The Orville: Season 1
Admittedly, I do not have access to any empirical data to support this observation, but I submit that dedicated fans of fantasy and science fiction routinely create the variations of their favorite movie and television series. In these flights of fancy, you can insert yourself as the undaunted main protagonist who is always ready with a clever quip while saving the day with steadfast loyalty to your uncompromised ideals For most of us, such an endeavor remains a personal Gedankenexperiment, never to be realized openly. However, if you happen to grow up to be an exceptionally creative, and most importantly lucratively creative success, you might receive the financial support to turn those dreams into a piece of entertainment. If you happen to Seth MacFarlane, then you’re able to turn your fantasies into reality, or at least a weekly series on a major network. He received what amounted to as a blank check to fuel his artistic endeavors, almost unheard of in the modern entertainment industry. A glimpse at his list of skills and achievements provide a strong rationalization for such financial trust. Mr. MacFarlane exhibits expertise in a myriad of fields encompassing an incredible range of talents from writing, animation, singing, voice-overs, and direction. All these outlets for his renaissance are infused with a deep-seated love of pop culture, driven by au understanding of the exceedingly difficult genre of dark comedy. His love of ‘Star Wars,’ lead to a trilogy of satiric episodes on his flagship series. ‘Family Guy.’ Not one to play favorites, his devotion to the ‘Star Trek’ franchise resulted in numerous collaborations with Sir Patrick Stewart and an on-screen cameo on Star Trek Enterprise. The latest manifestation of his fanboy predilections is the Fox series, ‘The Orville.’ The Star Trek homage is about to enter its sophomore season which naturally brings us to the consideration of the season 1 DVD.
The Orville is set four hundred years in the future in a time when humanity has enjoyed peace throughout our world. Reaching out to join a coalition of other sentient species from throughout the galaxy, The Planetary Union, founded some two hundred years before the start of the series, Membership requires the planet to formerly disband national governments in favor of global consolidation and peaceful unity. The primary source of dramatic tension is derived from the various unaligned civilizations, some with cultural objectives antagonistic to the peaceful mandate of the Union. Capt provides the main point of view. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane). Ed had always been destined for flag rank in the service. That was until his wife, and fellow officer, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), had an affair with an alien. In keeping with a few of Mr. MacFarlane’s most notable trademarks, Ed’s career took a precipitous plunge as his life fell apart.
Mr. MacFarlane is well known for creating characters subject to the human foibles common to our species. Feeling responsible, Kelly calls in favors in the admiralty; Ed is placed on the short list for command of a state-of-the-art exploratory vessel, the Orville. The caveat, unknown to Mercer is that Commander Greyson was assigned as his first officer, ostensibly to keep an eye on his ability to command. Typically, these plot contrivances would dominate the continuing central narrative. Fortunately, its multi-talented showrunner charted a substantially more entertaining solution. The factors surrounding Ed’s promotion is mentioned resulting in a realistic resentment on his part. That was quickly resolved in favor of mutual respect and a need to fulfill their responsibilities as bridge officers. There was an uncomfortable moment when Kelly’s para-amour arrives, Darulio (Rob Lowe). The only known member of the race called the Retepsian. In a clever plot twist, the Retepsians exude powerful pheromones while in heat that sparks romantic desire upon skin-to-skin contact. After it results in an unexpected tryst with the Captain, Ed realizes that Kelly’s infidelity was hormonally induced. Other than this, the topics relating to the circumstances around Ed’s promotion remain unexplored. This did prevent the series from taking a potentially disastrous turn towards becoming a soap opera. Mr. MacFarlane is creative and able to flirt with the salacious details without being seduced to their eclipsing the primary focus of the series.
Although this series was the adult realization of a childhood fascination of outer space-oriented stories, Mr. MacFarlane demonstrated the professionalism and respect for both the fans and genre, to allow the show to deteriorate into yet another vanity project. True, he is the leading man and primary creative force behind the series, but he has assembled an amazing ensemble cast. Besides Ms. Palicki, the central cast includes Penny Johnson Jerald, most recently from the canceled police procedural, ‘Castle’ the bridge crew of the Orville is directly modeled on the paradigm created by Gene Roddenberry over fifty years ago. She portrays the Chief Medical Officer, Lieutenant Commander Claire Finn, M.D. serving as the Second Officer is one of the most interesting characters, Lieutenant Commander Bortus (Peter Macon). His race, from the planet Mucus, are almost exclusively male. If a female is born the parents typically opt for gender reassignment. Bortus is married to a civilian, Klyden (Chad L. Coleman). Together they have a son that Bortus carried. The usual pregnant male jokes abounded but were offset in typical Star Trek fashion by the exploration of relevant social issues this case revolving around the gender reassignment.
At the helm are a pair of best friends, Helmsman Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), the perennial prankster and Navigator, Lieutenant Commander. John LaMarr (J. Lee). His IQ is second only to the robotic Science Officer, Isaac (Mark Jackson), who comes from a planet inhabited by artificial Intelligent mechanical life forms. In most ways, he is a metallic Mr. Data. Considering a substantial portion of the target demographic is male, it is prudent to include a very attractive young woman in the cast. In the current sociopolitical climate might appear to be politically dubious, the undeniable fact of life and business necessity is such casting decisions have been integral to entertainment for millennia and is not about to change to conform to the current level of social enlightenment. The actress assuming this role is Halston Sage, a burgeoning talent currently paying her dues with supporting roles in critically acclaimed productions. Here she portrays Lt. Alara Kitan, the Chief Security Officer. Although the youngest of the senior officers Alara comes from a world dedicated to intellectual pursuits. It also possesses a significantly larger gravity than Earth she exhibits incredible strength quite anachronistic for someone so petite.
Every aspect of the show’s production reveals the enthusiasm ingrained in the very diverse abilities consistently demonstrated by Mr. MacFarlane; so many of the fundamental components of the production reveal his lifelong infatuation of the Star Trek franchise, and by extension, the science fiction genre in general. His penchant for endless popular culture references particularly, in this instance, to one of the most popular science fiction franchises in history. It is well known that these fans are fiercely protective of the most miniscule details of the canon. Among the many attractive aspects of this premise is the way parody is used in a respectful, almost loving fashion, emanating from the mind of a truly dedicated fan. Ultimately, the survival of the series depends on the acceptance of that dedicated cadre of aficionados. The proof of this hypothesis can be found on the aggregate review sites. I am always intrigued when I see a significant difference between the ratings of online critics and the audience members. Although I do belong to the former category, I have spent many decades sitting in dark theaters gleefully watching the movies. The first season of series was considered pedantic, at least by most accepted critical standards. The official score in the mid-twenties stands out against a viewer acceptance over 90. The rationale is simple; Mr. MacFarlane is a dedicate an extremely talented fan writing for other fans, he is not looking for critical accolades or the favor of those reviewing it. He set out to produce a television show that is fun to watch and enjoyable on every level.