with a technologically-advanced race. There was a real sense of wonder as we saw the ship land amid the sprawling city landscapes, with a touch of unease; the thousands of Kaylon with the red eyes certainly appeared a bit more hostile than Isaac but with their lack of emotional and superior numbers and technology, the possibility of things going horribly wrong were always there.
But after all the laughs and farewells and Claire dealing with the loss her and her kids were feeling, the episode delivered something unexpected with the reveal of the thousands of skeletons buried in catacombs beneath the cities. Poor Ty, discovering the bodies after searching Isaac, is probably going to need a lot of therapy. While that nagging question of what the binary race needed so long to review Isaac’s research and consider entry to the Union led to the dreaded conclusion; they weren’t determining whether the races of the Union were worthy of an alliance, they were determining whether they should live at all.
That final assault on the Orville was a pure redshirt bloodbath, raising the stakes further as the ship was captured and the Kaylon launched their ships for an assault on Earth. A few skirmishes with the Krill aside, the world of The Orville – like Star Trek: The Next Generation – has been a largely idyllic place. But that looks set to change and I can’t wait to see how this unfolds. As for Isaac’s role in the show moving forward, if he even has one, is perhaps the biggest question yet…
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