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Steven Culp on "The Orville"

Episode: 1.07 - Majority Rule


When two Union anthropologists go missing on a planet similar to 21st century Earth, Ed sends a team led by Kelly to find them, but the mission quickly goes awry when they realize the society's government is completely based on a public voting system to determine punishment in the all-new "Majority Rule" episode of THE ORVILLE airing Thursday, Oct. 26 (9:01-10:00 PM ET) on FOX. (ORV-107) (TV-14 D, L, V)

Cast: Seth MacFarlane as Captain Ed Mercer; Adrianne Palicki as Commander Kelly Grayson; Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn; Scott Grimes as Lieutenant Gordon Malloy; Peter Macon as Lieutenant Commander Bortus; Halston Sage as Chief Security Officer Alara Kitan; J Lee as Lieutenant John Lamarr; Mark Jackson as Isaac

Guest Cast: Ron Canada as Admiral Tucker, Giorgia Whigham as Lysella, Loren Lester as Lewis, Barry Livingston as Tom, *Steven Culp as Willks*


(October 27, 2017,, by Dan Marcus)
Review: "The Orville" Satirizes Social Media But Doesn't Get An Upvote In "Majority Rule"
Review: "Majority Rule"

The Orville Season 1, Episode 7 Aired Thursday, Oct. 26
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Directed by Tucker Gates

In "Majority Rule," the crew of The Orville have been ordered to investigate the disappearance of some scientists researching an alien planet that is very similar to 21st century Earth. Commander Kelly Grayson leads a landing team which quickly discovers Sargus Four has a society based on eerily familiar "up votes" and "down votes," which can have grave consequences. When Lt. LaMarr disrespects a statue of an historical figure, he becomes the latest pariah of "The Feed" and if he doesn't make amends he will be in serious trouble.

While the previous episode ("Krill") deftly balanced humor, action and morality, "Majority Rule" tips the scale more toward an exploration of social media with the most serious episode of the series yet. Seth MacFarlane is back writing this episode with similar results to his "About a Girl," which was also heavy-handed in its allegorical storytelling.

With social media controlling every aspect of Sargus Four, LaMarr is arrested after receiving millions of down votes. Instead going through a legal system, he is subjected to an "apology tour," where he must appear on televised talk shows to convince the population he's truly sorry. Instead of a lawyer he is assigned a publicity agent (Steven Culp) who works with Kelly to try to (ironically) navigate LaMarr through the tour, but the interviews get progressively worse. As this is happening, Dr. Finn and Lt. Alara discover the missing researchers had been subjected to an apology tour of their own, which ended up with one dead and the other "corrected" with a lobotomy.

With so much of the focus on Lt. LaMarr, actor J. Lee rises to the occasion and makes the best with what he was given. He carries the episode, adding some spark to the various confrontation talk show appearances and he had a fun dynamic with Culp's hapless publicity agent. However, "Majority Rule" was a bit of a missed opportunity to allow LaMarr some character growth. The last heavily allegorical episode ("About a Girl") saw Bortus through a transformation as he grew to accept his daughter. With LaMarr, he starts and ends "Majority Rule" as the same abrasive, crass guy, even after given the opportunity to mature and grow.

While LaMarr awaits the final vote to determine his fate, Mercer and Grayson decide to intervene. They pluck a citizen off the planet, Lysella, to try and find a way to circumvent the planet's justice system. While their solution does provide the episode's funniest moments Mercer and the crew fabricating heartwarming stories about LaMarr for "The Feed" this solution doesn't exactly match the type of Star Trek optimism the show aspires to embody. The ending of the episode feels like it wants to have a profound message, but ends up a bit like a cop-out. Lysella is returned and has another opportunity to vote, but she chooses not to, undoubtedly implying that change can start small.

"Majority Rule" does have some genuinely fun and inspiring moments. The idea of the crew forced to create sad memories to garner sympathy for LeMarr was very clever and also scarily apropos. It feels like a shrewd jab at how social media can be utilized today, sometimes for informative effect and sometimes for manipulative gain. Halston Sage and Penny Johnson also showed good chemistry with their own little buddy cop adventure, investigating the fate of the Union research team.

The Orville deserves credit for attempting to create a cautionary tale on a socially relevant subject matter. The whole "up vote, down vote" system feels especially applicable to our current dependency on validation through social media. There are several moments such as Lysella complaining that no one will believe that she's been to space if she can't take a picture that were both funny and resonated. The idea of "Majority Rule" is solid, but you may want to look elsewhere for more effective versions of this story, whether that's "Nosedive" from Black Mirror or "Bread and Circuses" from The Original Series. In the end, "Majority Rule" regrettably gets more down votes than up, for another uneven attempt at social allegory.

Random thoughts:

* Early bridge discussion on "Parallel Species Development" seems to be The Orville's version of Star Trek's "Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development"
* While they did attempt to not interfere with the alien culture, the Planetary Union doesn't seem to have a "Prime Directive" and Ed even argued for making first contact.
* Steven Culp appeared as MACO Major Hayes during the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise and as Commander Martin Madden in a deleted scene from Star Trek: Nemesis.
* The Orville has some impressive technology. The ship's computer was able to replicate a video in which Lt. LeMarr is greeted by his fake old dog after returning from a fake war. I almost shed some fake tears.
* The Orville's shuttles have cloaking technology.

(October 27, 2017,, by Ian Cullen)
Synopsis: When two Union anthropologists go missing on a planet similar to 21st century Earth, Ed sends a team led by Kelly to find them, but the mission quickly goes awry when they realize the society's government is completely based on a public voting system to determine punishment.

Review: The Orville manages to strike a better balance between drama and comedy with this episode, which pretty much shows how a pop idol democracy would work. While on a mission to find the whereabouts of two Union anthropologists that have not checked in. Kelly, John, Dr. Finn and Alara go planetside to investigate. But when John humps a historic statue in jest the planets social media goes wild and judges him to be a very bad man.

On the planet, the population wears electronic badges that are hooked up to a live feed. The badges have a green button for good and a red button for bad, which people push according to how they perceive your actions. John's actions with the statue see's him get a lot of downvotes. It is basically democracy via a kind of twitter feed.

If the bad votes reach 10 million then the person concerned gets some kind of corrective lobotomy, but there is a way out. If the person shows remorse on a series of talk shows, which people can vote on. Then if the number of bad votes go down or stay below 10 million. The person can go free.

John has to undergo this process, but his lack of understanding of the culture nor the full gist of what he has been accused of work against him. Not even Kelly can help him.

Luckily Dr. Finn and Alara manage to make a friend on the planet who is ultimately able to help them navigate the cultural norms and inform them on how things work. Armed with this information the Orville crew are able to save Johns life by flooding the feed with positive stories about him, which all get upvoted and keep his bad votes under 10 million.

Overall this was a very strong episode, which had just the right balance of humor and drama to it. Much like 'About A Girl'. This story told a very confident science fiction story using current cultural themes as a template. It also showed how a democracy entirely based on a system like Twitter could ultimately lead to mob rule.

Steven Culp makes a guest appearance as Johns publicity adviser. I personally think he was wasted playing such a passive style of role. Had this planet had a system of law like our own. Culp would have been the prosecuting lawyer. That aside though. I think this has to be the best episode of this show to date. J. Lee gets a chance to shine as John and we also get to see some nice character beats with Alara and Dr. Finn who seems to be playing a kind of motherly role to the Alara.

Hopefully we will get to see more episodes of this nature before the season is out.

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