First seasons are always hard, particularly for a series trying to be two shows at once. I enjoyed the debut season of The Orville but I struggled with what the show actually was for most of its episodes. Is it a comedy or is it a drama? I’m still not sure and I feel like the show doesn’t know either, shifting from one genre to the other with each episode. It’s not a successful blend but rather one episode feels like a comedy and the next feels like a drama. Its very existence is troublesome too because, to cut straight to the point, it’s Star Trek. Or rather an imitation of the franchise, primarily The Next Generation. The show is a hollow shell; entertaining enough and fun to watch but away from the homages and basic sci-fi ideas it feels empty and lacks its own identity. I’m entertained by most of the episodes but feel unfulfilled by them and hungry for the depth that Star Trek offers rather than a surface-level tribute. So how can the show improve in it’s second season? I’m not sure the series’ identity issue can ever be solved and the show will likely remain frustratingly shallow, yet undeniably enjoyable, for its entire run. It also makes for a fun double feature with Star Trek: Discovery. You get an hour of actual Star Trek that often doesn’t feel like Star Trek and then an hour of a show that isn’t Star Trek but often feels like Star Trek. I accept The Orville’s place in the landscape and so my suggestions for improvements focus on the storylines, characters and the world of the show itself; a collection of things I hope come to pass in the second season, playing into its fractured identity as a spoof taking itself seriously.
Meeting ‘The Enterprise’
So, okay, not the actual Enterprise from Star Trek. I don’t expect, or want, any crossover with Star Trek, other than both shows delving into the same pool of writers, directors and actors. The pilot of The Orville makes it clear that the titular ship is a mid-level exploratory vessel for the Planetary Union unlike the Enterprise in Star Trek which is the flagship of the fleet. This is no doubt the case so that the characters can act in their usual unprofessional way; they’re just regular crew members and not top-tier officers like in The Next Generation. This begs the question of what is the flagship of the Union? And what are its crew like? I would love to see Captain Mercer and the rest of the Orville crew have to team up with the best of the best, either with them idolising the crew, feeling intimidated by them or hating them for their honoured position within The Union. It would build on the lore of the show and offer more of its usual brand of hilarity (and I use that word only semi-sarcastically). Maybe the flagship and its crew could be recurring characters, always popping up to help out the Orville or take credit for its actions. Who knows, maybe they could get some Trek alumni to play these officers.
Take a break from reading and check out the trailer for The Orville Season 2 below.
Okay, this one’s pretty basic. A staple of Star Trek is time travel, whether it’s TOS with The City on the Edge of Forever, the movies with The Voyage Home and First Contact or TNG with that one with Mark Twain in. Even Discovery managed to sneak in a little bit of time travel in its first season. So, it’s a surprise then that The Orville has yet to include any time travel, at least not in the conventional sense. The season finale did include a planet that experiences time at a different rate than everything else but I’m not counting that. I want some good old-fashioned time travel, either to Earth’s past or to the recent past where the characters have to try and hide from their past selves. Time travel comedies are tried-and-tested at this point and I’m sure The Orville has a couple planned in the near future.
An easy and enjoyable way of developing characters is to see their homeworlds and explore how their culture is different from ours. This worked really well in the third episode of season 1 when we visited Bortus’s planet Moclus, a standout episode of the show which did wonders for his character moving forward. The same could be done in the second season with Alara, the ship’s Xelayan Chief of Security, who comes from a high-gravity world. On her planet she would lose the super-strength she has grown fond of during her time on the Orville and it would be interesting to see her struggle with that during the episode, mixed in with the comedy of seeing the rest of the crew try and adapt to the change in gravity. And we could see more of Robert Picardo as Alara’s father which is always a bonus. It would be fascinating to see Isaac’s vastly technologically superior planet of Kaylon-1 too. With biological lifeforms seen as inferior on Isaac’s world, he would have to embrace his humanity and stand up for the rights of his crew members when they visit the planet. Although in the long term I would love to see Isaac turn into the series’ primary antagonist and that he was only onboard the ship to spy on the Union before he and his people try to destroy them. Kind of like if Data was actually working with the Borg throughout TNG. And this home planets idea isn’t just in my hopes for The Orville but for Discovery as well. I would love to see the Kelpien homeworld in season 2 or the upcoming Saru-focused Short Trek.
So, there were some of my short thoughts on what I hope to see in the second season of The Orville when it premieres in December. Maybe I’m looking too much into it but I think the late premiere date of December 30th might be so it competes with Star Trek Discovery when that show returns in early 2019. The Orville has carved out a unique little place for itself in the TV schedule, a nostalgia-driven lite version of Star Trek that appeals to fans dissatisfied with Discovery’s darkness while welcoming new fans too. My mum even watches it and she’s never seen The Next Generation. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the awkwardness of The Orville’s existence but I’ve accepted that and, I admit, I’m eagerly anticipating more tonally-inconsistent sci-fi storytelling in The Orville’s second season.
What are your hopes for the upcoming season of The Orville? What did you think of mine? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.