While the big news for the purists amongst Star Trek fans was the release of the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, the news for the rest of the ST universe was the release of The Orville. Seth McFarlane is a huge ST fan, and the show rips off just about 90% of its approach from the Old Series, the movies, The Next Generation and Voyager.
Originally billed as a spoof, most of the reviews that I saw of the show were noting that it was way less of a spoof than Galaxy Quest had been. GQ had people acting crazy, but it was because it was so far out of their normal wheelhouse i.e. science fiction brought to life for actors who had been on the show. For the Orville, you’re a lot closer to Space Balls than to Galaxy Quest, without the outrageous side. It is more like a like sitcom set in the ST universe.
But the weird part is the show actually still works as a sci-fi show. The series premiere focuses on a remote science post with a new discovery, alien invaders, and a new ship sent to investigate with a new captain at the helm.
Seth McFarlane of course plays the Captain, Ed Mercer, of the U.S.S. Orville. Success with The Family Guy and American Dad could have easily made this a natural fit as an animated series but apparently, he just wanted his own ship. The first officer character is a woman (a la the original Star Trek pilot), and his ex-wife, played by Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights, Agents of SHIELD). By the end of the episode, they’re working well together, and if that dynamic holds, could be fun to watch. If not, it’ll be like watching your parents fight.
The secondary characters — Penny Johnson Jerald as the medical officer, Scott Grimes as the helmsman, Peter Macon as a science officer, Halston Sage as security officer, and J. Lee as the navigator — are all more or less third or fourth-level characters. I’m sure they’ll grow in importance, but mostly they are just comic relief. And not very good comic relief. Across the board, and particularly the first two, I have pretty much never liked them in anything they’ve been in.
It’ll be interesting to see if they keep it going as Star Trek-lite or up the spoof factor.