The Orville continues its debut season with its seventh episode, “Majority Rule”. This episode is ripe with social commentary, taking place on a planet incredibly similar to modern-day Earth. Commander Kelly leads a team comprised of herself, Claire, John, and Alara. Together, they head onto the planet to rescue to missing Union anthropologists.
Show creator (and star) Seth MacFarlane is no stranger to pulling his story ideas from current news. Many of his animated shows, such as Family Guy, rely on staying topical and relevant as seasons continue. The Orville has been a unique creation from MacFarlane, a departure from his usual work. However, it’s obvious that he couldn’t stay away from social commentary too long, as the entire episode wraps around it.
We’re introduced to a society that’s much like our own, with the exception of their political system. On this Earth-like planet, society functions as a total democracy; every voice equal. Each person has a personal badge that displays upvotes and downvotes, and you can cast your opinion on someone by simply tapping their chest. Furthermore, social media interactions have consequences, and online users can also affect your rating. This system, coupled with an ignorant act performed by Lieutenant John LaMarr, and the Orville team land themselves in some hot water.
As the episode plays out, we learn how the planet’s justice system works. Citizens who find themselves in hot water are toured around, appearing on talk shows and in public events. Eventually, they receive punishment based on “the final vote”, a mass decision on whether or not someone should be convicted of their crime. The entire political system is an allegory for how we crucify people on the internet and through social media, often without knowing the whole story. The episode shows just how quickly the masses are willing to condemn someone for a simple misunderstanding, and the consequences that can have on a global level.
As a story told in The Orville, “Majority Rule” is an entertaining adventure for our crew. It’s also an important message to ponder, and its final lesson is positive rather than pessimistic. As a metaphor to how social media has dominated our society, “Majority Rule” performs adamantly but isn’t completely sound. I do commend Seth MacFarlane for attempting a topical conversation, but other shows (Black Mirror, specifically) have told very similar stories to a stronger effect. However, The Orville is both comedic and lighthearted, which makes the very depressing reality of our capitalistic society a hard topic to cover. “Majority Rule” succeeds in that regard and is one of the highest rated episodes of the season thus far. Fans will certainly enjoy the tale told within, and more philosophical viewers will enjoy pondering the questions it leaves.