Recap | The Orville S1E11: “New Dimensions”
|Episode Title||New Dimensions|
|Air Date||November 30, 2017|
|Written By||Seth MacFarlane|
At a going away party for Chief Engineer Steve Newton (Larry Joe Campbell), Malloy (Scott Grimes) and LaMarr (J. Lee) steal a piece of the gelatinous Yaphet (voiced by Norm MacDonald) and put it into the buffet, causing Bortus to eat it. This leads Commander Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) to reprimand them. While doing so, she learns that LaMarr’s intelligence is through the roof, possibly placing him in line to replace the Chief Engineer.
The Orville accidentally runs into a pocket of abnormal space that drains their engines. LaMarr is placed in charge of the engineering team tasked with figuring out what went wrong. He soon discovers that the anomaly they encountered was much more than that. It’s a doorway in space, leading to a two-dimensional reality. While repairing their engines and studying this space, Krill warships begin closing in on the Orville, so they go and hide in that pocket of two-dimensional space. However, of course, the ship is trapped. They must find their way out of that dimension before the ship is flattened into two-dimensions, killing the crew.
What does all this mean?
This episode is another example of The Orville really having fun with science fiction, this time playing with concepts that Star Trek hasn’t even really explored. The three-dimensional Orville flies through a Tron-like universe, entirely flat, outside of our conception of reality, leading to questions of fourth or fifth dimensions. They even hung a lampshade on this allusion by referring directly to the classic science fiction novella Flatland, written in 1884 by Edwin Abbott Abbott. With this concept comes enthralling visuals, especially the depiction of the three-dimensional Orville traversing the two-dimensional space.
When Grayson accidentally lets it slip to Captain Mercer that it was her recommendation to Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) that gave him command of the Orville, this leads to a crisis of confidence in Ed. He laments that “From now on I’m going to second guess every command decision I make, ever. Because I’ll never know if I’m truly the person who deserves to be making those decisions.” He’s broken up because he feels that he didn’t really earn his position on The Orville, that it took the sympathy of his ex-wife to put a good word in for him. He wants to feel as though he’s standing on his own two feet, that he’s “self-reliant” and independently accomplished. This leads Grayson to call him a “prideful a*s,” pointing out the fact that we all have help; no one goes through life utterly independently, and a desire for that above all things is prideful two-dimensional thinking. This is where, though her point is fully valid and spot on, the lampshade they just hung gets a tad heavy: “The reason you are a good captain is that you are great at seeing all sides of a problem, except when it comes to yourself. So no. I’m not sorry I recommended you to Halsey, because I get to work for a captain that I respect. I get to see you every day.” Get it? They’re in a flat universe, and he’s thinking two-dimensionally about this problem.
That aside, emotionally, I like this conversation – and most of the conversations between Kelly and Ed. This, once again, is more about these two characters with a deep and shared history. Who have to find a way to co-exist. And maybe fully reconcile.
What is this episode of The Orville really about?
This episode is really all about reaching potential, and understanding that no one can go it alone entirely. Ed, ironically, lost confidence when he learned that someone else had confidence in him and spoke up about it. John had all the potential in the world but hadn’t ever shown it because his colony frowned on people standing out. So Kelly and Ed exhibited a little faith and he found the space to step up. However subtle the message it worked well, in the midst of a high-concept story that was translated nicely to a mainstream audience. That’s solid science fiction, right there.
But what’s most successful here, on all sides, is the character development. Commander Kelly Grayson has become the heart of The Orville, becoming confidante for different members of the crew, while also pushing them to grow and better themselves.
Random Thoughts from New Dimensions
Maybe it’s the sappy romantic in me, but I really love the dynamic between Kelly and Ed. I’m hoping that more comes of this. I suppose I could be OK with just a good working relationship. They play off of each other so well. A growing reconciliation and potential relationship could also bring out whole new avenues. As long as MacFarlane and company keep defying expectations with their storytelling.
Lee is not the strongest actor. He tends toward flat (get it?) performances. Which work well with comedy, playing the straight man to Scott Grimes’ goof. However, if he’s going to be promoted and put in charge of engineering, getting more storylines (this is Lee’s second episode that rests largely on his acting chops), he’s going to need to step up his game.
This is the penultimate episode of the season! I’ve got to be honest, I sort of expected a setup to something larger coming in the finale, but maybe those are my traditional expectations, particularly following the path of Star Trek: Discovery, which has been so serialized. Orville has been biding its time, staying with the more traditional episodic Star Trek structure, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I just hope that, with their 13th episode being transplanted to their second season, The Orville ends on a really high note. The same thing happened with Star Trek Voyager’s first season, leaving a bit of a stale taste for the hiatus. I’ve come to trust Brannon Braga and Seth MacFarlane and their production team. I’m excited and a little apprehensive for the finale next week!
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