Don’t Give Up on ‘The Orville’ Too Quickly
The similarities to Star Trekeven extend to the show’s format, which is highly episodic, with the crew of the Orville exploring a new location every week. It’s a throwback to an earlier style of television that author Robert Repinoreally enjoys.
“The things that happen and the decisions that are made end up having consequences throughout the rest of the season,” he says, “but at the same time you don’t have to watch Episode 2 and really pay attention in order to understand what’s going to happen in Episode 11—which is the format of a lot of these binge-worthy shows these days. So I appreciated that a lot. I thought it was a good compromise between the two.”
Unfortunately The Orville gets off to a slow start, according to Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley. “I watched the first episode and I didn’t really laugh,” he says. “It just really didn’t seem good to me at all, and I was kind of like, ‘OK, I’m not going to watch any more of this.’ But then I started hearing people who had watched some of the later episodes saying they liked it, and that got me interested in watching more.”
Science fiction author Melinda Snodgrass, who wrote several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, agrees that the first two episodes of The Orville are a bit uneven. But overall she loves the way the show combines Star Trek-style adventure with goofball humor.
“Certainly by Episodes 3 and 4 they started to find their footing,” she says. “And it’s just gotten stronger and stronger with each episode. So I’m quite pleased with the show, and I’m really glad they got picked up for a second season.”
Listen to our complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Robert Repino, and Melinda Snodgrass in Episode 288 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
John Joseph Adams on describing The Orville:
“I would have bet you money that a good number of these scripts were unused Star Trek: The Next Generation scripts that had never been produced—because they feel so much like them—but with the idea being, of course, that this is supposed to be a humorous Star Trek show, so they would have taken those existing Star Trek scripts and then just sprinkled in some jokes. And I would have guessed that that’s what Seth MacFarlane had done, that they’d taken these existing Star Trek scripts, and then Seth MacFarlane added some jokes, and then poof, there you go, there’s The Orville. Apparently that’s not what happened, but if you describe it that way to a Star Trek fan, it gives you a really good sense of what this show is like.”
Melinda Snodgrass on working with Gene Roddenberry:
“I loved [‘Majority Rule’]—the Black Mirror-style episode—and I would really like to take Brannon [Braga] out and buy him a margarita, because I felt like this was actually also an answer to one of the things that Gene had in his head about how crime and punishment would work in the future. Because when I was doing ‘Measure of a Man,’ Gene said, ‘There are no lawyers in the 24th century,’ and I said, ‘There have to be lawyers, because you’ve got crime, you’ve got punishments, you have trials, contracts. You can’t have a functioning society without a legal system.’ And he said, ‘No, no, there is no crime, because if somebody commits a crime, we make their minds right,’ which I found to be absolutely terrifying. And I wondered if Brannon was reacting to that kind of background that we all had on Star Trek, by doing an episode where if you fail to meet societal expectations they’re going to ‘make your mind right.’”
Robert Repino on aliens:
“One thing I appreciated compared with Star Trek: The Next Generation is that they gave the young lady from the planet—I forget her name—but they gave her a chance to explain why her society did things this way, and very often in some of these shows—not just Star Trek, but others—when they have an alien try to explain why they do things, it very often is meant to make them look foolish or narrow-minded or insular in some way. … But they showed some respect for that character, when they could have easily made her out to be the ‘other’ who doesn’t get it, and the humans are here to enlighten her. I think that’s been done too many times, and I thought that was a refreshing change of pace for the show.”
David Barr Kirtley on religion:
“I really like the fact that the show takes kind of a rationalist view, because I’m an atheist—that’s really important to me—and one of the things I like about science fiction is that it’s honest about how religions develop, which is that people have experiences and misunderstand them, and then the story grows with the telling. You see this in science fiction over and over again, where the characters come across a religion, and we the audience know how it came about—they saw this advanced technology hundreds of years ago or whatever—and I think the more narratives there are that are straightforward about the human-constructed nature of religion, I think that’s just an important message to be out there in the world.”