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During a flight through a particularly nasty plasma storm, Alara Kitan (Halston Sage) freezes while attempting to help a fallen crewmember, who dies. This throws Alara into a crisis of conscience, sending her spiralling into self-doubt and fear. Then, strange things begin to happen aboard The Orville: a killer klown (er, clown) stalks her, spiders both big and small chase people, an abyss opens up in Kelly Grayson’s (Adrianne Palicki) quarters, Isaac tries to conquer the ship, and Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) attempts to gut Alara alive.
All this, however, is a simulation that Alara has been running (after wiping her short term memory) to test herself after the death of the crewman. She prevailed over not only her fears, but everyone else’s as well, letting her sleep at night.
What does all this mean for The Orville?
“Firestorm” is a significantly darker episode than The Orville has given us before, and they handle it deftly.
Claire Finn’s speech after she has murdered Nurse Park and attempted to vivisect Alara is eerie: “Do you ever sit in your quarters and look out the window? Do you ever stop and watch the darkness out there? It’s very, very dark in space. It looks so empty. But there are terrors lurking all around us in the infinite shadows. You can’t see them. But they’re there… You have no idea what’s coming for you. [Maniacal Laugh]” This speech makes me hope that we’re going to go a tad darker with the tone of The Orville. I don’t need Discovery or Game of Thrones-level dark, but some more gravity to the whole Union situation. I’d hoped that maybe a Borg or Dominion sort of threat was coming, as that would be really great to see with this crew.
Unfortunately, the revelation that this was all a part of a simulation really deflated my hopes a bit. However, that doesn’t make it a bad episode. I was taken in and thought maybe this was all in Alara’s head.
Alara spends the entire episode facing everyone’s fears – not just her own. To prove to herself that she’s actually a capable officer and that freezing at that crucial moment was a fluke. I wouldn’t call this a deep episode, other than echoing the age-old adage that we should face our fears in order to conquer them. Furthermore, the button at the end, Alara getting into bed and being able to sleep soundly, just seems overly trite to me. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the episode. It just didn’t carry the most meaningful message yet.
Star Trek References in “Firestorm”
The Orville’s great guest star lineup continues with Robert Picardo. He’s maybe not an A-lister by mainstream standards, but for the Star Trek fans that are growing to love The Orville, he’s a welcome sight. He’s also a perfect casting choice for Alara’s father, giving us great insight to the Xelayan culture. They’re essentially Vulcans with emotion. Valuing intellectual pursuits above all else, looking down on the Union and the Humans as “the hillbillies of the galaxy.” Only Robert Picardo could pull that off so very well.
Seriously, though, Xelaya (pronounced Selaya – a mountain on Vulcan) is totally an analogue for Spock’s planet.
Molly Hagan plays Alara’s mother, though without Picardo’s trademark snark. She’s got her own bit of Star Trek heritage, being the first Vorta ever portrayed in Deep Space Nine. Not to mention, she’s just such a warm, genuine actress, juxtaposed with Picardo’s wonderful wit.
Random Thoughts on The Orville “Firestorm”
I need to know what Malloy, LaMarr, and Bortus were up to with those wigs and dueling pistols. The gags on this show are getting increasingly smart and less like Family Guy outtakes.
I am thoroughly impressed by Seth MacFarlane’s pep talk that he gives Alara upon her attempted resignation. He actually pulls off an air of authority that I do not expect from him. He channelled his inner Jean-Luc Picard for that scene, and I want to see much more of that Ed Mercer.
Keep Watching Season 1?
I’m still in and loving the episodic format. I would really like to see a bit of a larger story arc across the season, maybe involving the Krill. With whom the Union is supposedly at war. However, I suspect the writers are taking their time to get us invested in the crew and its dynamic before heading full tilt into a deep, complex storyline.
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Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.