Synopsis: When two Union anthropologists go missing on a planet similar to 21st century Earth, Ed sends a team led by Kelly to find them, but the mission quickly goes awry when they realize the society’s government is completely based on a public voting system to determine punishment.
Review: The Orville manages to strike a better balance between drama and comedy with this episode, which pretty much shows how a pop idol democracy would work. While on a mission to find the whereabouts of two Union anthropologists that have not checked in. Kelly, John, Dr. Finn and Alara go planetside to investigate. But when John humps a historic statue in jest the planets social media goes wild and judges him to be a very bad man.
On the planet, the population wears electronic badges that are hooked up to a live feed. The badges have a green button for good and a red button for bad, which people push according to how they perceive your actions. John’s actions with the statue see’s him get a lot of downvotes. It is basically democracy via a kind of twitter feed.
If the bad votes reach 10 million then the person concerned gets some kind of corrective lobotomy, but there is a way out. If the person shows remorse on a series of talk shows, which people can vote on. Then if the number of bad votes go down or stay below 10 million. The person can go free.
John has to undergo this process, but his lack of understanding of the culture nor the full gist of what he has been accused of work against him. Not even Kelly can help him.
Luckily Dr. Finn and Alara manage to make a friend on the planet who is ultimately able to help them navigate the cultural norms and inform them on how things work. Armed with this information the Orville crew are able to save Johns life by flooding the feed with positive stories about him, which all get upvoted and keep his bad votes under 10 million.
Overall this was a very strong episode, which had just the right balance of humor and drama to it. Much like ‘About A Girl’. This story told a very confident science fiction story using current cultural themes as a template. It also showed how a democracy entirely based on a system like Twitter could ultimately lead to mob rule.
Steven Culp makes a guest appearance as Johns publicity adviser. I personally think he was wasted playing such a passive style of role. Had this planet had a system of law like our own. Culp would have been the prosecuting lawyer. That aside though. I think this has to be the best episode of this show to date. J. Lee gets a chance to shine as John and we also get to see some nice character beats with Alara and Dr. Finn who seems to be playing a kind of motherly role to the Alara.
Hopefully we will get to see more episodes of this nature before the season is out.
- Incidental Musi c9.0