The Orville, episode 4

In another great episode, the crew encounters a huge ship, so huge it contains a whole city and farmland and sky within. The crew soon finds out that they are dealing with a generation ship with a people who have forgotten they are on a ship.

This may be an idea that seems played out for someone who’s read a lot of sci fi, but seeing this on TV is just great. The ship is heading for a star, and they’ve got to convince the people that they need help before they can be helped.

Another thing I thought was great about this episode is we get to see how tough the first officer, Kelly, is. There is a pretty hardcore scene where she is being straight up beat and tortured, and though she is cracking some pretty funny jokes, it is not a funny scene. It is brutal and feels real. And–as Hollywood looooves to do when it comes to women who are captured or being tortured–I’m glad to say she was not sexualized in any way. What another relief!

At the end of the episode, the ship turns out to have a retractable section that opens to allow the people to see the stars for the first time. It was a really cool, and emotional scene.

Once again, a Seth MacFarlane comedy show is showing up CBS’s Discovery. Just let that sink in a minute… then go watch it!

The Orville, episode 2

Another fun, adventurious episode from the Orville that started with a classic TNG style opening.

After receiving a distress signal from a nearby ship, the crew of the Orville are surprised to find that captain Mercer’s parents are on the ship. He and the first officer take a shuttle over to the stranded ship, but upon entering it, are teleported away. The ship is an illusion, and vanishes, leaving behind a buoy, and the captain and first officer are gone.

Cue rising music, and cut to commercial!

That is great stuff.

Despite the slightly overdone ‘alien zoo’ plot, the episode was enjoyable and fun. I did have a bit of a problem with the ‘moral’ of the episode, though.

When going to the fake stranded ship, the captain leaves Kiran in charge. After they disappear, she doesn’t know what to do. She is very young and has no leadership experience. She contacts a starfleet–er, I mean Union admiral and is instructed to return to earth and leave the captain and first officer behind as dead in the line of duty.

So of course she follows orders.

Until everyone gets grumpy with her, and says that the captain would have gone after her, and so on, until she is guilted into taking the ship after the captain.

The problem is, there was a very good reason she was ordered to come back. The aliens who took the captain are very technologically advanced, and the entire ship could be at risk, and all those lives shouldn’t be risked in order to maybe save two people.

If Kiran had taken a shuttle and some volunteers to go after him, okay. But she took the whole ship with hundreds of people on board, disobeyed direct orders and risked all their lives… and is awarded with a medal at the end of the episode.

I get what they were going for… but Picard would not approve!

Otherwise a good episode, Bortus and his egg was really funny, and overall a lot of fun and thoughtful stuff.

A slow burning fuse

I’m still reading  The Peregrine , and it is taking me a while. It is such beautiful writing but with no conflict, it is easy to set it down. But I always come back eventually, for the beautiful writing. It’s like an expensive box of rare chocolate, you have one now and then and savor it, instead of wolfing it all down in one sitting.

But now, about 30% through the novel, it is starting to grab me with interesting things. Things other than descriptions of nature. It took a long time to get there, but I don’t think it would have been possible without all the buildup and setting of the tone and scene. And it is amazing, once it starts…

Now I’m getting the ‘what will happen’ urge to go back to it. Now I know something strange is going on, and I wonder what the conclusion will be. But I really don’t think it could have been done if it just started out that way.

Some things require patience and build up and preparation… sadly, things most people don’t have time for in entertainment anymore. If something isn’t exploding on page one, we put the book down.

I found myself imagining how a movie of this would be. Just shots of birds and animals, and a man walking through nature, watching, and his reactions to it and slow change in personality… no dialogue, no running around shooting or crying or fighting or arguing. Just shots of hawks killing wood-pigeons, and the man staring weirdly at the picked clean bones.

I’d watch it… but it would never be made.

 

The Orville, episode 1

I had zero interest in seeing this show back when the trailer first came out. Though I used to enjoy Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humor (farts, falling down, and mentioning things you’ve heard of before) is just not my thing anymore. But during my constant complaining about Star Trek: Discovery, I keep getting told to watch The Orville. What is going on? Why should any Trek fan want to watch a bunch of idiots making poop jokes and mocking one of my favorite pastimes?

Well, because it doesn’t do that at all.

Yes, there is some goofy humor, but it isn’t gross or stupid or mean, and actually made me laugh a few times. And more importantly, it is spread VERY thin, and gets thinner as the show goes on. It doesn’t do the supremely annoying thing where every dramatic beat has to be punctuated by a joke to break the tension.

Aside from the humor, the other thing I was worried about was the ‘ex wife as first officer’ scenario. I was ready to be sighing continuously at the constant bickering and cruel backstabbing I’d have to endure. But again, it didn’t happen. There is one big argument, and a few little quips, but they are apologetic, they want to work together, they are decent human beings. What a goddamned relief.

More importantly, the show captures that sense of excitement and exploration that is severely lacking in Discovery. You know, the actual discovering. When the captain first undocks the Orville and they fly off to adventure, I almost shed a tear. It’s just the thing I’ve been wanting since I saw the final episode of TNG all those years ago.

MacFarlane must be a Trek fan, because the love is shining through. It’s almost as if the humor is just a trick to get people to pay attention, and then all this interesting sci fi stuff happens.

I’m already looking forward to watching the rest of these episodes far more than I’m looking forward to the next Discovery episode. Because for Discovery, I already know they’ll just be blowing up more Klingons.  But for the Orville I’m wondering, where will they go next?

Star Trek: Discovery, episode 4

Well, I’m still watching.

This episode, once again, keeps dragging me along like an abusive relationship.

I get a little hint of interesting in that the deadly creature in the Captain’s chambers is somehow a giant Tardigrade. This is a super cool idea because Tardigrades are super interesting and I don’t think I’ve seen a Tardigrade monster in sci fi before. Also cool is that Michael doesn’t want to harm the creature, and is more interested in learning about it for curiosity’s sake than cutting it up for war purposes.

But then we’re back to war. The Discovery (a science ship) has a handwavy engine based on magic mushrooms that allows it to instantly appear anywhere in the Galaxy, and we better use that to bomb some Klingons! Nevermind what fans of Trek actually want to see, like, jumping instantly into unknown parts of the galaxy to explore crazy weird planets–no, lets just have some explosions.

Bored!

I keep hoping that just MAYBE one of their jumps will send them somewhere they can’t get back from, and they’ll be forced to do a bit of discovering. But so far we’re just doing war things, with a few interesting science fiction crumbs thrown out for the fans like me to keep us just on this side of starvation.

 

Exploring

Writing a story based in a city I’ve never been in is interesting, and fun. I wonder how writers did it before the age of the internet. I can drop down into the streets and virtually walk them to get a feel for the city. I can look up bars and restaurants and read reviews and see pictures. Some even have virtual tours.

I have a feeling writers of the past had to be much more social than I do. They probably had to seek out people who’d been there and have conversations with them, pull out details, encourage descriptions of smells and sounds and ambiance.

Sounds like a lot of trouble!

Star Trek: Discovery, episode 3

In what feels like the first episode of the series, we begin to follow Michael on her journey after having her rank stripped and being sent to prison.

At least Saru is back!

Good stuff: We are on a science ship, doing research. Not a war ship, not in battle. The characters are mostly scientists, interested in knowledge.

Bad stuff: We’re still in a giant war. The research is for the purpose of war. War war war war. War.

Silly stuff: The fungus spores turn out to not be a biological weapon but some how are used for instantaneous travel? What? At least try to have it make a bit of sense… this is Doctor Who levels of hand-waving going on here.

Creepy stuff: Those twisted bodies… wow, very creepy effect, though no real explanation as to how that creature did that to them. This episode could have been part of a horror movie almost. Very dark.

I like that they are on a science ship doing research. I like that the characters aren’t soldiers and will presumably not be seeking out battle (except maybe Michael). But the Discovery is painted as a dark, sinister kind of ship with a captain that is willing to do anything to achieve his goal, and sort of has the vibe of ‘technology bad!’ that is so damn prevalent these days.

Over-all, better than the first two episodes, and there seems to be potential. I’ll keep watching, but am not holding out too much hope.