The Orville (2017) s03e04 – Gently Falling Rain

Gently Falling Rain came out on June 23, 2022. One of its briefest plot points would play differently if it had come out on June 24, 2022. The episode compares and contrasts future cultures; there’s the Union (the Federation), inclusive, diverse, progressive, and there is the Krill. They’re a combination of Romulan and Klingon, but they’re also religious fanatics who are xenophobic fascist capitalists. Abortion comes up eventually. The scene goes hard and then harder. It’s a very brief scene—and doesn’t come back later when it seems like it might—but it’s rough. I’ve been wondering how media will adjust, and Gently Falling Rain is a jarring reminder from the immediate but significantly different past; life’s constantly getting worse, just maybe not for as many people.

The episode plays like Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek: Nemesis, sadly without any dune buggies, though there is a big future car chase. Only MacFarlane didn’t direct and doesn’t have any script credit. So instead, it’s Brannon Braga’s Star Trek: Nemesis, with co-writing credit to André Bormanis, with Jon Cassar directing. The Krill and Union are going to sign a peace treaty, which gets the brass—recurring guest stars Victor Garber, Ted Danson, and Kelly Hu—very excited. Garber’s going with the president (Bruce Boxleitner in full makeup) to the Krill home world to sign the treaty.

Only we’ve already seen the Krill home world, where populist upstart Michaela McManus is campaigning for the chancellorship on the peace treaty being weak and un-American. Oh, I mean, un-Krill.

Sure I do.

McManus is also a returning guest star; long time ago on “The Orville,” she had genetic surgery to appear human and seduce Orville captain MacFarlane in order to ruin him as payback for destroying a Krill vessel. She’s been back a few times since, with the two having an adversarial relationship with some underlying… romance might be too far, but something. This episode explores why McManus might feel a connection, also clueing MacFarlane in. I have questions about the timeline; the episode seems to have questions about the timeline; they do not get addressed, instead focusing on the character relationship and specifically how it plays out for MacFarlane.

MacFarlane’s a Captain Kirk in a Captain Picard episode of “Next Generation.” It’s a good episode for him, but it doesn’t give him anything particularly challenging to do, so he never gets to achieve (or fail). It’s intentionally constructed to get around MacFarlane maybe not having the most depth as an actor, no matter how hard he tries (though they’ve never tried bringing in a director who isn’t doing “Orville” style).

Anyway.

MacFarlane goes down to the planet with the away team; things go sideways; he tries to reason with the Krill. Meanwhile, up on the Orville, Adrianne Palicki is ready to nuke them from orbit if anything happens to the away team.

The finale’s not good. There’s a good car chase through the alien city, but everything preceding it is blasé. They go for a cheap resolution, entirely shifting the dramatic weight from the show to MacFarlane but then away from him again. But then the wrap-up scene’s really good.

It’s the best “Orville,” not “New Horizons,” episode of the season. It feels very much like regular “Orville,” in good ways.

McManus is a great recurring villain for the show, but since this episode’s four of ten, it seems unlikely she’ll have time to come back.

There’s some good comedy early in the episode, but the show seems to resent including it, just using it to give Anne Winters another chance to be an asshole. She gets some more later on, but her character’s been entirely one-note since the season premiere. To the point I was wondering if she was going to get Yar’d this episode.

But, otherwise, smooth sailing.

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