RogerBW's Blog

The Orville season 1 17 March 2018

2017-2018 science fiction comedy, 12 episodes. Captain Ed Mercer of the Planetary Union hit a rough career patch after his divorce, but now has command of an exploratory ship. But his ex-wife will be his new first officer.

This show was very obviously sold to Fox as a sitcom with science fiction elements, and the start of the first episode certainly makes it look like that. But, presumably after the executives had got bored and stopped watching, Seth MacFarlane (creator and star) quietly turned it into something rather more interesting: a production that's very like Star Trek: The Next Generation with the serial numbers lightly filed down, but the way it might be if a ship's crew were proper human beings, with human failings, rather than little plastic wargaming pieces who only get things wrong when it matters to the plot.

All right, they probably overdo it with the whole "ship of misfits" thing at first, but that too gets toned down after the first episode, and what we end up with is mostly an SF drama series, with some strong humorous elements. The characters get to be real characters, not just to do whatever is needed to win a quick laugh. One ends up caring about them.

Given that Brannon Braga, notorious as one of the men who took Star Trek down from its peak to a laughing-stock during the long slump from Next Generation through Voyager into Enterprise, is a co-executive producer and directed four episodes, I'm amazed that this takes as many chances as it does. In the end, it's a better Star Trek TV series than Star Trek has managed to put out this century, which Serious Fans obviously found unforgivable; reviews by critics have generally been very poor, but audience approval ratings have been high.

This is a throwback of a show: it's made in a consciously old-fashioned style (with little continuity between episodes, and music that leads one into the advertisement breaks), but more importantly it portrays a bright, optimistic world, where good stuff can happen and usually will.

Unlike the other recent series set in a Star-Trek-like world… (to be continued, insert ominous music here).

(The Orville has been renewed for a second season.)

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 04:36pm on 17 March 2018

    What annoys me is that stuff like this doesn't appear on UK free to air TV much any more. I'd hope to find this on BBC2 or Channel 4 or maybe Five, but I have no expectation of it appearing. My parents might enjoy this, but if it's not on Freeview they won't get to see it.

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