The Orville S2.8: “Identity, part 1″…

****PLANET SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!****

“Identity part 1”, the title of this week’s cliffhanger episode of “The Orville,” has a double meaning. While it primarily refers to the Kaylon android science officer Isaac’s cybernetic race, it also hints at something deeper…the identity of the series itself. After “Identity Part 1”, the amiable, lighthearted sci-fi ‘dramedy’ “Orville” that we’ve known to date may have been permanently altered.

The Story.

We Are Family: Claire with her two sons, Ty and Marcus.

Android science officer (and sole ambassador to his planet) Isaac (Mark Jackson), is babysitting. With Claire (Penny Johnson Jerald) working late in sickbay, Isaac is playing a game with her two sons, young Ty (Kai Wener) and Marcus (BJ Tanner), which he always wins, of course, because he’s an infallible machine (and wants everyone to know it). Claire returns, and the two decide to make ‘the announcement’ to the boys that she and Isaac are a couple now. The kids are nonplussed, having already known, like the rest of the ship apparently. Suddenly, mid-sentence and without warning, Isaac collapses.

LaMarr wants to cut Isaac open in engineering, while Claire sees a patient in her sickbay.

In sickbay, Claire does her best, but she and engineer LaMarr (J Lee) are limited by their scant knowledge of Kaylon androids. Claire is deeply upset, but able to keep her professional medical veneer. She and her sons tenderly offer the dormant android well wishes and love… feelings it can never reciprocate, even if reactivated.

The gleaming cities of Kaylon-1.

Upon consulting with Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) about Isaac’s condition, Captain Ed Mercer (writer/producer/star Seth MacFarlane) decides to take the ship to Isaac’s deeply secretive homeworld of Kaylon 1, a metropolitan planet populated by sentient machines.

The Orville makes a rare landing on Kaylon 1…

No Planetary Union starship has ever visited this world before, as the Kaylons are both deeply secretive and (as Ed noted in the pilot) “legendarily racist.” The Kaylons believe they are superior to all biological life forms.

Ed and Kelly nervously dock their ship on Kaylon-1; the homeworld of the “legendarily racist” Kaylons.

With some trepidation, the Orville is granted permission to land at specific coordinates. Upon their descent, the crew observe a beautiful urban cityscape beneath the cloud cover.

Ed and Kelly consult with Isaac’s people on the condition of their science officer. No chairs…anywhere.

After docking, the officers take Isaac on a gurney and enter the city itself. There, they see Kaylons feeding data into massive wall projections and other wonders…but not a single chair in sight.

Turns out, there is no mystery to Isaac’s condition. He was deliberately deactivated by his people, as his mission to gather data on the Planetary Union was deemed finished.

Talla takes Isaac to observe ‘departure protocol.’

Upon temporary reactivation, Isaac is then guided to the ship’s mess hall by Security Chief Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) to observe ‘departure protocols’; in other words, a going away party.

Who knew Gordon was such a helluva singer?

These are the lightest moments of the episode, as Helmsman Gordon (Scott Grimes) sings a song for his departing shipmate, Bortus (Peter Macon) gripes about not getting a corner piece of cake, and Ty draws the android a picture of what he hopes will be their happy family someday.

The crew of the Orville shower their unfeeling shipmate with affection.

The android is unfazed by the outpouring of affection, and breaks Ty’s heart by coldly ignoring the boy’s affection towards him. Ty runs off to the simulator room, where Claire finds him up a holographic tree. She talks him down and tells him he’ll be late for school.

Instead of heading to class, Ty leaves the Orville and enters the city with his drawing in hand, looking for Isaac. He accidentally finds himself in a subterranean access point, which takes him below the surface and face-to-face with the horrifying truth about the Kaylons…

Little Boy Lost: Ty about to learn the horrifying secret of the Kaylon ‘civilization.’

Aboard the ship, Claire realizes Ty’s not onboard and worriedly consults with Ed, who orders Bortus and Talla to accompany Flynn to Ty’s bio-signs, which are located beneath the surface of the city. The landing party finds Ty, and learns the secret of Kaylon 1. Beneath the city are the stacked bones of billions of dead humanoid biological beings…evidence of a systemic, massive holocaust of the planet’s former biological masters; the original builders of the android Kaylons…repaid in kind by their technological offspring.

Bortus shines a light on the truth of Isaac’s people…

The Kaylons are not merely prejudiced against biological life forms; they have committed mass genocide against their own creators in order to prevent biologicals from interfering in their development ever again. They also seek to expand their reach into the galaxy, as their own world is no longer sufficient to contain their massive amounts of data.

The Kaylons have taken control of The Orville, with help from Isaac…

It gets worse.
Apparently, Isaac’s seemingly innocent ‘reports’ to his people were actually intel gathering on the ship and its defenses. Using the command codes Isaac shared with them, Kaylon boarding parties invade the Orville, killing (yes, killing) many crew members and taking the rest hostage, including the senior officers. They pilot the ship off of their own world and set a course for the Union headquarters… on Earth.

The End.

Shock

Pre-“Identity Part 1” Isaac…

I’m still processing whether I enjoyed last night’s episode or am thoroughly saddened by it. While it certainly shook the hell out of the show’s status quo, it also (for better or worse) changes the course of the series forever. The relative innocence the series has enjoyed has been abruptly jettisoned. Once lovable Data-like android Isaac has willfully collaborated with an enemy (his people) who have committed mass genocide and intend on doing so to many more species throughout the galaxy. The Kaylons aren’t just sentient machines learning about us curious biologics. They are more like Battlestar Galactica’s homicidal Cylons. Similar names, in fact. Both the Kaylons and Cylons have red eyes (all but Isaac, of course…his eyes were no doubt made baby-blue to relax his shipmates’ reservations).

…post “Identity Part 1” Isaac.

Kaylon-1 is “Terminator 2″‘s post-war Earth, if Skynet had won, and the machine victors were given a few millennia to tidy things up…

Claire and Isaac…dead on arrival?

While it may be a bit early to call, I’m guessing the whole Claire/Isaac relationship experiment has been much tossed into a microwave and set to ‘explode.’ I can’t see her ever again choosing to love a being who has endangered her sons, her shipmates and perhaps her entire society. The gelatinous Yaphit isn’t looking so bad anymore, is he?

Talla, Bortus, Kelly and Ed aren’t too thrilled to learn the truth about Isaac’s people.

There is also commentary to be gleaned not just on the dangers of artificial intelligence (the late Stephen Hawking would’ve had a field day with this episode), but also of advanced, progressive societies that are built upon the blood and bones of the less fortunate.

You see the gleaming, futuristic skylines…but you rarely see the butcher’s bill.

When you see the gleaming towers of New York City (future Planetary Union HQ, incidentally) you don’t see the piles of murdered native tribes (or bloody wars fought for resources) upon which rests the foundations of such a ‘civilization.’ Perhaps the horror we experience with the actions of the Kaylons in “Identity Part 1” is the shock of seeing our own reflections in a fictional mirror. Such insights into our own world are one of the unique gifts of the science fiction format.

Summing it up.

Lighthearted moments like Bortus demanding a corner piece (because it has a flower on it) are probably going on the back burner for awhile…

This once lovable dramedy series has taken a hard and sudden sharp right into darkness. I still very much enjoy this series, and am emotionally invested in it (of course), but after last night? My expectations are different now. In only its second year, it has, without warning, graduated from playful frat-boy into traumatized soldier. “The Orville” has completely and irrevocably shed its innocence.

Those smiles won’t last…

I salute writers Brannon Braga (“Star Trek: Voyager” “COSMOS”) and Andre Bormanis (“Deep Space Nine”) for taking such a huge gamble with the series. Here’s only hoping they can eventually recover some of the joie de vivre that has differentiated this series it from so many (too many) other dystopian series of late.

Orville’s condition: critical and nowhere near stable.

While I’m hoping it can recover its lightness, and perhaps even crack a silly joke or two, “Identity Part 1” is a bold turning point for the series. I am eagerly and nervously awaiting “Identity Part 2”.

To Be Continued…

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Soup of Bob says:

    I wondered at the red eyes of the Kylon signifying hostility at the start. Previously Isaac had red eyes only when hostile.

    It is worth noting, his eyes did not turn the hostile red in this episode.

    To me, the obvious thing that will happen in part 2 is that we will realise that Isaac is still on the side of the Orville, for whatever reason, and will almost certainly save the day by wiping out the fellow kylon in the invasion force.

    Anything other than that convulsion to part 2 would be very unpredictable, and brave, story telling.

    It would be a great direction if the Earth did get destroyed (and the Orville escaped) but I doubt they are going to take that direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if Isaac is only pretending to collude with the Kaylons, but even if Isaac did save the day, I doubt he could ever be trusted again. He did give his people the security codes, after all…

      Like

  2. Aida says:

    The doctor needs to get a hold of herself and her hairdo. She needs to get a human partner. Not the blog nor the robot. Really! She is supposed to be educated.

    Like

    1. Not sure what you mean on the latter point; love is a matter of emotion, not intellect. Isaac appeared to be genuinely interested in her and he was good with her boys. For some single parents, the latter might’ve been enough. That it appeared to end badly is another matter; half of human marriages end in divorce, so relationships are always going to be a risky proposition.

      Personally I think Claire’s hairstyle is great.
      When I was a kid, tattoos were worn only by a ‘certain element’ of society (bikers, gang members, etc), usually the kind of people your parents would frown upon you hanging around with. Now I see soccer moms, politicians and grade school teachers with them. They’ve become mainstream.

      I’d bet that by the 25th century (assuming humanity is still around of course), such a hairstyle might be downright modest.

      Like

      1. tomstitzer says:

        One thing I’ll say is that they don’t let things sit around too much! I thought Ed’s romance was going to go on longer and then boom! Over! In the same episode!

        I was excited to see Mark Jacob’s human face as well and was looking forward to more as well as more romance with him and the doctor but now I don’t know if we will get the chance!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. tomstitzer says:

    Next Gen survived Locutos and had plenty of non-serious episodes going forward. Given Seth’s love of TNG, I’m confident that the show will NOT become grim and gritty each week but rather maintain what has made the Orville so successful thus far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, but “Best of Both Worlds” was a turning point in TNG’s evolution, that’s for sure. It was still discussed/referenced for years afterward. Even followed up in the feature film, “First Contact.” Thanks again for reading!

      Like

  4. Mike in Asheville says:

    My theory is Evil Issac is a clone and Good Issac will be reactivated and save the day. So far, The Orville has been more of a “frat boys in space” show and to see Seth MacFarlane make the show more edgy would be surprising.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lady Maneth says:

    This episode’s a game changer for sure. I hope it won’t turn out as dark as Star Trek Discovery (which I haven’t seen yet), but this certainly isn’t The Orville of season 1.

    Given the fairly episodic nature of the show, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the situation resolved in part 2, although this storyline could go on for longer than that. I’m actually hoping that this could help bring the Union and the Krill closer together. Much like the Borg and the Dominion on Star Trek, the Kaylons could unite former enemies against a common threat, at least temporarily.

    Interesting that the only time we’ve seen Isaac with red eyes was in the simulation to cure Alara of her fear of fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Never thought of the effect it might have on the Krill….very interesting!

      Like

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