At the beginning of The Orville, we are told that Moclans are an entirely male species. However, the third episode reveals that, in rare cases, Moclans are born female and that corrective surgery is performed to make them physically male. This becomes an important plot point over the course of the series as more and more female Moclans are discovered who live to adulthood and desire to be recognized.

Wikipedia states that the defining biological characteristics of a female is the production of ova (i.e. an egg), but that doesn't apply for Moclans since Bortus lays an egg in the second episode despite being classified as a male and having another male as a mate.

So what is the physical difference between a male Moclan and female Moclan?

  • As it’s a comedy, might be The Rule of Funny? – Stormblessed Aug 30 '19 at 18:13
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    @Stormblessed If that was the original intent, we're well past it. After a few episodes, the show became less "Galaxy Quest" and more "TNG with a few jokes thrown in". The existence of female Moclans and their desire for independence, as well as Bortus' regret over having his child changed into a male, have been recurring plots throughout the show. – Thunderforge Aug 30 '19 at 19:07
  • Oh, I didn’t know that; I only saw the first episode, which seemed to me to be very much just a silly Star Trek parody. – Stormblessed Aug 30 '19 at 19:21
  • I have suspicions that the answer is nothing (or nothing meaningful anyway). – StarHawk Aug 30 '19 at 19:29
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    +1 for a question that isn't about Thanos minutiae. – user62584 Aug 31 '19 at 0:18

Fair warning - may contain spoilers!

This was the title of the question when I originally posted this response.
What is the difference between a male Moclan and female Moclan?

Sociologically speaking, there's quite a bit of difference.

On the male-centric Moclan homeworld (Moclus), it appears that the majority of male Moclans live in cities heavily polluted by industry. One of their primary industries is designing and producing heavy weaponry for spacecraft. This makes them desirable members of the Federation Planetary Union and the Moclan are not shy about threatening to withhold upgraded weapons if they don't get their way.

The first adult female Moclan we meet is a self-imposed outcast named Heveena. She writes books and poetry and is considered one of the greatest writers in Moclan history. However, she writes under a pseudonym (Gondus Elden) so as to avoid imprisonment and possible lawfully mandated surgical correction mutilation.

In season 2 we are introduced to a secret society of female Moclans that left the homeworld and founded a colony of refuge hidden in a nebula. There is an 'underground railroad' that transports young female Moclans there so they can grow up as females. They live a peaceful existence and couldn't hope to defend their colony against a full scale male Moclan invasion force although they do appear to have some loosely organized defensive forces.

So ideologically speaking, Moclan men are from Moclus, Moclan women are from a planet orbiting a K-type star in a Class 6 nebula¹.

¹ In the spirit of the Orville, this is just a cheap joke based on Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus written by American author and relationship counselor John Gray.

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One possibility is that Moclans are hermaphrodites who culturally assume a male identity, even through either of a pair could be assume the "male" or "female" role when it comes to reproduction (ie, one supplies the ovum, the other the sperm). "Female" Moclans are those who are physiologically unable to fill the role of a male. To put it bluntly, since Bortas was immediately able to see the issue, perhaps it's simple as they're born without a penis, or whatever the analogue is.

This would explain why the Moclans regard being born "female" as a deformity; from their point of view, it is.

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The differences between male and female Moclan seems to be about the same as the difference between male and female humans

the females we have seen appear smaller in stature and are presumably physically weaker, as to internal biology however we have no information

An all male race is not really possible biologically speaking however the Moclan fixation on maleness seems to be somewhat cultural as we learn that many more females are born than the government acknowledges so it is possible Moclan's are actually hermaphroditic and the "females" are just inferior genetic stock and the corrective surgery is nothing more than a huge dose of a testosterone analogue to make them "male" and strong enough to survive their hostile planet.

It is also possible that the corrective surgery only alters the physical appearance and any Moclan that can lay an egg is technically female and the cultural brainwashing is effective enough that discussing the fact that you had a female child is just not done in decent company.

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    “Any Moclan that can lay an egg is technically female”. Evidence against this is that Bortus is a male from birth and laid an egg, but Klyden was a female from birth until going through the surgery to become male. Besides, the Moclan government doesn’t seem to take any issue with their child being hatched from an egg, just the nature of their child. – Thunderforge Aug 31 '19 at 3:38
  • Maybe, as an alternative they might have had males, and females, and hermaphrodites in their species, the latter of which were at some point in the past strongly culturally coded as male. So you would still have some males who could lay eggs or sire them, and some males who could only sire eggs, so the suppression/elimination of those females who could only lay eggs wouldn't mean a total lack of offspring and the end of their race. That could also account for @Thunderforge's observation of those who could lay eggs and were considered male while being physically distinct from those female. – Megha Sep 2 '19 at 2:13

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