The Orville is a spoof that takes the world of the episodic sci-fi adventure and turns it upside down. Gone are the very serious characters, and in their place are characters that feel more relatable, albeit more unprofessional than their normal counterparts.
My first impression here was that this was going to feel like a play written by someone just so that they got to have a kissing scene with their crush. Seth MacFarlane has long been known as a Star Trek fan, with an entire episode of Family Guy being written around the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Nevertheless, I was excited for the opportunity to have a show that presents a different look at the standard space drama.
The episode opens on a familiar trope; the main character Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) finds his wife cheating on him with an alien that shoots blue liquid out of his head. However, the show manages to elevate itself beyond the relatively simple gag humor found in many of MacFarlane’s creations. Mercer’s first act is to ask an old friend to accept the helmsmen position, his old pal Gordon (Scott Grimes), who is in a holodeck-type room fighting an orc dressed as a samurai. Here we see a glimmer of what the show could be. It’s revealed that the menacing orc has been programmed to be a real bro and is just really excited that Mercer was finally be able to get a Captain position, right before he’s swiftly decapitated.
After the brief stint on Earth in the year 2149, we are whisked away to the first crew meeting on the ship with what appears to be our cast: Peter Macon as Bortus, a genderless alien who pees once per year; Mark Jackson as Isaac, a robot who seems to be racist against organic life; Penny Johnson Jerald (Kasidy Yates on Deep Space Nine) as Doctor Finn; J. Lee as navigator John LaMarr, whose only request is to still be allowed to drink soda on the bridge; and Halston Sage as the surpassingly young, but very strong, security officer Alara Kitan.
Then we learn that his new first officer will be his ex-wife, Adrianne Palicki playing the role of Kelly Grayson. This relationship seems to be one of the central aspects of the show going forward, which has to avoid the “same old, same old” relationship issues if it doesn’t want to be a drag on the show. Nothing kills a new idea faster than stale plot points.
The first few jokes don’t exactly hit their targets, but the show picks up very quickly in terms of action and humor. This feels less like the traditional MacFarlane fare and the show is better for it. There are some genuine moments here, and it looks like we may get to explore more themes and aspects of the future and man’s place in the stars than I originally thought. With those aspects present, the jokes actually feel more substantial and funny in a real way, rather than just for a cheap laugh. Like any show, The Orville needs some time to get its space legs under it, but if the first episode is any indication, I believe that this show is going to be one that I come back to every week.