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Why the "Flowers Never Bend" Performance in The Orville 3.9 Will Last Forever

The Best Song In Science Fiction

By Paul LevinsonPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

This sweet soulful rendition by Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) and Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters) of Simon & Garfunkel's "Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall" this past July on the 9th episode of the 3rd Season of The Orville certainly wasn't the first vocal performance in a TV drama or comedy that wasn't a musical. It's not even the first sustained singing in a Star Trek or Star Trek inspired TV show. Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) sang "Beyond Antares" in a memorable scene with Spock (in "The Conscience of the King,” episode 1.13 of the original Star Trek series in December 1966) and a couple of other times on the USS Enterprise on network television back then.

But "Beyond Antares" was an original song, from the 23rd century, when it was heard for the first time in Star Trek, and therefore couldn't possibly evoke any of the memories and feelings that Simon & Garfunkel's "Flowers" brought forth a few months ago, rooted in the dozens of times in millions of homes and cars in which Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (the LP which contained "Flowers") was first released, heard, and loved in October 1966, enriched by the increasing number of people who would continue to hear that song in the years ahead, as Simon & Garfunkel, both together and individually, became and continued to be musical icons.

That was the main reason Grimes and Winters' beautiful performance really struck me the first time I heard and saw their performance in July. The other reason was the assembled group from The Orville, who were fortunate to hear this rendition in person. Not only who they were -- the species and role of their characters in the series -- but their expressions as Gordon and Charly sang for them were just perfect.

But this one minute and thirty seconds has really stayed with me since the summer. I now consider it easily the best musical performance in any science fiction on the screen. And I think I know why.

[Spoilers follow ... ]

It's because we learned, as season 3 progressed and concluded with its 10th episode, that Charly singing "my life will never end" had a meaning and resonance that Paul Simon couldn't have foreseen when he wrote those lyrics way back in the 1960s. In that 10th episode, Charly's life does bravely end. Her heroic sacrifice would have been hard to forget in any case. But making that sacrifice after singing that line was a masterstroke. Surely, Seth MacFarlane (and co-writers Brannon Braga and André Bormanis) must have known what would happen to Charly in the 10th episode when they decided to have her sing that song with that line in the 9th episode.

And I'd expect the actors in The Orville would have known about Charly's fate as well. Look at Kelly's face around 30 seconds into the video. She's standing next to Ed, both really enjoying the performance, smiling, but at 30 or so seconds she momentarily almost loses that smile. And that's right around the time Charly sings, "pretend, my life will never end". Coincidence? I don't think so. Was she directed to briefly lose that smile? I have no idea -- perhaps Adrianne Palicki, who plays Kelly so well, was consciously or unconsciously in touch with what she knew was going to happen to Charly, and was hit by that awful irony.

A beautiful, haunting song, brought to life by two beautiful voices and acoustic strings, strummed and plucked, in a scene that I predict will be seen and heard in the corridors of unique science fiction forever.

Renew The Orville!

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About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan translated into 15 languages. Details here. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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