People are long-winded. The art of concision has been lost. In its memory, two concise reviews:
Two Star Trek shows debuted this month. The Orville is middling alright. Star Trek: Discovery is a stinking toxic fire in a rubber tire disposal facility spewing thick black plumes of noxious smoke that puts 15 people in the hospital and 4 in their graves. And that may be too generous to this festering, suppurating, gangrenous open wound of a TV show. It sucks, is what I’m saying. It’s so bad, it makes Star Trek V look good. It’s awful. Just wretched. A failure on every possible level a show like this could possibly be a failure. It’s the Jar Jar Binks of Star Trek shows. It’s the Scrappy Doo of Star Trek shows. It’s as appealing as a sudden outbreak of explosive diarrhea at a synchronized swimming competition.
It just isn’t very good.
The show is BATHED in a hideous brass-and-wood aesthetic (even outer space is brass-and-brown), which is unbelievably, hideously ugly. The regen chamber, the metallic shades on the uniforms (replacing the classic gold-red-blue triad), and each and every thing Klingon is just as ugly as it could possibly be. None. None more ugly is how much uglier this show could be.
It’s morally incoherent, of course, and violates continuity, of course, and tries to make the lead into the specialist special person ever, of course. She’s Sarek’s adopted human daughter, so smart she’s the only human to ever graduate the Vulcan Science Academy, so coolio awesome the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation answers her calls in less than a second (plus some other “She’s so COOL!” stuff I didn’t make note of), and despite all this she comes off as panicky, incompetent, and dangerously out of control.
“Michael” (yes, a woman with a man’s name. So, so daring.) mutinies, uses the VULCAN NECK PINCH on her captain, tries to launch photon torpedoes at the Klingons, and (SPOILERS) gets thrown in prison for it. This, in the pursuit of a strategy Sarek himself told her wouldn’t work. She isn’t responsible for the ensuing war with the Klingons, but not for lack of trying. Her punishment—life in prison—is well deserved.
Obviously Discovery is a “DARKER AND SO MUCH EDGIER” reboot. The Orville went the other way.
The Orville is Seth McFarlane’s (creator of Family Guy) attempt to clone Next Generation era Star Trek. At that, he ably succeeds. The show is a near-copy of classic Trek in nearly every way, down to the color coded uniforms Discovery thinks it’s too serious and important to use. Think of it like Galaxy Quest, but not a comedy. Both because the show isn’t intended to be a comedy—it’s a Trek CLONE, at heart a drama—but also because the humor largely isn’t funny. They try real hard to make it funny, but the jokes never quite come alive.
But the lack of humor isn’t the real problem with the show. The problem is this: it tries so hard to be a clone of Trek, that it doesn’t do anything new or unusual of its own. It’s utterly generic. It’s the Peter Brady of Star Trek.
Nick Cole and Jason Anspach’s “Galaxy’s Edge” series (which you should buy and read) is a clone of Star Wars. As soon as you read it, you’re bathed in Star Wars tropes, the same tropes used in The Empire Strikes Back, Knights of the Old Republic, and the “Han Solo Adventures” trilogy by Brian Daley. It’s Star Wars, it’s Star Wars, all the live long day it’s Star Wars.
Except it isn’t. See, Cole and Anspach did their adaptation RIGHT. They didn’t just copy the tropes of Star Wars, they took the time to make the world their own. They made it more logical, more internally consistent, more plausible. They extrapolated from the setting, and added a bunch of stuff all their own. They made the world their own.
The Orville doesn’t. It’s just generic Trek, no different from any random Star Trek fanfic. And that’s LETHAL to a series like this.
The Orville isn’t a parody. It wasn’t ever meant to be a parody. McFarlane wanted to make an optimistic Sci-Fi show, and succeeded. He succeeded so well, The Orville feels more like Star Trek than the current incarnation of Star Trek. If he’s given the time to develop the show further, he may even be able to make The Orville into its own thing, and not just a Trek clone.
The Orville has promise. It may yet rise above its roots, discarding the unnecessary attempts at humor and adding in enough bite to make the show something unique. If it does, it could be great. Star Trek: Discovery, on the other hand, will never be great. It has no promise. It is right now what it will always be: a grim and ugly copy of a bright and optimistic landmark work of Science Fiction, inferior in every way.