‘The Orville’ Season 2 TV Review – WTF Is This Show?!

Published by Shah Shahid on

The Orville is Seth MacFarlane’s homage to Star Trek and it takes on a life of its own as it blends tribute and originality into something new and refreshing. 

So when Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who’s an avid Star Trek fan, decides to do a 1-hour science fiction show about a ship in space, I knew right away it would be something special. What I didn’t realize is how important the show would become among my weekly favorites, and just how amazing it would be.

I was expecting basically a Star Trek spoof with obnoxious dick and fart jokes, which would’ve been a great chance of pace from the actual Star Trek show on TV, Discovery, which brought the serious doom, gloom, and action every week. What I wasn’t ready for, was a conceptually innovative show that pushed the boundaries of contemplative storytelling.

The premise of The Orville is pretty Star Trek-y. A Union Officer, Ed Mercer, (MacFarlane) takes command of a new ship called, The Orville, to lead a mission of space exploration. As he meets his new crew, he has to deal with the fact that his ex-wife Kelly (Adrianne Palicki), who cheated on him, will be his first officer. The rest of the crew start out with the typical tropes of comedic guys, straight guys, emotion-less robots, and so on and so forth; pretty standard thus far for a sci-fi show.

But things get super ridiculous, super fast, when MacFarlane and the writers begin to introduce storylines that deal with, just as an example, gender identities and the moral and ethical implications of surgically altering the gender of a newborn infant to suit a specific societal or cultural norms, as featured in the Season 1 Episode titled ‘About A Girl’. And if this seems to you like a particularly serious and loaded topic for a comedy show to be dealing with, you’d be absolutely correct!

That third episode of Season 1 began my long-standing question, which I inevitably end every episode with: “WTF is this show!?”

For a show from the creator of Ted and American Dad, The Orville deals with some pretty and major cultural issues of our time, such as gender identity, sexuality, terrorism, and the moral and ethical implications of it all. And the most impressive feat is that the show does all this, with that very same Family Guy style of humor sprinkled in throughout. 

It’s kind of astonishing to be holding a show that sees a Blob creature named Yaphit (Norm MacDonald) having sex with a human female by her basically being engulfed in, what looks like Jello, in such high regard. But guys! I can’t help it. The Orville is an insanely good show that has, on more than one occasion, made me tear up. 

For context: Star Trek The Original Series, as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation often dealt with similarly thought-provoking storylines. They would take a topical controversy or current event, blow it completely out of proportion using outrageous science fiction narrative devices and premises, in order to tell stories featuring real dilemmas, moral conundrums and philosophical debates about culture, race, history and so much more. The Orville brilliantly replicates that same level of discourse in a show that is able to deal with similar storylines, while also relieving the tension with silly and well-crafted jokes. 

The Orville is a show that sees its diverse crew explore the universe, facing incredible situations and problems that need a higher level of resolution that the usual happy ending that we’re used to seeing. And many episodes don’t even have a happy ending as the reality of certain situations are just left to linger when the end credits roll. 

One of the characters of The Orville is Bortus (Peter Macon), who is a Moclan, a race of hyper-aggressive humanoids of the same sex, who are naturally homosexual by human definition but also carry a strong stigma against women and heterosexual relationships. I just described the plots of multiple episodes during The Orville’s two season-run, by the way. 

Bortus is clearly meant to be a reflection of Worf (Michael Dorn) from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Moclans are clearly meant to be Klingons. However, MacFarlane and crew subvert the masculinity of the Klingons, by making Moclans be single-sex, that are also homosexual, thereby eliminating the stereotypes of homosexuality being identifiable by certain behavourial traits.

And this type of innovation and subversion of the usual science fiction, dramatic and comedy tropes continues through the series, as we get amalgamations of other Star Trek or Sci-Fi characters and formulas. A petite and sweet looking girl is the security officer Alara (Halston Sage), because of her species’ incredible super strength. An artificial intelligence named Isaac (Mark Jackson) engages in and maintains an emotional relationship with a human female. The show even features completely healthy attitudes regarding infidelity, divorce, while still calling out the reality of those situations in as objective a way as possible. 

Now, I don’t want to paint The Orville as a one-trick pony of just showcasing controversial topics, it’s so much more than that. It’s got a lot of heart when portraying romantic storylines. It’s full of adventure and epic action sequences during the episodes that call for it. Some episodes are just slow and sweet in their almost indie film-like storytelling of individual characters. It’s a little bit of everything, while being like nothing else currently on television.

While Season 1 of The Orville featured many cameo appearances by actual movie stars such as Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron, no doubt in an attempt to crank up viewership, Season 2 seems to have to rely less on that kind of gimmick. Which is refreshing, but I’d love to see more familiar faces pop up on screen. 

The Orville is an unexpected gem of a show that truly homages the spirit of what the first Star Trek shows provided to its audiences. The show is able to expertly blend obnoxious and low brow humor, with thoughtful depictions of various stories that stay with you even after the episode ends. It will be beloved by fans of both science fiction and comedy.

The Orville just completed Season 2 on Fox. 

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad

1 Comment

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