Third-episode verdict: The Orville (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)

Star Trek but duller

The Orville

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Acquired by Fox UK to air in Autumn

As I discovered while watching the first episode of Seth McFarlane’s new ‘pastiche’ of the Star Trek universe, it’s not actually a pastiche at all. In fact, it’s basically just Star Trek again, but with a few lewder jokes, a bit more workplace comedy and enough changes to names, places, species and Federations to make it ineligible for format-infringement lawsuits. Go into it expecting a slightly duller Star Trek, rather than a new Galaxy Quest, and you might even find something to enjoy.

Indeed, McFarlane himself says that he intends this to be something other than straight pastiche, swapping between outright comedy one episode to straight drama the next. Hopefully, the characters and their interplay will be what keeps us watching, he reckons.

So I went into the next two episodes with an open mind. Is it going to be a comedy this week? A romance? What?

Nope. It’s more Star Trek. As of episode two, we get a new title sequence and a theme tune that’s possibly even duller than Star Trek: Voyager‘s, despite the obvious attempts to emulate it and the fact it wasn’t thought humanly possible to have a duller title sequence than Star Trek: Voyager‘s. We also got what was more or less, bar a couple of changes, Star Trek‘s pilot episode, The Menagerie.

Episode three – directed by the show’s exec producer Brannon Braga (exec producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise)  started out more promisingly with some jokes at the expense of the Star Trek holodecks. Said jokes were even funny for a change.

We then get… another old Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. I’m not sure exactly which one – any of the many trial episodes, such as The Measure of a Man, crossed with any of the “what line must we draw in accepting other people’s cultures?” episodes (eg The Host, Half a Life). For a bit of relevancy, the question under debate was “Should we perform sex-reassignment surgery on babies?”, although the waters were so muddied philosophically and the general intellectual tone of the debate was so low that by the end, the question was more “Can women make a contribution to society?” Still, that’s the state we’re living in right now, so maybe that discussion is as topical as trans rights is.

BUT IT WAS STILL STAR TREK AND NOT VERY GOOD STAR TREK AT THAT.

To be fair, in terms of scripting it’s at least as good as Star Trek: Voyager and most of the first couple of seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise. That’s not saying much, but it is a step up at least.

It’s equally fair to say that The Orville is the best acted, best written, unlicensed Star Trek cosplay with the best production values and special effects you’ll ever see. Like most cosplay, it adds little (here, a replicator that makes cannabis brownies), just remains in thrall to the original.

So if you want to watch Seth McFarlane in his own Star Trek, imagining he was once married to Adrianne Palicki, The Orville might be the show for you. Otherwise, Google “Star Trek funny episodes” and you’ll be bound to turn up something from the original shows that’s much much better.

Barrometer rating: 3

The Barrometer for TheOrville

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