Title: Old Wounds
Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: created and written by Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth Macfarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Chad L. Coleman
Duration: 1 hour
The Orville failed to provoke any laughs out of me, but beyond that, it could pass muster as an enjoyable outer space adventure series if you were, say 8-12 years old.
The Orville, Seth Macfarlane’s outer space adventure comedy series debuted last night, and it was a glaring example of lots of borrowed ideas, all stirred up and with a new coat of paint, that somehow still managed to add up to less than the sum of its parts. In the final analysis, it’s not that bad an effort and shows some promise in its attempt to be an intelligent and entertaining hour of science fiction. Visually, the show was stunning and nearly flawless in its portrayal of a future earth city and beyond. There was also a creative variety of alien life forms. The Orville surprised me for the quality of the eye candy it presented. It did an old science fiction fan’s heart good to see those sorts of images on the screen. It was the material that accompanied it that left me pretty flat. It’s difficult to believe this show was intended for an adult audience. MacFarlane’s sophomoric humor doesn’t shine here, and all the reminders of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest and other science fiction sources everywhere was not enough to rescue the attempts to amuse. To be fair, the show was not entirely lacking in humorous moments, but they were few and far between. Promoting the show as a comedy may have been an exaggeration.
(*warning spoilers follow*)
The premise of the show is Seth Macfarlane’s character Ed Mercer is assigned a starship to command, and the manner its framed in poses the question of whether he’s going to do well or screw things up. We are privy to some of Ed’s history, and after catching his wife Kelley Grayson (Palicki) cheating on him with an alien, he goes off the deep end in a bad way including going on a year long bender drinking and behaving irresponsibly. The pilot spent half its duration on ex-wife and marriage jokes and the remainder of its time on the pilot’s plot.
After leaving earth in the eponymous ship he soon gets an unpleasant surprise, he’s assigned an XO who turns out to be his ex-wife and much of the show’s material stems from the fact that Ed is forced to work with her against his wishes.
Soon after her arrival, the ship and its crew find themselves faced with a crisis involving an aggressive, militaristic alien species called the Krill, who are after an invention that can affect the speed at which time passes accelerating it when needed. When the Krill arrive, a running battle begins. It was the sort of poorly staged and choreographed shooting match we have all seen before where the bad guys can’t manage to hit anything they shoot at while the humans display much better marksmanship by comparison. The show would have benefitted from a little more attention paid to this action scene.
The episode also included an appearance by Victor Garber as Admiral Halsey and the role of a scientist, Dr. Aranov, was portrayed by long time genre staple Brian George. It’s way too early to condemn this series based on the pilot, which wasn’t that bad. It mostly concerned itself as a sampler of what to expect from the show, and as an introduction to the characters, and in that regard, it served its purpose. The Orville, amongst other things, is a love letter to Star Trek, even the background music was highly reminiscent of the Trek franchise. I will be keeping an eye on future episodes for the special effects if nothing else. A plot twist at the end of the episode indicated the series also has a heart and adds a touch of mystery. What is Kelley really up to and what is her endgame? Is this simply an extravagant way of seeking atonement? Or does she just love Ed that much she’s willing to go to such lengths? As a long time science fiction fan, I hope it gets better and is around a long time. After all, any science fiction is better than no science fiction.
Upon further reflection, this show might represent something new that caught some folks unprepared. 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.