THE ORVILLE makes it's long awaited debut.

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"Old Wounds"

  • Written by Seth MacFarlane
  • Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring

  • Seth MacFarlane
  • Adrianne Palicki
  • Penny Johnson Jerald
  • Scott Grimes
  • Peter Macon
  • Halston Sage
  • J. Lee    
  • Mark Jackson

Typically I don’t read other people’s reviews before I sit down to write a review of my own.  I hate the idea that I might get influenced by someone else’s opinions before I’ve had the chance to form my own.  I actually hadn’t planned on reviewing THE ORVILLE, but I had seen several real harsh reviews which made me feel it was important to write a rebuttal of sorts since I genuinely enjoyed the show.  

Perhaps most interesting fact to me was that on Rotten Tomatoes, only 17% of critics liked it...BUT 90% of the audience liked it.  I was surprised that there was such a huge discrepancy.  I know Seth MacFarlane can be a polarizing figure, but this still seemed bizarre to me.  And it's not like ratings are the be all and end all of quality, but I was really happy to see The Orville had the highest ratings of a new show since "This is Us."  Granted it debuted after football, which is always a help, and there might be a huge drop off for the second episode, but I am optimistic

I think part of the problem from the critical perspective is that the show isn’t quite what you expect when you see Seth’s name attached to it.  It is not an out and our parody of Star Trek.  There is a lot of humor, but for the most part, it feels very natural.  The characters talk like real people, and there is a lot of humor that comes from that. The show doesn't seem all that concerned about what it is, which makes it hard to put in a neat basket.  It's not a pure comedy, and at least in the first episode, the drama is relatively lightweight.  It's not exactly ground-breaking TV, so that doesn't give a lot for critics to latch on to. 

THE ORVILLE is Seth MacFarlane’s Valentine to Star Trek.  He not only created the show, but he also wrote the first episode and stars in it as Captain Ed Mercer.  Mercer is a member of the Planetary Union, and was on the track for a solid career, until he discovered his wife (Adrianne Palicki)  was cheating on him.  Mercer has become a bit of a train wreck ever since.  A year later, desperate for Captains, the Planetary Union gives his command of his own ship, the USS Orville. His ex-wife is assigned as his temporary first officer.  

For the most part, I thought this was a strong first episode of a sci-fi show.  YES, it borrows heavily from Star Trek in terms of aesthetics and how the crew is structured, but I also don’t necessarily think that is the worst thing.  On top of that, the teases we’ve got for future episodes suggest that they will be dealing with social issues, which is something we haven’t really gotten from the reboot Star Trek movies.

The plot of the first episode worked though it was not particularly memorable.  The Orville are asked to bring supplies to a science outpost.  They discover that they have been called there under false pretenses.  At the lab, they have discovered a way to speed up time in a small bubble.  In the wrong hands, this could end up becoming a very dangerous weapon.  The scientists are looking for the Orville’s protection against the evil Krill.  A Krill ship arrives, and the Orville is able to use trickery to defeat the ship and save the day.

The effects looked great for a network show.  I especially liked the make-up work and costumes. So many of the characters looked and felt alien.  I really felt pulled into the world of the Orville immediately.   I am hoping they will be able to maintain that after the pilot.  

I thought the cast had a lot of potential.  I have been a fan of Penny Johnson Jerald’s for as long as I can remember.  She’s done everything from Deep Space Nine to The Larry Sanders Show.  And Victor Gerber was a nice surprise too.  Hopefully they will be able to get him to do a few more appearances, though since he stars in LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, that might be tricky.   They really helped give the show a sense of importance to me.  

I also loved Peter Macon as second officer Bortus.  Between the episode and the trailer for future episodes, you got a real strong sense of the character.  He felt a little like the child of Worf and Spock.  I love when you get an alien perspective on a sci-fi show.  I was also real curious about Isaac (voiced by Mark Johnson, who seemed to be doing one hell of a Brent Spiner impersonation).  The episode implied that he comes from a AI species that is very racist against other life forms, but we really didn’t get a sense of that in the episode.

As much as I like Seth MacFarlane as a writer, producer, and voice actor, I have never quite been as sold on him as an actor.  He was serviceable here, but part of me thinks he would have been better off staying behind the scenes.  He is sort of putting a target on his back making this look like a huge vanity project.  That said, he had solid chemistry with Adrianne Palicki as his ex-wife and Scott Grimes as his best friend, so I am not willing to write him off.  

One thing that really stood out at me is that the science in THE ORVILLE actually seemed like real science.  The notion of mixing tardigrade DNA with a redwood tree to make a hearty tree that could grow anywhere was really cool.  Same with the idea of using quantum energy to change “time progression” in a specific area. Sure, there was some sci-fi technobabble, but at the heart of the show was some real science theory.  Seth MacFarlane has always had an interest in science (see COSMOS), and the fact they took the time to at least try and get it right here was a really nice touch.

All in all, I think The Orville got off to a strong start.  Shows like this take a little time to develop, but I thought we got a nice blend of story, science, humor, and characterization in this first episode.  I am definitely willing to keep watching to see how the show develops.  I think the more the show is able to differentiate itself from Star Trek the better, though we do have upcoming episodes directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, Brannon Braga, and Jonathan Frakes, who all have strong ties to Star Trek. If nothing else, I am far more interested in THE ORVILLE than STAR TREK DISCOVERY.  

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0