Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I Watch TV: The Orville

So The Orville, Seth Macfarlane’s comedy space opera. I’m in a strange position here as it exists in a space adjacent to what I’ve been writing and posting on my Patreon; Star Trek flavoured science fiction with jokes. What do I think?

Firstly, I’d say that it is very Star Trek. In fact closer to Star Trek than I would have thought you could make on TV. Close enough that it’s not the characters, plots, themes that distinguish it from (in particular) The Next Generation, so much as tone. The plots and science fictional situations could easily be in TNG episodes. In fact just about every character could exist in the Star Trek universe, some as the comic relief, others almost unchanged but their situation viewed as drama rather than comedy.

For example, meeting your ex while on some kind of dangerous mission and becoming reconciled to the situation comes up on Star Trek several times. On the other hand putting the two ex’s into the two most senior leadership roles on the ship so they have to work together is a classic way to create comic tension. And also dramatic tension and add another dimension to their characters. They know how to make television is what I’m saying.

There’s also a structural thing that happens in some episodes. Focusing on one character and putting the others in supporting roles happens several times; in many case cutting off two or three characters and keeping the rest of the crew away dealing with an unrelated problem. It’s somewhat less of an ensemble piece than TNG. Group scenes tend to be about two or three characters with others offering snappy comebacks or ridiculous misunderstandings.

Most of the missions follow fairly well-trodden paths though the social media one had some moderately sharp satire and the trip to the 2nd dimension was fun. The crew tend to mess up more than the TNG crew, which makes sense both in universe (The Orville is not a top ship with a crack crew) and as a sitcom.

I have one final caveat. If you didn’t mind jokes in your Star Trek I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone missing TNG on your screens. BUT Star Trek Discovery exists. I haven’t seen it. It might be better Star Trek than this. Which doesn’t mean you can’t have both.

Watch This: For 12 episodes of The Next Generation conceived as comedy rather than drama.
Don’t Watch This: If that sounds like hell.

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