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Recap / The Orville S2 E5 "All the World is a Birthday Cake"

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They'll soon wish it wasn't their birthdays...
The ship discovers a seemingly utopian planet that's never encountered alien life before. The First Contact mission ensues, but the crew suspect something dark lies under the service of this "utopia."

Tropes in this episode include:

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  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Union structures theirs slightly different from Star Trek's prime directive. The Union initiates contact as soon as a civilization attempts contact with extraterrestrial life, because the galaxy isn't empty and less scrupulous species might take advantage of a developing world.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy:
    • It wouldn't take advanced technology to discover the new "star" was a fake. The solar sail is deployed in close proximity to the planet, so the planet's orbit alone would cause it to appear in different positions in the night sky over the year, and even during the same night different telescopes would show it in different positions compared to the background stars, and thus far, far closer than the ruse is meant to suggest.
    • The entire conflict plays with astrological science. For starters, Earth, Moclus, and Regor II are in completely different star systems, so Kelly and Bortus couldn't have been born under Regor II's astrological signs. Secondly, to calculate the crew's ages the way the Regorians did, that would mean Earth, Moclus, and Regor II all have the same day/night cycle (24 hours) and the same year length (365/366 days). In all likelihood, Kelly and Bortus were born under different Regorian signs, but no one bothered checking because they admitted their current birthdays happen to coincide with Giliac.
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    • Furthermore, nobody brings up the fact that constellations don't even look the same from other star systems, or the fact that stars can change positions significantly over time. (E.g. At the moment, the star closest to true north for someone on Earth is Polaris/Alpha Ursae Minoris, but when the Egyptians were building the pyramids, it was Thuban/Alpha Draconis.) When Dr. Finn expresses confusion at the first mention of the term "Giliac," one of the Regorians says the Union must have a different name for it—but it doesn't occur to them that it's possible to not live under the same astrological system.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Doctor Finn and Lieutenant Talla are touring a Regorian hospital and are brought into a surgical suite where a C-section on a premature child is taking place. There's two pieces of artistic license here, one justified, the other not so much.
    • The justified part is that the C-section is completely unnecessary, and yet the Regorians are performing a lot of them. The Regorians turn out to be delivering babies weeks ahead of schedule on purpose, due to a societal superstition that children born under a specific astrological sign are predisposed to violence.
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    • The unjustified part? Finn, the Orville's chief medical officer, should have known better than to enter an active operating room without scrubbing or donning PPE, especially in a society whose technology is obviously less advanced than her own.
  • Bald of Evil: The unnamed officer running the concentration camp Bortus and Kelly are sent to is bald.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Kelly and Bortus have an upcoming birthday within a week of each other. On Regor II, they are considered criminals just for being born on those days and are arrested for it.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: For both sides. The Orville crew is obviously confused by the Regorians' reliance on astrology and poor treatment of those born under the wrong sign, while the Regorians are equally confused (as well as offended) that the Union doesn't use the same system.
  • The Cameo: Ted Danson pops up as the admiral Ed talks to.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Gordon and John launch the solar sail just in time to save Kelly and Bortus from being put to death, despite not knowing about the upcoming execution.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Discussed. When Kelly's boyfriend points out that Ed could easily liberate Kelly and Bortus using the Orville's advanced weapons, Ed reluctantly counters that this is precisely the reason they can't do that. As Admiral Perry points out, the Union is not the Krill.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Talla tells the First Prefect that the Union has this quirky justice system that uses an individual's actions to determine guilt or innocence rather than when they were born. This has no effect.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Klyden & Topa are amused by Gordon's video of an animated Bortus & Kelly dancing. Needless to say, Bortus isn't.
  • Dystopian Edict: On Regor II, people born under a particular stellar sign are deemed to be subhuman and are locked away in concentration camps.
  • Fantastic Caste System: Regorians divide themselves by astrological sign according to their Fictional Zodiac. Of those named, "Giliacs" are confined to concentration camps on grounds that they're supposedly predisposed to violence, while the following sign of "Wasanda" designates future leaders. Also named but unexplained are "Panaji", "Corobahn", and "Valeigh".
  • Fantastic Racism: Something of a variation. The Regorians are Rubber-Forehead Aliens who discriminate against people born under a specific stellar sign known as "Giliacs", thus cutting across class, ethnic, and gender lines.
  • First Contact:
    • The plot of the episode. Specifically, first contact gone wrong. While the intentions of the Orville crew are unambiguously benevolent, the planet they're visiting turns out to be a totalitarian society governed by astrology.
    • Compared to the Federation in Star Trek, the Union initiates first contact earlier in a planet's development, as Ed explains to the Regorians. Instead of waiting for a culture to develop independent FTL travel, the Union merely requires either local spaceflight, or for the planet to reach out directly—in this case, the Regorians set up a CETI-like radio transmitter to broadcast the simple message, "Is anyone out there?" The whole Orville crew is positively giddy to be the first to answer the message. Per Ed, this is partly due to the Planetary Union being a little more realistic than the UFP about the number of unfriendly spacefaring cultures in their part of the galaxy.
  • Foreshadowing: Doctor Finn notices that the maternity ward has an inordinately high number of premature C-section births, which is later revealed to be the people trying to avoid their children being literally "born under a bad sign."
  • Great Escape: After a month in an internment camp and witnessing a couple's baby being forcibly removed, since the baby is not a Giliac, Kelly and Bortus decide to break out. They end up in a shootout with the guards and kill or wound many of them. Eventually, though, they are surrounded and taken to be executed. It just happens to be the day the Orville launches the solar sail that fakes a new star, so they are spared.
  • Meaningful Name: The date-obsessed Regorians appear to have been named in reference to the Gregorian calendar.
  • Mood Whiplash: The First Contact dinner starts out pleasant enough, with uplifting speeches of friendship—until Kelly mentions that she and Bortus have birthdays coming up and everything goes straight to hell.
  • Neck Lift: Talla does this to the doctor who approaches Ed looking to get a tooth sample for analysis. Ed calls her off, and the doctor makes sure to point out Ed won't be harmed, just to cover his bases.
  • Numbered Homeworld: The natives the Orville makes first contact with call their own world Regor II. Given the significance they place on astrology, this perhaps isn't so surprising.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Sums up the Orville crew's reaction once they figure out that the Regorians have organized much of their society around astrology. This is the third episode to date to use this.
  • Planet of Hats: The Regorians are a planet of astrologers.
  • Putting on the Reich: Attentive viewers will immediately notice that the outwardly "utopian" society on Regor II is really a dystopia because the Regorians all dress in fascist-style grey uniforms.
  • Reality Ensues: Bortus and Kelly's escape attempt. As noted above, they get away with a lot thanks to Armor Is Useless and the camp guards being really lousy shots but when they blow open the gate, they immediately come face to face with the commander and a whole new swarm of guards.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The prejudice against an specific astrological sign was the result of a star in that constellation being swallowed by a black hole, around 3,000 years prior, and the Regorians witnessing the event. This doesn't take into consideration the interstellar distances and the time it would take for the light of the star to travel to Regor II. It would take hundreds if not thousands of years for the Regorians to notice the star had gone dark, and the dates of the star's destruction and the Regorians cultural change would not match.note 
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: On Regor II, "Giliacs" are confined to concentration camps based on a superstition that they're predisposed to violence. Bortus and Kelly are both trained soldiers—and Bortus is from a species whose Hat is basically toxic masculinity—so imprisoning them for being Giliacs inevitably leads to violence when they refuse to meekly accept their detention.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: The concentration camp commander makes short order of Bortus's and Kelly's fight with the guards by firing his sidearm in the air, pointedly telling them that if they attempt that again, the next bullet will be in their brain.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: It's only one star in this case, but the reason Regorians view a specific sign as criminal is because a star in that constellation collapsed into a black hole, which the Regorians witnessed 3,000 years in their past. Spooked by a star suddenly disappearing, they viewed it as a bad omen and the association was forever tainted. The crew solves the problem by rigging a solar sail to make it look like the star has come back, reasoning that it will be quite a while before the Regorians realize they've been duped.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The new chief of security, Talla, is also a Xelayan, meaning she has the same strength that Alara did. She even has a similar hairstyle. Justified in that Ed specifically requested a Xelayan for the position.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Implied. Rokal reveals the existence of his and Ukania's daughter because he believes she'd have a better life raised away from her Gilliac parents. Ukania, who believes keeping her child is a better option, is devastated when she's taken, but Rokal makes no move to comfort her. When Kelly gives an update on them at the end of the episode, she pointedly only refers to Ukania and her daughter, implying that Ukania kicked Rokal to the curb for his actions.
  • Time Skip:
    • Several years elapse between the first scene of the message being broadcast on Regor II and the next one when the Orville detects the transmission.
    • The Orville spends a month in orbit while they try to find a diplomatic solution, and Kelly and Bortus languish in the Giliac camp.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Planet, in this case. The crew realizes too late that Regorian society operates under an astrological belief system and two of the away team were born under a sign that labels them as criminals. An interesting case as the Regorians didn't consider this a secret and simply assumed the crew already knew.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: Ed's team makes peaceful First Contact with the Regorians and things seem to be going well, until Kelly mentions that her and Bortus's birthdays are next week. Cue the Regorians turning on them and throwing Kelly and Bortus into a concentration camp. Ed suggests retrieving his crew members by force but Admiral Perry shoots that down.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: After the crew pulls off their con, Kelly and Bortus are released from the camps as their original "crime" is no longer such... despite the fact that they had just attempted to escape and killed or injured dozens of guards in the process.

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