"Between soul and sacrifice beats the heart of civilization." ― Bortus, quoting the works of Heveena[source]About a Girl is the third episode of the first season of The Orville. Lieutenant Commander Bortus and Klyden debate whether their child will receive a controversial sex reassignment.
The episode was written by Seth MacFarlane in consultation with executive producer David A. Goodman. MacFarlane received high praise from professional critics who cited the mature bittersweet ending, the strong allegory with modern social issues, and the strong character development between Klyden and Bortus. He later said that he tried to explore, metaphorically, the dynamics 21st century sexual politics on Earth through the backdrop of a single-gender species.
The episode was the show's first in its new Thursday night time slot.
On September 17, 2017, Fox released a 30 second promotional teaser, notable as it began with several clips from the then-unaired episodes Krill and If the Stars Should Appear. A narrator announces the new time slot for the show: "Over 16 million fans found The Orville out of this world, and it's blasting off to Thursdays." Previously, the show had aired on Sunday nights. The teaser concludes with Lieutenant Gordon Malloy requesting a pair of pants, a joke actually from this episode.
Plot Synopsis Edit
The episode continues where the previous episode, Command Performance, left off, with the crew of the USS Orville marveling over the birth of a newborn female Moclan, extremely rare in Moclan society.
Act 2 Edit
"Bortus, there's no way in Hell I'm doing that," Finn responds. Unfortunately for Bortus and Klyden, the ship is too far from planet Moclus for the operation, so Bortus finds Captain Ed Mercer in the Environmental Simulator in hopes that he may order her to perform it. Mercer, first shocked, then irate, declines: "I'm not going to do it. Request denied. Dismissed."
On the bridge, the Orville breaks up an extremely large asteroid on course to collide with the planet Elnath 4 with a "cutting beam." A Moclan ship arrives, announcing that a staff member of the Orville requested a rendezvous to take the child of Bortus and Klyden.
Mercer is incensed that Bortus went behind his back to request the pick-up, and that the parents will forcibly change the sex of their child. Mercer relieves Bortus of duty.
Act 3 Edit
In the Mess Hall, Mercer and Commander Kelly Grayson discuss the ethics of the potential sex reassignment. In the Simulator, Lieutenant Alara Kitan is instructed by them to take on Bortus in boxing as an attempt to show him that women can be just as strong as men. Though she easily defeats Bortus in the ring, Kitan's "lesson" backfires and Bortus leaves in a storm. "I will decide what is best for my child."
Act 4 Edit
Lieutenants Gordon Malloy and John LaMarr find Bortus nursing his head in his quarters. They bring beer and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer together. The experience changes Bortus's mind: "Without Rudolph's nose, Santa would not have been able to complete his voyage." Bortus excitedly leaves to speak with Klyden.
Klyden is stunned that Bortus wishes to raise their child as a female. Klyden is adamant that she will be an outcast in Moclan society; he confides in Bortus that he too was born female. The admission does not change Bortus's opinion, but they are interrupted by the arriving Moclan ship.
Captain Vorak is angry that Mercer and Grayson refuse to release the child, and subtlety threatens Mercer. Bortus intervenes by requesting Tribunal to determine the fate of their child. Grayson is appointed Bortus's advocate.
Act 5 Edit
On the planet Moclus, Tribunal begins. Advocate Kagus, representing Klyden, examines Bortus about his gomaska, or first date, with Klyden. Kagus points out that by the time the child will be able to decide which sex to be, "the damage will be done."
Advocate Grayson calls Kitan to the stand. Kitan, as a Xelayan, boasts tremendous strength. At Grayson's request, she easily warps a titanium cube into a sphere. Kagus retorts that a Xelayan male would be even stronger than Kitan. Grayson calls Malloy and quizzes him on basic Earth history to demonstrate that not all males are necessarily as intelligent as females.
Kagus examines Finn and Mercer, attempting to show that circumcision is a point of hypocrisy in Earth culture. Further, without surgery on the child, she would be shunned forever by other Moclans.
Mercer quietly calls LaMarr and arranges a trip with Kitan to journey to the mountains of Moclus. In a small cavern, they find an adult woman Moclan.
Act 6 Edit
Mercer, LaMarr, and Kitan return with the female Moclan. She testifies before the court as Heveena, born female and raised by her parents in the mountains, cloistered from society. She quotes the words of a famed Moclan writer, Gondus Elden, which infuriates Kagus. "You dare to bastardize the words of Gondus Elden to serve your own purposes? If he were here, he would spit on you for that!"
"Would he," Heveena inquires. "Why don't you ask him yourself?" Whisphers flood the Tribunal as all realize that Moclus's greatest author was in fact a woman. The Tribunal recesses for the arbitration council's deliberations.
Act 7 Edit
The council returns with their verdict, and do not find "sufficient cause" to not alter the sex of the child. The child's sex is reassigned the following day. Klyden approaches Bortus to comfort him, hestitates, and leaves him be for the moment.
The next day, a Moclan doctor presents to the parents their son. The trio return to the Orville.
In their quarters, Klyden apologizes for hurting Bortus. "What is important now," Bortus responds, "is Topa." Klyden is pleased with the name, and Bortus vows to give him a good life, "whatever he becomes."
The script for About a Girl was finished very early in development of The Orville, around April or early May, 2017. Creator Seth MacFarlane wrote the episode with the help of David A. Goodman, although Goodman was hired as executive producer only after writing was complete. Goodman described the writing process as starting the story from its dramatic elements, and only after peppering the script with humor.
Looking back over the first season, Director Braga said that The Orville has been his most challenging television series thus far. In particular, he highlighted the scene where Bortus watches Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in this episode as difficult:
Making sure that [the topic of Topa's sex reassignment] wasn't ridiculous, but was somehow funny but poignant was a challenge. Fortunately, Seth was there to make sure it happened right.MacFarlane has echoed Braga's comments. "We're trying to find out what that Goldilock's Zone is [between humor and seriousness]. At a certain point you have to forgo jokes for a part of that story or else the jokes become irrelevant." He continued that About a Girl was a episode where the writers found a very good balance between the two.
Preparing to air Edit
Leading up to the launch of The Orville, MacFarlane and actors Peter Macon (Bortus) and Chad L. Coleman (Klyden) frequently mentioned that belonging to an all-male species would lead to conflict between the two Moclans. The first references came at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con, when MacFarlane and Macon revealed in separate interviews that Bortus is a focal point of social criticism about gender and sexual identity. Several months later, MacFarlane clarified that the episode would be the third of the season.
Even though About a Girl was the first episode of the show to air in its new Thursday night slot, it was watched by 4.05 million television viewers in the United States, the third-highest for the season overall. The episode commands a 7.9 rating on IMDB, the highest rating in the season until then.
Critical Response Edit
About a Girl accrued high praise from its reviewers. Michael Ahr of Den of Geek awarded the episode four stars, one of the highest ratings he would give the show all season. He enjoyed the writing, and noted that the episode's "poignant and tragic" ending reminds us that cultural change does not happen overnight.
Jammer of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode three stars, tied with Majority Rule and Mad Idolatry for the highest of the season, calling the episode "bittersweet" and "sadly" reflective of the problems of society. Nick Wanserski loved the episode, calling it the best yet, citing the well-constructed relationship between Bortus and Klyden mixed with a powerful story arc.
- This is the first episode to air on a Thursday.
- In the scene where Bortus, Malloy, and LaMarr watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Malloy looks as if he is about to cry. Actor Scott Grimes (who portrays Malloy) has confirmed that he was holding back real tears: "That's real, though. I'm not kidding. I grew up with that movie; and the fact that I was sitting there watching it, every time I watch that movie I cry. So I just went with it."
- Reptilian Alien, the credited title of the alien in the matter synthesizer room with the pillow "Have a Slimy Day!," is a cameo by Julius Sharpe, a writer and co-producer on Family Guy.
- Ed tells Captain Vorak that the ship has the board games Scrabble, Candy Land, and Monopoly for entertainment, and Ed insists that he be the automobile piece. In the episode Mad Idolatry, Ed suggests the crew plays Monopoly while they wait for the multiphasic planet to reappear.
- The title "About a Girl" may be a play on the 2002 film About a Boy.
- Alara says that Kelly taught her boxing, and that the young Lieutenant finds the sport to be an art form. She will return to boxing as a form of stress relief in March, 2420, in the episode Firestorm.
- Vásquez dances to Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in the Environmental Simulator.
- Kelly quotes the lyrics of Destiny's Child's "Survivor" to Bortus.
- On the witness stand, Gordon answers that two of the four chambers of the Human heart are the Chamber of Secrets, the Chamber of Horrors. The former is a book in the Harry Potter series and the latter was a wax museum in London, England that ran from 1802 until 2016.
Names and titles are as they appear in the credits unless otherwise noted.
- Seth MacFarlane as Capt. Ed Mercer
- Adrianne Palicki as Cmdr. Kelly Grayson
- Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn
- Scott Grimes as Lt. Gordon Malloy
- Peter Macon as Lt. Cmdr. Bortus
- Halston Sage as Lt. Alara Kitan
- J. Lee as Lt. John Lamarr (as J Lee)
- Mark Jackson as Isaac
- Larry Joe Campbell as Steve Newton
- Norm MacDonald as Yaphit (voice only)
- Shay Ali as Crewman #1
- Alaina Fleming as Technician Reed
- Andrew Bering as Technician Jennings
- Deobia Oparei as Captain Vorak
- David Barrera as Vásquez
- Rena Owen as Heveena (Gondus Elden)
- Lamont Thompson as Minister Kaybrak
- Jonathan Adams as Moclan Arbitrator
- Antonio D. Charity as Advocate Kagus
- D. Elliot Woods as Moclan Council Foreman
- Rico E. Anderson as Moclan Doctor
- Julius Sharpe as Reptilian Alien
- Billie Mae Richards as Rudolph (archive footage) (voice only)
- Stan Francis as Santa Claus (archive footage) (voice only)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Bond, Jeff. The World of the Orville. Titan Books. 2018. Pg. 8.
- ↑ "Seth Macfarlane Dishes on "The Orville", "Star Trek" and New Album". Sway's Universe. Sept. 9, 2017.
- ↑ David A. Goodman at "Seth MacFarlane and behind-the-scenes creative team: "The Orville" | Talks at Google". Talks at Google. Nov. 16, 2017.
- ↑ "I believe each score takes roughly 3 weeks for the composer to write". MacFarlane, Seth. Twitter. Oct. 12, 2017.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Brannon Braga & The Orville Cast Full interview 2017 Panel NYC convention". NYC ComicCon. Nov. 20, 2017.
- ↑ "Seth MacFarlane (Creator), Adrianne Palicki (Kelly Grayson) discuss The Orville at SDCC '17". Lindsey. Aug. 13, 2017.
- ↑ "SDCC 2017: The Orville - Peter Macon, Mark Jackson, Chad L Coleman". Whedonopolis Video. July 26, 2017.
- ↑ "Seth Macfarlane Dishes on "The Orville", "Star Trek" and New Album". Sway's Universe. Sept. 9, 2017.
- ↑ "The Orville:Season One Ratings". TVSeriesFinale.com. Last accessed Dec. 6, 2017.
- ↑ ""The Orville" About a Girl (TV Episode)". IMDB. Last accessed Jan. 20, 2018.
- ↑ Ahr, Michael. "The Orville Episode 3 Review: About a Girl". Den of Geek. Sept. 21, 2017.
- ↑ Epsicokhan, Jamal. "About a Girl". Jammer's Reviews. Last accessed Jan. 20, 2018.
- ↑ Wanserski, Nick. "In its best episode yet, The Orville goes to trial for a baby's happiness". AV Club. Sept. 21, 2017.