About A Girl
If The Stars Should Appear
Into The Fold
The Orville is a perfect example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. What begins as a silly, parodical love letter to the original Star Trek quickly becomes more Star Trek than the modern reboots of Star Trek itself. Societal issues, alien races and interesting conflicts are all explored with only a pinch of explosions and high CGIed destruction found in the reboots. For all the positives, there’s no denying that the overpowering comedy during the pilot episode may well turn a lot of people away. Chock full of silly jokes, quips and crudeness, the comedy destabilises the show’s narrative and it all feels a little too contrived and awkward. Its a shame too because once you get past the rocky beginning and the comedy subsides, the drama is given a chance to shine and its here that The Orville thrives.
The story takes on an episodic format following the endeavours of the exploratory vessel The Orville. Newly promoted Captain Ed (Seth MacFarlane) finds himself in control of the ship but is taken aback when his ex-wife Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) is assigned as the First Officer of the ship. Much like the Star Trek of old, The Orville captures the essence of space exploration with a more focused approach on character and lore for the alien races. Super strong Lt. Alara Kitan (Halston Sage), robot Isaac (Mark Jackson) and amazing navigator Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) all feature among other colourful characters that gel perfectly together.
As the series progresses, the episodes explore societal issues and tackle gender, race, time travel and more. The lighthearted quips and general optimism inherent in the episodes help make the humour feel far more effective late on, helping The Orville stand out in a sea of moody, gritty sci-fi flicks out right now.
Some of the jokes don’t always hit, even late on, but when they do the timing is impeccable and enhance what’s happening on screen. Some of the jokes spill over to future episodes too, with recurrent jokes and recurring themes helping to stitch the show into one cohesive whole. The excellent chemistry between the characters goes a long way to bring the show to life and with a plethora of different alien races, there’s enough variety on board the ship to keep things interesting. You’d be forgiven at first glance for writing off Seth MacFarlane’s latest series. It does hold some of the trademark humour inherent with his past material but The Orville feels like a real homage to Star Trek and plays out much the same way with a familiar format in each episode.
Aesthetically the show looks great. The bright, vibrant colours on-board The Orville juxtapose beautifully with the dark, moody colours used on the various worlds the crew explore. The alien races are well designed and the practical effects help give the illusion that these are really aliens. There’s enough screen time given to flesh out each of these characters as well and a good mixture of drama and comedy for each race helps to keep the show fresh, preventing it from becoming stale. The orchestral score only further accentuates the similarities to Star Trek, right down to the external shots of the space ship but again it comes back to the optimism of space travel which is sadly lacking in many of today’s sci-fi shows.
It would be very easy to write off The Orville after one episode and give it a poor review like other critics have. If you persevere with the show and give it the necessary time to settle into a comedic rhythm and let the drama flow, there’s something really special here. The light-hearted optimism of space travel is sorely lacking from sci-fi of late and The Orville brings this back in a big way. It truly feels like the perfect homage to the old Star Trek whilst establishing itself as a separate identity along the way. The humour is of course trademark MacFarlane, crude, inappropriate jokes mixed with wacky silliness do find their way into the scripts, but The Orville never suffers from comedic fatigue. The Orville does prove one thing; never judge a show by its opening episode. If you can stick it out, The Orville proves that lighthearted science fiction is very much alive and kicking.
Verdict - 8/10