‘The Orville’ Season 3 Episode 8 is a feature-length mini-movie

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Warning: Spoilers ahead for “The Orville” season 3, episode 8

Every once in a while, every long-running TV show has a “filler” or even what’s sometimes called a “bottle episode” – but although they’re usually produced on a smaller budget and limited in scope to only use a few regular cast members, effects and sets as possible – that was definitely not the case this week.

However, this week did feeling like a giant crucible where just about everything was thrown in, with an impressive budget and almost a full-length, or mini-movie, one-episode was the result. At one hour and 26 minutes, it’s an impressive length for a single television episode; “THX 1138” is only 88 minutes long, “Silent Running” is 89 minutes long, and “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” (1956) is only 80 minutes long.

Yes, “The Orville” is gearing up for its full-powered descent in the Season 3 finale, so a momentary pause before fully committing to the dive is to be expected, or at the very least, is fairly common. And that’s what this episode looks like, kinda. There’s still plenty to entertain and we’ll get to that, but this week includes high-speed chases, emotional turmoil, torture, escapes, close combat, reunification, and yes, Dolly Parton.

And by all accounts, creator Seth MacFarlane is gearing up to blow our socks off next week.

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We begin this episode with a revisit of the life of young Topa (Imani Pullum). Lt Cmdr. Bortus (Peter Macon) confides in Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), telling her that since Klyden (Chad L. Coleman) left, Topa has struggled to open up about her personal feelings, which provides a nice bookend to this episode — but more about that later. She admits to having feelings for someone she knows and Grayson suggests she should tell that person how she feels. In the end, it’s actually Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) and it makes for a very entertaining engineering exchange.

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It’s been almost a year since the Planetary Union granted protected status to Heveena (Rena Owen) and her Moclan refugee colony, as we saw in the second season episode “Sanctuary” (S02, E12 ) and was referenced recently in “A Tale of Two Topas” (S03, E05). According to the agreement, the Council of the Union and the Moclan government each have the right to conduct an annual inspection of the colony to ensure that both parties are complying with its terms. Because of Orville’s history and familiarity with the colony, Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) appoints Commanders Grayson and Bortus to represent the Union. So, we’re revisiting this particular chestnut ahead of what could be a Kaylon-themed season finale.

Related: Malloy suffers an emotional ordeal in ‘The Orville’ Season 3 Episode 6

We see the classic, small-scale utopian colony that’s so familiar from shows like “Stargate SG1” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and young Topa is able to meet Heveena in person and gaze upon her impressive shrine to Dolly. Let’s go. You may recall that in the aforementioned “Sanctuary” episode, Heveena is introduced to Dolly Parton’s music by Captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and she dubs her “a great Earth poet” in the vein of typical MacFarlane humor.

Tell me, who doesn't have a shrine like this to legendary singer-songwriter Dolly Parton in their home?

Tell me, who doesn’t have a shrine like this to legendary singer/songwriter Dolly Parton at home? (Image credit: Hulu)

Everything seems to be going well… then Heveena approaches Topa and persuades her to join his cause. You see, despite the inspection to make sure both parties are adhering to the agreement, Heveena has not has been; she continued to smuggle Moclan females out of Moclus, despite the potential risk of putting everyone at risk. Aside from the fact that pretty much everything including the mess sink got thrown away in this episode, that part feels weird fake. Not only is Heveena taking a huge risk, but Rena Owen’s delivery seems to have the feel of a disinformation ploy. It’s unclear if this was deliberate or not and frankly we were hoping it was because it could have added a whole new layer to the story. But alas, that was not to be the case.

Related: ‘The Orville’ Season 3 Episode 5 Revisits Moclan Gender Controversy

Now, according to inside information (opens in a new tab)this episode was one of many that were plagued by restrictions and scheduling conflicts due to Covid-19, as well as Three pregnant co-stars. So that’s more than likely why this particular episode isn’t quite on the same exceptionally high level as the rest of the third season.

Related: ‘The Orville’ Season 3 Episode 4 Takes Its World-Building To A New Level

Having agreed to help relay information, Topa strays too far from the quiet encampment and gets kidnapped by the Moclan soldiers who were also in the neighborhood as part of the inspection. Again, this could have been part of an (easy, but slightly twisted and therefore more interesting) counter-intelligence move by Heveena, predicting and actually building on the capture of young Topa. But alas, that was not to be the case.

This episode features many beautiful and lengthy visual effects laying out blueprints of Earth's future cities

This episode features many beautiful and lengthy visual effects laying out blueprints of Earth’s future cities (Image credit: Hulu)

Instead, the Orville gets involved and Heveena confesses to breaking the deal. The Planetary Union gets involved – because they should – and insists that she testify in a hearing where evidence of the abduction would also be presented. Meanwhile, Gryyson and Bortus take their shuttle and attempt to pursue the Moclan kidnappers.

Related: ‘The Orville’ Season 3 Episode 3 Gets A Perfect 10 From Us

Mercer tries to win over Heveena by recreating Dolly Parton’s log cabin, with the country music legend herself, in the holosuite. apart from one toddler a bit of aging CGI, it’s indeed the singer/songwriter sensation herself who shares some deep wisdom and finally convinces Heveena to agree to talk to the Planetary Union council members… and we get a similar situation to the episode “Sanctuary” once again. Now it’s up to Grayson and Bortus to save young Topa from being tortured in a secret underground facility.

Related: ‘The Orville’ Season 3 Episode 2 Takes Its Hats Off to Classic Sci-Fi Horror

Moments before he is rescued, there is a funny “will-they-won’t-they” moment between Grayson and Bortus and, interestingly, Bordus doesn’t. kill the Moclan frightened by the battle that tortured young Topa. Mere seconds before our valiant heroes storm the cell where she is being held captive, he confirms that he now has the name of the Sanctuary contact on Moclus and the encryption frequencies. Whether that will be revisited in a later episode remains to be seen.

Now totally blind, the Moclan who tortured Topa has been allowed to live, will this threaten the sanctuary?

Now totally blind, the Moclan who tortured Topa has been allowed to live, will this threaten the sanctuary? (Image credit: Hulu)

Luckily, they’re able to save her, which leads to a dogfight/chase sequence – because didn’t we mention it already, this episode has everything — between the fleeing Union Shuttle and three pursuing Moclan fighters. And just at the right time, they produce the battered and tortured child Mochlan for the Planetary Union council. Everything more or less resolves itself – at least as much as possible – and then, in probably the most emotional moment of this episode, Klyden (Chad L. Coleman) returns and even welcomes Grayson to eat at their table, prominently . unlike what happened a few weeks ago.

Related: ‘The Orville’ season 3 premiere shows this sci-fi series is a tour de force

So it looks like we’ll be back to some spectacular space combat footage next week and of course since Kaylon’s last attack on Earth the Planetary Union fleet has had some upgrades including the first collaboration between Krill and human technology resulting in these Wraith Dart-like fighters we first saw in this season’s first episode “Electric Sheep” (S03, E01). Also, there are now two Kaylons aboard the Orville, Isaac and Timmis (Christopher Larkin)… Will this affect next week in any way? We will know soon enough.

Rating: 6½/10

The first and second seasons of ‘The Orville’ are available to watch on Hulu (opens in a new tab) in most countries, and plans in the US start at $6.99 per month. New episodes of Season 3 will be released every Thursday. Viewers in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK can watch on Disney More (opens in a new tab) with accessibility coming soon for Japan and South Korea. Latin American viewers can watch on Star Plus.

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