So, I have to admit. I’m intrigued by this week’s concept for The Orville.
The Moclan, Bortas, 2nd Mate of the ship, has had an egg with his mate, Klyden. And it was a female. Until now (all of two episodes) it has been assumed females were either rare (once every 75 years), or were impossible (as Bortas himself said).
This is, of course, a very current issue. And I will admit, Star Trek had a history of dealing with social issues via their story lines. There are many examples, but “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” with the half black, half white race, and the half white, half black race in a death battle for supremacy on their world. This episode actually felt a little like that. It was social commentary on todays issues, using science fiction to explore it. And it was interesting.
It caught the attention of my girlfriend, Starr. Before now, it hadn’t appealed to her, but when it finally got past the corny jokes, and dealt with some social commentary, it got interesting.
So, Bortas and Klyden immediately need to have “corrective surgery” applied to their child. It is customary for females to be altered into males, so they will fit into their all-male society. Since there is Moclan ship nearby, and going to their home planet would be a huge imposition on the ship, they request the doctor perform the surgery. They feel it is normal, and no big deal.
The doctor sees otherwise. She freaks out, and refuses to perform the surgery, saying it is unethical to switch the gender of the child right at birth, and being female is not a crippling deformity. Bortas leaves in a huff, and returns to his quarters.
He begs the captain to order the doctor to perform the surgery. Ed says no, and finds the idea abhorrent. Bortus leaves in a huff again (he’s good at that).
The helmsman and navigator stop by Bortus’ home, and show him “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” TV special, and it changes his mind about having his daughter corrected into a male. He and Klyden clash, but the signal has been sent, and a Moclan ship is rendezvousing with them and will take the child to get the surgery performed.
Of course, the captain objects, and Bortus demands arbitration on his home planet, and the 1st mate, Kelly, is chosen as his representative. She does her best to win the case, but ultimately loses the case. Even revealing dramatically that the world’s most popular writer was, in fact, a woman. This writer was even quoted a couple of times in the show (a real Chekhov’s Gun if there ever was an example), and it failed to change their minds.
It is decided the child will be corrected, and made into a male, like all the others before.
Now, this might seem strange, to an outsider, and they made every effort to show two sides to the argument during the show. But it’s a real cultural clash. What is completely normal to them, seems like a horrific injustice.
They had the crew, multiple times, try to convince Bortus to change his mind. The Rudolph movie was simply the one that worked.
But Klyden was born female, and only found out about it when he was examined by a Union doctors that wasn’t Moclan. He wasn’t going to have his mind changed.
But the drama came from Bortas, who was angry that his husband, liked to him for years. He was angry that Klyden his the truth from him. Klyden, of course, was afraid that Bortas wouldn’t love him if he told him. So he didn’t.
It was touching for a scene between two stoic males. The drama of the show kicked up a notch this episode. The doctor was strongly against performing the surgery, and her scene with Bortas brought real fire to her performance.
During the Rudolph movie, as Bortas sees how having a daughter could be a strength and not a detriment, the actor emoted so strongly through his eyes, that Starr even commented on it. It was truly the actor showing his chops, by not saying a word, but telling a story with his eyes alone.
I will admit…this episode changed my opinion a little bit. Yes, Seth is still the star, and his sense of humor is still all over the place (opening scene of this episode with the blobby guy (voiced by Norm Macdonald) for example).
It caught my attention with much better acting (less Seth), and commentary on one of today’s hottest issues. It also addresses what is normal for one culture isn’t normal for another. And the heroes didn’t change anyone’s mind, even if they tried pretty hard.
If they have more of these episodes, I’ll be a fan. Three episodes in, and they might have done enough to keep people watching.