Reviews: The Orville

Star Trek... if it had a bigger budget and Roddenberry played the main character.

Seth MacFarlane is a clever man; repeat formulas, lift from other people's work in a way that lets you escape copyright and patent laws, Profit! (He has other talents, but this method seems to be the most lucrative for him).

The show is a platform for Seth, even if he doesn't admit it. It's like Charlie Sheen playing Charlie Harper in Two and a Half Men (at least Seth gave his character a different name) and Kirk being something of an Author Avatar for Roddenberry (by Roddenberry's own admission). In short, if Seth likes it, it's going to be endorsed or treated well (recreational drug use). If Seth doesn't like it, he's going to lampoon it to high heaven or wage The War on Straw against it (religion).

Apart from the heavy-handed anti-religion messages (it's almost as common in Sci-fi as Tribbles are in Star Trek, and more annoying), I may have liked The Orville if it wasn't so unoriginal. The Xelayans are the Vulcans (human-looking alien race with elfin-ears and superhuman strength), the Retepsians are the Orions (humanoid aliens with a non-human skin color who emit pheromones that make others attracted to them and are very big on sex) and the Planetary Union is the United Federation of Planets (an alliance of space flight-capable species whose main HQ is on Earth) to name a few.

I understand it's tapping into the optimism that has not been part of science fiction for a long time, but if that's what one wants, just watch the old works like Star Trek: TNG (Star Trek may strawman like this show from time to time, but at least it's original and can be more even-handed). In short, The Orville has some gems, but a lot of dirt and better can be found elsewhere. Don't bother with it, I won't.

Star Trek with a rude sense of humor

Almost done with Season One, and this thing is...

Star Trek is not really known for its sense of humor. Oh, we get the odd comedy episode like "Trouble With Tribbles" or "Rascals," but Trek is known for being big, awe-inspiring, serious morality plays in sci-fi clothing. It worked because of the Sci Fi Ghetto. Unfortunately, sci-fi is now a respectable genre, which is great in many ways, but limits what can and can't be said because it's no good for flying crap past the radar anymore. It's also gone very far into the Darker and Edgier end of the spectrum, with little to no optimism to be seen.

So, Seth MacFarlane decided he would make his own Star Trek with blackjack and hookers. Okay, maybe not blackjack and hookers (yet), but we have seen pot brownies and Rob Lowe.

The Orville is what happens when Star Trek (particularly Star Trek: The Next Generation) takes a few too many shots of tequila, smokes a joint, and uses comedy to jam the radar and get away with the same stuff old-school Trek did because you can get away with anything in comedy, and the Comedy Ghetto shows no sign of going anywhere. Mind you, the jokes can get pretty rude- we are talking about the dude behind Family Guy teamed up with a ton of Trek alum (including Brannon Braga, who is responsible for every Trek episode you swear someone was tripping balls while writing it). The humor and style is more along the lines of what a deficionalized Galaxy Quest would look like, and the plot arcs are very similar to what we'd expect from TNG or early Voyager.

Do they make a few big misses? Sure, but so did early TNG. The Running Gag about Ed and Kelly's messy divorce (which was dubiously funny to start with) just got served a whopper of a Cerebus Retcon, and I suspect that is only the start of a tone shift. The show has progressively been getting more serious, becoming less of a comedy with sci fi elements and more of a straight George Lucas Throwback optimistic sci fi series with the occasional rude joke.