Friday, March 8, 2019

The Orville has turned into Star Trek the Next Generation.

When I first started watching The Orville, I got the impression it was going to be a tongue-in-cheek version of Star Trek: The Next Generation much in the same vein as the "old" movie Galaxy Quest. However, that's not what we got. In the second season, I was really struck by this when the show invested so much time with Bortis (and the complications of his alien species and their view of sexuality), and then it went straight off a Borg script by turning Isaac (who is a Kaylon diplomat) into the equivalent of Locutus of Borg by having him be instrumental in restoring order to The Orville and thus having a hand to play in the high stakes battle to save Earth from annihilation.

That it is a love letter to Trek is no secret. McFarland has long waxed poetic about Trek, and he probably launched The Orville to give fans something to watch who felt spurned by the fact that Star Trek: Discovery (also in its second season) is behind a paywall. As a side note, I do love and look forward to Star Trek: Discovery far more than I do The Orville (which usually waits on my DVR until Sunday before I watch this week's episode, whereas I watch Star Trek: Discovery the moment it is available). For me, Star Trek: The Next Generation was never good enough, but it had those Borg episodes that just kept me on the hook. The Borg were a fantastic villain and foil for the Federation.

To explain a little regarding my comments on The Next Generation, I didn't really like the episodes where Picard plays his flute because he spent an entire second lifetime learning about an alien race that implanted in his head a memory so that someone would mourn their passing. It was good and I'm glad I watched it, but I have no desire to see it again. Sacrilege, right? I didn't really like the episodes where we saw what it was like to serve on a starship as a member of the lower decks. In other words...I didn't like all the slow stuff. I didn't like all the hours and hours of character building or the conversations in Ten Forward. I liked the action, the times when the Enterprise faced off against the Borg, or when the Enterprise was involved in a horror-like mystery with high-stakes implications. I also like serials, i.e., when the story continues and evolves with each passing episode. You only get that in "To Be Continued" episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and by extension, The Orville. But its in every single episode of Star Trek: Discovery.

I guess this puts me at odds with some Trekkers out there who dislike new Trek (I guess that's as good a reason as any to appeal to a new audience and discard the old). It also makes sense from a money-making point of view. Tastes from young people are quite a bit different from those who grew up in the eighties (I seem to be an exception because my tastes align with a much younger crowd). Some of the older Trekkers (my peers) are vehement in their complaints with things like, "Look at what they're doing to Spock!" and "Klingons don't look like that!" and the list goes on and on. They say things like, "The makers behind Star Trek: Discovery are going to cut their nose off to spite their face and alienate their base." Eh? Not really. This so called "base" is a lot smaller than those who are whining about Star Trek: Discovery would care to see. CBS All Access hit its money-making goals one year ahead of schedule, because of Star Trek: Discovery. And its eye-popping subscription numbers are behind launches of "All Trek, All the Time" on the app going forward.

New viewers, I think, are more aligned with things people (like me) desire. For example, I'm the World of Warcraft player that enjoyed raiding and instance runs more than standing around in cities, conversing with others and crafting things to be sold on the auction house. I love action. I love fighting and doing things. I'm not so much into exploring, unless exploring means that there's a fight I can participate in (and demonstrate skill) in a previously unexplored area. I'm the perfect "Diablo" player where there's combat and then magic items. In other words, fight and then reward and rinse/repeat.

This translates into my diet of television a lot. In my opinion, The Orville rocked it strong when it made the Kaylon into villains and played down the humor by substituting in some serious drama. Then they just kept adding to the pile by having the Orville crew discover huge tunnels filled with the bones of an entire race that the Kaylon annihilated in order to throw off the chains of their enslavement. Then of course was the assault on Earth, which had a dramatic battle that was every bit as epic as the one that took place at Wolf 359 in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I like that kind of stuff, and as long as I get it in doses...I'll probably keep watching because I'm on the hook. The formula is probably ten parts boring episodes and one part exciting one, and then you've got me.

But I love Star Trek: Discovery. No episode is boring. It's like Game of Thrones. Everything is serial and builds on episode after episode. The production values make every single episode look like a movie. The acting is incredible, and there's enough odes to the old stuff that it hits all my pleasure buttons. I'm so happy it has been renewed for a third season, and I'm pleased that there are going to be five more Star Trek series that get launched behind the CBS All Access paywall. Those are going to be so good. All Trek, all the time. And (at least as far as my tastes go) the producers seem to know what a viewer like me wants. "Give me Game of Thrones! Give me The Expanse!"

I do feel sorry for you Trekkers out there that want The Next Generation back, and I'm glad you have The Orville. I like the nostalgic feel of The Orville too. There's a lot that reminds me of the nineties, and it's more than just McFarlan's periodic speckling of the dialogue with eighties music and old movies. However, I'm also grateful that the things that I like are being catered to by people in the entertainment industry, and I like my space opera with lots of action and things happening and high stakes. I want it in every episode if possible, hold all the filler please :). And yes, I'm willing to pay for it outside of cable.


  1. Actually the thing with Isaac was more like DS9 when Odo found out his people wanted to enslave all the solids and he turned against them and was cut off from The Great Link. I wrote a blog entry about it but you beat me to the punch. Anyway, the gist of it is I like it better when the show focuses on its characters rather than regurgitating Trek scripts.

    1. You can also make the case for 7 of 9 in Voyager but I think DS9 did it first.

  2. Isn't CBS All Access doing The Good Fight, too? I'm a bit bored with Trek at the moment, but I would be up for TGF.

    I'm glad you're enjoying Discovery. I think The Orville is a throwback. I like it, but I don't love it. It has its moments. I can see why Discovery would be better. Storytelling has evolved a bit. In a good way.

  3. I am so far behind the curve on all this. I'm old enough to have grown up on the original Star Trek (gasp!), and I loved it. Now about the only Trek I watch are the movies. I was skeptical of the premise of looking at the early years of Kirk, Spock et al., but I really like how the flicks have turned out.

    Maybe I'll binge watch some Discovery episodes in the future. If they are indeed like Game of Thrones then the bar is set very high.