I put off watching this for years, thinking it was a Star Trek spoof. But in July, having watched and re-watched everything from Voyager to DS9, I gave The Orville a go. And boy was I surprised!
Yes, it’s almost exactly Star Trek. But it’s Star Trek at its best – what it could and should have been had CBS not discovered a Strange New direction. Unlike the two latest Star Trek series (both of which I simply gave up on), The Orville is reminiscent of TNG – the characters are real, the plotlines clever, and the issues relatable. So much so that I binge-watched the first two seasons in one week, and am now half-way through the third and final season – sadly set to be the last.
Strangely, the critics hate The Orville; Rotten Tomatoes rated the first season just 30 out of 100. But audiences disagree – viewers gave it a 94 per cent, citing a winning combination of first-rate sci-fi made with heart, humour and insight into the human condition.
Producer and star Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy and co-creator of American Dad), suggests The Orville is less a throwback and more an homage to the original Star Trek series. It may take a couple of episodes to find its feet (there’s a little too much silliness), but once it sorts out the balance between comedy and drama, you get thought-provoking space opera.
We’re tackling weighty issues here: transgender rights through the eyes of a predominantly male alien society; sentience versus emotion, in a storyline involving the ship’s Science Officer, an entirely manufactured entity; and religion, courtesy of a planet where time moves so quickly that a simple incident on Monday can inspire a global church by the weekend!
We also get a provocative look at porn addiction, alcoholism, and social media dependence. And perhaps this is what makes the show so relatable – although The Orville, like Star Trek, is set centuries in the future, people are still people. We may evolve socially, we may develop technologically, but our wants and needs, fears and doubts have remained the same since the start of time – and apparently continue to exist well into the 24th century.