shivver13 (shivver13) wrote,

General thoughts on "The Orville"

We started watching The Orville sometime in 2019 with our friend. We'd watched through all ten seasons of Stargate SG-1 and five seasons of Stargate Atlantis with him by going to his house approximately once a month and bingeing 8-10 episodes in day. This took years. When we were done, we decided to try The Orville (though I think I forced him to watch Good Omens with us first...). Then the pandemic hit and we haven't seen our friend in person since. Back in October or so, we realized, "Hey, we never finished The Orville, and there's no law saying we must see it with our friend," so we finished it. Then dieastra just reminded me that I hadn't actually posted about it here, so here are my thoughts on it.

The Orville definitely fits into that niche of genres that I love: sci-fi exploration with a cast of diverse characters that are generally on the chaotic-good side of things. The show clearly demonstrates Seth MacFarlane's love of Star Trek, but his universe is far more human and down-to-earth. The crew of the ship drink and get drunk. They make wisecracks. They have (often ill-advised) romantic relationships with each other. They do things in their off times. They have off times. These people are just like your friends and family - except they're in space.

The show may be a little difficult to get into. From what I understand, MacFarlane originally pitched the show to Fox as a "Family Guy in Space", promising all of the absurd and often offensive humor that people love from that cartoon, in order to get it on the air. Thus, if you're not fond of the Family Guy style (like me), the uneven and uncomfortable first season is a little hard to get through. The overall episode plots were interesting, but you had to endure behavior from the crew that made you wonder how they ever got through basic training.

In the second season, however, MacFarlane transformed the show into what he originally wanted to make: a love letter to Star Trek. While the episodes became more serious, focusing on the space exploration and the relationships between the characters, he didn't cut the humor, opting instead to tone it down while still maintaining its edge: the characters became real, relatable humans thrown into absurd situations.

And really, it's the characters that make this show shine. Take the captain of the ship, Ed Mercer, played by MacFarlane himself. In general, he's kind of a wreck of a human being: after being devastated by the infidelity of his wife and the subsequent divorce, he nearly destroyed his own career in the drunken aftermath, and has just gained command of the Orville, a mid-level ship (not the flagship like the Enterprise), with his ex-wife as his first mate. In many of the episodes, he struggles with either his or her new romantic relationship and whether or not they should get back together again, while keeping their friendship and working relationship both strong. But for all of his waffly personal life, when it comes to his job, he's a superior commander focused on protecting his crew and the "Federation" (I can't remember what the space military calls itself in this show). He is not a good diplomat, but he's wise (though maybe not in matters concerning himself). Mercer is layered... and real, and interesting.

There are two things I don't much care for. First, at least in the second half of the second season, the episodes focused more on the relationships in the crew than on, well, anything else. Don't get me wrong - the relationship episodes were fantastic - but as you all probably know by now, I'm much more interested in the ship encountering new things and dealing with them. I would have liked a more even mix of the two.

The other thing I don't care for is the number of episodes devoted to Bortus and his culture. Bortus is a Moclan, a species that values only males and transitions any female babies that are born. Bortus (and the rest of the crew) doesn't agree with this view, and the episodes about him are all about this: what happens when he and his mate (who does agree with the rest of his race) produce a female child, when a guest Moclan character falls in love with a female, when the crew discover female Moclan refugee camp, etc. Again, the episodes are well done, but there were just too many, especially considering that many others of the crew have had few, if any, episodes focusing on them. Spreading them out, saving some for the third season, would have really helped.

Ah, the third season. That's finally just started filming, having been postponed by the pandemic. I am absolutely looking forward to it, because this show is good. Take Star Trek: The Next Generation, make the characters actually human and not futuristic ideals, and you've got The Orville. If you loved TNG, The Orville is for you. Just be prepared to cringe through the first season.
Tags: review

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