A Review By David Stegora
This past Sunday, September 10th, a new science fiction television series called The Orville premiered on Fox. We wrote about the series in the past and science fiction fans have been looking forward to it with mixed feelings. I sat down to watch the premiere not long after it aired and will present my thoughts on it to you now. If you haven’t seen it yet and spoilers bother you, turn back now.
The episode opens in the year 2418 with Ed Mercer, played by series creator Seth MacFarlane, comes home to find his wife cheating on him with an alien. That wife is Kelly Grayson, played by Adrianne Palicki. From there, the story jumps one year forward and we see Mercer in an admiral’s office being offered command of a midsize exploratory vessel called The Orville. The mention how Mercer has had a troubled past year and how this command is a sort of last chance for him. Before the scene ends, Mercer secures the job of helmsman for his best friend, who is also known.
Mercer goes to give his friend, who comes to remind me of Wash from Firefly, the news and finds him in what I can only call a holodeck. If you’d somehow made it this far into the episode without thinking of Star Trek, that should be over now.
The next scene takes place on the Orville itself. The impressive thing about this is it takes place fewer than 10 minutes into the episode and we already have a setting and two major characters introduced and defined. On the ship, Mercer gives a speech to the crew then goes through personal introductions with the senior officers, many of which are nonhuman. One of these officers is from a robot race and I expect will serve the role of the emotionally stunted character we see in every Star Trek series.
The ship, which looks great and not quite like any design I’ve seen before, then sets off on its first mission. That mission is simply delivering supplies to a scientific research outpost. While in transit, Mercer is notified an executive officer has become available for the Orville and will rendezvous with them on the way. That executive officer predictably turns out to be Mercer’s ex wife.
The Orville arrives where they are to deliver their load of supplies only to learn the supplies were just a pretense to get a ship to the outpost. It seems they have developed a technology which can speed up time within a bubble of space and seek protection from hostile aliens who may seek to steal and weapon this device and turn it into a weapon. Those hostile aliens are then brought in by a human traitor. The crew of the Orville take the device and begin to flee, bringing the director of the outpost with them, while under fire. I thought it was interesting that Mercer gets shot during this evacuation. The injury is minor but it does show us the heroes are not completely invincible on this show.
The crew is able to get back to the ship, which is now heavily damaged from a battle that has been taking place in space near the outpost and looked almost exactly like an engagement out of Star Trek. They’re unable to quickly escape and eventually pretend to surrender, only to use the time advancing device and a redwood seed acquired earlier in the episode as a weapon to destroy the hostile vessel.
Before the end of the episode, Grayson is prepared to transfer to another ship but Mercer asks her to stay instead, which everyone likely knew was going to happen from the start. She then goes to thank the admiral from the beginning for the opportunity and it’s revealed she is the one who got Mercer his command through familial connections.
One strong impression left by this first episode is it goes too far from one extreme to the other with comedy and drama and it often does so too quickly. I think for the series to really work in a long term, a balance will need to be found. Likely the comedy elements should be toned down as there are several points in this episode where it feels like too much and it almost gets annoying. The humor is mostly cheap and juvenile but we shouldn’t expect anything else from Seth MacFarlane. That said, it wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it would be. It isn’t Family Guy in space or anything that awful.
I want to say The Orville loses points for being blatantly derivative, being an obvious Star Trek knockoff, but it honestly steals from all the right places and sort of works in its own way. The show looks absolutely fantastic for television, from special effects, to costumes and sets. The set designs are sleek and very Star Trek like but the sound effects, of which there are many and they are quite loud, calls Star Wars to mind. The downside to this is it makes me think the series may be expensive to produce and that will hurt chances of it getting renewed for additional seasons, especially on Fox.
Overall, I enjoyed this first episode of The Orville. It has some kinks to work out to be good as a series but it has time to do it in the remaining 12 episodes of the first season. That aside, it’s certainly good enough for me to continue watching at this point and for me to recommend it to others.
Did you see the premiere of The Orville? What did you think? Let us know in the comments or on social media.