Mad Idolatry is the twelfth and final episode of the first season of The Orville. The crew encounters a planet from another universe whose inhabitants start to worship Commander Kelly Grayson as a goddess. Meanwhile, Grayson and Captain Ed Mercer consider getting back together.
Mad Idolatry was the final episode produced, and was not finished until only two weeks before it aired. It was written by Seth MacFarlane, directed by Brannon Braga, and music was composed by Joel McNeely.
The episode is generally regarded by fans as the finest of the first season, and perhaps the most highly-rated one as well, even though general audience viewership was below the show's average. Critics note that the season concluded not on an expected cliffhanger, but with a thought-provoking commentary on religion's role in the development of society.
On November 30, 2017, Fox released a 30-second promotional teaser that emphasized the dramatic elements of the episode, a change in advertising from the early days of Season 1.
The Bridge crew is shocked by the appearance of a planet "out of thin air." A shuttle makes a sharp descent into the planet. Lieutenant Gordon Malloy cries, "Where the Hell are we?" Mercer says, "You'll die there." The narrator calls the mission "so dangerous, the crew may sacrifice one of their own." Mercer grips Grayson's hand. Action scenes from previous episodes play. The teaser concludes with Mercer announcing, "All right, let's do this."
Plot synopsis Edit
Act 1 Edit
The episode opens to Captain Mercer knocking on doors inside the USS Orville, unsuccessfully asking his Bridge officers if they would like to grab drinks, until Second Officer Bortus, who invites Mercer in for Oppsada with Klyden and him.
At Mercer's insistence, Bortus and Klyden introduce Mercer to the traditional Moclan party game of latchcomb, where people quickly pass a ball between themselves. Mercer ignorantly holds the ball too long and a blade pierces his hand.
In his quarters, Mercer hails Commander Grayson and she asks why he won't go to the Sick Bay to heal his hand. Mercer answers that he is too embarrassed, and requests she bring a dermoscanner the next day to heal the injury. The two agree to meet in the ship's Mess Hall for a drink.
Mercer acknowledges that Darulio's powerful Retepsian pheromones was responsible for the affair that fractured their marriage. He asks Grayson to go on a date later that week and she accepts. The scene concludes with the two happily pouring themselves generous amounts of alcohol.
The following day, Bortus and Isaac notice an unusual spatial anomaly by a nearby star. Grayson, Isaac, and Helmsman Malloy take a shuttle to study the anomaly up close. Though the trio is in the middle of space, they suddenly finds themselves in planetary atmosphere. Those on the bridge of the Orville are shocked to see a planet appear in what was empty space.
Act 2 Edit
The shuttle crashes on the newly arrived planet. Isaac and Malloy report that the engine overloaded by suddenly entering a dense atmosphere, but a quick repair could be made within an hour.
Grayson decides to survey the area and happens upon a small village in a distance. She is noticed by two young girls; the girls flee but one stumbles and cuts her forehead. Using the dermoscanner she brought for Mercer, Grayson heals the girl's injury. Grayson realizes that a group of indigenous men and women are watching her intently. Aware that she has broken Planetary Union rules restricting contact with developing planets, Grayson runs back to Isaac and Malloy. The young girl says to her people the name of her "healer:" Kelly.
Act 3 Edit
Back aboard the Orville, Mercer reports to Admiral Ozawa the planet's strange appearance. She instructs the Orville to observe the planet for seventy-two hours before she can send a science cruiser for further study. Grayson thanks him for not reporting her infraction.
Meanwhile, the planet disappears. Isaac and Chief Engineer John LaMarr proposes that the planet is locked in a multi-phasic orbit, meaning it travels through two universes while orbiting a star that exists simultaneously in both universes. Calculations of the planet's orbit suggest it will return in approximately 11 days.
Mercer and Grayson go on a dinner date in his quarters, concluding with a passionate kiss.
Act 4 Edit
Eleven days pass and the planet returns. A scan shows that the population and its state of technology have rapidly advanced.
Mercer, along with Grayson, Malloy, LaMarr, and Lieutenant Alara Kitan, take a shuttle to the surface. The Bronze Age village Grayson stumbled has developed into a city akin to Earth's 14th century. From the Bridge, Isaac speculates that while it may appear the planet was gone for eleven days, seven centuries have passed for the planet in the other universe.
In order to blend in the team goes to a nearby cottage and fashion disguises from clothes drying on a line. The owner, however, sees Grayson and begs her to please bless the owner's child. Down the road, the team finds several corpses hung on stakes. Mercer asks a passerby what happened and he explains they were killed for blasphemy against "the Word of Kelly."
Act 5 Edit
In the city, a mother tells her son that Kelly is all around and always watching. A man cuts the wrists of several accused men, saying that if the accused are innocent then Kelly should "heal them now." The crew enters church and finding a giant statue of Grayson.
On the Orville, Admiral Ozawa is furious with Captain Mercer for filing a report without mentioning contact with a developing planet. She orders them not to contact the planet further.
Grayson is deeply concerned. That night, Mercer wakes her up saying that they will return to the planet to set things aright. The away team enters the church and finds a religious leader named Valondis.
Act 6 Edit
Kelly explain to Valondis in fine detail that she is not divine: the healing of a girl 700 years ago was simply thanks to her more advanced technology. Valondis is convinced and the crew returns to the Orville. In the church, there is a discussion if the public should be told the truth of Kelly. A church dignitary, concerned that power concentrated in the church will wane, quietly assassinates Valondis.
Act 7 Edit
Another 11 days pass and the planet re-emerges. The planet made another jump in technology, boasting functioning satellites, a large population, but also pollution. To the crew's disappointment, scans show that the planet continues to worship Kelly as a deity.
In the Briefing Room, Grayson supposes there was not enough time to change the planet, and Doctor Claire Finn suggests that they might need to leave something permanent to actually shift the cultural paradigm. Isaac volunteers to remain on the planet for another 700 years as his artificial Kaylon body can endure for millions of years.
A final 11 days pass. The planet re-appears, its inhabitants advancing slightly beyond 25th century standards. A vessel approaches: Isaac and two of the planet's representatives, Fadolin and Baleth, teleport onto the main deck. The two representatives report that they no longer worship Kelly as a deity, recognizing her as a woman who played a necessary role in their planet's evolution. "Were it not for you [Grayson], mythology would have found another face." Further, Isaac did not lead the way to secularism. If Grayson had not landed on their planet thousands of years prior, the planet would have found someone else to worship.
Mercer has a drink in the Mess Hall and is greeted by Grayson. The Commander insists their relationship will not work, as he had to defy an Admiral to protect a grave mistake. Mercer understands but is deeply saddened, as he does still love her. He dismisses her, left alone to stare at the stars.
Though the script of Mad Idolatry was completed by Seth MacFarlane some time between June and October, 2016, the episode was not completed until remarkably late in 2017, some time after August. On November 20, 2017, MacFarlane and producer David A. Goodman confirmed that the episode was still in editing, only two weeks before it aired. Composer Joel McNeely spent roughly three weeks to complete the score.
Leading up to airing, actor Scott Grimes (Gordon Malloy) said the script was the best television writing he had worked on, and that the concept of a multi-phasic planet was "the most original science fiction" he had ever read.
Mad Idolatry was well received by general audiences, and has become a favorite among fans of the series. The episode premiere was watched by roughly 3.53 million television viewers in the United States. It enjoys an 8.6 rating on IMDB, the highest-rated episode of the season.
Critical Response Edit
Though The Orville had been panned by critics for much of the first season, the finale became a favorite of both fans and professional critics alike, and generally taken to be the best-received episode of the year. Michael Ahr of Den of Geek awarded the episode four stars, writing that the innovative plot was not necessarily "game changing, it gave us food for thought and allowed for the evolution of Ed and Kelly’s relationship."
Nick Wanserski of the AV Club, enjoyed the episode as an enjoyable, low-intensity finale that innovated on the typical television plot arch where the protagonists are also the ones who correct an episode's problem:
[T]onight’s episode was surprisingly anti-climactic. And I mean that in a good way. It’s a satisfying defiance of convention that the central problem of tonight’s episode ultimately managed to self-correct without any help from the Orville crew.Jammer of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode three of four stars, calling Mad Idolatry the best episode of the season and its most ambitious, concluding: "Stories like "Mad Idolatry" have the sort of ambitious themes and scope that could be mined for greatness."
- Originally, there were supposed to be 13 episodes in Season 1, but was cut short of one episode, thus making this episode the twelfth, and not the thirteenth, episode.
- Lieutenant Malloy holds a pair of binoculars which are in fact a repainted toy periscope from the game Sub Assault.
- Actor Scott Grimes (Gordon Malloy) has praised the episode as the best hour of television he has been a part of.
- The rise of the Kelly religion mimics the origins of Roman Catholicism and, less overtly, organized religion as a whole. The religious conflicts and arguments with secularization mirrors Earth's growing secularism and religious extremism of the 20th and 21st centuries.
- Those accused of crimes are fatally cut on the presumption that if they are innocent, Kelly will heal them. From the Middle Ages through the 17th century, the accused were sometimes given a "Trial by Ordeal," where a typically fatal scenario was imposed upon the accused. For example, women and men accused of witchcraft were thrown into water. If they floated, they were guilty.
- The Planetary Union's prohibition against "cultural contamination" of an undeveloped civilization constitutes a "Prime Directive" against contact with developing worlds.
- Ed suggests playing the board game Monopoly in lieu of latchcomb while the crew waits for the planet to re-appear.
- Healing someone from a less developed culture leads to the healer becoming deified occurred in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Who Watches the Watchers.
- The concept of time dilation on a planet is common in science fiction, but this episode most closely parallels Star Trek: Voyager Blink of an Eye, where the starship Voyager witnesses the whole of a planet's history while the people on the surface grow increasingly devoted to the foreign ship.
- Grayson drops her robe when she reveals her identity to Valondis. When she hurries to the shuttle, she leaves her robe on the floor. As the church is in the center of a busy city, she would be seen by hundreds of people, defeating the reason to wear the disguise.
- The stained glass depiction of Grayson, based on a promotional image, features her with the hairstyle she sported in the earlier episodes of the season rather than her current one.
Names and titles are as they appear in the credits unless otherwise noted.
Main Cast Edit
- 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. Cmdr. John LaMarr (as J Lee)
- Mark Jackson as Isaac
Recurring Cast Edit
Guest Cast Edit
- Kyra Santoro as Ensign Turco
- Jasper McPherson as Little Girl
- Lenny von Dohlen as Valondis
- Nick Toren as Man in Red Robe
- Erica Tazel as Baleth
- Philip Anthony-Rodriguez as Fadolin
- Grahame Wood as Man on the Wagon
- Chloe Russell as Woman
- Jo Galloway as Mother
- Ethan Jones as Dalen
- Gordy De St. Jeor as Teenage Boy
- Neil Dickson as Man in Clerical Garb
- Cryus Deboo as Pundit #1
- Stephen Jared as Pundit #2
- Betsy Baker as Pundit #3
- Kurt Sinclair as Televangelist
- Alexander Catalano as Peasant #1
- Ryan Fitzsimmons as Peasant #2
- Mikey Roe as Peasant #3
- Jay Jackson as Reporter
- C.J. Johnson as Tradesman
- Deborah Meister as Medical Assistant
- ↑ "The Orville Fan Podcast w/ David A. Goodman (06)". Planetary Union Network. Oct. 14, 2017.
- ↑ "SDCC 2017: The Orville - Adrianne Palicki, Seth McFarlane". Whedonopolis Videos. July 26, 2017.
- ↑ "Brannon Braga & The Orville Cast Full interview 2017 Panel NYC convention". NYC ComicCon. Nov. 20, 2017.
- ↑ "I believe each score takes roughly 3 weeks for the composer to write". MacFarlane, Seth. Twitter. Oct. 12, 2017.
- ↑ "NYCC 2017: Adrianne Palicki & Scott Grimes - The Orville". WithAnAccentTV. Oct. 13, 2017.
- ↑ "The Orville:Season One Ratings". TVSeriesFinale.com. Last accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
- ↑ ""The Orville" Mad Idolatry (TV Episode)". IMDB. Last accessed Jan. 31, 2018.
- ↑ Ahr, Michael. "The Orville Episode 12 Review: Mad Idolatry". Den of Geek. Dec. 7, 2017.
- ↑ Wanserski, Nick. "The Orville’s season finale goes out without a single bang". AV Club. Dec. 8, 2017.
- ↑ Epsicokhan, Jamal. "Mad Idolatry". Jammer's Reviews. Last accessed Jan. 31, 2018.
- ↑ "THE ORVILLE PODCAST EP 14 - THE SCOTT GRIMES INTERVIEW". The Orville Podcast. Dec. 8, 2017.