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Command is all about the balance between inspiring confidence in your leadership and knowing when to trust your people.🔈ℹ︎— Doctor Claire Finn[1]

Command Performance is the second episode of the first season of The Orville. The Captain and First Officer vanish during a visit to the USS Blériot and it is up to Lieutenant Alara Kitan, as acting commander, to find them.

The episode was written by creator Seth MacFarlane and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, who is perhaps best known for playing Tom Paris in the show Star Trek: Voyager. Music was composed by John Debney. Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor cameo as Ed Mercer's parents, Bert and Jeannie.

The episode aired on Fox following Sunday Night Football. The game went into overtime, pushing Command Performance to 9 p.m. (EST), and fans feared that the episode's ratings would suffer at a time when the show most needed to build a viewer base. Fortunately, the episode seemed unaffected by the late start. 6.63 million United States viewers watched the episode, the second highest number of the season.

Teaser[edit | edit source]

As the second episode of the show, Fox produced a longer-than-usual promotional teaser for Commander Performance, which aired on September 10, 2017. (Later teasers would be about 30 seconds.) Unlike previous promotional materials that relied upon the show's humor, this teaser emphasized adventure and mystery. Interestingly, much of the video is in fact from the fourth episode, If the Stars Should Appear


The Orville Promo "Command Performance"

Plot Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Act 1[edit | edit source]

Second Officer Bortus enters Captain Ed Mercer's office to request leave of absence. The Moclan species reproduces by laying eggs, which require 21 days brooding to hatch. Bortus will nest an egg for the next three weeks.

Act 2[edit | edit source]

With the Captain, First Officer, and Second Officer gone, it is up to Chief of Security Alara Kitan to fill the captain's chair.

The USS Orville receives an emergency distress message from the USS Blériot, which has been attacked by the Krill. The ship is battered but the passengers and crew are alive; to Captain Mercer's surprise, his parents are on board. Mercer and First Officer Kelly Grayson go to the Blériot via shuttle. With Bortus on leave, Chief of Security Alara Kitan is left in command of the Orville.

As soon as Mercer and Grayson enter the Blériot, it disappears with Mercer and Grayson in it. The ship was a holographic simulation.

Act 3[edit | edit source]

The bridge is in chaos, frantically searching for the missing commanders. Kitan panics and runs to Bortus's quarters for guidance. Bortus tells her that she must find them, but that he cannot leave his egg to help. "I will not risk the life of my child," he concludes.

The holographic projection was from a remote buoy. Kitan orders Navigator John LaMarr retrieve the buoy via their tractor beam, overriding Isaac's warning. The buoy explodes in space between the spatial tensor coils and the Shuttle Bay, seriously compromising hull integrity in the bay. Kitan leaves the bridge to check on the bay. Chief Engineer Steve Newton reports that there are minor injuries but fortunately the ship's protective force field separating space from an opening in the ship "snapped on like it's supposed to."

Kitan sees that a subordinate officer she knows, Ensign Parker, was seriously injured in the blast and feels wracked with guilt. Doctor Claire Finn exhorts Kitan to return to the bridge and lead.

Meanwhile, Mercer and Grayson find themselves in a replica of their old apartment in New York City, New York from when they were married.

Act 4[edit | edit source]

Ed Mercer and Kelly Grayson share a drink and a piece of chocolate cake in their reconstructed apartment.

Isaac discovers a molecular trail that may lead to where Mercer and Grayson were sent. The ship is already on emergency power due to the explosion's damage to the ship. Kitan orders power temporarily rerouted to the scanner array to follow the trail, overriding another objection, this time from Newton that the ship is "dead in the water" with power rerouted.

Mercer and Grayson begin to bond in their new "cell." They discuss the past and why their marriage failed; "I may have been wrong... maybe things could have been different," Mercer says. Grayson wishes him 'goodnight.'

The scanner array follows the trail to a Calivon world. Admiral Tucker explicitly forbids the Orville approach the planet: the Calivon are an extremely advanced species who view all other life as inferior and simplistic.

Mercer and Grayson awake to a new day but find the window of the New York City skyline is now a window to the true outside: a Calivon zoo.

Act 5[edit | edit source]

Mercer and Grayson survey their new home in the Calivon Zoo.

People of other zoo exhibits explain to the commanders that the Calivon think any technologically inferior species can be freely imprisoned in a zoo.

Time goes on and repairs are completed. Kitan follows Tucker's orders to return to Earth, and the missing commanders will be considered lost in the line of duty. The Orville's crew strongly objects but Kitan is unmoved.

"They hate me," Kitan bemoans privately to Finn. Though Finn is sympathetic, she says that Kitan is the only one who can decide to follow orders or disobey.

In the Mess Hall, Kitan sits with LaMarr and Helmsman Gordon Malloy, the two most opposed to Kitan. With permission to speak freely, Malloy says that Mercer would have disobeyed orders and try to rescue her had the situation been reversed. Kitan tells the hall that she will rescue the Captain and First Officer.

Act 6[edit | edit source]

Isaac modifies the buoy's holographic projector so that the Orville can be masked as a Calivon ship and enter Calivon space. Via a holographically cloaked shuttle, Isaac and Kitan will fly down to the zoo.

The novelty of living together again wears off, and Ed and Kelly become irritated with each other's behavior.

On the planet, Isaac pretends to be the pet owner of Kitan. Isaac is a Kaylon, a highly advanced species on par with the Calivon, which means that the Calivon respect Isaac. Kitan offers the zoo something valuable in return for their officers.

Act 7[edit | edit source]

Thanks to her daring leadership, Kitan is awarded the Sapphire Star.

Safe on board the Orville, Mercer awards Kitan the Sapphire Star for her exemplary leadership. At a celebratory party, the Captain and First Officer promise to play office politics with Planetary Union Central to spare Kitan any severe punishment. Kitan reveals to Newton and others that she offered archives of reality television from 21st century Earth in exchange for Mercer, Grayson, and a small child the commanders found imprisoned in the zoo.

Bortus and Klyden notice their egg beginning to hatch. They are shocked to see that the baby is female.

Production[edit | edit source]

Creator Seth MacFarlane completed the script some time in mid-2016 as the show's third episode.[2] While never officially acknowledged, the plot seems to be an homage to the Star Trek episode The Menagerie: The highly advanced Talosians, diminutive aliens with huge brains, trick the USS Enterprise with holographic simulations of familiar humans. The Talosians capture Captain Christopher Pike, reveal the humans to be fake, and imprison the captain in a glass exhibit in a zoo. Visiting Talos is strictly forbidden by Federation law, but Spock, as acting captain, disobeys orders not to visit Talos and undergoes court martial for the good of the captain. (See also Influences of The Orville.)

For nearly a year, the production crew began work building sets, designing costumes, and writing other scripts. The entire set of the Calivon zoo was built inside the set of the Orville's Shuttle Bay.[3]

Filming[edit | edit source]

Filming Ed awarding Alara the Sapphire Star.

Filming took place during the week of April 14, 2017.[4] Later shooting took place in mid-April for the visual effects department.[5] (See footnote for call sheet schedule from April 26.[6])

MacFarlane turned to Robert Duncan McNeill to direct, famous for playing Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager. McNeill is part of a long line of Star Trek veterans taking a significant leadership role on The Orville. Significantly, McNeill turned down an opportunity to direct an episode of Star Trek: Discovery that same year.[7] "Seth's show [The] Orville is so good," McNeill said at a convention in 2017.

He's a huge Star Trek fan. Seth's sister told me that he bought boxes ... of aluminum foil, covered his entire bedroom---every square inch---with aluminum foil so he could shoot a Star Trek fan film when he was 12 or 13 years old that he wrote, directed, and built the set.... So she literally said, 'It was amazing to see that he was making a 100 million dollar fan film basically.[8]

MacFarlane chose three episodes from Voyager as example pieces for McNeill: Body and Soul, Someone to Watch Over Me, and an as-yet undisclosed episode. While McNeill prepared to direct The Orville, MacFarlane

mentioned a few episodes of Voyager that he really loved. And he was modeling the tone of The Orville after some of those episodes. So I went back and started watching them.... And I just went down a rabbit hole and watched probably a dozen or more episodes when I was talking to Seth.[9]

Music[edit | edit source]

Actor Mark Jackson (Isaac) was very pleased with the episode's ratings. "It seems like things are going very well."

According to The Orville: Original Television Soundtrack - Season 1, the songs composed by John Debney for this episode are "Distress Signal Received / Alara Freaks Out / Explosion," "Alara Gets the Cold Shoulder / Approaching Calivon," and "Extermination Process Continues / Bortus Hatches His Egg."

  • Debney intended "triumphant, triplet-laden" music in "Distress Signal Received."[10]
  • For "Alara Freaks Out," Debney recalled "there was a scene where Alara has to take over the ship ... and she goes to get a shot of tequila. I did a number of versions because Seth wanted to comment on it musically without it being comedic. He'll guide me and say, 'We can play that action.'"[10]

This episode intentionally turned to performing styles typical of older science fiction scores, including col legno instructions and the use of the blaster beam instrument.[11] "I've been using the blaster beam on every show I've been on," Debney stated.[11]

Preparing to air[edit | edit source]

Originally, Command Performance was the fourth episode of Season 1, but was moved to the second when If the Stars Should Appear performed poorly with test audiences.[12] Scenes were added to adjust for continuity, such as Bortus brooding his egg, which allowed the episode to segue neatly to About a Girl.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Viewership[edit | edit source]

Command Performance was the second of two episodes that aired on Sunday nights (the first being Old Wounds), with subsequent episodes airing on Thursday nights. Fans were concerned that Command Performance's ratings would suffer as Fox scheduled the episode to play after Sunday Night Football. If the game stretched on, the episode would not air till late, reducing the number of viewers at a time when the young show needed to build its viewer base.

The game did stretch on, going into overtime, and Command Performance did not play until 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Fortunately, the show's ratings seemed unaffected by the late start. 6.63 million United States viewers tuned in, the second most of the show's first season (although by week-long metrics, Majority Rule is the second highest).[13]

"I was speaking to Seth yesterday, and the ratings for the second showing were really good," actor Mark Jackson (Isaac) said a few days later. "So, it seems like things are going pretty well."[14]

General audience opinion of the episode was positive. Although Command Performance holds a 7.9 on IMDB, tied for third-lowest of the season, it is above-average for the television science fiction genre as a whole.[15]

Critical Response[edit | edit source]

Michael Ahr of Den of Geek awarded the episode 3.5 stars, writings that the character development and the dramatic elements of the story were wonderful, but the episode was brought down by comedic scenes that fell flat. "It’s a damn good thing The Orville had a good story this week following Alara Kitan’s journey as a leader because man-oh-man, the attempts at humor at the start of the episode were difficult to slog through."[16]

Jammer of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode two stars of four, noting that the episode is an improvement over the pilot with a better storyline.[17] Nick Wanserski of the AV Club believed the episode's problems were its "flat characters," but he did enjoy the episode and agreed it was an improvement over Old Wounds.[18]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Originally, Command Performance was the fourth episode of Season 1, but was moved to the second when If the Stars Should Appear performed poorly with test audiences.[12]
  • Due to Fox's Sunday Night Football going into overtime, this episode did not start until around 9 p.m. (EST).
  • Bortus and Klyden give birth to a baby female Moclan, a very rare occurrence among the species, as it happens only once every 75 years.[19]
  • When the Calivon watch reality television in the zoo exhibit, Lurenek can be seen in the background watching the show as well.
  • Two Calivon spectators in the Zoo are in fact cameos by Tory Belleci and Kari Byron of the show Mythbusters. The two are not credited but their appearance was confirmed by Byron in a Facebook post on the day the episode aired, including five behind-the-scenes photos of her and Belleci as Calivon as well.[20][21]
  • It is very rare for actors to deviate from the show's script, but Scott Grimes (Gordon Malloy) says his line "you suck... sir" was improvised.[22]
  • Ed recalls a bad experience with marijuana while at an opera, where he was convinced he would become paralyzed if he stayed seated for longer than two minutes. An extremely similar experience happened to Seth MacFarlane, which is why he no longer uses it:

One of the last times I was stoned, I was convinced that I would die unless I kept moving my body. So I sat there, baked, waving my arms around like a crazy person.[23]

Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • The episode takes place over 21 days in the year 2419, probably in September and October.
  • Ed lost his robe two years earlier, around 2417.
  • The Calivon captured Ock'or 31 years ago, or in 2388. They captured Lurenek eight months before the episode and Baral several weeks later, around January 2419.
  • It takes roughly six minutes, 21 seconds for the Orville to reach the USS Blériot.
  • Ed and Kelly spend two days and a night in the zoo.

References[edit | edit source]

  • The reality show clip that plays in Mercer and Grayson's old cell in the Calivon zoo is from Season 1, Episode 10 of Real Housewives of New Jersey.
  • Ed quotes Elvis Presley's last words, "I'm going to read on the toilet," because he cannot think of something original.
  • Doctor Claire Finn calls herself Alara's "Obi-Wan," a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi mentoring a young Luke Skywalker in the movie Star Wars: A New Hope.
  • Composer John Debney included several musical references to Star Trek:
    • Use of the blaster beam instrument invented by Craig Huxley for Star Trek: The Motion Picture;[11]
    • Several unspecified musical licks inspired by James Horner (composer of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn), Jerry Goldsmith (composer of The Motion Picture), and Gerald Fried and Sandy Courage (composers for Star Trek: The Original Series).[11]
    • See also Influences of The Orville.
  • The tone of this episode was modeled after the Star Trek: Voyager episodes Someone to Watch Over Me, Body and Soul, and an as-yet undisclosed third episode,[9] which is almost certainly The Menagerie from Star Trek: The Original Series. See also Influences of The Orville.
The Menagerie Command Performance
The highly advanced Talosians, diminutive aliens with huge brains, trick the USS Enterprise with holographic simulations of familiar humans. The highly advanced Calivon, diminutive aliens with huge brains, trick the USS Orville with holographic simulations of familiar humans and a ship.
The Talosians capture the captain and reveal the humans to be fake. The Calivon capture the captain and first officer and reveal the humans and ship to be fake.
The Talosians imprison the captain in a glass exhibit in a zoo. The Calivon imprison the officers in a glass exhibit in a zoo.
Visiting Talos is strictly forbidden. Visiting Calivon is strictly forbidden.
Spock, as acting captain, disobeys orders not to visit Talos and undergoes court martial for the good of Captain Pike (so that he might live the rest of his life as healthy adult man). Alara Kitan, as acting captain, disobeys orders not to visit Calivon and risks court martial for the good of Ed and Kelly (so that they might be freed from captivity).

Episode titles[edit | edit source]

Title Language Translation
菜鳥當官 (Càiniǎo dāng guān) Chinese "novice official"
Capitaine Alara French "Captain Alara"
Sondervorstellung German "special performance"
Parancsnoki próbatétel Hungarian "command test"
Comandante di emergenza Italian "emergency commander"
指揮能力 (Shiki nōryoku) Japanese "command capability"
Командная игра Russian "team play"
Actuación de mandato Spanish "command performance"
Командна робота Ukrainian "teamwork"

Cast[edit | edit source]

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

Main Cast[edit | edit source]

Recurring Cast[edit | edit source]

Special Guest Star[edit | edit source]

Guest Cast[edit | edit source]

Uncredited[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Command Performance
  2. The Orville: Season 1 Call sheet. Ebay. Last accessed Aug. 11, 2020.
  3. "The Orville Fan Podcast w/ Jason Roberts (The Orville Unit Production Manager)". Planetary Union Network. April 19, 2018.
  4. @SethMacFarlane. "The awesomely talented Robert Duncan McNeill directing on #Orville this week-- In other words, Tom Paris back at the helm.". Twitter. April 14, 2017.
  5. The Orville: Season 1 Call sheet. Ebay. Last accessed Aug. 11, 2020.
  6. INT. SHUTTLE BAY Reverse of Shuttle Bay doors closing. Reverse of Doors as debris crashes through. Clean Plates of Shuttle Bay. Reverse through Shuttle Bay Viewing Port (Alara's POV). Clean Plate of 'Do Not Walk' area where damage is. Spark elements against Black. Smoke elements against Black. Cryo elements against black. INT. ED'S OLD APT - AGAINST BLACK Burning potted plant and bonsai tree. The Orville: Season 1 Call sheet. Ebay. Last accessed Aug. 11, 2020.
  7. Lovett, Jamie. "Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Duncan McNeill Was Offered A Directing Job On Discovery". comicbook. Aug. 20, 2017.
  8. "Voyager (Part 2 of 2) at the 2017 Star Trek Convention". 2017 Star Trek Convention - New York. Aug. 9, 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ulster, Laure. "Interview: Garrett Wang & Robert Duncan McNeill On Tuvix, Lizard Babies, & ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ Podcasting". TrekMovie. June 17, 2020.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Voyage to Utopia" in The Orville: Original Television Soundtrack - Season 1 by Jeff Bond (2019). Pg. 7.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "Voyage to Utopia" in The Orville: Original Television Soundtrack - Season 1 by Jeff Bond (2019). Pg. 8.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "The Orville Fan Podcast w/ Jason Roberts (The Orville Unit Production Manager)". Planetary Union Network. April 19, 2018.
  13. "The Orville:Season One Ratings". Last accessed Dec. 6, 2017.
  14. Lovett, Jamie. "'The Orville' Star Mark Jackson Talks Science Fiction, 'Star Trek,' And A Brighter Future". ComicBook. Sept. 27, 2018.
  15. ""The Orville" Command Performance (TV Episode)". IMDB. Last accessed Feb. 12, 2018.
  16. Ahr, Michael. "The Orville Episode 2 Review: Command Performance". Den of Geek. Sept. 17, 2017.
  17. Epsicokhan, Jamal. "Command Performance". Jammer's Reviews. Last accessed Feb. 12, 2018.
  18. Wanserski, Nick. "A trip to the zoo helps elevate an otherwise average Orville". AV Club. Sept. 17, 2017.
  19. Episode 3: About a Girl
  20. Byron, Kari. "Tory Belleci and I make an incognito appearance on The Orville tonight. Recognize us?" Facebook. Sept. 17, 2017.
  21. @torybelleci. "Take us to your craft service.@theorville @therealkaribyron @hoops511#orville #aliens 👽" Instagram. Sept. 18, 2017.
  22. "NYCC 2017: Adrianne Palicki & Scott Grimes - The Orville". WithAnAccentTV. Oct. 13, 2017.
  23. JayBird, "Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane says he won’t smoke pot anymore", CeleBitchy (July 8, 2008) (quoting "Seth MacFarlane Says He Swears Off Marijuana", Starpulse (July 3, 2008)).
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