Warning: Spoilers ahead for “The Orville” season 3, episode 9
Wow, if you thought there was a lot crammed into last week’s episode — and there was — then hold onto your potatoes, the season 3 penultimate episode, entitled “Domino” surpasses that and then some. While not quite as long in running time as the previous episode, just five minutes shorter at 1 hour and 18 minutes, it seems as if 10 times as much action has been packed in.
We begin with a brief, no-nonsense pre-credit sequence on the Krill homeworld. The gritty atmosphere of the perpetually dark, cyberpunk-esque cityscape that we first saw in the episode “Gently Falling Rain” (S03, E04) has been deftly accentuated by the addition of falling rain and it instantly creates an effective somber feel to the opening scene.
Newly elected Chancellor Teleya (Michaela McManus) is meeting with a Moclan ambassador to discuss an alliance between their two cultures, since Moclus has been expelled from the Planetary Union directly following the events of last week’s episode “From Unknown Graves” (S03, E08) where young Topa was kidnapped and tortured by Moclan forces.
It seems both Moclan and Krill intelligence have confirmed reports that the Kaylon are amassing thousands of ships and are preparing to launch a full-scale invasion. According to Teleya, the worlds in closest proximity are Vikarris and Xelayah. And while we know nothing of the first planet, you have to admit a ground war (if it ever got to that stage) on Xelaya would be an extremely interesting prospect, given its significantly stronger gravitational field. An alliance is proposed … Fade to black, roll opening credits.
We cut immediately to the bridge of the Orville at battle stations as a fleet of Kaylon ships is engaging a fleet of Planetary Union vessels that are, in turn defending Xelayan space. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Union starships form a defensive circle, a little like a 25th century version of “circling the wagons.” However, it seems that Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters) and Isaac (Mark Jackson) have been secretly developing a weapon that could destroy the Kaylon.
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And it does. Sixty-one Kaylon spheres are instantly obliterated without the loss of a single Union cruiser. Turns out that by studying Timmis (remember him?) they learned that every Kaylon and every one of their ships is connected through a synchronization matrix. That’s how they coordinate all their actions, even across light-years of space. This devastating device uses quantum energy to trigger a feedback loop in its interlink chain, turning the relays into a row of dominoes. After the initiation sequence is transmitted, it cannot be countermanded.
Obviously, a weapon as deadly to the Kaylon as this raises a number of ethical issues and the question of whether or not to wipe out the entire race is quickly raised. However, the Orville is dispatched to the Kaylon homeworld in an attempt to save billions of lives from every species. The Kaylon send a number of spheres to intercept and when they refuse to stand down, the weapon is activated once again. Eventually, the Kaylon grant the Orville safe passage to the surface and only for the second time after “Identity: Part I” (S02, E08) we get to see Kaylon-1.
The design of the planet’s surface has seen some modifications, benefitting from a considerably larger VFX budget since the last time we saw it and the menacing musical score has a hint of David Arnold’s “Independence Day” to it. Interestingly, the design of the Kaylon has also been similarly upgraded, much like Isaac’s, which now, more or less, removes any notion of an alt-universe variation following the second season finale.
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Negotiations ensue and before you know it, there’s a tentative agreement between the Kaylon and the Planetary Union. Naturally, celebrations abound and the command crew of the Orville get together a log cabin where we get to hear the singing talent of both Ensign Charly Burke and Lt Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes). However, not everyone is celebrating and a “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”-style plot takes shape, with Admiral Perry (Ted Danson) taking the Admiral Cartwright role and conspiring with the Krill to steal The Device and eliminate the Kaylon once and for all.
However, since Ensign Charly Burke and Isaac are the only individuals who can operate The Weapon, a secret R&D facility has been prepared so that the Moclans and the Krill can reverse engineer it and couple the device with a quantum core large enough to extend the weapon’s range by thousands of light years.
Naturally, the site is deep underground and heavily fortified. To get a team inside, the Orville — plus a fleet of Planetary Union starships and Kaylon spheres — together with several squadrons of those little Wraith Dart-like fighters, now officially known as Pterodons, will engage the Moclan and Krill vessels in orbit. Oh yes, we’re in for one mother of a space battle, something this season of “The Orville” has dialed up to 14, completely jumping over 11, 12 and 13.
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And we are not disappointed. The plan works, although casualties on all sides are high, but the shuttle carrying Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), Lt. Cmdr. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr), Kaylon Primary (Graham Hamilton), Isaac and Ensign Burke makes its way to the surface. Not only is there a wealth of high-octane dog-fighting action in the planet’s atmosphere, but the team deploy to the surface using jet packs after the shuttle’s main power is damaged! How cool is this?! The interior set is clearly a minimal redress of the Moclan Black Site set used last week, but you know, we’re OK with that.
The quantum core begins to approach full power, creating a countdown device to heighten tension, as the fight continues in orbit, in the atmosphere and in the corridors of the facility, which includes a full-on fistfight between Kelly Grayson and Teleya, which ultimately ends in the Krill’s capture. However, the team is unable to get around every security lock down on The Device in time, before it activates and potentially kills every Kaylon within a 10,000 light year radius. The only way to stop it is to create an overload and therefore destroy the quantum core, The Device and a sizable chunk of the planet at the same time. Ensign Burke tells everyone to leave and she makes the ultimate sacrifice.
Yup, Ensign Charly Burke will not be in the fourth season of “The Orville” (when it happens, because it will) because she was utterly annihilated at the epicenter of an explosion equal to several million megatons. And much like the recent death of Lt. Hemmer in the “Star Trek” Strange New Worlds” episode “All Those Who Wander” (S01, E09), it’s completely unexpected.
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And when you think of it like that, there were one or two bizarre coincidences between this third season of “The Orville” and Season 1 of “Strange New Worlds” — but that’s exactly what they were: Bizarre coincidences. One absolutely did not influence the other and that’s ball-bouncingly obvious when you consider the production schedules of both shows.
This episode isn’t the best we’ve ever seen — that was “Mortality Paradox” (S03, E03) — and it suffers just a tad from style over substance, but what style it was. As we’ve touched upon before, the difficult issues that plagued the principal photography of this season of “The Orville” during the COVID pandemic are perhaps not quite as noticeable as they were last week, but every single sci-fi show on television should be taking note of the mind-blowing production values shown in Season 3 of “The Orville.”
There is every reason why Hulu should renew “The Orville” and it will more than likely come down to simply whether or not Seth MacFarlane wants to. But we will add this: When “The Orville” is renewed, please give it an even bigger budget and let’s squeeze 20 episode out, instead of just 10.
The first and second seasons of “The Orville” are available to watch on Hulu (opens in new tab) in most countries, and packages in the US start at $6.99 per month. New episodes of Season 3 will drop every Thursday. Viewers in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK can watch on Disney Plus (opens in new tab) with accessibility coming soon for Japan and South Korea. Viewers in Latin American can watch on Star Plus.