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TV Review: The Orville

09.11.2017

SYNOPSIS: THE ORVILLE is a live-action, one-hour space adventure series set 400 years in the future that follows the exploits of The U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory spaceship. Its crew, both human and alien, face the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the problems of everyday life.

The Orville, Star Trek, Science Fiction, TV Review, FOX, Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki

REVIEW: Seth McFarlane is a self-professed Star Trek fan and it shows in his new series, The Orville. Unlike McFarlane's animated series or his big screen efforts TED and A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, The Orville is very true to it's inspiration, almost to a fault. In fact, The Orville tries so effortlessly to pick up the mantle of the original 1966 Trek and the beloved Next Generation that you would almost think that this was an officially sanctioned addition to Gene Roddenberry's canon. Envisioned as a bridge to the old days of inspirational and hopeful science fiction, The Orville is going to disappoint fans of McFarlane's trademark brand of humor but will likely make a ton of fans out of those looking for a smartly written voyage into the final frontier. Make no mistake, there is definitely a sense of humor to this show, but the websites calling it a cross between GALAXY QUEST and Family Guy could not be more wrong.

McFarlane plays Captain Ed Mercer, an officer in a galactic organization that shares more than a passing resemblance to the Federation. In the opening minutes of the debut episode, we get a glimpse at the Utopian future awaiting humanity in 400 years time. But, unlike Star Trek, The Orville doesn't skip over how actual people would talk or react. Mercer's first scene finds him returning to his apartment to find his wife, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), having sex with a blue-skinned alien. Mercer is rocked by this and we soon learn the couple divorced. After a rocky year, Mercer is offered the chance to captain his own vessel, the titular ship, which he accepts. Recruiting his best friend Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) as helmsman, Mercer boards his ship to find a crew populated by a no nonsense medical officer (Penny Johnson Jerald), a young rookie security chief named Alara Kitan (GOOSEBUMPS' Halston Sage) who also happens to be an incredibly strong alien, the Klingon-esque Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon) who comes from a single-sex species, navigator John Lamarr (J. Lee) who has a brash sense of humor and calls it like it is, and Isaac, a racist android who believes all races are inferior to him.

The population of The Orville is very similar to that of any Star Trek series. It is made up of a diverse group of characters whom must learn to trust each other and get along. Throwing a wrench in the works is the assignment of Mercer's ex-wife as his first officer. The pair eventually learn to work together, but during tense situations they both throw insults and jabs about their failed marriage at one another. The humor of The Orville is somewhat hit or miss. Sometimes the jokes fall flat and lack the bite that some of McFarlane's animated series have as their trademark. But, what does work is seeing these characters react and talk the way any of us would if we were just dropped into the crew of a spacecraft four centuries in the future. The Orville often feels like a working class version of Star Trek which is at once refreshing and very nostalgaic. It also helps that everything from the set design to organizational structure of The Orville crew to the format of each hour long episode is practically a replica of classic Star Trek. Commercial breaks are structured as fade-outs and fade-ins with dramatic music cueing audience reactions

And there are moments during this series where I truly got lost and believed I was watching a legitimate Star Trek spin-off. Seth McFarlane does a good job playing the Captain even if he isn't quite as charismatic as Patrick Stewart or William Shatner. But, the everyman approach to his performance definitely aids in quickly trusting his leadership on The Orville. His tense relationship with his First Officer also gives us a dynamic we never saw on any Trek series. McFarlane and Adrianne Palicki have a great chemistry and she is able to hold her own both comedically and in action scenes. The entire cast is adept at performing both deadpan humor and some of the more serious subject matter. There are several jokes that poke fun at typical Star Trek moments like when an alien appears on screen but is off center or what kinds of games crew members play on a holodeck. There are no transporters like on Gene Roddenberry's series, but virtually everything else standard to Star Trek makes an appearance if a bit different to avoid legal issues with copyright. In fact, I am pretty surprised that the show is this similar to Trek but that could also be due to the inclusion of long time Trek writer and producer, Brandon Braga, on the writing team.

The Orville, Star Trek, Science Fiction, TV Review, FOX, Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki

Over the first three episodes provided for us in advance of the series premiere, the tone varies pretty widly. The pilot episode has the large task of introducing the crew, ship and overall universe of the series but manages to include a plot about a technology wanted by warring factions with a pretty unique ending. The second and third episodes venture more into Trek territory with a story centered on an alien zoo and another with a very timely story about gender and sex changes. Like many of the best episodes of The Next Generation, The Orville is able to tackle contemporary political issues in a unique lens of a future where humanity has tackled and solved many racial problems plaguing society. And, like many Trek series, the ending of a story is not always neatly wrapped up but leaves you with enough questions to ponder once the credits roll. 

There are not many series like The Orville on television anymore, network or cable, and that will give this show a very unique niche to fit into. While the episodes screened had incomplete special effects, the ones completed did not look that much more advanced than what The Next Generation had at their disposal in the early 1990s. That could work for or against The Orville. The biggest challenge the show will have is overcoming the misguided marketing which is making this show seem like a live action Family Guy or American Dad. It is absolutely neither of those shows and instead feels like a drama with comedic elements rather than the other way around. The humor is all over the place, but the good elements of this show are absolutely a breath of nostalgaic air that many science fiction and Trek fans will really enjoy. If anything, this show is going to be a gateway for a new generation to explore classic Star Trek with a new perspective.

THE ORVILLE debuts with a special two-night premiere on FOX on Sunday, Sept. 10 and Sunday, Sept. 17. THE ORVILLE will then make its time period premiere on Thursday, Sept. 21 

Source: JoBlo.com

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