This week’s episode of The Orville, “If the Stars Should Appear,” was a mixed bag at best. Once again, the episode had a relatively strong main plot rooted in a classic sci-fi trope. The B-plot this week, though, was disjointed, and for the first time, the episode’s humor felt stale and out of place.In the episode, the Orville encounters a gigantic ship adrift in space. The vessel is huge – larger than New York City – and is over 2000 years old. Unable to contact its crew, Captain Mercer takes an away team on board to explore. He’s joined by Commander Grayson, Dr. Finn, Lieutenant Alara Kitan, and Isaac, the Orville’s cybernetic science officer.
On board the derelict vessel, the crew finds a fully functioning pastoral environment with trees, farmland, and even a fake sky. The team splits up. Mercer, Finn, and Isaac encounter a family at a farmhouse, where they learn that the inhabitants of the vessel are unaware that they’re on a ship, or that there exists a world beyond its bulkheads. The ship’s theocratic regime considers such thoughts heretical. Luckily, the family’s plucky young teenager is connected to a cadre of rebels and introduces them to the team.
Meanwhile, Grayson and Kitan, who have yet to encounter any of the natives, once again rehash the Mercer/Grayson divorce. They’re ambushed by the government’s security forces, who shoot Kitan and capture Grayson. Kitan is able to contact Mercer’s team, and Dr. Finn arrives just in time to stop her from bleeding out.Grayson is taken to The City, where, thanks to a public execution via angry mob, we learn that dictatorial theocratic regimes are bad. She’s tortured by the regime’s leader, who refuses to believe that she’s come from off the ship or that his world is in danger. The rest of the crew arrives, stuns the maniac, and rescues Grayson.
The crew makes their way to the bridge of the ship. There, they discover the logs of its long-dead captain, Liam Neeson, and learn that the 2000-year-old voyage was only meant to take a few generations. Isaac is able to repair the vessel’s engines, and the crew opens the ship’s “sun roof,” showing its inhabitants the wonders of the universe that have been hidden from them.
There’s nothing really wrong with the arc of this episode – it’s another plotline that would have fit nicely into classic “>Trek. In fact, the story would probably be considered one of the stronger episodes of TNG or Voyager’s early seasons. Ultimately, however, it’s not any fun. A key portion of the episode’s humor comes from an attempt to explain divorce and dick jokes to Isaac. Taken on their own, the jokes aren’t that bad, but they feel shoe-horned in. Likewise, a scene about Bortus and Klyden’s marital stress doesn’t fit anywhere into the rest of the episode.
After a strong showing last week, it’s disappointing that this week’s episode felt so bland. Let’s hope that next week’s special guest, Charlize Theron, can bring some life back to the show.
GEEK Rating: C
The Orville airs Thursdays at 9 PM on Fox.