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"Command is all about the balance between inspiring confidence in your leadership and knowing when to trust your people." ― Doctor Claire Finn[source]
Command Performance is the second episode of the first season of The Orville. The Captain and Commander vanish during a visit to the USS Blériot and it is up to Lieutenant Alara Kitan, as acting commander, to find them.

The episode was written by creator Seth MacFarlane and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, who is perhaps best known for playing Helmsman Tom Paris in the show Star Trek: Voyager. Music was composed by John Debney. Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor cameo as Ed Mercer's parents, Ben and Jeannie.

The episode aired on Fox following Sunday Night Football. The game went into overtime, pushing Command Performance to 9 p.m. (EST), and fans feared that the episode's ratings would suffer at a time when the show most needed to build a viewer base. Fortunately, the episode seem unaffected by the late start. 6.63 million United States viewers watched the episode, the second highest number of the season. Command Performance currently enjoys a 7.9 rating on IMDB.

Teaser Edit

As the second episode of the show, Fox produced a longer-than-usual promotional teaser for Commander Performance, which aired on September 10, 2017. (Later teasers would be about 30 seconds.) Unlike previous promotional materials that relied upon the show's humor, this teaser emphasized adventure and mystery. Interestingly, much of the video is in fact from the fourth episode, If the Stars Should Appear

The Orville Promo "Command Performance"

The Orville Promo "Command Performance"

Plot SynopsisEdit

Act 1 Edit

Second Officer Bortus enters Mercer's office to request leave of absence. The Moclan species reproduces by laying eggs, which require 21 days brooding to hatch. Bortus will nest an egg for the next three weeks.

Act 2 Edit

CaptainAlara

With the Captain, First Officer, and Second Officer gone, it is up to Chief of Security Alara Kitan to fill the captain's chair.

The USS Orville receives an emergency distress message from the USS Blériot, which has been attacked by the Krill. The ship is battered but the passengers and crew are alive; to Captain Mercer's surprise, his parents are on board. Mercer and First Officer Kelly Grayson go to the Blériot via shuttle. With Bortus on leave, Chief of Security Kitan is left in command of the Orville.

As soon as Mercer and Grayson enter the Blériot, it disappears with Mercer and Grayson in it. The ship was a holographic simulation.

Act 3 Edit

The Bridge is in chaos, frantically searching for the missing commanders. Kitan panics and runs to Bortus' quarters for guidance. Bortus tells her that she must find them, but that he cannot leave his egg to help. "I will not risk the life of my child," he concludes.

The holographic projection was from a remote buoy. Kitan orders Navigator John LaMarr retrieve the buoy via their tractor beam, overriding Isaac's warning. The buoy explodes in space between the spatial tensor coils and the Shuttle Bay, seriously compromising hull integrity in the bay. Kitan leaves the Bridge to check on the bay. Chief Engineer Steve Newton reports that there are minor injuries but fortunately the ship's protective force field separating space from an opening in the ship "snapped on like it's supposed to."

Kitan sees that a subordinate officer she knows, Ensign Parker, was seriously injured in the blast and feels wracked with guilt. Doctor Claire Finn exhorts Kitan to return to the Bridge and lead.

Meanwhile, Mercer and Grayson find themselves in a replica of their old apartment in New York City from when they were married.

Act 4 Edit

Ed Mercer Kelly Grayson

Ed Mercer and Kelly Grayson share a drink and a piece of chocolate cake in their reconstructed apartment.

Isaac discovers a molecular trail that may lead to where Mercer and Grayson were sent. The ship is already on emergency power due to the explosion's damage to the ship. Kitan orders power temporarily rerouted to the scanning array to follow the trail, overriding another objection, this time from Newton that the ship is "dead in the water" with power rerouted.

Mercer and Grayson begin to bond in their new "cell." They discuss the past and why their marriage failed; "I may have been wrong... maybe things could have been different," Mercer says. Grayson wishes him 'goodnight.'

The scanning array follows the trail to a Calivon world. Admiral Tucker explicitly forbids the Orville approach the planet: the Calivon are an extremely advanced species who view all other life as inferior and simplistic.

Mercer and Grayson awake to a new day but find the window of the New York City skyline is now a window to the true outside: a Calivon zoo.

Act 5 Edit

Calivon Zoo Ed Mercer Kelly Grayson

Mercer and Grayson survey their new home in the Calivon Zoo.

People of other zoo exhibits explain to the commanders that the Calivon think any technologically inferior species can be freely imprisoned in a zoo.

Time goes on and repairs are completed. Kitan follows Tucker's orders to return to Earth, and the missing commanders will be considered lost in the line of duty. The Orville's crew strongly objects but Kitan is unmoved.

"They hate me," Kitan bemoans privately to Finn. Though Finn is sympathetic, she says that Kitan is the only one who can decide to follow orders or disobey.

In the Mess Hall, Kitan sits with LaMarr and Helmsman Gordon Malloy, the two most opposed to Kitan. With permission to speak freely, Malloy says that Mercer would have disobeyed orders and try to rescue her had the situation been reversed. Kitan tells the hall that she will rescue the Captain and First Officer.

Act 6 Edit

Isaac modifies the buoy's holographic projector so that the Orville can be masked as a Calivon ship and enter Calivon space. Via a holographically cloaked shuttle, Isaac and Kitan will fly down to the zoo.

The novelty of living together again wears off, and Ed and Kelly become irritated with each other's behavior.

On the planet, Isaac pretends to be the pet owner of Kitan. Isaac is a Kaylon, a highly advanced species on par with the Calivon, which means that the Calivon respect Isaac. Kitan offers the zoo something valuable in return for their officers.

Act 7 Edit

Ed Mercer Alara Kitan Sapphire Star

Thanks to her daring leadership, Kitan is awarded the Sapphire Star.

Safe on board the Orville, Mercer awards Kitan the Sapphire Star for her exemplary leadership. At a celebratory party, the Captain and First Officer promise to play office politics with Planetary Union Central to spare Kitan any severe punishment. Kitan reveals to Newton and others that she offered archives of reality television from 21st century Earth in exchange for Mercer, Grayson, and a small child the commanders found imprisoned in the zoo.

Bortus and Klyden notice their egg beginning to hatch. They are shocked to see that the baby is female.

Production Edit

Creator Seth MacFarlane completed the script some time in mid-2016. For nearly a year, the production crew began work building sets, designing costumes, and writing other scripts. Filming began in the spring of 2017.

Originally, Command Performance was the fourth episode of Season 1, but was moved to the second when If the Stars Should Appear performed poorly with test audiences.[1] Scenes were added to adjust for continuity, such as Bortus brooding his egg, which allowed the episode to segue neatly to About a Girl.

MacFarlane turned to Robert Duncan McNeill to direct, famous for playing Lieutenant Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager. McNeill is part of a long line of Star Trek veterans taking a significant leadership role on The Orville. Significantly, McNeill turned down an opportunity to direct an episode of Star Trek: Discovery that same year.[2] "Seth's show [The] Orville is so good," McNeill said at a convention in 2017.

He's a huge Star Trek fan. Seth's sister told me that he he bought boxes ... of aluminum foil, covered his entire bedroom---every square inch---with aluminum foil so he could shoot a Star Trek fan film when he was 12 or 13 years old that he wrote, directed, and built the set.... So she literally said, 'It was amazing to see that he was making a 100 million dollar fan film basically.[3]
The entire set of the Calivon zoo was constructed inside the set of the Orville's Shuttle Bay.[4]

Themes Edit

Command Performance is considered a "thematic" episode, one founded on certain moral concepts that are not explicitly stated but are demonstrated through its story. In particular, the episode focuses on self-doubt and leadership. It is a book-end with Firestorm, which also focuses on the development of Alara Kitan from an inexperienced, young officer into a a smart, capable lieutenant commander; and, alongside New Dimensions, the trio explore themes of self-doubt and trust.

Alara is placed in the commander's seat for the first time, and initially she attempts to pass the responsibility to someone else with more experience. Kelly, who stands as the show's archetype of trust and confidence, encourages her. After several mistakes that seriously damage the ship and injure several members of the crew, Alara attempts to be placed on medical leave. Doctor Claire Finn declines, but agrees to help her become a better commander.

Building to the episode's climax, Alara is faced with a choice: follow the orders of others to abandon their Captain and First Officer, or believe in her own judgement. Claire tells Alara that wise leadership consists of finding the middle-ground between following the advice of others and following one's own judgment. Alara decides to disobey orders and successfully rescues Ed and Kelly. She is awarded the Sapphire Star as a visual metaphor for her growth as a leader.

Reception Edit

Viewership Edit

Command Performance was the second of two episodes that aired on Sunday nights (the first being Old Wounds), with subsequent episodes airing on Thursday nights. Fans were concerned that Command Performance's ratings would suffer as Fox scheduled the episode to play after Sunday Night Football. If the game stretched on, the episode would not air till late, reducing the number of viewers at a time when the young show needed to build its viewer base.

The game did stretch on, going into overtime, and Command Performance did not play until 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Fortunately, the show's ratings seemed unaffected by the late start. 6.63 million United States viewers tuned in, the second most of the show's first season (although by week-long metrics, Majority Rule is the second highest).[5]

General audience opinion of the episode was positive. Although Command Performance holds a 7.9 on IMDB, tied for third-lowest of the season, it is above-average for the television science fiction genre as a whole.[6]

Critical Response Edit

Michael Ahr of Den of Geek awarded the episode 3.5 stars, writings that the character development and the dramatic elements of the story were wonderful, but the episode was brought down by comedic scenes that fell flat. "It’s a damn good thing The Orville had a good story this week following Alara Kitan’s journey as a leader because man-oh-man, the attempts at humor at the start of the episode were difficult to slog through."[7]

Jammer of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode two stars of four, noting that the episode is an improvement over the pilot, with a better storyline, but that it "doubles down" on what he believes are its problems: namely, closely simulating Star Trek to the point of becoming distracting.[8]

On the other hand, Nick Wanserski of the AV Club believed the episode's problems were its "flat characters" and that, mirroring Ahr's assessment, the humor fails to take off. Wanserski did enjoy the episode, however, and was an improvement over Old Wounds.[9]

Trivia Edit

  • Originally, Command Performance was the fourth episode of Season 1, but was moved to the second when If the Stars Should Appear performed poorly with test audiences.[1]
  • Due to Fox's Sunday Night Football going into overtime, this episode didn't start until around 9 p.m. Eastern.
  • Bortus and Klyden give birth to a baby female Moclan, a very rare occurrence among the species, as it happens only once every 75 years.[10]
  • The episode takes place over 21 days in the year 2419, probably on or around October.
  • When the Calivon watch reality television in the zoo exhibit, Lurenek can be seen in the background watching the show as well.
  • Two Calivon spectators in the Zoo are in fact cameos by Tory Belleci and Kari Byron of the show Mythbusters. The two are not credited but their appearance was confirmed by Byron in a Facebook post on the day the episode aired, including five behind-the-scenes photos of her and Belleci as Calivon as well.[11]
  • It is very rare for actors to deviate from the show's script, but Scott Grimes (Gordon Malloy) says his line "you suck... sir" was improvised.[12]

References Edit

  • The reality show clip that plays in Mercer and Grayson's old cell in the Calivon is from season one, episode 10 of Real Housewives of New Jersey.
  • Ed quotes Elvis Presley's last words, "I'm going to read on the toilet," because he cannot think of something original.
  • Claire calls herself Alara's "Obi-Wan," a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi mentoring a young Luke Skywalker in the movie Star Wars: A New Hope.

CastEdit

Names and titles are as they appear in the credits unless otherwise noted.

Main CastEdit

Recurring CastEdit

Special Guest StarEdit

Guest CastEdit

Uncredited Edit

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Orville Fan Podcast w/ Jason Roberts (The Orville Unit Production Manager)". Planetary Union Network. April 19, 2018.
  2. Lovett, Jamie. "Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Duncan McNeill Was Offered A Directing Job On Discovery". comicbook. Aug. 20, 2017.
  3. "Voyager (Part 2 of 2) at the 2017 Star Trek Convention". 2017 Star Trek Convention - New York. Aug. 9, 2017.
  4. "The Orville Fan Podcast w/ Jason Roberts (The Orville Unit Production Manager)". Planetary Union Network. April 19, 2018.
  5. "The Orville:Season One Ratings". TVSeriesFinale.com. Last accessed Dec. 6, 2017.
  6. ""The Orville" Command Performance (TV Episode)". IMDB. Last accessed Feb. 12, 2018.
  7. Ahr, Michael. "The Orville Episode 2 Review: Command Performance". Den of Geek. Sept. 17, 2017.
  8. Epsicokhan, Jamal. "Command Performance". Jammer's Reviews. Last accessed Feb. 12, 2018.
  9. Wanserski, Nick. "A trip to the zoo helps elevate an otherwise average Orville". AV Club. Sept. 17, 2017.
  10. Episode 3: About a Girl
  11. Byron, Kari. "Tory Belleci and I make an incognito appearance on The Orville tonight. Recognize us?" Facebook. Sept. 17, 2017.
  12. "NYCC 2017: Adrianne Palicki & Scott Grimes - The Orville". WithAnAccentTV. Oct. 13, 2017.