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Between soul and sacrifice beats the heart of civilization.Bortus, quoting the works of Heveena[1]

About a Girl is the third episode of the first season of The Orville. Second Officer Bortus and his mate Klyden debate whether their child will receive a controversial sex reassignment.

The episode was written by Seth MacFarlane in consultation with executive producer David A. Goodman.[2] MacFarlane received high praise from professional critics and fans alike who cited the mature bittersweet ending, the powerful allegory of modern social issues, and the development of Klyden and Bortus's relationship.

After the episode aired, MacFarlane stated that he wanted to explore, metaphorically, the dynamics of 21st century sexual politics on Earth through the backdrop of a single-gender species.[3] although five years later, he said that he would have written it "differently" were he to tackle the issue today.[4]

About a Girl was directed by Brannon Braga, who later said the episode was the most challenging of his career. Music was composed by Joel McNeely. Years later, Braga admitted the writers originally wanted About a Girl to be told much later in the show. "[W]e decided to pull it up in the air date order to the third episode because we had to know, 'Is the audience going to embrace what this show really is?' And they did."[5][6]

The episode was the show's first in its new Thursday night time slot.

The storyline established in About a Girl would have a far-reaching impact within the series, being continued in episodes such as Sanctuary, A Tale of Two Topas, Midnight Blue and Future Unknown.


On September 17, 2017, Fox released a 30 second promotional teaser, notable as it began with several clips from the then-unaired episodes Krill and If the Stars Should Appear. A narrator announces the new time slot for the show: "Over 16 million fans found The Orville out of this world, and it's blasting off to Thursdays." Previously, the show had aired on Sunday nights. The teaser concludes with Lieutenant Gordon Malloy requesting a pair of pants, a joke actually from this episode.


The Orville Promo "About a Girl"

Plot Synopsis[]

Act 1[]

The episode continues where the previous episode, Command Performance, left off with the crew of the USS Orville marveling over the birth of a newborn female Moclan, extremely rare in the Moclan species.

Bortus meets Doctor Claire Finn in Sick Bay requesting a procedure to change her sex to male, "to make her conform" with Moclus's all-male society.


The child, born female, becomes the center of a hot-button disagreement on the ship.

Act 2[]

"Bortus, there's no way in Hell I'm doing that," Finn responds. Unfortunately for Bortus and Klyden, the ship is too far from planet Moclus for the operation, so Bortus finds Captain Ed Mercer in the Environmental Simulator in hopes that he may order her to perform it. Mercer, first shocked and then irate, refuses: "I'm not going to do it. Request denied. Dismissed."

On the bridge, the Orville breaks up an extremely large asteroid on course to collide with the planet Elnath 4 with a "cutting beam." A Moclan ship arrives, announcing that a staff member of the Orville requested a rendezvous to take the child of Bortus and Klyden.

Mercer is incensed that Bortus went behind his back to request the pick-up, and that the parents will forcibly change the sex of their child. Mercer relieves Bortus of duty.

Act 3[]

In the Mess Hall, Mercer and Commander Kelly Grayson discuss the ethics of the potential sex reassignment. In the Simulator, Chief of Security Alara Kitan is instructed by them to take on Bortus in boxing as an attempt to show him that women can be just as strong as men. Though she easily defeats Bortus in the ring, Kitan's "lesson" backfires and he leaves in a storm: "I will decide what is best for my child."

Act 4[]

IMG 1599

Klyden is shocked to learn that his mate Bortus would consider anything other than sex reassignment of their child. Their dispute leads to a Tribunal on their own planet.

Helmsman Gordon Malloy and Navigator John LaMarr find Bortus nursing his head in his quarters. They bring beer and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer together. The experience changes Bortus's mind: "Without Rudolph's nose, Santa would not have been able to complete his voyage." Bortus excitedly leaves to speak with Klyden.

Klyden is stunned that Bortus wishes to raise their child as a female. Klyden is adamant that she will be an outcast in Moclan society; he confides in Bortus that he too was born female. The admission does not change Bortus's opinion, but they are interrupted by the arriving Moclan ship.

Captain Vorak is angry that Mercer and Grayson refuse to release the child, and subtlety threatens Mercer. Bortus intervenes by requesting Tribunal to determine the fate of their child. Grayson is appointed Bortus's advocate.

Act 5[]

On the planet Moclus, Tribunal begins. Advocate Kagus, representing Klyden, examines Bortus about his gomaska, or first date, with Klyden. Kagus points out that by the time the child will be able to decide which sex to be, "the damage will be done."

Grayson, acting as Bortus's advocate, calls Kitan to the stand. Kitan, as a Xelayan, boasts tremendous strength. At Grayson's request, she easily warps a titanium cube into a sphere. Kagus retorts that a Xelayan male would be even stronger than Kitan. Grayson calls Malloy and quizzes him on basic Earth history to demonstrate that not all males are necessarily as intelligent as females.

Kagus examines Finn and Mercer, attempting to show that circumcision is a point of hypocrisy in Earth culture. Further, without surgery on the child, she would be shunned forever by other Moclans.

Mercer quietly calls LaMarr by comscanner and arranges a trip with Kitan to the mountains of Moclus. In a small cavern, they find an adult woman Moclan.

Act 6[]


Several USS Orville crewmembers managed to locate a female Moclan and bring her before the Tribunal for testimony.

Mercer, LaMarr, and Kitan return with the female Moclan. She testifies before the court as Heveena, born female and raised by her parents in the mountains, cloistered from society. She quotes the words of a famed Moclan writer Gondus Elden, which infuriates Kagus. "You dare to bastardize the words of Gondus Elden to serve your own purposes? If he were here, he would spit on you for that!"

"Would he," Heveena inquires. "Why don't you ask him yourself?" Whispers flood the tribunal as all realize that Moclus's greatest author was in fact a woman. The tribunal recesses for the arbitration council's deliberations.

Act 7[]

The council returns with their verdict, and do not find "sufficient cause" not to alter the sex of the child. The child's sex is reassigned the following day. Klyden approaches Bortus to comfort him, but hestitates and leaves him be for the moment.

The next day, a Moclan doctor presents to the parents their son. The trio return to the Orville.

In their quarters, Klyden apologizes for hurting Bortus. "What is important now," Bortus responds, "is Topa." Klyden is pleased with the name, and Bortus vows to give him a good life, "whatever he becomes."


Brannon Braga WonderCon 2015

Director Brannon Braga later cited the episode as the reason The Orville has been the most difficult show of his career to direct.

The script for About a Girl was finished very early in development of The Orville, around April or early May, 2016 as the show's fourth episode. Creator Seth MacFarlane wrote the episode with the help of David A. Goodman, who was hired as executive producer after writing was complete.[2] Goodman described the writing process as starting the story from its dramatic elements, and only after peppering the script with humor.[7]

In 2019, MacFarlane spoke about writing the episode:

What always fascinated me was ... if you have another culture that does things their own way, that doesn't stack up with your morals and your code of ethics, but it's still their culture, at what point do you respect their ways and at what point does it get so insane that you can't justify it in your own mind or live with yourself and it becomes time to be galaxy police?[8]

In 2022, MacFarlane returned to mention the episode in an interview:

You can write something and the next day after it airs, you read something that changes your opinion. That happens all the time. Certainly with About a Girl, at the time we felt locked in to what this was. There are things now that I might do differently, even just the use of language in that show.[4]


Filming began around April 20 or 22, 2017 at 7:30 a.m.,[9][10] and ended sometime in May under the direction of Brannon Braga.[11] Filming took eight days.[12]

Looking back over the first season, Braga said that The Orville has been his most challenging television series thus far. In particular, he highlighted the scene where Bortus watches Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in this episode as difficult:

Making sure that [the topic of Topa's sex reassignment] wasn't ridiculous, but was somehow funny but poignant was a challenge. Fortunately, Seth was there to make sure it happened right.[13]

MacFarlane has echoed Braga's comments. "We're trying to find out what that Goldilock's Zone is [between humor and seriousness]. At a certain point you have to forgo jokes for a part of that story or else the stakes become irrelevant." He continued that About a Girl was a episode where the writers found a very good balance between the two.[13]

While filming the scene where Ed speaks to Minister Kaybrak over the monitor, unit production manager Jason Roberts read Kaybrak's lines aloud to MacFarlane. As Roberts recounts, he was supposed to say "we are sending a ship to rendezvous with the Orville near the Pleiades cluster," instead pronouncing something closer to "penis cluster." The cast broke into laughter and Roberts recused himself from shooting the rest of the scene.[14]

A call sheet's production schedule for April 26 (or "Day" 4 of 8") has been revealed: Rehearsal started at 7:30 a.m.; shoot call at 8:30 a.m.; and lunch at 1:00 p.m. Filming started in the Shuttle Bay, described as "Ed watches Bortus load into the shuttle; Bortus has words of wisdom," and then moved to the Bridge, where

they discuss destroying the asteroid. Isaac doesn't understand why they don't want to do the operation. They receive a transmission stating a Moclan ship is coming to board. Isaac does a scan of Moclus for Ed; Transmits the data.[9]

The schedule for April 27 started at the Moclan Tribunal where "Kagus examines Bortus; Kelly calls Alara up, reshapes titanium cube. Kelly questions Gordon; He literally knows nothing. John picks up his comm."[9]


Composer Joel McNeely's score took three weeks to complete.[12] He recalls that MacFarlane specifically cited the music of Jerry Goldsmith, composer of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, for inspiration, and wanted a very "muscular" score.[15]

According to The Orville: Original Television Soundtrack - Season 1, the songs composed by Joel McNeely for this episode are "Western Simulation," "Asteroid Destroyed / Relieved of Duty," "Arriving on Moclus," "Trip to the Mountains," and "Tribunal Adjourned / Epilogue."

  • McNeely utilized "unusual percussion effects" in "Trip to the Mountains."[15]
  • "Tribunal Adjourned / Epilogue" was meant to convey bittersweet emotions in the listener with "straightforward, wistful dramatic writing."[15]

Preparing to air[]

Leading up to the launch of The Orville, MacFarlane and actors Peter Macon (Bortus) and Chad L. Coleman (Klyden) frequently mentioned that belonging to an all-male species would lead to conflict between the two Moclans. The first references came at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con, when MacFarlane and Macon revealed in separate interviews that Bortus is a focal point of social criticism about gender and sexual identity.[16][17] Several months later, MacFarlane clarified that the episode would be the third of the season.[18]


The episode quickly became an enduring fan favorite for the rest of the season, and was the first to introduce a drama-heavy narrative. "The critics weren't so kind initially," director Brannon Braga said. "But the fans got it."[6] After About a Girl aired, MacFarlane spoke frankly about its critics and its fans:

There was a lot of weird hostility about who do you think you are writing about this stuff? That’s what science fiction should do. The reaction from the fans was the opposite. They went, ‘Yeah, we’re game for any kind of story you want to tell us.’
In this genre, there really should be nothing off limits. Go all the way back to The Twilight Zone; there was nothing they wouldn’t talk about in their own way. I think the second you start closing off issues that are of the moment with regard to your storytelling, then you’re not doing your job.[19]

Several years later, MacFarlane returned to speak about the audience's response:

When the episode aired, there were mixed reactions. There was a lot of passionate things written about the story. There were some things that I read that educated me a little bit; and some things that were not so correct in their analysis; but overall, their reaction was gratifying, that at least someone is talking about this.[8]

In 2022, MacFarlane acknowledged that he made mistakes in telling the story and said that he gets two different kinds of feedback from critics. Some critics celebrate his good-faith attempt to humanize the struggles of transgender individuals, while others reject the episode in its entirety for its problems. Speaking to the latter group of critics, MacFarlane said he had "no defense" but "each time, you get a little better at it."[4]


Even though About a Girl was the first episode of the show to air in its new Thursday night slot, it was watched by 4.05 million television viewers in the United States, the third-highest for the season overall.[20] The episode commands a 7.9 rating on IMDB, the highest rating in the season until then.[21]

Critical response[]

About a Girl accrued high praise from its reviewers. Michael Ahr of Den of Geek awarded the episode four stars, one of the highest ratings he would give the show all season. He enjoyed the writing, and noted that the episode's "poignant and tragic" ending reminds us that cultural change does not happen overnight.[22]

Jammer of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode three stars, tied with Majority Rule and Mad Idolatry for the highest of the season, calling the episode "bittersweet" and "sadly" reflective of the problems of society.[23] Nick Wanserski loved the episode, calling it the best yet, citing the well-constructed relationship between Bortus and Klyden mixed with a powerful story arc.[24]


Claire follicle stimulator

The white device by Claire's hand turns out to be a follicle stimulator in A Happy Refrain.

  • Originally, About a Girl was the second written episode of Season 1.[14]
    • According to the director of the episode, Brannon Braga, the writers originally wanted About a Girl to be told much later in the season. "[W]e decided to pull it up in the air date order to the third episode because we had to know, 'Is the audience going to embrace what this show really is?' And they did."[5][6]
  • This is the first episode to air on a Thursday.
  • In the scene where Bortus, Malloy, and LaMarr watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Malloy looks as if he is about to cry. Actor Scott Grimes (who portrays Malloy) has confirmed that he was holding back real tears: "That's real, though. I'm not kidding. I grew up with that movie; and the fact that I was sitting there watching it, every time I watch that movie I cry. So I just went with it."[13]
  • Reptilian Alien, the credited title of the alien in the matter synthesizer room with the pillow "Have a Slimy Day!," is a cameo by Julius Sharpe, a writer and co-producer on Family Guy.
    • Sharpe said of the experience: "Some call this my finest performance. Others claim I was upstaged by a funny pillow."[25]
  • Ed tells Captain Vorak that the ship has the board games Scrabble, Candy Land, and Monopoly for entertainment, and Ed insists that he be the automobile piece. In the episode Mad Idolatry, Ed suggests the crew plays Monopoly while they wait for multiphasic planet to reappear.
  • The dancing scene with Vásquez, John, Ed, and Gordon was shot in Santa Clarita, California. Actor J. Lee, who plays John, had to learn how to ride a horse.[26]
  • A white, hand-held device on Claire's desk is revealed in the second season episode A Happy Refrain to be a follicle stimulator, used to grow a mustache on Bortus.
  • When Bortus holds Topa while boarding a shuttle to Moclus, baby Topa was in fact a puppet controlled by Jeff Edwards and Aleiandro Diaz.[9]
    • Edwards and Diaz are credited as Moclan Baby Puppeteer #1 and #2 respectively.[9]
  • This episode has been the focus of an academic study, "Finding the Female: Gender in Moclan Society", a chapter by Catherine Nolan in Exploring The Orville.


  • The episode takes place over October and November 2419 over at least two weeks.
    • Once Bortus demands a right to Tribunal, he mentions the trip to Moclus takes two weeks from their location.
  • In 2056, a genetic engineer learns how to target and eradicate cancer cells.
  • Bortus and Klyden have been mates for six-and-a-half years, or since 2413.
  • An asteroid would have collided with Elnath 4 in one month, 17 days - or in early December 2419.


  • The title "About a Girl" may be a play on the title of the 2002 film About a Boy (itself a reference to the Nirvana song "About a Girl" from the 1989 album Bleach).
  • Alara says that Kelly taught her boxing, and that the young lieutenant finds the sport to be an art form. She will return to boxing as a form of stress relief in March 2420 in the episode Firestorm.
  • Vásquez dances to Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in the Environmental Simulator.
  • Kelly quotes the lyrics of Destiny's Child's "Survivor" to Bortus.
  • On the witness stand, Gordon answers that two of the four chambers of the human heart are the Chamber of Secrets and the Chamber of Horrors. The former is a book in the Harry Potter series and the latter was a wax museum in London, England that ran from 1802 until 2016.
  • Isaac says that a single female Moclan was born every 75 years. That is revealed to be a lie perpetrated by the Moclan government in Sanctuary; Bortus says that a few are born every generation, and Heveena suggests it is even higher.

Episode titles[]

Titles Language Translation
女權辯證 (Nǚquán biànzhèng) Chinese "feminist dialectics"
Question de genre French "gender question"
Planet der Männer German "planet of the men"
Nemes küzdelem Hungarian "noble fight"
Il gender della discordia Italian "the gender of discord"
ある少女について (Aru shōjo ni tsuite) Japanese "about a girl"
Из чего только сделаны девочки Russian "what are girls made of?"
El caso de una niña Spanish "the case of a girl"
Була собі дівчинка Ukranian "she was a girl herself"


  • When Claire tells Bortus she will not perform the sex change, she enters her office and the camera follows. For a few frames, a yellow T-mark can be seen on the floor telling actor Peter Macon (Bortus) where to stand.
  • When Alara and Bortus box, Bortus knocks Alara against the turnbuckle and she grabs onto the second rope for support. In the next shot, she is holding on to the top rope.
  • While Ed and Kelly talk over drinks in the Mess Hall, Ed holds his drink close to his mouth. The drink disappears in the next shot, looking over Ed's shoulder.


Names and titles are as they appear in the credits unless otherwise noted.

Main Cast[]

Recurring Cast[]

Guest Cast[]


See also[]


  1. About a Girl
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bond, Jeff. The World of the Orville. Titan Books. 2018. Pg. 8.
  3. "Seth Macfarlane Dishes on "The Orville", "Star Trek" and New Album". Sway's Universe. Sept. 9, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mission Log: The Orville - Supplemental 03 - Seth MacFarlane. Roddenberry Entertainment. May 25, 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tuthill, Matt. "Brannon Braga: The Robert Irvine Magazine Interview". Robert Irvine Magazine. March 17, 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Episode #17 In the Writer's Room with Brannon Braga (TNG, Voyager, Enterprise & The Orville). Star Trek Story,Myth and Arcs. Nov. 21, 2020.
  7. David A. Goodman at "Seth MacFarlane and behind-the-scenes creative team: "The Orville" | Talks at Google". Talks at Google. Nov. 16, 2017.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Mindscape 58 | Seth MacFarlane on Using Science Fiction to Explore Humanity". Sean Carroll. Aug. 5, 2019.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 The Orville: Season 1 Call sheet. Ebay. Last accessed Aug. 11, 2020.
  10. @inshaygram. "Off to space 🚀 #orville #fox#actor #space #hollywood #bollywood #desi#paki". Instagram. April 27, 2017.
  11. @DeObia. "Just wrapped on #orville at Fox. #sethmacfarlane called me a "Beast!"Grrrr! I'm still on cloud9 😄I hadda blast!". Twitter. May 1, 2017.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "I believe each score takes roughly 3 weeks for the composer to write". MacFarlane, Seth. Twitter. Oct. 12, 2017.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Brannon Braga & The Orville Cast Full interview 2017 Panel NYC convention". NYC ComicCon. Nov. 20, 2017.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "The Orville Fan Podcast w/ Jason Roberts (The Orville Unit Production Manager)". Planetary Union Network. April 19, 2018.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Voyage to Utopia" in The Orville: Original Television Soundtrack - Season 1 by Jeff Bond (2019). Pg. 9.
  16. "Seth MacFarlane (Creator), Adrianne Palicki (Kelly Grayson) discuss The Orville at SDCC '17". Lindsey. Aug. 13, 2017.
  17. "SDCC 2017: The Orville - Peter Macon, Mark Jackson, Chad L Coleman". Whedonopolis Video. July 26, 2017.
  18. "Seth Macfarlane Dishes on "The Orville", "Star Trek" and New Album". Sway's Universe. Sept. 9, 2017.
  20. "The Orville:Season One Ratings". Last accessed Dec. 6, 2017.
  21. ""The Orville" About a Girl (TV Episode)". IMDB. Last accessed Jan. 20, 2018.
  22. Ahr, Michael. "The Orville Episode 3 Review: About a Girl". Den of Geek. Sept. 21, 2017.
  23. Epsicokhan, Jamal. "About a Girl". Jammer's Reviews. Last accessed Jan. 20, 2018.
  24. Wanserski, Nick. "In its best episode yet, The Orville goes to trial for a baby's happiness". AV Club. Sept. 21, 2017.
  25. @juliussharpe. "Some call this my finest performance. Others claim I was upstaged by a funny pillow.". Twitter. May 9, 2019.
  26. "J Lee Interview | AfterBuzz TV's Spotlight On". AfterBuzz TV. Oct. 10, 2017.