I wasn’t sure what to expect with The Orville on Fox. When I first heard about it I thought we were going to get a silly parody making fun of Star Trek at best, or just Family Guy in space at worst. After seeing the first episode I was pleasantly surprised. The Orville comes off as a humorous homage to Star Trek from people who genuinely love the show, but don’t take it too seriously. The writing is good, the effects are fantastic, and the story in the first episode is very reminiscent of an episode of the show that inspired it. It’s almost as if serving on a starship like the Orville is a regular job at the office rather than a military duty. At least that’s how the character interaction plays out.
MacFarlane is actually good as a struggling fleet officer who has been through a tough bout in his relationship and is struggling to maintain his job. It’s a very realistic character, and not just a silly dope as I expected. Like the rest of the characters he has real issues and personality, and his world is more like what ours will probably look like in the future. In the world presented by the show there’s no altruistic Federation that’s banded humanity together and eliminated all the bad things that make us human. There’s actual conflict on the ship, which is something that Roddenberry never wanted, but ultimately made it a little less believable. The ship is more like a work place, and the characters are doing a job rather than some noble duty.
In a way the show reminds me of Galaxy Quest, except it’s not about the cast of a science fiction show. It has a sense of humor that isn’t degrading to the genre at all. From the first episode, and previews for the others, it looks like The Orville will do much of what Star Trek did when dealing with issues. It remains to be seen if they can keep the subtle humor and touch on topics without being overbearing about it. It might actually be the franchise reboot that fans of Star Trek actually want. It’s on TV accessible to anyone with basic cable, touching, humorous, and nice to look at. Whether the new Star Trek: Discovery can keep fans with it’s premium pay-wall, apparent hamfisted politics, and extreme changes from the original material remains to be seen. There are already rumblings from the fans.
The rest of the cast is good so far, and there’s a great variety of species. The young security officer that is stronger than she looks, because she’s used to a stronger gravity. The single gender second officer who we learn urinates once a year and lays eggs. A racist android, and a variety of human crew people round out a cast of central characters that all seem up to the task of delivering an entertaining show. The show was a bit rough around the edges, and a couple of jokes got a little silly. They didn’t push it too far though which was good. Just when something started to become a little too eye-rolling they moved on. With a little polish the show looks like it will settle into something fun and entertaining. The writing is far from perfect, and there were a few stumbling moments in the first episode. Everyone seems to still be trying to fit into their roles, which isn’t unusual for the first episode of a new show. Give it a watch, if you haven’t already. It will probably fill the void for those of us who don’t want to pay extra for a show that looks like it will be too steeped in politics to be enjoyable.