There are two words that pop into my head whenever I think of Seth MacFarlane’s current space dramedy, The Orville. Ridiculously. Frustrating. It’s not Star Trek, but it is. It’s like The Orville is a Star Trek fan production that managed to sneak its way onto prime-time television.
And with MacFarlane at the helm, you would think it’d be chockful of low-brow humour, particularly as it’s been billed as a comedy for the FOX network.
It’s not though, except when it is.
With crass productions like The Family Guy & Ted, I had expected The Orville to be of the same ilk. Something that I really don’t have time for.
Except now I’m eagerly waiting to see episode four, and I’m being all kinds of impatient about it.
The Orville cast photo, including Seth MacFarlane as Captain Ed Mercer, and Adrianne Palicki as Commander Kelly Grayson
I honestly don’t know what to make of the show, but it’s doing something right, because I can’t wait for more.
[Warning: Minor spoilers below.]
Don’t be mislead, the trademark crass is totally there. I’m impressed that the show managed to get away with fully displaying a rough sketch of male alien genitalia, in the third episode, About a Girl. I mean, the Maya the Bee children’s cartoon on Netflix absolutely did it better. That doesn’t change the fact that I saw more of the alien Yaphit, than I would normally be comfortable with.
Here’s what’s frustratingly ridiculous:
- It’s like the Doctor decided to have a bit of fun, and brought a bunch of Americans from 21st century SoCal, and tasked them to navigate a spaceship and an alien society in the 25th.
- They know the lyrics to Destiny’s Child Survivor, and have a good idea of what “kids, roll the windows up” means… despite their futuristic pod/vehicles not really having the kind of windows you’d have to roll, let alone manually.
- They’ve got great inside-jokes that they probably shouldn’t understand in the year 2418, without a serious love of history. Captain Mercer knows what Arbor Day is… kids today don’t know the meaning of Arbor Day.
- The set and costume designs are so achingly Star Trek, I’m always waiting for someone to quote the Prime Directive while they work through an Ordeal.
- Their Science & Engineering officer is more robot-like than the beloved Original (if Spock and a Cylon Centurion had a baby…), feeling all superior and wanting to study human behaviour. I’m just waiting for a signature hand gesture to happen.
What will keep me coming back for more:
Lieutenant John Marr (human), “White dude can go into Compton, as long as the black guy says, ‘It’s cool.'”
Chief Security Officer Alara Kitan (alien),”I’ve no idea what that means, but yes.”
~ The Orville Episode 2, Command Performance
In The Orville, race and gender are key issues in all three episodes that have so far aired. Every episode is seemingly a social commentary on current issues we’re facing today, with brief moments of distraction from a shiny, sleek spaceship, that warps oh so prettily.
Occasionally, their social message is nuanced, largely though they’re smacking their audience upside the head with mama’s biggest frying pan to get their point across. Which might be exactly what today’s audience needs.
I think I’m liking the idea of a Star Trek-esque universe that isn’t perfectly structured; where humans don’t have their shit together. It’s gritty. It’s a spacefaring adventure that is neither utopic nor dystopic in nature, it just is.
That said, the first episode was such a disaster, I’m thankful that I live by a rule that says to wait out a show for at least three episodes before deciding whether I’ll stick around or not. It was bad. The acting was bad. The writing, bad. Direction, okay, but not great. The only thing to save it was the graphics, but even then you’re likely distracted by the obvious attempts to green screen outer space.
- THE #1 directed The Orville‘s fifth episode, “Pria”. (i.e. Jonathan Frakes, you pedestrian.) And roughly a week ago, MacFarlane hinted to possibly having cameos from Star Trek royalty on the show soon.
- Despite all the 21st century-isms, there are no hand-held devices, nor social networks to be seen yet. I’m a bit shocked at this.
- Is it any wonder that The Orville feels like Star Trek, when Executive Producer Brannon Braga has both writing and production credits for a slew of Star Trek television series and movies. Writing credits include Star Trek: TNG, Voyager, and Enterprise.
- If Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) looks at all familiar to you, it’s because she bears a striking resemblance to Kasidy Yates, Captain Benjamin Sisko’s girl in that show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Ron Canada (Admiral Tucker) has credits for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Brian George (Dr. Aronov) was also seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.
In all, way to go MacFarlane, for bringing back a familiar space drama television show that geeks have been missing for over a decade. A couple weeks before Star Trek: Discovery is meant to air even.
Have you seen The Orville yet? What are your thoughts on this new show?