Midnight Blue is less an extended regular episode than a combined two-parter or even an “Orville” TV movie. It’s entirely dependent on previously established subplots and story details—going back to season one of the show—but it’s also completely self-contained. It’s an incredible hour and a half.
Jon Cassar directs, contributing his best work on the show so far. He doesn’t have much time left to top it. There’s a great score from Joel McNeely, also his season best. But the script—credited to Brannon Braga and André Bormanis—is the far and ahead winner of the episode, which brings closure to the season’s subtly developing Moclan arc. The Moclans are the all-male (they just surgically alter the occasional female to be male at birth) warrior society in the Union. Everyone’s getting sick of them being gross and physically and psychologically abusing their children, but the Union needs them to stand up to the Kaylon.
I swear “Orville” makes spelling the alien species names worse than any other franchise.
This episode’s all about Imani Pullum, who was born in the show’s first season and grew up to her tweenage years incredibly fast. She’s a Moclan female who was surgically altered and who’s recently been restored. She’s also the season’s protagonist; at first, it seemed like it’d be Penny Johnson Jerald (who’s reduced to a cameo here), but it’s definitely Pullum. Including her asking her first crush out to dinner in a phenomenally awkward scene. And the episode’s only comedic relief. They open with it, clearing the room of distress vapors, then just pour in the tension.
In addition to Pullum, this episode’s main characters are Adrianne Palicki, Peter Macon, guest star Rena Owen, and then Seth MacFarlane in a distant fifth. Everyone else gets a story arc; MacFarlane’s just the captain. Owen’s a Moclan female who started a colony for the other females; she’s a repeat guest star, basically once a season. The sanctuary is a political minefield for the Union and the Moclans. First officer Palicki and recently divorced now single parent to a daughter Moclan Macon are going to inspect the sanctuary. Pullum wants to go; Palicki helps her talk Macon into it.
While the trip is inspiring for Pullum, things soon go wrong—the Union inspection is timed with the Moclan inspection—and the sanctuary quickly becomes dangerous. Palicki and Macon will execute an impromptu “black bodysuit” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” mission while MacFarlane finds himself in a diplomatic nightmare thanks to Owen, who’s obstinately no help.
Good thing the show’s got a baller guest star to drop.
It’s a taut action and political thriller. Many of the scene setups harken back to Star Trek IV and VI, with a fantastic Tony Todd cameo as the Moclan ambassador. Excellent acting from Owen, Pullum, Macon, and Palicki. While Pullum’s the de facto season protagonist, Palicki’s the show protagonist. She’s gotten really good at this part. Hopefully, it translates to something else in the future. And Macon’s acting-in-makeup is sublime.
Only two more “New Horizons” to go… Midnight Blue’s raised expectations for them.