“Pria,” this week’s episode of The Orville, was undoubtedly the fledgling series’ strongest showing yet. Every aspect of the episode, directed by Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG’s William Riker and director of Star Trek: First Contact), would have fit seamlessly into the best seasons of any Star Trek series. “Pria’s” humor is over the top but not out of place, and Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson’s relationship history is, this time, put to good use.
The episode opens with the “Junior Mint” episode of Seinfeld playing on the viewscreen, in an attempt to explain humor to Isaac. They’re pulled away by a distress call from a nearby mining vessel, which is minutes away from hurtling into the sun. Some fancy shuttle flying by Gordon Malloy saves the ship’s sole crew member, Pria Lavesque (guest star Charlize Theron). Pria and Mercer hit it off quickly, but Grayson isn’t so trusting. She and security chief Alara Kitan sneak into Pria’s quarters and find a mysterious unidentifiable device before being discovered.
The Orville later encounters a dark matter storm which comes close to destroying the ship. Luckily, Pria knows how to deal with the phenomenon and navigates the Orville to safety – only the ship’s communication array is damaged. Pria’s mining consortium has a facility nearby, and, against Grayson’s objections, the Orville sets its course there for repairs. Mercer takes Pria to the ship’s off-brand holodeck, and yada yada yada, they end up in bed together.
Pria and Mercer’s relationship takes a quick turn when Chief Engineer Steve Newton (who gets both a surname and a job title in this episode) finds Pria’s strange device attached to the ship’s engines. Surprise! Pria isn’t what she seemed – she’s a rare artifact dealer from the 29th century, and the Orville was, historically, destroyed by the dark matter storm. She rescued the ship in order to take it forward in time and sell it to the highest bidder. Newton and Isaac disable the device, and the Orville returns to its time period. Mercer destroys the wormhole that Pria used to travel through time, and she disappears as if she never existed.
Every aspect of this episode worked, but it’s the b-plot that really shone through. Malloy tries to teach Isaac about practical jokes, and it escalates to the point where Isaac removes Malloy’s leg in his sleep. The arc feels like what would have happened in a Data-centric episode of TNG if his best friend had been a crappier person than Geordi.
This feels like the week that The Orville really found its voice. If upcoming episodes of The Orville are as well put together, I think that it will start to win over the critics that panned the premiere.
GEEK Grade: A
Check out the new promo for next week’s episode as the crew goes undercover!
The Orville airs Thursdays at 9:00 on Fox.