Despite being well received and embraced by fans, Seth MacFarlane’s new science fiction series may be the most misunderstood series on TV. Last week I reviewed the show, and in my review, I stated that marketing it as a comedy may have been a mistake. It turns out I was right, It was Fox, not Macfarlane who sold the show as a comedy and it led to some confusion not only on my part but on the part of others as well. The series is a homage to Star Trek, not a parody of it or a comedy per say. It’s more of a rebellion against the 21st-century trend of making everything grim and gritty. I have some excerpts from an interview with MacFarlane to offer as proof.
I revised my review just a few hours after writing it with a modifier that reflected some thoughts I had about it later the same day, and this is what I said: “Upon further reflection, this show might represent something new that caught some folks unprepared, including myself. It’s difficult to pigeon-hole the show, and that makes people uncomfortable. Although it’s closely modeled on Star Trek, it does things no Trek series has ever done. It makes people more realistic in simple little ways, for example, when has Star Trek (or any other genre series) ever mentioned people needing to use a toilet? Almost never, that’s when, and the marriage breakup is part of the same thing. People are flawed but not to the point that it prevents them from doing their jobs. The show humanizes them in a way that’s never been done before, and I think I like it.”
One of the challenges of the series is that it has been heavily marketed as an all-out comedy, but as MacFarlane discusses in the following interview, his intent is something very different. Here is what MacFarlane had to say:
“Because I missed the optimism because I’m tired of being told that everything is going to be grim and dystopian and people are going to be murdering each other for food. I’ve had enough of that. And I miss the hopeful side of science fiction, which, you know, really, that kind of goes back to the roots of the genre, and is about what we can achieve if we put our minds to it. That flourished in the ’90s. In some ways, some shows did it in kind of a more cheesy fashion, and others like Star Trek made it a little more legit. But that was the way to do a Sci-Fi show back then. And now, things are just very grim, and so that was a conscious choice because I missed that flavor of science fiction.”
That’s kind of brilliant and a goal worthy of admiration.
Here’s a synopsis of the series: “Down on his luck after a bitter divorce, Planetary Union officer Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) finally gets his chance to command his own ship. Determined to prove his worth and start a new chapter, Ed discovers the first wrinkle in his plan when the First Officer assigned to his ship is his ex-wife, Kelly Grayson (Palicki). As the new commander, Ed assembles a qualified — but eccentric — crew, including his best friend, Gordon, who has problems with authority but is the best helmsman in the fleet. Dr. Claire Finn, Bortus, an alien from a single-sex species; Isaac, an artificial life-form from a machine society; navigator John Lamarr; Alara Kitan, a young, inexperienced security officer; and Yaphit, a gelatinous creature.”
Here’s a clip from this week’s show that helps make the point.