2017-09-08 22:47:43 UTC
"The Orfville" (Awful).
Review: Fox's 'The Orville' is Star Trek, the Next Regurgitation
Going where at least one show has gone before: from left, Seth
MacFarlane, Penny Johnson Jerald, Adrianne Palicki, Halston Sage
and Brian George in "The Orville," beginning Sunday on Fox.
The first question a lot of people will have about "The Orville,"
Seth MacFarlane's first live-action television series - "Aren't
you afraid of being sued by the folks who own 'Star Trek'?" -
was asked and answered last month at the Television Critics
Association press tour. Dana Walden, the Fox TV chief executive,
gave a long reply that included the phrase, "We obviously have a
big legal team."
So yes, Fox is aware that Mr. MacFarlane's hourlong comedy
emulates the original "Trek" series to a degree somewhere between
sincere homage and creepy necrophilia. Its sets, costumes and
characters are so Trekker-esque that it makes this fall's
officially sanctioned "Star Trek: Discovery" (on CBS All Access)
look like a radical departure.
The next question you might have, no more than halfway through
Sunday's first episode: Is this really a Seth MacFarlane show?
Even his presence on screen as Ed Mercer, the less than heroic
new captain of the "midlevel" spaceship Orville, won't convince
If anything, it contributes to the dissonance. In his first
significant live-action TV role, Mr. MacFarlane's main attribute
is a nervous proficiency. Ed may have to grow into his command,
but that doesn't mean he should be the least memorable person on
A similar mildness and diffidence suffuse "The Orville," which is
not what you would expect from the creator of raucous, energetic,
unremittingly crude shows like "Family Guy" and "American Dad."
Perhaps his imagination can roam more freely in animation, or
perhaps he's just too much of a "Star Trek" geek to let loose.
The show does get off to a slightly subversive start, before the
Trek-tech piety sets in. Ed returns home to his 25th-century New
York apartment to find his wife and fellow Planetary Union fleet
officer, played by Adrianne Palicki ("Friday Night Lights"), in
bed with a blue-skinned alien. The story then jumps ahead a year,
to when a depressed, off-the-rails Ed is given the Orville as a
last chance to prove himself.
The rest of the first two episodes is devoted to the introduction
of the ship and crew, familiar from decades of "Star Trek" series
and films - less worshipful than usual, but no less formulaic.
Penny Johnson Jerald ("24") is the levelheaded ship's doctor,
Scott Grimes ("American Dad") the fiery helmsman, Halston Sage
("Crisis") the Xelayan (Romulan-adjacent) security officer. Ms.
Palicki, the cast's most engaging performer, resurfaces as an
Orville crew member in an implausible twist that makes her
character hard to care much about.
The third episode finally brings a crisis, addressed with sparse
humor and a surprising cargo of sentimentality. Or not so
surprising, given that "The Orville" seems to be less about comedy
or science-fiction than about Ed Mercer's middle-age angst,
expressed primarily through his peevish anger toward his ex-wife.
One last question about "The Orville": why bother, when "Galaxy
Quest" did such a wonderful, warmhearted job of sending up the
"Star Trek" cosmos almost 20 years ago? We don't have an answer
for that one.