On a much-improved episode of The Orville, we dig into the ethos of what makes a good commander and diplomat. On another note, there’s a bit of plagiarism from a competing science fiction series.
This recap of The Orville Season 2, Episode 4, “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
My thought process as I started watching “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes”:
I don’t believe that Captain Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and Janel Tyler (Michaela McManus) are suddenly an item. We’ve not seen her for two episodes, and last we saw they were merely coincidentally sitting at a bar having a drink at the same time. Nope.
She’s definitely a bad guy.
Anyway, they decide to go on a trip together and the Krill capture them; it turns out that Tyler is a Krill spy, and then they crash on a planet. This episode’s title comes from a song in The King and I: “But unless someday somebody trust somebody, there’ll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes.” The song, as well as the episode, is about trust. The two need to learn to trust one another in order to get off the planet. Thematically, this story works—I just wish they’d thought about their decision making a little more, because the basis of this story comes straight from Star Trek: Discovery.
Seriously, how does The Orville get away with an embedded alien crew member named Tyler when Star Trek: Discovery did it last year? With a crewman named Tyler. I’m actually going to call plagiarism on this one. This isn’t just a case of inspiration-based similarity. It’s the same storyline. The Krill are Klingons, and they’re on a holy war (which frankly needs more development), and one of their soldiers goes undercover as a human named Tyler. They even look similar in alien prosthetics–see the pictures above the previous paragraph.
This is no homage. This is no allusion. It’s a copy and paste, and that’s inexcusable.
I did love Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) struggling through the command track training. He wants more from his life and career, rather than just being a pilot. The mentorship relationship that has developed between Malloy and Kelly Grayson (Andrienne Palicki) is genuine and sweet. It’s good to see Kelly doing more than just being a foil for Ed, and likewise good for Gordon to have some ambition beyond chuckling at the navigation station (It’s coincidentally cool because Palicki and Grimes just announced their engagement). What’s more, we’ve got a cohesiveness to the episode found in the merging of Ed’s and Gordon’s storylines, facilitated by Kelly. Gordon struggles to find within him the ethos of what it means to be a commander, that it’s hard work, that it can’t just simply happen–it must be worked at, striven for. Ed reminds me a lot of The Next Generation‘s Commander Riker (Orville director Jonathan Frakes). He’s laid back in some ways and intense in others–but he’s got the instincts for the job. He’s a great commander and diplomat (the show has finally found its rhythm in that department). Gordon’s not there yet, but I’m excited to see the journey that his character will go on.
I’m really disappointed because this episode feels like we’re finally getting back on track after three false starts. I’d have probably rated “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes” a 4, but I can’t handle the direct lift from a competing series’ storyline that aired just last season. I’m not at all one to care if two science fiction shows are on at the same time. I’m a fan of both shows, but this is distractingly off-putting and worrying that no one caught this. I’d really love the show to really get back on track and stay there.
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.