Review–The Orville is a keeper, the next must-watch series for sci-fi fans

The Orville is exactly what you have been waiting for.  Not a flat sci-fi parody as the advance press characterized it, it’s more of a take on workplace situational shows like The Office and Office Space, recreating those daily grind obstacles that all of us face, only in a future, outerspace workplace.  The result is a visually gorgeous show that takes itself seriously more than it tries to mock anything that came before it.  Unlike Galaxy Quest, a fun and beloved parody it has been compared to, The Orville takes off into a new direction altogether.  The Orville expands on elements from across all sci-fi, like space battle sequences and planet flyovers using Star Wars-inspired camera angles (including real model ships, not just CGI), completely new and unique aliens (the only thing close to these can be found in Doctor Who), and a fantastic, triumphant musical score from Bruce Broughton that is every bit what you’d expect from the composer of music for Silverado, Tombstone, Lost in Space, Gunsmoke, Dallas, Logan’s Run, and Buck Rogers.

Seth MacFarlane (Ted, Family Guy, Star Trek Enterprise) plays Ed Mercer, the newly appointed captain of the USS Orville.  Ed is a once-ambitious officer in a future space force called the Union, who has taken some backward steps resulting from a marriage gone wrong to his new second-in-command, Commander Kelly Grayson, played by Adrianne Palicki (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Supernatural, John Wick).  Although the characters’ past together is grim, the writers quickly address the closeness they once had in a bit of comedy banter over a quantum device that speeds up time and in a classic MacGyver moment involving a seed and a hot glue gun.  The chemistry they will need for the rest of the series is present from the start.  The rest of the cast is a mix of straight man and comic relief, and the writers don’t hesitate to drift them into pure drama when the story calls for it.  Scott Grimes (Band of Brothers, Crimson Tide, Star Trek: The Next Generation) plays Helmsman Malloy, a pilot and old friend of Ed who flies by the seat of his pants.  Peter Macon (The Shield, Supernatural) is Lt. Commander Bortus, a Moclan (with an incredible prosthetic head) who takes his job seriously and represents the best of the Union, along with Penny Johnson Jerald (Castle, Deep Space Nine) as the ship’s doctor.  Mark Jackson is Isaac, an artificial lifeform from Kaylon (who is a character that seems to emerge straight from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), J. Lee (Family Guy) is navigator LaMarr, who seems to fear the change a new captain might bring, and Halston Sage (How to Rock, Crisis, Goosebumps) is security officer Kitan, a Xeleyan who is young and the physically strongest member of the team.

Enough cannot be said about the alien creations.  Bortus and Kitan are perfectly realized.  Isaac looks like a classic retro-inspired android.  A swimming, floral, three-eyed chief botanist (created by Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor Robert Legato) is gorgeous and organic, and best of all, not bipedal, as is the gelatinous Yaphit (voiced by Norm McDonald).  The villains of episode one, the Krill, are as perfect as sci-fi aliens get (they actually take off and land on planets–a strange but welcome novelty for a sci-fi series), and the seething and charismatic Krill captain (played by Joel Swetow) stumbles into the crew politics in one very funny scene.  Even passing background aliens are incredibly detailed compared to aliens of many other sci-fi series.

As a full-hour weekly series The Orville will be more than a passing laugh.  The production values are as high as any sci-fi series we’ve seen, with incredible art design, vibrant costumes by Joseph Porro (Stargate, Independence Day, Ultraviolet, Iron Man 3, Looper), and both CGI and physical special effects–and sleek props.  Every genre fan’s favorite executive Jon Favreau directed the first episode of the show, and other favorites are on the way, including Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek First Contact, Leverage, The Librarians), Robert Duncan McNeill (Chuck, Supernatural, White Collar, Star Trek), James Conway (Psych, Charmed, Star Trek), Tucker Gates (The X-Files, The Office, Lost), and Brannon Braga (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, Enterprise).

Regardless of whatever political network machinations are behind the scenes as with any new show, fanboys and fangirls can look forward to twelve more episodes of the series, as 13 episodes have been booked for the season.  When audiences think back to the unwatchable first and second seasons of many classic sci-fi series, The Orville’s cast emerges as something different–they seem to have slipped into their roles and are gelling in the very first episode–which plays out as a “meet the cast” story similar to the pilots for Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Enterprise.  With a little luck and some continued high production quality, intriguing new aliens, and good weekly stories, The Orville will hopefully provide even more great sci-fi–and fun–for us all to look forward to.

Fans of Seth MacFarlane and sci-fi, it’s time to climb aboard The Orville.  The Orville airs Sunday nights on Fox.

C.J. Bunce

One comment

  1. I think that The Orville is better Star Trek than the last three official Star Trek series. Instead of the stupid farce that the trailer hinted at, we got a decent story with well-developed, interesting characters. The starships are really beautiful. This series has a lot of potential.

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