When The Orville launched, many of the show’s characteristics matched what we loved about Star Trek more than Star Trek: Discovery did.
So I wanted to come on here and take a look back to 2017. You see, for fans of science fiction, and more importantly, Star Trek, 2017 was going to be a big year for us because while Star Trek had been given a fresh coat of paint and a revival, so to speak, with the JJ Abrams’ movies starting in 2009 and continuing on with Into Darkness in 2013 and Beyond in 2016, CBS announced plans to produce a new Star Trek television series for the first time in 12 years! Because while those JJ movies were ok, Star Trek…historically speaking, has largely enjoyed its best years on the small screen, in the form of a weekly television series. So in November of 2015, CBS announced plans to produce a new Star Trek television series called Star Trek: Discovery, which would air weekly on their new streaming service, named CBS All Access. Discovery would debut September 19, 2017.
Interestingly enough, Discovery wasn’t the only weekly sci-fi show to debut around that same time. Turns out, Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy & American Dad) had pitched his own Star Trek-esque sci-fi show to FOX, which was greenlit and aired its first episode just over a week earlier, on September 10, 2017. That show was named The Orville. It starred Seth as Captain Ed Mercer of the titular ship, The Orville. However, this was anything but the Enterprise. Because while the Orville was a ship of exploration, much like we’d get to know the USS Cerritos from Star Trek: Lower Decks for, Ed and his crew weren’t given any real important assignments. Also, we’re informed in the first episode, as Ed is first taking command of the ship, that his first officer was to be his ex-wife, Kelly Grayson, who had previously cheated on him. Hilarity ensues as he makes a few panicked runs from the bridge to his ready room onboard the ship to protest the assignment, but to no avail.
As far as presentations went, the Orville and Discovery differed quite drastically in just about every category imaginable.
As each series began on their individual journeys, one thing became apparent…as it pertains to a trekkie getting their weekly fill of Star Trek, The Orville tended to scratch that itch better than Discovery did. There’s a reason for that, too…due to the episodes being produced in a serial nature, you didn’t necessarily need to watch the previous week’s show, whereas Discovery was being produced as a weekly episodic program, where what is found out on one week’s episode would directly tie into the following weeks’ shows — which goes against the rules of classic Star Trek.
Also, from an aesthetics standpoint, The Orville tended to have much brighter environments, the bridge of the ship was well lit much like the Enterprise used to be, while the sets of Discovery always tended to be much darker in appearance, as we know new Trek to be these days.
I also feel that the familiarity that the Orville brought likely had to do with the number of former Star Trek producers, writers, and directors involved with the production of the Orville such as: Brannon Braga, André Bormanis, Joe Menosky, Jonathan Frakes, James L. Conway, and Robert Duncan McNeill. Plus, there were a number of cameos made throughout the course of the show from a number of former Star Trek actors. Just to name a few: Robert Picardo, John Billingsly, Tim Russ, Marina Sirtis, and Tony Todd, Also of note, Seth MacFarlane, Scott Grimes, and Penny Jerald Johnson all spent time on various Star Trek series as well.
Only time will tell if The Orville indeed does get picked up for a 4th season. I, for one certainly hope it does. I like Seth’s sense of humor and mixing in all of the typical tropes of a Star Trek-esque show just hits in all the right spots.