Majority Rule is the seventh episode of the first season of The Orville. Navigator John LaMarr is arrested by the police of a developing planet and it is up to the crew of the USS Orville to rescue him.
The title refers to the planet's government by absolute unstructured democracy. The episode examines "mob mentality," the court of public opinion, and the role of social media. It was written by Seth MacFarlane, who later said he was inspired by the book So You've Been Publicly Shamed. Majority Rule was directed by Tucker Gates and features the music of John Debney. Giorgia Whigham guest stars as a local coffee barista named Lysella.
On October 14, 2017, Fox released one 30-second promotional video. A narrator tells the audience, "On the next Orville, get ready for an adventure that threatens one of their own." Clips of explosions and space-flight from previous episodes play. Helmsman Gordon Malloy tells the bridge: "I think everyone's going to want to see this" (from the episode Pria).
On the alien world of Sargus 4, coffee barista Lysella awakes from her bed and starts her day. From a television monitor in her kitchen, two men can be seen on a live morning talk show, The Breakfast Show. They apologize for a crime against society. Lysella comments that one of them looks strange, presses a down-pointing arrow on her monitor, and leaves for work.
Captain Ed Mercer sends a landing team consisting of Commander Kelly Grayson, Chief of Security Alara Kitan, Doctor Claire Finn, and LaMarr to search for the pair. Sargus 4 is said to be reminiscent of Earth in the 21st century due to "parallel development" of the worlds. Sargus 4 has not yet made contact with other space-faring civilizations.
Kitan must cover her prominent Xelayan features and hides them with a hat and a bandage on her nose. Finn is particularly concerned about Lewis, an old work colleague and friend. Mercer insists Lewis is fine.
The landing team lands on the surface of the planet. Kitan shows a picture of Tom and Lewis to a nearby kiosk owner and asks if he is familiar with the two. He says that the pair are well-known, but immediately follows up by asking why none of the team wears a Vote Badge. The team invents a series of excuses and buy several from the owner. Because their purchase is not legal by Sargun law, the nervous shopkeeper tells them to leave in order to avoid attention.
The team visit a local coffee shop to ask more questions. On the way there, Kitan discusses her ex-boyfriend Andy, and explains that she broke up with him because his dancing was "too grindy." LaMarr finds her explanation silly, and teases her by asking: "How much grindy is too grindy?" He simulates suggestive dancing on a statue of historical figure Mella Giffendon, which is recorded by several Sarguns.
In the coffee shop, the crew waits in line to speak with the barista, Lysella. A woman in front attempts to order coffee, but Lysella kicks her out for having over 500,000 downvotes, pointing to a shop sign stating that none with over 500,000 downvotes are served. Lysella finds John attractive and gives him an upvote by pressing the upward arrow on his Vote Badge. The crew realizes that votes act as a social currency in this society and the more up votes one has the more well received, but the more down votes they can be isolated & discriminated against.
Suddenly, LaMarr's badge accrues hundreds of thousands of downvotes, quickly surpassing 500,000. Lysella panics and orders them to leave immediately. The team leaves the shop to a throng of Sarguns recording them with their phones. Police from the Department of Corrections arrest LaMarr.
In a police station, LaMarr sits before Publicity Officer Willks, who explains that LaMarr's slew of downvotes come because his suggestive dancing on a statue of a Sargun hero was recorded by others and uploaded to the Master Feed, an online video and voting platform. LaMarr had surpassed one million downvotes, which made what he did a "crime against the State." LaMarr was arrested and must go on an apology tour, several live television appearances that will be judged by the public for his sincerity by voting in the Master Feed. If he accumulates over 10 million downvotes by the end of his tour, he will be forcefully corrected via a neurological readjustment called Social Correction.
Back on the Orville, Mercer is unable to rescue his navigator. Admiral Tucker explains that extracting LaMarr would violate Union law on interfering with developing worlds, and strictly forbids Mercer from intervening. LaMarr must complete his tour.
Willks and Grayson accompany LaMarr to his first television appearance: a live interview on The Chat. The interview goes poorly. LaMarr is unable to identify the person of Mella Giffendon, and his apology is scathingly criticized by the interviewers. LaMarr's downvotes accrue well past three million.
Meanwhile, Kitan and Finn continue with the mission to find Lewis and Tom. They attempt a second conversation in the coffee shop with Lysella but are interrupted by a Kelvic man who angrily insists that Kitan's hat is an affront to his Kelvic culture. He demands she remove it or video of her will be uploaded to the Master Feed. Finn escorts her to the restroom where she tried to fashion Kitan a new hat. Lysella walks in to tell them that the belligerent man has left, but sees Kitan's Xeleyan features. Finn assesses: "New problem."
Finn and Kitan buy Lysella a drink and confess their alienage. Lysella agrees to help them find Lewis and Tom. Tom already died but they successfully track Lewis to his home, and are disturbed to see his behavior is inhumanly docile. Finn says that he is acts as if he had a complete lobotomy.
A disturbed Captain Mercer grows determined to get LaMarr back on the ship before the same radical treatment happens to him. He directs the landing team to take Lysella and Lewis onto the Orville. On board, Finn confirms that Lewis's damage is irreversible. LaMarr is only minutes from his Final Vote, in which a subject is taken to a Department of Corrections Z Chamber, strapped to a Social Correction chair, and awaits the final vote tally.
Mercer consults Lysella and devises a plan to manipulate the Master Feed to sway public opinion. Isaac easily hacks into the Feed and floods it with false information and doctored images, such as claiming that LaMarr supports his elderly grandmother, that he was an overweight child, and that he is a returning soldier with a pet. The plan works and LaMarr escapes treatment being taken back to space. "Thank you for letting me see all of this," Lysella tells Mercer. "I just wish I could tell somebody." Mercer capstones the scene, replying, "Well, maybe all you need to tell them is that their world can do better."
Mirroring the start of the episode, Lysella wakes from her bed and prepares for the day. In the kitchen, the host of The Breakfast Show interviews a new arrestee on an apology tour. She nearly casts a downvote, hesitates, and turns off the TV, deciding no longer to take part in that aspect of society.
The script was written entirely by creator Seth MacFarlane in mid-2016, probably sometime around June and no later than October. The idea for Majority Rule came on the heels of reading So You've Been Publicly Shamed by author Jon Ronson. (In fact, MacFarlane recommended Ronson's book in June 2017 while filming the episode.) "I read that book," he later recalled. "I was fascinated and disturbed and came in the day after I finished it and said, 'We have to write about this.'" During the episode's premiere, MacFarlane remarked that he was inspired to write "optimistic, episodic" science fiction.
Specifically, MacFarlane has cited the case of Justine Sacco in reference to writing the episode, a South African woman whose tweets intending to parody a racist American were taken as serious by Gawker and other media sources. A public online shaming campaign ignored her explanation and resulted in enormous worldwide backlash, and she lost her job. A Gawker blogger later apologized, admitting he stoked public ire to generate ad revenue.
At the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, MacFarlane reflected:
- We wrote that episode the summer of - I don't know, was it two years ago? - and we thought we were all innovative, and five months later the Black Mirror episode ["Nosedive"] comes out, and we're like, "Shit, everyone's going to think we're-" [laughter]. But it's clearly a common concern given the fact that two shows touched on this independently.
- Look, it's incredibly creepy. I think there are good things about social media and Twitter. We've seen a speediness of acceptance for certain marginalized groups that I think without the unification of social media would have taken a lot longer. That's the positive side of social media. The downside is that it can become a mob very quickly.
- I think it's very creepy. We're not evolved enough as a species not to succumb to the rush of joining a group that is ganging up on another group or individual. There's a weird rush that gives a lot of people when they become part of a mob. It's too soon to independently govern ourselves in the way that social media attempts to do so.
MacFarlane and artists crafted Sargus 4 to resemble a slightly futuristic Earth in the grip of social media and pure democracy. Exterior shots were filmed in downtown Los Angeles, peppered with Sargun props and references to votes. Costumes were plainly contemporary suits, dresses, and casual wear with minor tweaks. Wardrobe designer Joseph Porro comments:
If you look at the ties and shirts and jackets, I doubled everything--double lapels and on ties we had a lady work for us to tie knots that were not typical, and we did a lot just to make it all a little off. I would buy two suit jackets and rip the lapel off one to make a double lapel on the other, just to make it strange.
City scenes in front of Lysella's coffee shop were filmed at Los Angeles Center Studios near downtown.
Music was composed by John Debney. "We went a little more contemporary in this episode and it works," Debney recalled.
- It makes it a little more relevant and visceral and there are three or four areas [of the score] that make it feel like it is right now, like if Hans Zimmer was doing one of these, with more drums and sequencer-driven [material] along with the orchestra of course.
According to The Orville: Original Television Soundtrack - Season 1, the songs composed by John Debney for this episode are "Lysella Wakes Up / Looks Like Earth / Rescue Mission," "John Gets Arrested / Alara Seems Suspicious," "Ed Has a Plan," and "Bringing Lysella Aboard / Casting the Votes / Their World Can Do Better."
- The song "John Gets Arrested" was meant as one of Debney's nods to contemporary music.
- "Bringing Lysella Aboard" was scored as "lavish" and "romantic."
- "Their World Can Do Better" was intended to convey an introspective emotion to the listener as Lysella changes her behavior.
Prediction of political events
Fans had long pointed to Majority Rule for its prescience, an example of how society is replacing morality with sentiment. Seth MacFarlane in particular called attention to China's impending Golden Shield surveillance program, whereupon its own citizens will receive a "citizen score" to incentivize good behavior. Citizens with low citizen scores will have their travel rights restricted, and analysts speculate that the basis for lowering or raising one's score could include political opinions. MacFarlane called it "Majority Rule in practice" and "unsettling."
The episode aired on October 26, 2017, two weeks after the previous episode, Krill. Fox did not explain its decision not to air Majority Rule on October 19, but it likely skipped the week to spare The Orville from competing with an extremely popular baseball playoffs game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs.
Majority Rule was well received by TV audiences, and enjoys an 8.5 rating on IMDB. It was seen by 4.18 million viewers in the United States, the most since episode two Command Performance and the most since moving to the Thursday night 9 p.m. time slot. With an additional three million DVR viewers, the episode had 7.28 million total viewers, second only to the pilot Old Wounds.
Majority Rule would prove to be one of the most popular episodes of Season 1 in terms of total viewership, and it solidified The Orville as Fox's highest-rated Thursday 9 p.m. broadcast in two years.
In contrast to audience reactions, the episode received leaning-positive reviews from critics. Jammer of Jammer's Reviews awarded the episode three out of four stars, noting that "The Orville feels like it's starting to find itself. At the very least, it feels more like it's finding me."
Daniel Kalban of World of the Nerd gave Majority Rule 8.8 out of 10, noting that the episode is less a commentary on social media than on mob mentality and praising the cast's strong acting performances. Nick Wanserski of the AV Club gave the episode a negative review. Michael Ahr of Den of Geek gave the episode 2.5 stars.
Season 2 Renewal
Majority Rule boasted strong ratings overall and by some measurements the best performance after the pilot. Four days later, Fox announced that it had picked up the show for a second season, making The Orville the second renewed series after The Simpsons. The renewal was considerably early for a series in its freshman year.
- The episode aired on creator and star Seth MacFarlane's 44th birthday, October 26, 2017.
- Ed asks Bortus to look into adding snacks and water to the ship's conference room, and Bortus promises that he will not fail the Captain. However, pitchers of water can be seen on a table behind Ed the entire time. (Snacks are never added.)
- Bortus tells the bridge crew, "I sing," answered with uncertain silence. This is a harbinger for when Bortus nearly sings at karaoke in the episode Cupid's Dagger.
- The episode's resolution, where Isaac plants fake news stories in the Master Feed to sway Sargus 4's public opinion, predicts the potential impact "fake news" may have in swaying public sentiment.
- Heather Brooker, who plays a mother asking her daughter to upvote her grandmother, also interviewed Seth MacFarlane about the show.
- In the previous episode Krill, Mercer and Helmsman Gordon Malloy use holographic generators to disguise themselves perfectly as native Krill. Kitan could have used the device to simply mask her alien features.
- However, Mercer and Malloy receive those holographic generators as part of a specific undercover operation; it may be that such generators are not available for regular planetary contact missions.
- This episode is actor Scott Grimes' (Gordon) favorite.
- Auditions for the role of John LaMarr included humping the statue of Mella Giffendon.
- The episode takes place around December 2419 or possibly early 2420 around January or February.
- Lysella says that one week before the episode begins, an unnamed friend received 15 downvotes.
- The script takes a lighthearted jab at the theory of cultural appropriation when an unnamed Kelvic man tells Kitan she is "literally pissing on [his] heritage" by wearing a traditional Kelvic hat.
- The episode's plot criticizes the "mob-ocracy" of public opinion and the harms of social media. It especially targets Western society's obsession with social media as deleterious: no fact-checking, government by sentiment, and easily persuaded by fabricated stories.
- The fact that Sargus 4 is exactly the same as Earth save for the Human name of "John" mirrors Star Trek: The Original Series, which often featured alien civilizations that were exactly the same apart from trivial differences.
- John appears on a television show The Chat, a nod to the show The View.
- Carris uncannily resembles the talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
- On a television in Lysella's coffee shop, a news anchor points out that the South Madaka resevoir is contaminated by industrial waste but his guest responds that 74 percent of the population has voted that assessment as false, and therefore cannot be true. This mocks how American society treats anthropogenic climate change as a mere opinion rather than the consensus of climate scientists.
- Gordon calls the Sargun system of Social Correction and votes, "government by American Idol."
- John speculates that a "Bustin Jieber" may be found on the planet, referring to Justin Bieber.
|多數決原則 (Duōshù jué yuánzé)||Chinese||"majority rule"|
|Une démocratie totale||French||"a total democracy"|
|Döntő többség||Hungarian||"overwhelming majority"|
|La maggioranza vince||Italian||"the majority wins"|
|多数決社会 (Tasūketsu shakai)||Japanese||"majority society"|
|Правило большинства||Russian||"majority rule"|
|La regla de la mayoría||Spanish||"the rule of the majority"|
|Більшість рулить||Ukranian||"the majority rule"|
- Lysella has a can of Café Bustelo coffee grounds in her apartment.
- While talking to a newspaper vendor, a few frames can be seen of actress Halston Sage (Alara Kitan) pointing up while Kelly Grayson speaks, possibly pointing at lighting or the boom microphone, or responding to a stage direction.
- The magazines in the rack of the newspaper stall normally show generic topics that could apply to any civilization on any world, such as dieting trends and interior decoration. However, one anachronistic headline slipped through: "The New 2016 Silverado."
- An audience member of The Chat wears their vote badge upside-down.
- Comments reacting to Isaac's videos can be seen on the Master Feed's screen before he uploads the videos.
Names and titles are as they appear in the episode credits unless otherwise noted.
- Seth MacFarlane as Capt. Ed Mercer
- Adrianne Palicki as Cmdr. Kelly Grayson
- Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn
- Scott Grimes as Lt. Gordon Malloy
- Peter Macon as Lt. Cmrdr. Bortus
- Halston Sage as Lt. Alara Kitan
- J. Lee as Lt. John LaMarr (as J Lee)
- Mark Jackson as Isaac
- Giorgia Whigham as Lysella
- Loren Lester as Lewis
- Barry Livingston as Tom
- Steven Culp as Willks
- Catherine Shu as Hoshel
- John Viener as Talk Show Moderator
- Roy Abramsohn as Morning Host
- Mike Estes as Guard #1
- Michael Shen as Man in Suit
- Heather Brooker as Mother
- London Fuller as Little Girl #1
- Gwen Van Dam as Grandmother
- Alec Manley Wilson as Man #1
- Matthew Spencer as Man #2
- Curtis Kingsley as Man #3 (Man Spilling Coffee)
- Denell Johnson as Man #4
- Danny Smith as Vendor
- Merrick McCartha as Scientist
- Matt Kaminsky as Interviewer
- Penny Peyser as Customer
- Jesse Egan as Pedestrian
- Corey Mendell Parker as Policeman #1
- Travis Goodman as Detention Guard
- Anne Judson-Yager as Carris
- Kimberly Fox as Semmla
- Daniel Robaire as Man in Cap
- Phillip O'Riley as Sargun
- Majority Rule
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