Let’s talk about this shot in “New Dimensions”:
That’s Kelly reacting to Ed kissing her on the cheek at the end of a long-delayed apology. See, this is the episode where he finally learns what we’ve known since the pilot: he’s only Captain because Kelly, guilt-ridden over her part in their divorce and willing to call in a lot of political favors, made it happen. This could have been the type of secret repeatedly teased throughout the season, possibly via continued status updates from Kelly to Victor Garber’s Admiral character. Instead and probably for the best, it’s largely been forgotten until Kelly accidentally mentions it in passing in “New Dimensions,” setting off a crisis of conscience in Ed.
This actually comes about because Kelly suggests LaMarr for a possible promotion to Chief Engineer. She, as it turns out, is a bit of a Kingmaker, sensing greatness and untapped potential in others (in this case, two men) and giving them the necessary push to become their better selves. She did it with Ed, and here she is doing it again with LaMarr, whose personnel file reveals an aptitude and intelligence level rarely displayed in what has been an undistinguished and unambitious career. When Ed expresses doubt over her view of LaMarr’s potential but relents and yields to his faith in her opinion she inadvertently lets it out that Ed’s only in the Captain’s chair because of her (a fact she sees as validating the strength of her opinions).
Thus, “New Dimensions” turns into a story about male ego and ambition or lack thereof. Ed doesn’t know how to proceed forward as Captain without second guessing every one of his decisions since he didn’t actually earn his promotion in the first place whereas LaMarr wants nothing to do with his potential promotion until it turns out he’s kind of good at it.
This, in Star Trek terms, is mostly a LaMarr episode. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your opinion of the character, sort of like how saying a Counselor Troi episode means something different to Next Gen fans than saying a Data episode. LaMarr, to this point, has been a comic relief character, even when his life was in peril in the Black Mirror scenario. On top of that, J. Lee’s has a seriously limited range as an actor. So, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to a serious LaMarr episode, and I’m not really looking forward to another one. Through a combination of his acting and a script which overly burdened the entire cast with endless technobabble, “New Dimensions” falls about as flat as the 2-D dimension (which looks oddly like a screensaver, ala Malloy’s joke in the last episode) the characters visit.
That being said, I do like the idea of a story about a crewmember being pushed to achieve their full potential. What I would really like, though, would be a story about Kelly achieving her potential.
Simply put, why isn’t she Captain? Why is she being used to prop up two male co-stars in “New Dimensions”? There is a tinge of sadness in her face in the shot I included, but it is followed by a more self-assured expression, Adrianne Palicki playing the moment as Kelly feeling justifiably satisfied with being so right about both Ed and LaMarr. The temporary display of sadness, I take it, is meant to reflect her complicated feelings over not being with Ed anymore, his kissing her on the cheek serving as a physical reminder of what they used to have versus what they have now. But for a moment I imagined Kelly thinking to herself, “Maybe it’s time I got my own ship,” and I liked it.
“New Dimensions” is The Orville’s equivalent of the old expression about there being a great woman behind every great man, with Kelly slipping into a nurturing role to coach the men around her. I didn’t take it as a sexist storyline. In fact, I think there was a lot of truth in it about male and female tendencies. The episode, to its credit, arrives at a point of chastising the idiot male, in this case, Ed, who couldn’t accept help. He has to learn to get over himself. But it struck me the far more interesting storyline might be Kelly seizing her own dreams instead of pushing others into theirs, that is unless she doesn’t actually want to be Captain. Has anyone asked?
THE NOTES & NITPICKS
- Goodbye, Chief Engineer whose name I could never remember. Due to his parting joke, I will now think of him as He Who Drinks a Lot.
- He Who Drinks a Lot is leaving to design a space station? That has to be some kind of Chief O’Brien going from Next Gen to DS9 reference, right?
- A cat on the bridge? There’s no way Alara, the Chief of Security, would second it.
- Totally expected them to make an Alf-loves-to-eat-cat joke when Bortus asked what a cat was.
- Might this finally be the end of Malloy and LaMarr’s asinine pranks? Nah. They’ll probably be gluing people’s buttcheeks to toilet seats next week.
- When exactly did Yaphet go from protesting LaMarr’s promotion to embracing him and sincerely asking if there was anything he could do to help? Being on the verge of death-by-flattening probably helped.
- Is using Doctor Who was a reference point to help explain “bigger on the inside” another unnecessary Orville pop culture reference? Or a classic Star Trek “it’s just like…” explanation?
- “I behaved like a whiny little bitch” – Another Orville line you’ll probably never hear in an actual Star Trek show.
- Yaphet got so thoroughly screwed in this episode. The dude who literally cut off a piece of his body and fed it to someone else is now his boss even though he has absolutely no credentials and almost no work experience for the job. Bitter pill to swallow, man.