One of the most grim moments in the usually optimistic program, The Orville honors the harsh realities of the Game of Thrones series. An attempt to liberate a planet brings George R.R. Martin’s works to mind for Lieutenant Commander Talla Keyali.
The Orville is a humorous, sci-fi adventure show that was conceived as a love letter to space exploration fiction, particularly Star Trek. And much like Star Trek, various members of the Orville crew often acknowledge popular Earth culture, despite the show taking place hundreds of years in the future. Over the years, the show has toned down it’s references, but The Orville still manages to get some decent comedic mileage out of the bringing up late 20th/early 21st century media in the early 25th century. And to be fair, there is something amusing about American Idol standing the test of time for several hundred years.
But one moment experienced by the Orville’s Chief of Security, Talla Keyali, was so dark, there was only one reference that truly captured how brutal life could be. In The Orville: Heroes by David A. Goodman and David Cabeza, a species known as the Okudum have developed a quantum reactor, and Ed Mercer sends the Orville crew to investigate. However, upon their arrival, the team discovers that the Okudum have been enslaved by another race known as the Nazh. To help the Okudum, Talla takes on the identity of Xandia, an Okudum folklore hero. Talla even manages to inspire a young Okudum woman named Aki to take up the Xandia mantle for herself. However, Aki visciously murders and decapitates a Nazh leader and implores the Orville to leave her planet. Talla reflects on Aki’s transformation and remembers a line from an old Earth book given to Talla by Captain Mercer.It was Sansa Stark in A Game of Thrones that said “There are no heroes…in life, the monsters win”. It’s a reminder that very rarely in life are happy endings a reality and that more often than not goodness doesn’t always win out. More often than not, the pop culture references in The Orville are light and serve as breaks from the show’s dramas. But here, Talla brings up the beloved book to communicate the pitfalls of the Union’s mission in trying to attain peace.
The Okudum were oppressed for years by the Nazh and Talla felt it was her duty to help liberate its people. But in the Orville crew member’s desire to help, she failed to recognize how trauma can change those who are victimized. The Okudum may be free from the rule of the Nazh, but does that mean that the Okudum will go back to their peaceful ways? Or have they become monsters in their struggles against the Nazh? Talla’s Game of Thrones reference is a stark reminder that even on The Orville, sometimes darker ends are unavoidable.