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Tag Archive: Robert Duncan McNeill


   

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last year Fox’s science fiction series The Orville provided what many fans of sci-fi TV had been missing for the past decade: a rejection of a dystopian model of the future and a return to an optimistic outlook, a future where Earthlings succeed in their exploration of the universe.  Hands-on creator Seth MacFarlane and sci-fi royalty Brannon Braga, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Duncan McNeill, and even Jon Favreau and many other genre veterans created a new world full of real people, believable aliens, exquisitely designed ships and sets, and a 75-piece orchestra with the best music you can find on television.  In the old days of Hollywood, studios tried to give fans what they wanted to see.  Distancing itself from the new trend of laying on viewers quirky visions and forced constructs, the show instead unapologetically serves up what is frequently disparagingly called “fan service.”  In other words, MacFarlane is giving sci-fi fans what they want.  Fans of The Orville can marvel at the details of the production in a newly-released chronicle of the series, The World of The Orville Readers will walk away with a better understanding of why the series works: It’s a show by fans for fans, created by some of the best artists, artisans, writers, and actors around.

It’s pretty rare that any television series releases a companion book, let alone one that is published before the second season airs.  The World of The Orville covers the series from idea through concept art design, casting, art direction, make-up, costumes, prop design, and sound, up through the end of the season this past December.  The book is not just a compilation of concept art or film images, it’s a good mix of both, complete with explanatory text from across the several production departments.  Insight is provided from execs Brannon Braga, David A. Goodman, and Jason Clark, production designer Stephen J. Lineweaver, supervising producer Andre Bormanis, master visual effects veteran Rob Legato, effects supervisors Luke McDonald and Natasha Francis, concept designer Brandon Fayette, prop master Bryan Rodgers, display designer David Watkinson, construction coordinator Tony Lattanzio, makeup artist Howard Berger, music composer Bruce Broughton, and creator and actor Seth MacFarlane.  The book’s author Jeff Bond incorporates a good mix of behind the scenes photographs and text to provide a solid overview of the story path of season one.

Significant coverage is given of the ship The Orville itself, inside and out, including early concept art and alternative styles considered in arriving at the giant yacht that would make it to the screen.  Readers will get a look at costume designer Joseph A. Porro’s rejected designs, and various makeup designs attempted for key alien characters.  Ship designs, alien worlds, costumes and weapons, as well as a look at each key character and production set can be found here.

Check out some preview pages from The World of The Orville, courtesy of the publisher:

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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.

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