They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, it turns out the one right below this sentence is worth 1206.
I first wrote a well-thought-out review of The Orville. One that was filled with insight, intrigue, and intellectual commentary on Fox’s newest Seth McFarlane show. Then, as I was looking for an image to use for the review, I came across the one I referred to above, and I had to start over. See, the image that I chose to eventually sit atop my blog inspired me, because it really just captures everything that The Orville has to offer. But before I get into that, I’ll give a little recap of the show.
Have you seen Star Trek before? Imagine any episode of Star Trek, just with a lot more ridiculous humor, and you’ve got The Orville. It’s not new. It’s not a fresh take. It doesn’t add something that’s not already extant in the science fiction universe. It’s just more of the same.
And that’s why this picture spoke to me so much. We’ll start on the ends and work our way forward.
On your left, you’ve got the green-clad doctor. She’s extremely overqualified to be on a ship as ridiculous as the Orville, but she “likes a challenge”. I’m not quite sure what she’s supposed to be. Is an earring supposed to symbolize a sort of crazy alien race that wears an earring? Kind of like the Bajorans of the Star Trek universe? Who knows.
Next up, you’ve got the red shirt. Except she’s not an ordinary Star Trek red shirt, oh no. She’s the security officer that grew up on a planet with gravity 4x that of Earth’s. She’s super strong, super intense, and super innocent. She’s only like, 12 years old or some such nonsense, which is supposed to be a joke, I guess? But you know what bugs me? If she comes from a planet with 4x gravity of Earth, then how come she’s the size of a 12-year-old human? Shouldn’t she be huge? Jacked? Super swole? Either her species’ muscles work differently than ours, or they overlooked it. Or I’m overanalyzing. Or all three. Who knows.
Next, let’s skip over to the robot on the far right, who I SWEAR is Brent Spiner. That’s really all I can say about this dude. I swear to space that it’s Brent Spiner who plays Data in Star Trek: TNG.
It’s not, but I swear it is. Listen to him talk when you watch it and tell me that it isn’t.
To his left, we have the chill guy of the group. He’s the ship’s navigator, but he’s kind of a goofball. In the first few seconds of meeting his new captain, he promptly lets him know that the old captain let them drink sodas on the bridge, and that he hoped the new captain would allow the same behavior. You know, usual stuff you worry about when you’re navigating a trans-galactic star cruiser.
Then comes the guy who is probably the most obvious reference to Star Trek in the entire show: the Klingon. He’s got darker skin. He’s got some weird stuff going on on his head. He’s got a deep voice. And he’s part of a warrior race that likes to fight people. The only way they could’ve ripped off Star Trek more is if they had a cargo hold full of tribbles.
And that leads me to the big three in the middle – the three main characters…if you can call them main characters…that the story revolves around. The orange shirt to the left of McFarlane is the ship’s head navigator and pilot. He had some troubles in the past, is an amazing pilot but doesn’t take his job seriously, and has a world of potential inside him but no drive do get anything done. That’s about as deep as it goes.
McFarlane’s character’s wife, the woman to his right, is only there to give some sort of back story to his character. Other than that, she provides no humor, no direction, and no plot point except to motivate McFarlane.
Now for the captain. We’ve gone through everyone else in very minor detail, so why not him, too. His wife (the blue shirt to the right) cheated on him in the first 8 seconds of the show. His life went downhill from there, and now he’s reluctantly been given command of the ship. That’s about it. He’s a good guy, deep down, but he’s got some work to do on the inside.
Why, you ask, am I telling you all this about the eight characters on the poster? Because I’m trying to show you how ridiculously stereotypical the entire show is. It’s a stereotype. It’s a trope. It’s a carbon copy of every sci-fi show out there. If you took away one, very important part of the show, you’d have any of the Star Trek series.
What’s that one, very important thing? Comedy. The humor in this show is top notch.
There’s one aspect of Star Trek that always bothered me: it’s just so serious. Sure there were the few odd episodes where Data pretended to be Sherlock Holmes or Janeway met with the Ferengi, but the newer Star Trek series’ didn’t have as much ridiculousness as the original did. Sure, there was a serious side to TOS, but there were also tribbles.
The Orville is all tribbles, all the time. Look at it this way – each iteration of Star Trek shows us Starfleet’s a-team, the best of the best. The kind of people that we should strive to be. The Orville shows us the bench warmers, the people they keep on the shelf and call in as a last resort.
It’s a bunch of little things that come together to show us what real Starfleet would’ve been like. During one scene, McFarlane turns a corner and runs down a hallway only to trip over – and rip a hole in – a giant blob (voiced by Norm MacDonald). “Whoa, sorry man,” he says. “No problem at all, man. It’s cool. It’s alright,” says the blob. They go back and forth apologizing and ensuring that no offense was taken…it’s total McFarlane humor, and if you’re not a fan of that whole Family Guy scene, you probably won’t enjoy it, but it’s something that people 15-35 will really enjoy.
For as much as I didn’t like The Orville, as much as I hated the fact that it was a total Star Trek ripoff that offered nothing new to the genre, it was funny as hell. It’s what Galaxy Quest should’ve been, in my opinion.
So you know what? Maybe The Orville does add something to the sci-fi genre. It adds humor. In a world that takes itself too seriously, it’s a welcome shift from the ordinary. Will it keep up the winning streak throughout the entire season? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s definitely got potential.
Reed’s Review Corner
7.8 giant trees growing through a space ship out of 10
Funny beyond belief.
Interesting universe created by McFarlane.
Doesn’t add much new to an already crowded genre.
Characters are the same ones in every sci-fi space exploration show.