HomeTechnologyArtificial intelligenceThe Orville: The Moral Conundrums of Time Travel, Part 1

The Orville: The Moral Conundrums of Time Travel, Part 1

The last two episodes I discussed of Orville Season 3 have delved into popular political issues that allowed the writers’ bias to harm the plot. This episode, part 6, does something even worse.

It may not seem so bad at first. But let me explain why this episode is terrible from a standpoint beyond writing. Yes, the writing sucks, but that’s part of this show. However, it is one thing to chat about political issues that are fashionable. But it’s quite another matter to kill a family and defend the decision, setting a set of priorities that are, to say the least, unhealthy.

Writers describe the human condition, including revealing the most poignant events and exploring the darkest regions of the soul. But there is a difference between describing an event and advocating for it.

This may seem like just a story, but I would like you to try to detect their message. I would never recommend this season of the show – and this episode in particular – for fun, but after reading this article I hope you’ll consider watching this episode to see if you can pick up on my interpretation – whether it can agree. I’m going to try to describe a very manipulative tactic used by the writers in this story to get you to agree to murder. In fact, they force you to watch a ritual.

Our story begins with the invention of a time travel device. There have been episodes of time travel in the The Orville before. But the rules for how time travel works are ambiguous, as they must be, for any hope of continuity.

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But this fact poses a problem from the very beginning because the Union has a policy on the Butterfly effect without any clear understanding of the rules of time travel. The Union just doesn’t want to risk anything, so it doesn’t take any risks. This means no interaction with the past in any way, should anyone get stuck there.

This is an absurd and impossible idea, as I discussed in a previous article, but we will not focus on that for now. As an aside, it’s also hypocritical. We’ll see why later.

The Orville has a time travel device on board and the Union orders the crew to take it to a lab. During the conversation in which the orders are given, the admiral speaks Ed and Kelly — states that the reason why the Union wants to move the device is that the Kaylon or krill could use it to travel back in time and dissolve the Union. So they recognize that – by the Union’s own rules and the writers – if anything were to happen that would cause them to cease to exist in their present form, that would and should be considered something bad, something like an act of war, something similar to murder. Remember this little fact. It will come back later.

The Orville crew, along with other members of the Union, fly to the lab, only to find it destroyed. Then Kaylon ships appear and attack the Union fleet. The Orville is badly damaged and become trapped in a tractor beam. Desperately tell crew members Gordon to destroy the time travel device.

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He grabs a gun and walks over to the device. But LaMarr pulls off some last-minute engineering and frees the ship from the tractor beam. We’re told he’s overloading the main engine, and the next discharge shatters the jet. But it also causes the time traveling device to malfunction and Gordon is sent to the year 2015.

Gordon somehow manages to send a message back to the ship, and the Orville must now use the device to travel back to the past and rescue him. They use the device, but during the jump through time, the ship runs out Dysonium – essentially the ship’s fuel – and the ship stops in the year 2025 instead of 2015.

In the story, Earth has Dysonium in its mantle, so Charlie and Isaac be sent to collect the mineral so that The Orville can fly again.

Now here comes the first major – and frankly unforgivable – plot hole. In an earlier scene, the crew looks up Gordon’s obituary. So they know that Gordon has lived a full life. Each obituary will list his children and relationships, so the ethical questions raised by this episode should have been brought up then when the crew realized what they were planning to do. Gordon has a wife and children. By taking him into this timeline, they would eradicate the children’s existence. That’s a big problem.

And, as made clear earlier, even the Union recognizes such a change as devastating – at least when it comes to their own well-being. It would be horrible to have Gordon lose his family, especially if they don’t get to him before he builds his family. That would be traumatic, wouldn’t it. I wonder what will happen?

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Ethical issues aside, the sensible solution would be to wait for Charly and Isaac to return with the mineral and fly to the correct date. True, the ship is damaged, but at the moment the time machine is in order, so the crew could afford to wait. If you’ll pardon the pun, they have nothing but time, and waiting would have spared Gordon the trauma of losing his family, which is the moral conundrum of this episode.

But you see, dear reader, the writers want Gordon to endure this trauma. They have a message that they want to sell you, and that message is the only reason to bring up the ship’s damage. They must make it seem like Ed has no choice but to go to Earth and retrieve Gordon in the current time period. But as we’ve seen, it costs them nothing to wait, and it saves Gordon pain.

So, why this contrived drama? Why does Ed really have to get down to earth and tear poor Gordon away from his family? Because – as Kelly puts it so subtly – “family changes a man.”

We will continue this discussion next Saturday!

You may also want to read: Orville Episode 5: Bad Allegory — but skillful writing Competent writing compensates for an otherwise dull exposition of transgender ideology. The season three writers should have explored the character’s fear more, rather than pushing the anti-traditional narrative, for a more compelling story.



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