Episode Title: “Into the Fold”
Episode No.: 8
Air Date: November 2, 2017
While The Orville sits in drydock for some much-needed upgrades, Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) and her two sons, Ty and Marcus, leave for a vacation on Arborius Prime. However, as we know from any Science Fiction, be it Star Trek or not, things are about to get real. Joining Claire as the pilot of their shuttle and mechanized manny: Isaac (Mark Jackson).
As is inevitable, their shuttle crashes (though I confess, I expected a “Shore Leave” or “Majority Rule” situation where something terrible happened while on the “play planet”). As they attempt to land on the planet, the shuttle breaks in two, separating Dr. Finn from her boys and Isaac, which turns out to be just fun.
Isaac and the boys go in search of Dr. Finn and fuel, and Ty gets sick from falling into the water. Meanwhile, Claire wakes up in a cell and meets Drogen, played by the always intimidating Brian Thompson (best known as the Alien Bounty Hunter in The X-Files). He tells her that recently there was a great war on the planet, and that the enemy put biological weapons in the water supply, few have survived, and the only people who have are cannibalistic infected raiders. Claire does her best to negotiate with her captor and to escape. Finally, she kills her captor and makes her way back home just in time to save her kids and for The Orville to rescue them.
The tough mother and the mechanical manny
Over the past few episodes, we’ve finally begun to dig into the different characters within the ensemble, significantly deepening the storytelling and the world (or, the universe, I suppose). This time, the focus shifts to Isaac and Claire, to great effect.
Isaac, clearly a Data analog, is also so not Data. He has no desire to become human, but simply to foster better relationships between their worlds. Therefore, he’s not aiming to pass as a human. So, when he tries to parent the kids, it’s just deeply funny and quite honest. At one point, when searching for a fuel source, one of the kids has a great idea, and Isaac compliments him: “You are not as emotionally stunted as I believed.” Then, a video game becomes a source of conflict between the boys, so Isaac tosses into the air and blasts it into smithereens. These incidents make him so endearing to watch. He is still the outsider, using his role as observer of biological culture to ask the kids why they apparently despise their mother. They protest, so he plays back recordings of them talking back to Claire. It’s a wonderful mirror that he holds up to them, and it effectively sobers them to their attitude. Quickly, this episode shifts into a truly endearing character study as Isaac protects them, tells them a very literal bedtime story that horrifies them, and then reads Peter Rabbit to them in Claire’s voice.
At the same time, Jerald does an excellent job as a wholly competent officer, not just a doctor and a mom separated from her kids. She’s been the wise-cracking “Bones” character up until now, but she comes into her own here. This is the first time we’ve seen kids on The Orville (other than Bortas and Klyden’s daughter), and it’s refreshing to see kids actually being kids in a science fiction series. They squabble and fight, they drive their parents mad. They’re not all Wesley Crushers or Jake Siskos, who are basically trying desperately to be adults as soon as possible. This exploration of the family dynamic is just spectacular, and the episode ends with Claire welcoming Isaac into the family – I really hope that we actually see more interactions between Isaac and the kids.
You seem ecstatic about this – is there anything wrong at all?
I can nitpick all day about the lack of technobabble, but I’m actually pretty fine with it. I can also say that the politics and borders and species within the show aren’t too well defined. But Star Trek: The Original Series is riddled with inconsistencies like this; The Orville is still figuring out its world-building, and I’m going to let them.
This show seems just like Star Trek. Am I supposed to hate it just on blind principle?
This is the first of an ongoing recap series of The Orville. I’m going to go back and start from the beginning soon, probably over the winter hiatus. I am a gigantic Star Trek fan. Huge. I host a Star Trek: Discovery podcast, for crying out loud. I read the darn novels. And I have found a growing respect for The Orville. This is that same lame argument people have had since 1977, claiming that you cannot like both Star Trek and Star Wars. None of that here. Let me get this out of the way now: science fiction is not mutually exclusive to a single series.
All that being said, I will continue to make comparisons and references, not only to Star Trek (though those are the most obvious), but to anything else I can see. It’s OK – we can all breathe easy. There are two science fiction shows on right now, and that’s a good thing for everyone.
Star Trek References
This episode was directed by Brannon Braga (also one of the series’ main producers) and written by Braga and André Bormanis, both Star Trek royalty. Both worked extensively on Star Trek since the last episode of The Next Generation, through Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise (which Braga co-created). Of course, Penny Johnson Jerald is well known to DS9 fans as Captain Kasidy Yates, Benjamin Sisko’s wife. Brian Thompson has been on every show ever, but of note here is his role as the Klingon Klag in TNG’s “A Matter of Honor,” a few different guest roles in Deep Space Nine, and a Romulan Admiral in Enterprise.
Isaac being stuck with the kids is such a great idea, much like Jean-Luc Picard needing to be trapped with a group of kids during a shipwide disaster (“Disaster”). It accentuates not only his alienness, but also his humanity, and that he’s not as different from us as he seems.
Absolutely. We’re getting careful character studies and great science fiction stories. The only way you’d want to stop is if you don’t like either of those.
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