‘From Emmy Award-Winning executive producer and creator Seth MacFarlane’, boasts YouTube. Well you know what YouTube, what would have been really nice is if you’d charged me full price for all 12 episodes instead of just the first 10. You know what, it’s not just YouTube. Amazon Video was only charging for the first 10 episodes aswell. I had to stream the last two episodes and I hate doing that. Anyway… The Orville. Actually, it’s a pretty good show. I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler free as I can because I actually want people to watch this show.
‘The Orville’ is set 400 years in the future and follows the antics of Captain Ed Mercer (Seth Macfarlane) as he takes the Captains chair on his first command of the exploratory spaceship, The Orville.
First impressions of this show were good. The opening scene shows Mercer returning home where he finds his wife Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) in bed with Darulio (Rob Lowe) who is a blue alien or ‘Retepsian’.
A year passes by and despite an unruly record, Mercer is offered his first command. His first choice for Helmsman is his best friend, Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes). When Mercer boards The Orville, the audience meets the rest of the crew. There’s Lieutenant John LaMarr (J.Lee) the navigator for The Orville and works alongside Malloy; Lieutenant Commander Bortus (Peter Macon) who is a Moclan, a species of alien whose only gender is male, Dr Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), the ships medical officer, Lieutenant Alara Katan (Halston Sage) the ships Chief of Security who is Xelayan which basically means that she’s about 10 times stronger than humans. And of course his Commander who sits by his side on the Bridge, Mercer has the grace of his ex-wife as his company, something he’s not too happy with in the pilot. Well, that rounds off the human and alien characters, but what about the robotic crew members?
Aside from the ships computer (Voiced by Rachael MacFarlane), the only other robotic crew member on the bridge is Isaac (Mark Jackson) the ship’s Science and Engineering Officer. Isaac is from Kaylon-1 and views any biological life-form as inferior to him as it is with anyone from Kaylon-1. Isaac does make his feelings towards humans known throughout the series but uses his time on the ship to study humans and the crew members are all too happy to teach him the rules of human behaviour, such as when Malloy tried to teach Isaac how to perform a practical joke which doesn’t end well for Malloy. Or his leg. It’s fair to say that Isaac warms up to humans towards the end.
So, what’s the point of this series? To travel round space? Sure but I’m talking about beneath the surface. What’s this shows ambition? Well in the first few episodes, I would say it’s main ambition is to be the most like ‘Star Trek’ as it possibly can. And on that note, it earns a big, fat gold star.
We all know that Seth MacFarlane is a huge Star Trek fan or more specifically ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ so if he were going to do a show about space then there are certainly worse space shows to rip off. Deep Space Nine comes to mind. I remember when I was very young, my dad and I used to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and that provided endless amounts of entertainment, especially when we used to take the piss out of Patrick Stewart’s posh accent.
So what influences did MacFarlane borrow from ‘Star Trek: TNG’ for his own show?
Pretty much everything. All the crew members wear the fancy suits with different colours representing different levels of authority; Lieutenant Commander Bortus couldn’t be more like Commander Wharf if he tried, there’s the layout of the bride, the weapons, the Borg have now become ‘The Krill’, there’s the rich density in the alien population creating the illusion of a vast universe and even the Orville itself bears a resemblance to the Enterprise.
But even though there are a lot of similar aspects to Star Trek, what we need to look at are the things that the show does differently. I could only find three. Another reviewer may do better but three was my best shot. But they’re big points. Let’s have a rundown.
Number One – Characters.
The characters in ‘The Orville’ differ greatly from ‘Star Trek’ despite my comment about Lieutenant Commander Bortus above. His resemblance to Commander Wharf is merely through performance but his actual character differs greatly.
As his race is only male, he has a long-term mate, Klyden (Chad Coleman) and the two have a child together. Being born female on their home planet is considered a ‘birth defect’ and they are social outcasts. If a Moclan child were to be born female, the parents are strongly urged to perform a sex change operation on the baby to make them male, which was a plot-line for episode 3 ‘About a Girl’.
Bortus tries to persuade Dr Finn to perform the operation and when she refuses, Bortus goes straight to Captain Mercer to override her decision. But Mercer refuses, believing that performing this kind of operation on a baby is highly unethical and he tries to persuade Bortus to let the baby grow up female and then make the decision for herself when she is old enough. The crew are also opposed to the notion of performing such an operation on a baby so both Malloy and LaMarr show Bortus the advantages of being ‘different’ by showing him a movie about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. When Bortus confronts Klyden about his doubts, Klyden reveals that he was born female and he is pleased that his parents made that decision because otherwise, he may not have met Bortus. The episode culminates in a hearing on his home planet of Moclus in which he and the crew of The Orville make their case for why the baby should remain a girl. It’s a great episode and one of my favourites from this first season.
The main character focus of this show is between Mercer and Grayson as they try to adjust to working together and living on the same ship. But circumstances deem to bring them back together, especially when Grayson’s former lover, Darulio, shows up to assist with a peace treaty. There, a revelation is made. As per Darulio’s Retepsian origins, when he comes in heat, he expels a pheromone that makes people instantly fall in love with him for a short time. After both Grayson and Captain Mercer fall under his influence, Mercer asks Darulio if he was in heat when he slept with Grayson a year ago, to wit he responds, “Maybe”, essentially leaving it up to the audience to decide based upon their relationship now and whether or not they want Mercer and Grayson to end up together.
As for the guest stars, it seems that MacFarlane just rang up his friends and asked if they wanted to be in his show. Let’s just have a look at some of the people who are in ‘The Orville’ who have also worked with MacFarlane that I know of. There’s Rob Lowe of which MacFarlane hosted his roast; Scott Grimes voices Steve in American Dad, Norm MacDonald was the original ‘Death’ on Family Guy before Adam Carolla took over, Mike Henry voices Cleveland on Family Guy and both Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron appeared in ‘A Million Ways To Die In The West’. There are probably others.
There are a considerable amount of comedic actors in ‘The Orville’ which brings me onto Number Two – The Comedy.
Star Trek always played things fairly straight laced but what with MacFarlane being a comedy writer, ‘The Orville’ has it’s own identity of being funny. There’s not really a better way of putting that. This is going to be a short bit as me merely quoting the show won’t do it justice so either watch it on TV if you’re American or buy it on YouTube and stream the last two episodes because they’re not available to buy for some reason. So… the final point.
Number Three – The references to today’s society.
Star Trek probably did this also but The Orville makes a point of feeding in some of today’s issues into the show.
Such as the point of religion as in one episode where Grayson heals a young girl with her futuristic tool and is then worshipped as a God. There is another episode that centres around religion as a group of people who don’t know that they are living on a dead space ship worship the word of ‘Dorahl’, unaware that he is actually the ship’s former captain.
I would say that my favourite episode in this category would be episode 7, ‘Majority Rule’ which centres around the crew discovering a planet that very much resembles 21st Century Earth. The populace all (by law) have to wear badges with one green arrow and one red arrow, the point being that any one person can give another an ‘up-vote’ or a ‘down-vote’ based upon modes of behaviour. But this idea is on a much grander scale. If there is a public scandal, the person has to go on an ‘apology tour’ and the public can vote as to their fate. If the down votes stay underneath 10,000,000 then the person is safe but if the number goes over, then they are subject to ‘social correction’ which is nothing short of a lobotomy. Lieutenant LaMarr gets himself involved in a public fracas and… well, I won’t tell you what happens. This is basically the society that we are heading for where the public decides the fate of someone who has been caught in a scandal but the crew of the Orville outline perfectly why this society is a bad idea.
To sum up, I really like this program. I think it’s charming in it’s delivery and even though it’s obviously “someone’s” secret fantasy of wanting to be a space hero, I like the characters and want them to win the day. Seth MacFarlane has done a great job at creating a universe that feels ever expansive and the look of the show also feels very futuristic, thumbs up to the Visual Effects crew.
‘The Orville’ has been renewed for another season but the question of an air date has been wavering. Season 2 is going to be a little bit longer than Season 1 with 14 episodes instead of 12 so will take longer to shoot. At first thinking that Season 2 will premiere early on in 2019, MacFarlane has stated that Season 2 is on track to arrive later this year which is great. I’ll be here.