‘The Orville’ renewed: Why it’s the best ‘Star Trek’ on screens rn
The Seth MacFarlane-helmed (and glorified Star Trek fan fiction) sci-fi series The Orville is renewed and will be returning for S3 on Fox.
The action of the show happens 400 years in the future on the USS Orville. The ship is a mid-level exploratory spaceship staffed by humans, machines, and ETs who balance the many complications of superluminal travel as well as relationships with their diverse team (sound familiar?).
What started as a Star Trek homage with some jokes thrown in became much more confident in S2. The Orville saw better storytelling, funnier jokes, and fandom support naming the show much closer to the Gene Roddenberry vision of Star Trek than the current tentpole at CBS, Star Trek: Discovery (or ST:D, if you’re nasty).
The Orville averaged 3.16 million live viewers and we’re guessing millions more on catchup and VOD. The show stars MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Chad L. Coleman, and Jessica Szohr. It was created and written by MacFarlane, who also executive-produces alongside Brannon Braga, David A. Goodman, Jason Clark, and Jon Cassar.
As Star Trek: Discovery continues to subvert audience expectations of what a Star Trek show should be (and try our patience), here are all the reasons why The Orville is the most Star Trek of all Star Trek shows on TV.
Its opening credits are a callback to the Star Trek glory days
Seth MacFarlane’s vision to create a loving homage to Star Trek (especially The Next Generation) is clearly apparent in the opening credits. Impressive spaceship? Check. Lovingly composed orchestral score? Check. Beautiful starfield and planetary vistas? Check. These credits could be from any previous season of Star Trek, and they work to set the tone right before we even dive into the narrative.
It’s beautifully scored
Seth MacFarlane has done a great job of creating a show that is a loving homage to the Star Trek franchise. Veteran film composer John Debney’s score is the perfect signifier of this level of attention to detail. Thank you Seth MacFarlane for keeping studio musicians and composers in work for a couple of years. It’s so refreshing to hear well-crafted music played by musicians, rather than by machines.
It isn’t a dark as f*** and gory as all get-out
The Star Trek we know and love has always been a PG affair you can watch with all the family, but Star Trek: Discovery is not only blood-soaked, but disturbing as hell (even for some of us adults in the Film Daily newsroom). While The Orville’s jokes can veer into the tasteless, the scripts are certainly more youth-friendly.
The Orville goes where “no one has gone before”
The Orville is on a quest to “boldly go where no one has gone before”, unlike ST:D, which has utterly failed to balance high demands from a core fandom and introducing a new generation of Trekkies in the Netflix era.
The Orville on the other hand expertly quenches our thirst for space exploration through its story-of-the-week format, and we love it for that.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Some of the best sequences in all Star Trek, big- and small-screen, are when the bridge crew comes together to fight foes, come up with a plan, or just have a drink in Ten Forward.
The Orville has fleshed out its bridge crew with familiar types who wouldn’t be out of place on the Enterprise. Week in and week out we see them working together to follow their missions of the week, building camaraderie throughout. The crew treats their captain and senior officers with respect and trust each other with their lives.
Over at Star Trek: Discovery, Starfleet has never looked so chaotic neutral. Captains willingly risk the entire ship & crew every episode. Not only commanding officers live on the edge, either. The crew is totally reckless – and have no respect for authority.
Burnham and Stamets break basic safety protocols every freakin’ episode. In fact, the central inciting incident of Star Trek: Discovery – Commander Michael Burnham committing mutiny – would never have happened in a Roddenberry show.
As a side note: none of the crew of Star Trek: Discovery got the memo about trying to get along. Simmering resentments linger between crew members throughout, bubbling over in an all-out fistfight in Ten Forward in S2. Shameful.
The Orville doesn’t take itself too seriously
The humor in Star Trek has gotten us through some difficult times. Jokes come naturally, deriving their humor from the bridge crew’s tight relationships. Star Trek: Discovery tries to joke, but the writer’s room isn’t up to the task. There’s nothing natural about one-liners at the most inopportune moments that land like a lead balloon for us poor audience members.
For a comedy writer like Seth MacFarlane, humor is the throughline which keeps his shows together. The jokes in The Orville have gotten better as the seasons have progressed, relying less on the fratboy humor of Family Guy and moving closer to the occasional comedy genius of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Because The Orville doesn’t take itself too seriously, it can parody itself (as well as many other shows). We viewers are put at ease to enjoy the show.
If you’re jonesing for Star Trek and Star Trek: Discovery is just not cutting it for you, head over to Hulu and stream The Orville now.