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Recap / The Orville S1E04 "If the Stars Should Appear"

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Mercer, Finn, and Isaac enjoying a nice stroll aboard the generational ship.

The Orville encounters a massive generation ship which is adrift and on course for a star. When they board the ship in an attempt to offer aid to the inhabitants, they discover that no one aboard is aware that they are on a ship, and the local leadership is invested in keeping things that way.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Ace Pilot: LaMarr shows he is almost as skilled as Malloy when he manages to outfly and destroy the Krill ship attacking the Union colony ship.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The heart of the colony ship is an enormous open area made to look like a fertile valley. The sky has a series of lights that illuminate it constantly, though the dome is supposed to retract to simulate night for a proper cycle. When the away team makes it to the bridge, Isaac discovers this and Mercer orders him to trigger it, causing the first night in thousands of years and showing the inhabitants exactly where they are.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • The rest of the landing party busting in to rescue Grayson from being tortured, including Alara (who is likely still upset at being shot) ripping the doors off.
    • The Orville itself plays this for a colony ship under attack from the Krill.
  • Brick Joke: On the bridge Isaac misinterprets being called a dick by Malloy as a compliment. When Captain Mercer later calls the dictator of the planet they're visiting a dick, Isaac assures one of the locals that the captain is complimenting their oppressor.
  • The Cameo: Liam Neeson appears briefly in a recording as the long-dead Captain Doral of the generation ship, explaining its original mission and how it came to be adrift.
  • Clarke's Third Law: When Dr. Finn extracts the bullets from Alara and then heals her, a boy thinks she's using magic.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Hamelac has Grayson repeatedly punched in the face for not telling him what he wants to hear, then injects her with a chemical that causes excruciating pain.
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  • Darker and Edgier: This episode is rather unflinching in its portrayal of violence and it is all played straight, with Alara being shot in cold blood, a man being beaten to death by a crowd for his beliefs, and Kelly being tortured and in excruciating pain.
  • Dead Man Writing: Captain Doral's message for his crew, which the heroes discover upon gaining access to the bridge.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: A Union colony ship is attacked by the Krill while Mercer's away team is exploring the bio-ship, forcing Bortus to provide aid and leaving Mercer without backup when he needs to rescue Grayson.
  • Endless Daytime: The bio-ship has artificial lighting which runs constantly, so there's never any night. Once the crew reaches the bridge, they discover that the dome can be retracted to simulate night, and activate it so the people will see the reality of their existence.
  • Future Imperfect: After the ship's inhabitants forgot their origin, they started to misinterpret the identity of the ship's last captain as that of a creator god.
  • Generation Ships: The bio-ship was intended to carry three generations of its people to the nearest habitable world, a journey of 100 years or so. An ion storm disabled the engines and they were forced to live out their lives on it for 2,000 years.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: Klyden queries the replicator for a food that helps with depression. It leads him to rocky road ice cream after narrowing the results a few times.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: When Isaac estimates the bio-ship at 790 km across, Kelly says that's about the size of New York City.
  • Insult Backfire: When Isaac boasts that only he has the reflexes necessary to dock with the bio-ship, Malloy says he doesn't have to be a dick about it. Isaac doesn't get the terminology, so Mercer sends an explanation to his monitor. Isaac comes to the conclusion that since men are proud of their penises, this must be a compliment.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Alara takes three bullets to the lung and holds on for however long it takes Mercer's group to reach her. Finn credits her species' resilience for her survival, as a human would have bled out.
    • Kelly gets knocked out and then beaten up quite severely, as well as injected with a torture drug, but more or less shrugs it off even without Dr. Finn's medical tech.
  • Mile-Long Ship: The bio-ship is roughly 790 kilometers long.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In between light-hearted and occasionally humorous sequences there is actual jeopardy for the crew as Alara is shot and Kelly is abducted, and Kelly witnesses a man being rather graphically beaten to death by a mob.
    • The violent moment in which Alara is shot and Kelly pistol-whipped into unconsciousness and abducted occurs immediately after Alara and Kelly make a comedic attempt at bluffing their way out of showing I.D.
  • Neck Lift: Alara does this to Hamelac, instantly convincing him to give them the antidote to the chemical causing Grayson's excruciating pain.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: An ion storm is the cause of the bio-ship's engine trouble.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: A Downplayed Trope example. Isaac claims that omnipotent creator figures are ridiculous and gives a nontheistic explanation for the universe (which is a paraphrasing of Stephen Hawking's recently challenged idea of how the universe was created). However, none of the other characters comment on Isaac's disbelief or judge the locals' beliefs other than their government's dictatorship. Doctor Finn also quotes a religious poem by Emerson.
  • Out of Order: This is the original second episode but was pushed back due to negative test audience reaction. This is clear from Yaphit's scene, where he first starts his flirtation with Dr. Finn despite it previously having gone on for a while. The opening scene with Bortus and Klyden was also clearly added later to make it fit in its new position, given the complete lack of follow-up. However, Alara references breaking up with a character introduced two episodes earlier, suggesting more surgery to the episode occurred before broadcast (further justifying the decision to air it later).
  • Pistol-Whipping: Grayson gets a rifle to the head after the guards have shot Alara.
  • Rabble Rouser: One of Hamelec's means of maintaining control. He stirs up a mob with rhetoric against the "heretics" then brings one out and lets the crowd beat him to death.
  • Running Gag: Mercer comes across another door he can't open and asks Alara to "open this jar of pickles for me" again.
  • Ship Tease: Alara mentions that Mercer is the only guy who isn't intimidated by her Super Strength.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Klyden watches the "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" scene from The Sound of Music.
    • When the crew first enters the bio-ship, the music used is from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, from when the Enterprise is taking a tour along V'Ger's surface.
    • Captain Mercer gives one to Jehovah's Witnesses when a door is slammed in his face.
    • The 1980 Star Trek novel The Galactic Whirlpool covers a similar plot as the episode.
    • The episode is very similar to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.”
    • It is also very similar to the initial concept of The Starlost, including the idea of a massive bioship heading for a disaster as its inhabitants go about their lives, many unaware they are actually on a ship and in danger.
    • During interrogation, Grayson claims her friends are on a couch in a coffee shop in Soho named Central Perk. The original show said it was in Greenwich Village, according to the Friends wiki, but there was a real life 20th anniversary pop-up version back in 2014 on Lafeyette Street in Soho, exactly where Kelly says it is.
  • Super Strength:
    • Isaac is stated to have this, with Alara admitting it's a toss up which of them is actually the strongest.
    • Alara opens another "jar of pickles" for Ed. Later, she confides in Kelly that having superstrength is not conducive to having a love life.
  • The Theocracy: The bio-ship is being ruled by a theocratic dictatorship who have misinterpreted the word of their former Captain Doral as divine scripture over the years.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: LaMarr yells "Boom, bitch!", followed by a whole celebration, when he destroys the Krill ship. Bortus has to get him to stop.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Played with, since they all do look up with some amount of surprise and wonder, but the passengers of a ship run by a theocratic government based on what they see being all that exists don't seem particularly disturbed when their world suddenly opens up to starry blackness for the first time in hundreds of years. From what they've been taught, the end times are upon them a la "Nightfall (1941)".
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: When Mercer first knocks on the cabin door, the wife runs away and brings back her gun-toting husband. Isaac stuns him. Then Mercer has to insist they come in peace while apologizing for shooting him.
    Mercer: He's only stunned. [suddenly looks concerned; to Isaac] You didn't kill him, right?
    Isaac: Of course not.
    Mercer: He's only stunned.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out: Dr. Finn says this when Alara has been shot several times and is bleeding out. Unlike in the present day, this seems to make sense with 25th-century medicine; she uses a portable Tractor Beam to pull the bullets back out with no trouble and then immediately repairs the damage. It also helps that Xelayans have greater resiliency than humans, increasing Alara's chances of survival.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Hamelac is running a theocratic dictatorship and willingly resorts to mob executions and torture to maintain order, but it's shown that he's genuinely fearful that his people aren't ready for change. When the truth about his world is revealed at the end, he is shown to be in awe, implying that he'll come around from his evil ways.
  • Your Mom: While Hamelac interrogates Kelly, she fires back with this insult.
    Kelly: Where are my friends? Last I saw them, one of them was banging your mom and the other one was high-fiving him.


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