Star Trek and The Orville star Penny Johnson Jerald detests the spoof claims.
Penny Johnson Jerald is among the few talents who have been in both Star Trek and The Orville. She was Dobara on The Next Generation episode “Homeward” and then had a recurring role as Kassidy Yates on Deep Space Nine. The Orville launched, she was brought on as a main character in the form of Dr. Claire Finn, the ship’s doctor.
Her time on both shows has made her beloved in the science fiction community and was one of the main reasons that fans saw Orville as a spiritual sibling to Star Trek. It’s probably no coincidence that she got the part, considering Orville creator, Seth MacFarlane is a huge Trek fan. Getting to work with a fantastic actress who was a big bright spot on one of the better Trek series? Seems like an easy decision to make.
Clearly, she has a love of both shows and when people started boiling down The Orville to just a “Star Trek-spoof”, she took offense to that, telling Cinemablend;
"To be honest with you, I thought that in Season 1, we could definitely say we were set apart from it. Some people would claim, ‘Oh is this Star Trek? Is this a spoof?’ And, actually, I just detest it when people said it’s a spoof. It wasn’t slapstick. We were really doing the work. It was Star Trek-like in that it’s in the future, you have a team, it’s led by a captain, and you’re going inside the lives or the shenanigans of this crew. So I guess that any future ship-like show would be compared to Star Trek because it set the standard.….The second season I never thought of Star Trek, and I’m a Trekkie. I just never did. It was like these are people that are so human, most of them, and the lives and the situation that they’re talking about are not far from what’s happening right now. The difference in Star Trek was like, ‘Imagine if this were to happen.’ With The Orville, this is happening, and it’s still happening in the future, but there is a different attitude towards this same thing that we’re familiar with. And I think probably that is why it’s truly set apart from Star Trek."
The Orville is far more than a Star Trek spoof
Outside of the fact it’s a space ship-show that tackles questions about right and wrong, the two shows have little in common. That’s fair to say. The Orville tackles different questions in a more tongue-in-cheek manner. Major issues like sex and porn addiction are tackled through a more surrealist lens.
Even divorce, infidelity, and social media are addressed but always with a twang of absurdity. This is deliberate. While Star Trek certainly had its own absurd stories, any humor that was seen in them was mostly unintentional.
Orville is intentional. Anything you’re gleaning from the show is meant to be. They are a very matter-a-fact show, while Star Trek is far less in your face. Yes, there are many similarities, and it is a love letter to the 90s era of Trek, but it’s also its own thing.