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The Orville

The Orville – S01E02 & 03

You know what’s extremely annoying? Bumping around the time slot on shows, especially new shows, like The Orville. This is especially true for new shows. The Good Place did this last year and Episode 2 basically got lost in the flow after it’s “1 hour premier” then “On the regular time slot”. Anyway, thankfully, there is on demand, where you can’t fast forward through commercials like you can with the DVR.

I’m not entirely sure if I will continue talking about this show weekly, but I did want to at least do a follow up after last week’s Episode 1 write up. The show has definitely managed to shake off some of it’s “Pilot Syndrome”. The humor is more subtle and the actual plot lines are much more substantial. Surprisingly, there is actually a bit of continuation of plot lines across episodes. During Episode 2, it turns out Bortus, the Not-Klingon dude is having a child, which takes him out of the action for the duration of the episode, but transforms into the plot of the third episode. I honestly didn’t expect any level of over arching plot to this series, so this is a surprising twist and frankly, bodes well for the potential staying power.

Apparently it’s getting panned by the Critics however. It seems like everyone was hoping or expecting “Family Guy in Space”. Instead we get Star Trek with some humor. Granted sometimes it’s dick and fart jokes level humor, but a lot more it just feels like people making jokes occasionally. Instead of “everyone is all duty all the time” Star Trek, we get a bunch of folks working on a star ship being people. Which is kind of nice.

Also unlike Star Trek, there isn’t always a happy ending solution. The third episode involves Bortus and his mate’s baby. Bortus is a Moclan. They kind of come off like Klingons, but mostly for being gruff and stern and brooding, less so for being party animal warriors. Moclans are also all male. I mean it’s not quite the right description since they are single gender, but having a pair of “gay Klingons” is entertaining all on it’s own, if only because it’s a different juxtaposition of ideas. It also works well since it’s just the way they are, being aliens. It turns out that they aren’t so single gender as one might think, just more that females are extremely rare, since Bortus has a baby girl. The plot of the episode revolves around the decision whether or not to change the girl into a boy, a common Moclan procedure, given their culture. While there are some revelations, the ending doesn’t really turn out how one might expect since they opt to go through with the procedure.

Because culture really is a hard thing to shift. You’ve got an entire species of alien who has been doing this for generations. They aren’t going to deus ex their way into making the “good choice”. The better part is that the show doesn’t come off as some preachy sappy pandering piece for rights of the baby or whatever. Good arguments are presented for both choices and the reality as it were is that these aliens are not humans. The great example used is that humans correct a cleft pallet, they just do it. Moclans see this gender issue in pretty much the same light. It’s not a problem to do the procedure, it’s a problem not to do the procedure.

I’m looking forward to more of The Orville, I just kind of worry it’ll get canned for not being Family Guy enough.

The Orville – S01E01

So the obvious comparison here, is of course, Star Trek.  The story I’ve heard is that Seth MacFarlane has wanted to do a Star Trek series for a while but CBS has told him no, so instead, he’s not making The Orville, for Fox.  A better comparison is probably the movie Galaxy Quest.  Both are not quite parodies of Star Trek.  I say not quite because while both have their comedic elements and take their queues from Trek, both have their own little ideas and both have some level of trying to be serious behind them.

I kind of worry that this mixture may end up being the downfall of The Orville in the long run.  The Family Guy/Seth MacFarlane audience is going to expect a constant barrage of comedy, something that this show doesn’t really offer.

Yet.

Yet is definitely the possibility here.  Personally, I hope the show steers more into the serious side.  I’m not a huge fan of the Star Trek reboot films, and I’m not sure what Star Trek Discovery will bring, but this show definitely feels more like the older Trek when things were a bit more fun and less super serious all the time.  I say “yet” because this first episode definitely reeks of classic Pilot Syndrome.  It doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and half the episode is devoted to introducing the cast with a kind of flimsy plot tacked onto back end.

I do have to say the resolution of the actual plot and threat was pretty clever and did a nice job of wrapping together several of the previous elements that had popped up during the show.

I also don’t mind the comedy.  I don’t watch a ton of comedy TV these days and have not watched anything from Seth MacFarlane in years but I do enjoy it.  The little side comments and commentary worked well, some of the more random gags, like the guy working on repairs in the window at the end of the episode, not so much.

The cast all were pretty enjoyable.  There’s definitely potential in each of them to have some fun chemistry and interaction.  Some of the effects felt a little off but that is probably a result of Pilot Syndrome as well as the lower budget comedy series nature of the show.

I think a lot of my ultimate enjoyment of this series depends on what directions it heads off into in the future.  I’m not sure the Trek formula, even as a parody, works too well if things remain too episodic.  It kind of needs some level of world building, that’s what makes it fantastical and enjoyable.  Without the backdrop of the universe, I’m not sure that a bunch of random jokes making fun of Sci-Fi really will work in the long run without getting repetitive.