Authors Note: Please be warned, this review will be very spoiler heavy.
At the end of The Orville’s second episode, the egg that Bortus is brooding over hatches and his baby is born. To his and Klyden’s surprise, they baby is a girl. How can that be? The Moclan species is supposedly a single gender species according to dialogue in the first episode. In this episode, we get a further look into the Moclan culture. We learn that it is indeed possible for Moclans to be born as female. The Moclan society also views being female as a disability that is corrected with a sex reassignment surgery after the child is born. This is compared to a child born with a cleft palette, a direct comparison made in the episode.
A series of issues and ethical discussions come up. The first comes in an interaction between Bortus and Dr.Finn. As the Orville is a good distance from Moclan territory, Bortus asks Finn to perform the procedure. Finn refuses to do so as based on her knowledge of Moclan physiology, the child is perfectly healthy and believes as a physician, she would be doing harm to the child. Bortus then goes to Capatin Mercer to voice his complaints and is met with a similar rejection from him. Eventually, Bortus goes behind Mercer’s back to arrange a meeting with a Moclan ship to arrange a pickup to take the child back to the Moclan home world.
The crew attempts to rally and try to make Bortus see what they perceive as an error in thinking. This works to paint a backdrop of exploring the concept of imposing one’s own thinking on another culture and try to adapt. Alara faces Bortus in a boxing match to shoe that women can be strong as she easily defeats him with her race’s incredible strength. John and Gordon then stop by with beers and convince Bortus to watch Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer with them. This is done in attempt to convince Bortus that what is perceived as a disability can be overcome and great things can be done by anyone. This kind of reminds me of O’Brien coming to Worf with bloodwine after Jadzia died and getting him to admit he is concerned she would not get into StoVoKor. Bortus is moved by the movie and becomes convinced that they should not just change the child. This particular scene has been one of my favorite uses of pop culture in The Orville so far.
The drama continues now that Bortus and Klyden are in disagreement. Klyden reveals that he was born female and had the procedure done as a child. Bortus is furious that Klyden did not reveal this to him and their relationship is visibly strained. During the disagreement, Bortus calls for tribunal to make the final decision. Kelly is called upon to act as mediator for Bortus as she has had a year of interplanetary law and is the most qualified among the crew. The tribunal scene reminds me a lot of TNG’s The Measure of a Man,where Data is put on trial to determine if he is an individual or property. Kelly sets out to show that being female is not a condition and can be an asset in the right circumstances. She highlights Alara’s physical strength and the fact that while Gordon is the best pilot in the fleet, he has a low IQ and can not answer basis grade school questions to try to dispel thoughts of male superiority.
Meanwhile, Mercer has the planet scanned and finds a Moclan female who is in hiding. She is brought into the tribunal as a character witness. She begins quoting from a a famous Moclan writer, angering the council until she reveals that she was the one that wrote the novel. This provides another look at gender roles as there are times that females will do things under assumed names to have leverage. Even Harry Potter author JK Rowling used her initials as a published name to help initial buys of Harry Potter as publishers believed the type of story she penned would not sell as well knowing the author was female.
The episode ends on a somber note after despite the overwhelming reasoning the procedure should not be done, it is ruled the procedure will take place. Bortus and Klyden are presented with their now son and vow to give the child the best possible life and seem to be as still in love as they were before, although now with some possible issues to work through. About A Girl was a well done episode and handled tough social issues in a very Star Trek way. I did not think Seth MacFarlane could write mature content like this but I am happy to be wrong in that regard. This episode has cemented with me that The Orville is a series worth watching and hopefully only continues to get better from here.