I was chosen to represent my planet. I see it as an ideal opportunity to study human behavior.— Isaac
Isaac was a Kaylon Emissary to the Planetary Union and Science and Engineering Officer aboard the USS Orville.[n 1] He was likely the ship's Chief Science Officer, though this is never explicitly stated.[n 2] Unlike the other officers on the ship, Isaac was not a member of the Union.
For most of his career, Isaac worked as a representative of the Kaylon on a "provisionary commission" to the Union.[n 3] He briefly deactivated in January 2421 and resigned his commission upon reactivation.[n 3] After the Battle of Earth in February, Isaac returned to serve on the Bridge of the Orville.
Isaac is portrayed by Mark Jackson.
- 1 Construction
- 2 Early career as representative
- 3 Shuttle crash on an undiscovered moon
- 4 Late career as representative
- 5 Relationship with Claire Finn
- 6 Betrayal and true mission revealed
- 7 Alternate timelines
- 8 Personality
- 9 Production
- 10 Trivia
- 11 Appearances
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
The Kaylon built Isaac solely to gather intelligence on the Planetary Union and biological life to determine if biological life should be preserved. However, Isaac maintained that his mission was "an effort initiate relations between Kaylon and the Union," to study the cultures of biological life and to serve as a representative for his planet.
Though the Kaylon made Isaac after the extinction of the Builders, he had downloaded "the experiential data collected from those [Kaylon] who existed prior to that time."
Early career as representative
Isaac proved highly intelligent, powerful, and adaptive; according to First Officer Kelly Grayson, he was the most intelligent member of the crew, and roughly on par with Chief of Security Alara Kitan's physical strength. In October 2419, he modified the holographic generation technology of the Calivon to mask an entire ship and, in early December, fashioned hand-held holographic generators.
Mission to the Bio-ship
Around November 2419, the Orville found a large bio-ship about to collide with a nearby star. Isaac determined that the hull of the ship was impenetrable to scans and comprised of an unknown alloy. As the only one with reflexes fast enough to dock a shuttlecraft to the ship's airlock, Isaac joined an away team consisting of Ed, Kelly, Alara, and Doctor Claire Finn.
Once inside, Isaac's comscanner showed millions of inhabitants. Ed split the team into two groups: Ed, Claire, and Isaac in one group, and Alara and Kelly in the other. When Ed's group found a cabin, a man shot at them but missed, and Isaac stunned him a PM-44. Inside, the trio met the man's wife and their son, Tomilin, and quickly realized the inhabitants are unaware they are on ship adrift in space. Tomilin suspected they are from "the Underland" and took them to the Reformers, a clandestine group of political dissidents who rejected the theocratic dictatorship of Hamelac.
Alara contacted Ed, reporting Hamelac's police shot her and kidnapped Kelly. Ed sent Isaac to the Orville, but the ship left to rescue the USS Druyan from the Krill. After the team found Alara, they joined with the Reformers to storm Hamelac's capital and rescue Kelly. With the fall of Hamelac from power, the Union rescued the population on the bio-ship and settled them on a planet.
Theft of the Orville and "death"
In November or December 2419, the Orville rescued Pria Lavesque, a miner in the Vega Mining Consortium. She planted a mysterious metal box in Engineering, which Isaac investigated. However, the device "killed" Isaac by a strong electrical burst. Claire and Navigator John LaMarr examined Isaac's body in Sick Bay, but his Kaylon architecture was poorly understood. Unknown to the crew, Isaac had transferred his consciousness to the ship's Computer prior to dying, where he continued to research the device.
Pria revealed herself to be an antiquities thief from the 29th century who traveled to the 25th century to steal the Orville, and she commandeered the ship. The crew retook control when Isaac cracked the device; Kelly fought Pria, keeping the thief occupied; and Helmsman Gordon Malloy flew the ship back to the 2419. Once safe, Isaac's mind was downloaded back into his body.
- When the highly advanced Calivon captured Ed and Kelly for their zoo, the Calivon spoke only to Isaac as the Kaylon was the only species on par with the their degree of technological sophistication. Isaac pretended to be Alara's owner, and the two successfully bartered for Ed and Kelly's release.
- When John was imprisoned on Sargus 4 and forced to perform an apology tour, Isaac hacked the planet's Master Feed, flooding the chat with supportive messages and sympathetic facts about John to manipulate the Sarguns.
Shuttle crash on an undiscovered moon
Dr. Finn, I look forward to joining you and your offspring on this recreational outing. It will give me an opportunity to observe human familial dynamics at close range.— Isaac
When the USS Orville returned to Earth for a navigational upgrade in early 2420, Isaac piloted a shuttle with Doctor Claire Finn and her sons, Ty and Marcus, to Arboreus Prime. However, an uncharted spatial fold sent the shuttle into an unknown area of the galaxy, the shuttle crashing into a nearby moon.
Claire was separated from the group and taken by Drogen, a survivalist. The moon's nations were recently at war, and one side poisoned the water supply with poloxus. Drogen had foreseen the attack and stockpiled food and weapons in his fortified compound.
Isaac was unable to contact Claire. He set Marcus' dislocated knee back into place, then determined where Claire might have landed. He gave the boys a PM-44 and left alone to search for her. Isaac found the other half of the shuttle without Claire and returned to the boys. He arrived just in time to save them from an attacking native man.
Isaac discovered the shuttle will need dysonium to sent a distress signal to the Orville. The next morning, the trio set off to a nearby mountain with dysonium deposits. They are attacked along the way by more indigenous people, but Isaac fended them off. Later, Ty fell into a river, unwittingly sickened by poloxus in the water.
After retrieving dysonium, Isaac sent a weak distress signal, which the Orville picks up. Meanwhile, Claire managed to use her comscanner to contact them and fled Drogen. They rendezvoused at the shuttle. Suddenly, a mob of people attacked, bent on eating the four. Claire and Marcus held them at bay until the Orville arrived.
Late career as representative
Isaac's first notable mission came in May 2420 when the Orville discovered a multiphasic planet populated by primitive Bronze-age society. The planet rapidly aged at a rate of 700 years to every days aboard the ship. The people began worshiping First Officer Kelly Grayson after they witnessed her healing an injured girl. Over time, the people punished, killed, and even waged wars in the name of 'Kelly.'
The Orville unsuccessfully attempted to steer the development of the planet, but they could spend only a few days on the planet's surface. The crew send Isaac, whose Kaylon body was capable of enduring millions of years. Isaac returned 700 years later alongside Baleth and Fadolin, two representatives from the world. While Isaac initially shocked the planet, the people adjusted to his presence. Belief in Kelly faded naturally as society evolved, and Isaac made little difference.
- Isaac wrote an Environmental Simulator program for Alara to test herself in stressful and terrifying situations. The program concluded with Alara fleeing a simulated, evil version of Isaac.
- In April 2420, Isaac and John studied damage to the Orville caused when the ship grazed a pocket of two-dimensional space.
- Around June, Isaac studied magnetar AXP 1E1048-59 for several days.
- In late August, Isaac and Second Officer Bortus rescued survivors of Nyxia before its sun devoured it.
Relationship with Claire Finn
When Isaac first met Doctor Claire Finn in September 2419, Claire resented his sense of intellectual superiority. "You harbor prejudice against artificial life-forms," Isaac later remarked. She quipped, "Only against life-forms that think they're better than everyone else." When Isaac affirmed that he is better than everyone else, Claire sarcastically diagnosed, "Oh, and so modest." Further, Isaac offered parenting advice, which Claire felt was presumptive.
After Isaac, Claire, and her sons are rescued in late February 2420, Claire developed feelings for Isaac. He protected Marcus and Ty on the moon and did his best to comfort them. In a private conversation with Isaac, Claire said her sons now adore Isaac.
The two continued to work together and Isaac began privately tutoring Ty in piano. In December 2420, Isaac corrected Claire's paper on nanosynthesis in Xelayan tissue regeneration, brought her a banana, and noticed that she changed her hair style. Claire remarked, "When I'm with him... we get along very well. I feel warmth."
Claire asked Isaac out to the Union Symphony followed by dinner in the Environmental Simulator. Wishing to learn more of biological culture, Isaac accepted. The first date was a dud; Isaac downloaded all information about her from the Orville's files, and Claire did not feel "excitement" without getting to know each other. After Isaac woke her up with a cake at 3:00 a.m., Claire told him that she "reached out in the wrong direction."
Isaac deleted his information on Claire and attempted a second dinner date - complete with a simulated Human body. Claire was enamored: "He figured out a way to say, 'I'm trying. Let me try.'" The two slept together. Believing his study of biological dating completed, Isaac convinced Claire to end the relationship by acting selfishly.
Isaac begins to malfunction following the breakup, realizing (in a certain way) he has fallen in love. To win Claire back, he calls her to the Bridge, sets the ship's environmental controls to "rain," and plays "Singing in the Rain." He apologizes and states that he is better with her than without her, and the two return to the simulator for dinner at her favorite restaurant on Earth.
The two began dating and, about a month later, announced their relationship to Marcus and Ty. Isaac suddenly de-activated and was returned to Kaylon 1. Upon reactivation, he announced his return to the Kaylon and their brief relationship dissolved. In the aftermath of the Battle of Earth, Claire stated that she will one day forgive him.
Betrayal and true mission revealed
By January 2421, the Kaylon decided they had sufficient data on the Planetary Union and remotely deactivated Isaac. The USS Orville returned Isaac to Kaylon 1, but the Kaylon informed the senior officers that Isaac completed his purpose for existing and would be recycled. At the pleading of the distraught crew, the Kaylon reactivated Isaac - but Isaac maintained that he would not rejoin the ship. The Orville threw a goodbye party, and Ty Finn gave Isaac a drawing; Isaac discarded the drawing and exited the ship.
Ty was devastated upon finding his drawing and searched for Isaac on the planet. He absconded into a network of caves to hide from other Kaylon, only to stumble across the remains of the Builders. When confronted, Isaac and the Kaylon revealed they never intended to join the Union. Isaac's purpose was to evaluate whether biological life in the galaxy was worth preserving, and the Kaylon determined it was not.
A team of Kaylon, including Isaac, stormed the Orville, killing many Security Officers and holding the rest captive in the Shuttle Bay. Having commandeered the ship, the Kaylon launched a full-scale attack upon the Union.
Rejection of the Kaylon
As the Kaylon headed to Earth, the Kaylon aboard the Orville forced Ed Mercer and Kelly Grayson to tell the USS Roosevelt that their armada was a welcome envoy, but the Kaylon caught Ed warning the Roosevelt. To punish him, the Kaylon (including Isaac) made Ed watch them kill an officer. Isaac unsuccessfully attempted to dissuade Kaylon Primary from killing an ensign.
Kaylon Primary grew suspicious of Isaac. He directed Isaac to process Roots by Alex Haley to demonstrate the atrocities biological life may commit. However, Isaac replied that he observed no such behavior. Primary then ordered Isaac to choose a new name.
Later, the Kaylon captured Ty while he was assisting Lieutenant Yaphit sending a warning to Planetary Union Central. Kaylons Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary ordered Isaac to execute Ty, but Isaac killed the three Kaylon. He stormed the Bridge of the Orville, telling Ty a code to release the officers imprisoned in the Shuttle Bay and then emitting a powerful EMP pulse to kill all remaining Kaylon on the ship (Isaac included).
Battle of Earth and aftermath
Isaac was re-activated soon after. Admiral Halsey advocated that a kill-switch be placed in Isaac, but Ed convinced him that acts of distrust and control were what led the Kaylon to turn against their builders. Ed accepted full responsibility for Isaac in the future.
In another alternate timeline where Kelly Grayson turned down Ed Mercer's request for a second date in 2413, Isaac did not betray the Kaylon because Doctor Claire Finn never joined the Orville. He joined the Orville as emissary in September 2419, serving under Captain Griffith.
Isaac's career aboard the Orville was substantially the same in this timeline. He participated in the Battle of Epsilon 2 when the crew obtained the quantum accelerator, and he studied the device until his automatic deactivation in January 2421. At the time of his deactivation, Isaac was asking Chief Engineering Officer John LaMarr personal questions about his romantic and sexual interactions with former Chief Security Officer Alara Kitan.
The Orville returned Isaac to the Kaylon, but he was not reactivated; his body remained on Kaylon 1 while his mind was uploaded to the Kaylon's neural network. The Kaylon took over the Orville and then won the ensuing Battle of Earth.
Around October 2421, John LaMarr, working on on the recovered Orville, hacked into the Kaylon's network and downloaded Isaac's consciousness into the head of a Kaylon they had earlier killed to complete calculations on the quantum accelerator taken from the Epsilon Science Station on Epsilon 2. Though Isaac promised that the Kaylon would find and destroy John and his crewmates, the calculations allowed them to send Claire back in time to restore the timeline. After getting the calculations, John deactivated Isaac again.
You harbor prejudice against artificial life-forms.— Isaac and Claire Finn
Only against life-forms that think they're better than everyone else.
I am better than everyone else.
Oh, and so modest.
It was not intended as a boast, merely a statement of fact.
Like all Kaylon, Isaac firmly believed that biological lifeforms were mentally and physically inferior to himself. Certainly, Isaac was the most intelligent member of the USS Orville: according to First Officer Kelly Grayson, the smartest biological member of the crew, John LaMarr, lagged well behind Isaac. Isaac was also the strongest officer - possibly excepting Chief of Security Alara Kitan. Even the highly advanced Calivon saw Isaac as an equal. Extraordinary strength and wit endowed Isaac with a sense of superiority, which he saw not as arrogance but "merely a statement of fact."
Understanding biological life
This is humor? - Yes! I must admit, it is quite challenging.— Isaac's response after experiencing a practical joke
Isaac was curious about the cultures and behaviors of biological lifeforms, especially abstractions like romance and cursing. He proposed intercourse to Alara to study biological sexuality; struggled to understand the offensiveness behind calling someone a "dick;" and eagerly leapt at the chance to date Doctor Claire Finn, but only as an opportunity to experience dating. When Helmsman Gordon Malloy said Humans bond with cats by petting them, Isaac stroked Gordon's arm so they could bond.
Gordon tried to demonstrate 'humor' to Isaac after he failed to understand the appeal of slapstick comedy in the television series Seinfeld. Gordon stuck Mr. Potato Head ears, nose, hat, and eyes to Isaac's head, and Isaac took his station on the Bridge, completely unaware. Gordon explained that was a practical joke and added it was Isaac's turn to prank him. Isaac amputated Gordon's left leg in his sleep and hid it in the roof of Pria Lavesque's quarters. Gordon was incensed and called Isaac "sick."
Relationship with Ty and Marcus Finn
After Isaac protected Ty and Marcus Finn on the habitable moon, the boys adored him. They tagged along as Isaac and John studied the effect of a spatial anomaly on the ship, and Isaac taught Ty piano. When James Duncan, Marcus' classmate, blamed Marcus for hacking into a Food Synthesizer, Isaac accompanied Claire to a conference with James' parents. Isaac discovered James had hacked into the Computer's academic files to change his grades, which (mostly) exonerated Marcus.
Claire and Isaac began dating in late 2420, and the children soon caught on. When Claire and Isaac revealed their relationship in late January 2421, Marcus said that they were happy for them. When Isaac suddenly deactivated, they were distraught and spent long hours with his body in Sick Bay. During Isaac's farewell party, Ty gifted Isaac with a drawing, but Isaac threw the picture away, deeply wounding Ty.
In the prelude to the Battle of Earth, Ty was caught helping Lieutenant Yaphit send a warning message to the Planetary Union. Kaylon Primary ordered Isaac to execute the child, but Isaac instead killed the Kaylon, rescuing Ty.
Actors auditioned for Isaac by working on the Bridge, speaking in "sciencey jargon" and describing planet statistics. Creator Seth MacFarlane closed his eyes and turned around to listen to the quality and timber of each actor's voice.
While Fox first introduced Isaac in their May 2017 trailer, it was Mark Jackson who revealed the character and the Kaylon species to the general public in July. He elaborated that Isaac is sent as an ambassador and observer to the Planetary Union, and that his species communicates as a "hive mind."
Creating and wearing the Isaac costume
The costume of Isaac was designed with the look of early science fiction androids and cybernetic beings in mind. It took Howard Berger, the make-up department head for Season 1, 42 drafts before landing upon Isaac's look. The costume is a zip-up onesie, plated by an armor chestpiece, a belt, gloves, and helmet. Isaac's eyes were originally red, which were softened to blue to look less menacing.
Isaac's helmet consists of two plates that snap together. Jackson wears a microphone to hear better and reads his lines aloud while performing and the audio is manipulated and improved during editing. The helmet's face plate is one-way transparent, allowing the actor to see. "It's not perfect. It's a bit blurry like if I wore glasses," Jackson describes. The suit also boasts internal speakers and microphones.
Isaac's suit takes approximately 20 minutes to put on or remove. Jackson describes the experience as being put into an ecosystem, and says he feels powerful and well-protected wearing it. An unexpected perk is that the suit keeps Jackson warm in the cold studio set.
However, Jackson also points out that the suit is uncomfortable, hot, and annoyingly constrictive, especially during shoots for the pilot, Old Wounds. The helmet was especially bad. "I was blind, I couldn't breathe - like literally," he told an audience at the 2021 Sci-Fi Summit. The production team adjusted his helmet after Old Wounds and before starting If the Stars Should Appear (the second episode filmed). At the same time, Berger installed a small fan inside the suit to keep him cool. Jackson says that he has a "cool shirt on standby, which has a clever network of cold water pipes built into it, but so far I’ve not used it. Coming from a theatre background, part of me thinks ‘if you didn’t sweat, you didn’t work’."
While production originally intended Jackson to speak his own lines directly on set as any other actor, the audio quality suffered, and Jackson records all of his lines through automatic dialogue replacement.
Isaac's role on the ship was subdued until a breakout appearance in Into the Fold. Jackson later said, "We start to learn about him as the season goes on. In the original scripts that I read of the first season, the scripts had slightly different storylines for Isaac, which I think has been shifted to the second season." He may be referring to a story involving Kaylon 1. He earlier mentioned there were plans to visit the planet in Season 1 that were tabled if the show were renewed.
Isaac's origins remained obscure at the close of Season 1 even to Jackson and the rest of the cast, but by November, 2017, creator Seth MacFarlane promised that his background would appear in greater detail in Season 2: "We will learn more about Isaac's people. There's a whole story that's already been written that examines the origins of Isaac's people;" and later, "Next season, we are going to deal with Isaac a little bit, and we have a very clear idea of what we want him to be."
Jackson has confirmed that minute visual adjustments have been made to the costume for Season 2, adding cryptically "but nothing too radical... yet." Isaac's gauntlets were separated from the rest of the suit and the mesh outer layer was "hardened" to prevent wrinkling (it is unclear what exact change was made).
Significant changes were made to the plates and lighitng of Isaac's suit for Season 3.
- The name "Isaac" was chosen while serving in the Planetary Union as an homage to Isaac Newton, whose scientific brilliance was respected even by the Kaylon.
- Isaac draws many parallels to Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager.
- Isaac's designation of "The Emissary" is the same as Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Coincidentally, both Sisko and Isaac end up dating characters played by Penny Johnson Jerald in their respective shows, with Jerald playing Kasidy Yates on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Dr. Claire Finn on The Orville.
- He is the only known crew member of The Orville to have no official rank. Due to not belonging to the Planetary Union and instead being an observer on behalf of the Kaylon.
- To many fans, Isaac's voice is reminiscent of the voice of Data on ST:TNG.
- According to Mark Jackson, Isaac's voice is an amalgamation between multiple different accents that are spoken within the English language in order to better be understood by all people who watch the series.
- Jackson says that when he sneezes inside Isaac's mask, the particulate bounces off the mask and back into his eyes and mouth.
- Jackson feels somewhat embarrassed by his performance as Isaac in Season 1: "I'm a bit - I want to say wooden, but it's not the right word - a bit metallic." In Season 2, he intentionally behaved a bit more animated, and even more so in Season 3.
- Isaac's eyes were originally red, which were softened to blue to look less menacing.
- As "death" to the Kaylon is equivalent to deactivation, Isaac has died three times:
- Isaac makes no appearance in the comic-book issue Heroes, Pt. 2, despite being incorrectly credited.
- Ed Mercer: "And finally, Isaac, our science and engineering officer, hailing from Kaylon 1." Episode 1x01: Old Wounds
- See discussion in Chief Science Officer.
- Isaac: "I have already resigned my provisionary commission." Episode 2x08: Identity, Pt. 1
- Admiral Halsey does not state that the spot of Science Officer is vacant when talking to Ed in September, implying that Isaac was already aboard the ship and served under the previous captain. Episode 1x01: Old Wounds
- Episode 1x01: Old Wounds
- Episode 2x06: A Happy Refrain
- Episode 1x04: If the Stars Should Appear
- Episode 2x09: Identity, Pt. 2
- Episode 2x08: Identity, Pt. 1
- Episode 1x01: Old Wounds
- Kaylon Primary. Episode 2x09: Identity, Pt. 2
- Episode 1x11: New Dimensions
- Episode 1x02: Command Performance
- Episode 1x06: Krill
- Episode 1x07: Majority Rule
- Episode 1x08: Into the Fold
- Episode 1x12: Mad Idolatry
- Episode 1x10: Firestorm
- Episode 1.5x01: New Beginnings, Pt. 1
- Episode 1.5x02: New Beginnings, Pt. 2
- Episode 2x02: Primal Urges
- Episode 1x08: Into the Fold
- Episode 1x05: Pria
- Episode 2x14: The Road Not Taken
- Digressions, Pt. 1
- Episode 1x08: Into the Fold
- Episode 1x05: Pria
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- /u/markjacksonacts. "I’m Mark Jackson and I play AI badass Isaac on The Orville. Ask me questions!". Reddit. Feb. 4, 2019.