If you’ve never watched The Orville, you’re missing out.
That’s right, AJ is a Trekkie.
I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore Trekkie or anything. I’m not terribly familiar with the other captains beyond Kirk, Picard, and Pike (who I’m happy to see is finally getting some love in the form of his own series), and I certainly can’t spout off any statistics beyond those required to piss off my girlfriend during “Kirk vs Picard” arguments. I just like the parts of the franchise that I’ve watched, namely The Original Series, The Next Generation, Strange New Worlds, Picard, and the first four or five movies (the original ones, not these bastardizations by J.J. Abrams).
Apparently Seth MacFarlane likes the franchise too.
When it was announced in 2016-2017 that Seth was coming out with what was being touted as a comedic take on Star Trek, I was skeptical. I’ve put Seth down on here many times before for his over-reliance on low-brow cheap shock humor, his strange need to add a talking animal to every one of his cartoons, and his obnoxious left-leaning politicking in all of his shows. So naturally, I didn’t bother to watch The Orville.
I was wrong.
I’d like to formally apologize to Seth MacFarlane. After finally putting aside my unwarranted hate and watching The Orville, I realize now just how insanely wrong I was about Seth on multiple accounts. This whole time he’s been basically hiding his power level. The man’s a goddamn genius, and I was too blinded by my irrational dislike of him to see that. I don’t want to turn this article into a piece about Seth himself, but I’ve learned that in the end Seth is very much on the same page as AJnet when it comes to the things that actually matter. Seth, my bad homie. Our secretary will send you a cheese tray, an apology card, and a $50 gift card to Omaha Steaks.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
As a Star Trek fan, I immediately fell in love with The Orville after watching the first episode on Hulu. I then proceeded to plow through the entire first season in two days, which is something I rarely if ever do for anything. Assuming that this show would just be Star Trek mixed with Family Guy-style humor was a mistake on my part, and I suspect many other people made this same mistake and missed out on what’s turned out to be a very solid sci-fi show. I’ll go as far as to say that The Orville is more Star Trek than most of the stuff the franchise has been putting out recently. Picard and Strange New Worlds are entertaining, but everything else Star Trek has been garbage, especially those goddamned J.J. Abrams movies.
You know what, I want to go on a tangent here for a moment.
J.J. Abrams is one of the most untalented hacks in Hollywood. He’s a hack, I can’t emphasize that enough. Hack hack HACK. This man ruined Star Wars, he ruined Star Trek, and most of his movies and shows are at best mediocre. I used to respect him for creating Lost, but after seeing how he butchered Star Wars and Star Trek I decided to do a little bit of digging to see just how involved he actually was with Lost. Guess what? He barely did anything. This worthless hack basically let Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse do the bulk of the work and somehow he gets credit for “co-creating” the show? No, absolutely NOT! Screw this clown, I take back anything positive I’ve ever said about J.J. Abrams, the man needs to be banned from making movies. I don’t understand how any man can go through life sucking as hard as J.J. Abrams does.
Whew. Alright, tangent over. Back on track…
The show follows Planetary Union Captain Ed Mercer (played by Seth himself) as he leads the Orville and its crew through space doing things like exploring uncharted territory, rescuing people, and going up against an enemy race known as the Krill. Basically, it’s Star Trek in terms of the basic plot.
What separates this show from Star Trek though is the crew. I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about any of these characters. We have Adrianne Palicki as First Officer Kelly Grayson (and Captain Mercer’s cheating ex-wife), Scott Grimes as Lieutenant Gordon Malloy, Penny Jerald Johnson as Doctor Claire Finn, Mark Jackson as sentient alien robot Isaac (my personal favorite character), and Peter Macon as Lieutenant Commander Bortus (my second favorite character). We’ve also got J. Lee as Lieutenant Commander John LaMarr and Halston Sage as Security Chief Alara Kitan. Norm MacDonald (RIP) even makes multiple appearances as Yaphit, a yellowish green blob of slime alien. This cast is great. Never have I once found myself disliking any of these characters or groaning when they come onto the screen or anything. These actors and actresses play off of each other perfectly, and they bring emotional depth and believability to their characters.
Even Isaac has depth on a level that makes you forget he’s supposed to be an emotionless robot that operates on cold hard logic. Mark Jackson could give Brent Spiner (“Data” from Star Trek: The Next Generation) a run for his money. Isaac’s romance with Dr. Finn is handled in a way that’s arguably more believable than some human romances on other TV shows. I kept expecting Isaac to suddenly “grow” a soul, only to have my hopes immediately dashed by another one of his trademark faux pas. Mark Jackson puts on a deep and meaningful performance as Isaac, and he does it while wearing that clunky costume. I can’t imagine that being easy.
Normally I don’t get behind a show that’s heavy in contemporary politics, but honestly political commentary has always been a staple of the Star Trek franchise, so I’ll give The Orville a pass. This was my greatest fear going in to this series. Other Seth MacFarlane shows like Family Guy would have you think he’s some foaming at the mouth neo-liberal who wants to cram his views down your throat and shut out anyone who doesn’t agree with him. Imagine my surprise when I watched the show and saw modern political issues being treated with a level-headed fairness and tact that many of these “woke” idiots in Hollywood could learn from. The commentary is there, Seth obviously has his opinions on these things, but it’s actually presented in a way that isn’t overbearing and actually drives the plot without making the viewer feel unwelcome if they don’t agree. I recommend the Season 1 episode “Majority Rule” to see this at its best.
This show isn’t all business all the time though. As I mentioned before, it’s also a comedy. Unlike Seth’s other shows, the jokes aren’t slammed full force into your face, and it’s not cheap shock humor or pointless vulgarity. When you have a ship full of beings from different planets (and therefore different cultures) there’s going to be at least some awkwardness-inducing culture clash. The Orville plays upon this perfectly, usually by utilizing Isaac’s lack of emotional awareness or Bortus’s sometimes strange behavior and inability to understand human humor (Moclans are an… interesting race, to say the least). And Norm MacDonald’s recurring character Yaphit never fails to make me laugh, with that signature Norm MacDonald dry and deadpan brand of humor that I’m going to totally miss. The humor often draws upon the actors and actresses’ reactions and general delivery, and they couldn’t have picked a better cast for this style of humor.
After watching The Orville I’m thoroughly convinced that Seth created Family Guy just to profit off of stupid people. The writing, acting, and comedy in this series are way better than they have any right to be when put next to the lowbrow cheap trash that Seth is typically known for. The Orville is proof that the man can rise above the generic crass humor that Family Guy has built its audience of American idiots around, and it’s also proof that he has serious writing and acting chops that transcend his comedic roots. Somehow, Seth MacFarlane has managed to make a better Star Trek than most new Star Trek shows, all without it actually being Star Trek. People like J.J. Abrams claim to be fans of “nerdy” franchises in order to pander to fans, then they turn around and absolutely butcher the source material and ruin it for future generations. I have no doubt in my mind that Seth is as much of a hardcore Trekkie as he says he is, and the evidence is in The Orville. I would love to see Seth work on an actual Star Trek property at some point in the future.
If you are a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series or The Next Generation, you will like this show! Even if you haven’t watched any Star Trek shows or movies, and you just like sci-fi, I’m sure you’ll like this show too, and it might even encourage you to go back and check out Star Trek. I’m sad to think that we most likely won’t be getting a fourth season, especially after that stellar finale for Season 3.
Don’t sleep on this excellent love letter to the Star Trek franchise, go watch The Orville. With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of viewership, we might just be able to convince the powers that be to greenlight another season of this amazing sci-fi show.