The Orville – Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

7.3 Overall Score
Performances: 7/10
Production: 8/10
Writing: 7/10

High production values and interesting characters.

More drama than comedy, with a trope as it's central relationship.

The Orville
Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald
Fuzzy Door Productions/20th Century Fox Television
2017

Here’s the surprise; The Orville is a drama.

Clearly, Seth MacFarlane’s new science fiction series on Fox was pitched as a Star Trek satire. He was going to give Trekkies—and fandom in general—the same treatment he gave modern suburban life in the wildly successful Family Guy.

But The Orville is not a Star Trek satire. Sure, it imitates the Star Trek universe as closely as the legal department allows, but it doesn’t take aim at it. Galaxy Quest took aim at Star Trek. When The Orville is trying to be funny, it’s more like The Office in space. Maybe it should have been called The Bridge.

Except not, because The Orville is not a comedy. It’s a drama with dog-licks-balls jokes. Episodes 1 and 2 of Season 1 focus on a hostile alien race called the Krill, and the character arcs of the individual officers.

The dominant plot line thus far is the relationship between MacFarlane’s Captain Ed Mercer and Adrianne Palicki’s Kelly Grayson, Mercer’s ex-wife and current Executive Officer. One wonders what they’re going to do with this. It’s not going to wind up as a murder/suicide as the Orville plunges into the sun—it’s not that kind of show. And the two seem to already be halfway to a reconciliation by the end of Episode 2.

It’s discouraging that MacFarlane would put such a trope at the center of his new project. The central pair with prickly chemistry and UST (that’s a little industry jargon for “unresolved sexual tension”) has been done by just about everyone, everywhere. How is MacFarlane going to be original like this? Are we going to do three or six or nine seasons of will-they-won’t-they-again?

That said, the first two episodes are engaging, and laying the groundwork for better things to come. It is boldly going where no one has gone before by setting itself up as direct competition for the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. Will off-brand Orville’s jokes about android supremacists and how often Moclan’s urinate give it the edge to compete with a big-budget effort from CBS to keep credit-mining the final frontier?

 

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Brian Downes
Author: Brian Downes View all posts by
Brian Downes is a writer who lives in Orlando, Florida. His novel, The Berlin Fraternity, about a man who hunts vampires for the Third Reich, is available on the Kindle and through Amazon.com. He enjoys pen and paper roleplaying games and geek culture. He clearly remembers waiting for The Empire Strikes Back to hit theaters, and vindicate his opinion that of course Vader was not Luke's father. You can't trust Vader's word!

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