We finally caught the final episode of The Orville, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m also glad to hear about, and looking forward to the second season. Our only outlet currently for new Star Trek has its cursing and dark anti-Trek themes locked behind a pay-wall. Or, we can look forward to Tarantino’s R-Rated version (which frankly is less palatable than orange juice and tooth paste.) It’s no wonder that people have turned to this shameless love letter to Star Trek for a fix. The show offers what Trek fans have been missing for years now, and I’m happy we get to see more of it.
The Orville is obviously a spoof of Star Trek, but it’s more like Galaxy Quest in tone. It is a respectful homage to the source material that doesn’t take that material too seriously. Everything from the Federation of Planets analog known as The Union to The Orville’s own version of the prime directive shows Seth’s love of Star Trek. Other than a few extra, and often lame, jokes every episode of this show would fit right into the franchise that inspired it. When I first heard of the show I expected Family Guy in space, but for the most part that worry wasn’t needed.
That leads me to my one big issue with the show so I’m going to jump right in. Seth is a comedian, and he does write some funny stuff. The problem is there aren’t enough good jokes in the show for it to be a full blown comedy. There are some funny moments, and less-than-serious scenes that work well, but there’s quite a few lame attempts at humor that just don’t fit. I like how it feels like everyone on the ship are coworkers ribbing each other, and talking about their days like average office workers. I like the idea of the casual interaction, but I could do with a little less of the ‘Family Guy’ humor that’s dropped in. Thankfully it’s not much, and the rest of the show is good enough that those moments of groan-worthy lines don’t take too much away.
I like MacFarlane’s captain a lot in this. Each Star Trek series had a unique leader in each of her captains. Kirk’s brash, adventurous nature; the poised and honorable Picard; strong and fierce Sisko; firm, caring and unshakable Janeway; and the calm and light-hearted Archer all had one thing in common. They all fit the role of a larger than life standard for a starship captain. An almost infallible, lofty persona set on a pedestal that is the lead of a hit show, not just a fictional craft. Ed Mercer has a bit of all of them, clearly Seth’s homage to those who came before, but he’s also unique. He’s just a regular guy that happens to be the captain of a ship. He’s not the one in a million standard of an officer elevated to the station for being the top of their class, brash rogue breaking the rules, or peak representative of the Federation. He’s a little unsure, flawed, and he knows it. While the other captains are people we like to see ourselves being, the heroes that we aspire to emulate, Ed is the guy we can actually relate to.
The rest of the cast is doing a great job filling the roles of the ship’s crew. Adrianne Palicki’s Kelly Grayson could have easily been written as a one dimensional ex-wife with all the terrible tropes that come with it, but she isn’t. There’s the cocky hot-shot pilot played by Scott Grimes, who’s also shaken by some of the dangerous maneuvers he has to perform. The asexual alien Bortis is played stoically and literally by Peter Macon and has some of the funniest lines in the show. Rounding out the cast is Alara, the super strong security officer played by Halston Sage, Penny Johnson as the ship’s doctor, J. Lee as Lt. John LaMarr, and Mark Jackson as the racist android Isaac. Each character has their own lives, stories, strengths and flaws. They complete a varied cast of interesting characters whose lives are genuinely fun to watch.
The show isn’t perfect. I think some improvements in writing, especially on some of the humor, is in order. I’d like to see more of The Union, and the civilizations that are part of it. I want to see the show broaden outside its safe bubble they created in season 1. That said it is a great show. It’s fun to watch, and in a sense it feels familiar. It is very much inspired by Star Trek in every way, without being a copy, or a tone-deaf spoof. It is idealistic, without being too serious about it. It is, without a doubt, a truer continuation of Star Trek than we’ve seen in awhile. If you haven’t seen it yet, and especially if you’re a Trekkie, give it a shot. It won’t be for everyone, but I think a lot of you will enjoy this show.