It’s the end of the world as we know it. Martian war tripods have been spotted just outside of Surrey. In New York and Washington, enormous saucers 15 miles wide hover menacingly over the Independence Day holiday preparations. A Dalek fleet approaches from one direction; a Borg Cube from the other.
In short, we’re so screwed. The super-advanced civilization that could stomp us out like ants appears poised to do just that.
In last week’s episode of The Orville (spoilers follow)…
…I mentioned spoilers, right?
In last week’s episode of The Orville (“Identity, part 1”), the Orville journeyed to the planet Kaylon, home of a reclusive and reportedly extremely racist civilization of robots.
The trip was not planned, but was authorized because Isaac, a Kaylon observer and science officer, shut down unexpectedly. They find a world of impressive megastructures that do not entirely look like the sort of city a robot society would build.
Lo and behold (I mentioned spoilers, right?) the red-eyed robots turn out to be evil. It is revealed that the Kaylon engaged in genocide against the organic beings that built them, and have now decided to do the same to the Planetary Union.
They seize the Orville with little resistance, and with a rebooted Isaac in the center seat, the massive Kaylon fleet sets course for (dun-dun-dun!) Earth.
Looks like Seth Macfarlane and his crew have gotten themselves into another zany situation! So how do you write yourself out of the corner of having an indestructable foe about to destroy you?
War of the Worlds
One possibility is the one used by H.G. Wells in the nineteenth century sci-fi novel “The War of the Worlds”. In it, the Martian invaders easily conquer Victorian-era Earth, only to succumb to their lack of immunity to our local bacteria.
This sort of interplanetary Montezuma’s Revenge seems unlikely in the case of our robot civilization. After all, what could infect a robot? Well obviously…
…a computer virus. This was the method used in the movie Independence Day, where Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith pilot an alien spacecraft up to the mothership to deliver their infectious payload.
This differs slightly from the War of the Worlds approach. In War of the Worlds, the best efforts of humankind failed to defeat the invasion. In Independence Day, it was human ingenuity that saved the day.
Interestingly, this situation also arose in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “I Borg”. In it, Captain Picard has the opportunity to infect the Borg Collective with a “topological anomaly”: a sort of Borg basilisk that will cause them to devote computational resources until they crash/die.
In the end, Picard opted not to wipe out the entire Borg Collective. When facing the destruction of Earth, what would Captain Ed Mercer of the Orville do?
(Interestingly, the original Star Trek series also destroyed menacing androids with illogic.)
Talk it Out
Speaking of Star Trek TOS, it’s remotely possible that Mercer and the crew of the Orville might talk it out with the invaders. The Orville is, after all, a spiritual successor to Star Trek. In ST:TOS, words were often more powerful than phasers.
Isaac, their former Kaylon science officer, is still on board the Orville, and seems willing to converse with them. Perhaps the crew could come up with a logical argument, one that would persuade even an army of racist robots.
It is even possible that Kaylon society is non-monolithic. What if there is a faction (say, the blue-eyed robots of which Isaac is the only one we have seen) that is opposed to wiping out biological life forms?
In the episode, the Kaylon leader repeatedly tells Mercer that they are still debating whether to join the Planetary Union. While it seems that the Kaylon never intended to join the union at all, perhaps the drawn-out delay was not just a stalling tactic.
What if the Kaylon equivalent of Congress is evenly divided between a warlike Red faction and a peaceful Blue faction? If this is the case, things may not be as hopeless for Earth as they seem.
Finally, it’s possible that the Kaylon are playing a massive prank on the Planetary Union.
This is not so far-fetched. After all, Isaac once cut off Gordon’s leg as a practical joke. This came after Gordon affixed Mr. Potato Head attachments to Isaac’s head — an incident that was referenced again in this episode.
Isaac uploaded all of his collected data on human behavior to Kaylon, and clearly had trouble understanding humor. Are the mass graves and the Kaylon Genocide Flotilla of Doom just the next escalation in the prank war?
If this is the case, perhaps as Earth hangs in the balance, and our doom appears certain, the Kaylon will fire their weapons at the helpless planet… and out will pop a gigantic white flag that says “Bang!”
One wonders whether the Planetary Union would still offer the Kaylon membership after such a misunderstanding.
So there are four ways that Earth in the Orville universe might be saved next week. Or not. I’ll be tuning in on Thursday to find out.