For a long time I have wanted to watch The Orville. The show created by comedian Seth MacFarlane has been on air since 2017. So far has seen the release of two seasons. Right from the start the series has been billed as one harkening back Star Trek TOS and The Next Generation. And with good reason, some elements are so closely copied its a miracle Fox has not been sued. Over the Christmas holiday I decided to binge watch both season together with The Witcher. And I am glad I did. The show made me remember everything I liked about TNG and shows such as Stargate SG-1.
With watching The Orville I managed to scratch a particular itch. Series such as Star Trek The Next Generation are gone for good. It managed to create three successor shows of which the last – Enterprise – ended in 2005. Star Trek Discovery has so far failed to make favorable comparisons to the classic Star Trek and that has left some fans vocally despondent. I won’t go so far as to say I dislike Discovery, but it can be a frustrating show to watch. Discovery has all the advantages a series could want: a studio willing to throw money at the wall, spectacular special effects and an incredible cast.
No 3D chess on The Orville
Yet, somehow the show doesn’t really click with me, other than a few moments when the drama pays off, the humor actually works and the sophisticated plots are engrossing and make sense. Discovery is simply too much of a investment in time and effort. Effort it takes to understand why the characters make stupid decisions, why do they disobey every order and why should the audience believe they were right all along. The Orville is much simpler than that, Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) are not playing three-dimensional chess in every episode.
Instead the stories on The Orville are usually contained to a single episode with major character development taking a whole season. This feels similar in spirit to The Next Generation. And yet, The Orville does dare to go deep within a single episode. During season 1 Mercer and Lieutenant Malloy (played by Scott Grimes) go undercover with the Krill – the deadly enemy of the Union (stand-in for Starfleet). In that story both characters have all of their beliefs challenged and the audience gains a thorough insight into the Krill. Yet, at the end of the episode Mercer and Malloy are back on The Orville and capitalize on their new found knowledge.
Wordplay and innuendo
The audience does not have to wait have half a season for the fallout of a particular event to occur. At the same time The Orville contains a lot of comedy, the same goes for ‘classic’ Star Trek, but here it is not just undercurrent. The gags are based on wordplay, sexual innuendo and poking fun at the things Star Trek could never do. All this makes The Orville one of the most fun shows to watch right now. Slowly critics are taking note and revised their initial opinions. With season receiving near universal praise. Season 2 improved on the TNG++ formula with a more consistent distinction between drama and comedy. The first season could contain both a lot in the same episode which could make it feel tonally disjointed.
That as well as improvements in special effects have contributed to a steady increase in Star Trek fans taking note of The Orville. And so has CBS. Star Trek is getting a new show featuring Jean-Luc Picard front-and-center with more ‘classic’ Star Trek characters in the wings. If it will be anything like TNG or The Orville remains to be seen. Meanwhile Discovery character Philippa Georgiou played by Michelle Yeoh will also get her own show. Fans would also very much like to see a Christopher Pike series. It seems CBS is focusing on spinning off the best parts of Discovery just to hedge its bets. However, Discovery is slowly finding its feet. I liked season 2 more than its first and I hope season 3 will continue to capitalize on that trend.
The Orville on Hulu
The Orville is set to get its third season late this year. I even placed it on my list of most anticipated Science Fiction series of 2020. Go check out that article. Fox has decided to bring the show over to Hulu – its subscription based streaming service.