The fall premiere season is ramping up, and one of the most “out there” shows, The Orville, is set to start Sunday. Created and headlined by Seth MacFarlane, the show promises to bring back a sense of classic Star Trek. In many ways, this will be typical sci-fi with a diverse crew facing the great unknown. At the same time, it will also be a wildcard for Fox. Having many years of success from MacFarlane’s other shows such as Family Guy and American Dad, the channel is now putting faith on MacFarlane’s first live action series.
While the reviews begin to come out (and begin to fuel the controversy), viewers will be able to make up their own minds shortly. Before the premier, here are a few things you should know and expect about the series.
Much of The Orville is set up like any other sci-fi series: there’s a ship, people, and drama/ danger to last at least 13 episodes. The show promises to blend the social and dramatic tropes Star Trek was known for in its heyday with the humor and lighter tones MacFarlane’s other series rest upon. Whether this will actually work out or not remains to be seen.
MacFarlane plays Ed Mercer, a commander in the X experiencing the everyday drama many of us know all too well. He’s found his wife in bed with a hairless alien. He’s stuck in a seemingly dead-end job. His superiors have no faith in his ability to perform and excel. In some ways, Mercer is just an average Joe in space.
Apparently, the Union has run out of qualified commanders for their ships, so Mercer gets his chance at command. Despite the doubts and dismay of his superiors, Mercer takes command of the USS Orville with a diverse crew of human and alien beings. His first officer is the same wife he found in bed. His best friend flies the ship. A few humanoids are sprinkled in just for good measure. There are even a couple genderless crewmen and a formless blob to round out the nonhuman side of the crew spectrum.
The show will include many of the same types of storylines and plot devices that Star Trek and similar shows heavily relied on. There’s a vast, new frontier to explore; unknown alien dangers to confront; the potential for hilarity and drama to intertwine with each week’s episode.
The big question is, will it all work?
A Great Unknown
Comedy and science-fiction are not strangers to one another. Many shows, like Space Balls, Futurama, and Firefly found a formula that worked with their brand of humor in space. Sometimes, some of the shows even found the occasion to get serious or blend in some darker elements into the storyline.
The great unknown for The Orville, however, is whether MacFarlane and his team of writers have the chops to do the same in an original way. Much of the criticism, so far, related to The Orville has been focused on it appearing to be a parody of Star Trek. MacFarlane is a well-known Trekkie, even having guest starred on Star Trek Enterprise years ago. In order for this show to work, however, it’s gonna have to demonstrate it’s not just a humorous Trek clone.
The biggest challenge is going to be balancing the comedic aspects that MacFarlane is known for with the seriousness and drama today’s sci-fi viewers have grown accustomed to in other series like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. Firefly, in particular, was a prime example of the potential sci-fi can have when comedy and drama are seamlessly blended together. If it works for The Orville, the show may join the ranks of other unique sci-fi shows and movies that fans flock to almost without hesitation.
If it fails, however, the show risks being a hodgepodge of Family Guy-style jokes and half assed attempts at real life social commentary and reflection. If Mercer is doing nothing more than delivering one-liners while facing the threats of space, it is more than likely the show will have a short run. While the premise has a lot to offer, the ultimate success of the show will come down to the quality of writing and execution.
The first two episodes premier Sunday, September 10th and 18th, before moving to its regular Thursday spot on September 21st.