Seth MacFarlane made it big with Family Guy, a not-so-family-friendly animated comedy show, but he also worked to bring Cosmos’ revival to air and is a big fan of Star Trek. While I can’t back up this claim, it seems as though he asked to make a new Star Trek show (before Discovery took off) and was rebuked for being the crude comedy guy. His show had a lot of what we love about Star Trek, but he couldn’t sell it without cashing in on his crude comedy background, and as a result, we have The Orville, a clear rip off on Star Trek, but with what my wife describes as Frat Boy comedy overlaying everything.
Despite this, the show tackles serious social issues, such as the expectations of gender, social media and trial by public opinion, and porn addiction. In the same way classic Star Trek uses strange new worlds to sign a spotlight on our own world’s problems, The Orville does the same thing within a coating of low brow comedy.
…until now. In Identity, The Orville drops the jokes and just tells a space-based sci-fi story. I truly think they just want their off-beat comedy to be more.
Directed by Jon Cassar
Written by Brannon Braga & André Bormanis
Seth MacFarlane as Capt. Ed Mercer
Adrianne Palicki as Cmdr. Kelly Grayson
Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn
Scott Grimes as Lt. Gordon Malloy
Peter Macon as Lt. Cmdr. Bortus
Jessica Szohr as Lt. Talla Keyali
J. Lee as Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr
Mark Jackson as Isaac
Chad L. Coleman as Klyden
Victor Garber as Admiral Halsey
Graham Hamilton as Kaylon Primary
Mike Henry as Dann
Robert David Grant as Kaylon Secondary
BJ Tanner as Marcus Finn
Kai Wener as Ty Finn
Norm MacDonald as Yaphit (voice)
Jay Whittaker as Kaylon Tertiary
Blesson Yates as Topa
Part 1 – When Issac shuts down, the crew head to his home planet to fix him, and uncover a shocking secret that was better off hidden.
Part 2 – The Kaylons take control of the Orville with the intention of destroying all biological lifeforms.
You get a sense of ‘something is off’ before the bombshell drop in the first episode, which makes the entire series take a hard left turn.
There is still an attempt at the show’s typical comedy, but it doesn’t work.
Originality: 3/6 The story is predictable and leans into many tropes of the genre. This is not original for a typical Sci-Fi space story, but it was unique to see it in The Orville.
Effects: 5/6 While it is all television quality CGI, it is expensive television quality CGI.
Acting: 4/6 Everyone is convincing enough, but it would be a surprise if anyone won an award for it.
Production: 5/6 The show is frequently reaching far beyond what a Star Trek/Family Guy knock-off should be reaching and hits the mark more often than it misses.
Story: 4/6 We’ve seen it all before, and it all plays out how you expect, but the story does a good job of bringing you from point A to point Z. It doesn’t drag except in a few of the required Epic Battles.
Emotional Response: 4/6 While it didn’t generate much stress over the fates of the characters, except maybe Issac, it held interest as to how when each story beat would land.
Overall: 5/6 The comedy works in some episodes, but this episode was not any less for the lack of it. It is a strong contender for best episode of the series.
In total, “Identity” receives 30/42.
Looking at the writers, I can see why so many old school Trekkers are insisting this is the “true” successor to Star Trek.
It felt like a low-end TNG episode, I thought. (Which is a good thing.)
Sometimes you want filet mignon. Sometimes you just want a Taco Bell burrito. It’s all good.
Thanks for the review. I think the Orville for many has become the new fun space adventure show to watch. It triggers nostalgia and just a general sense of adventure that frankly, I think somehow Stat Trek has lost. Sometimes we just want simple space adventure shows. I think Discovery is trying too hard to be The New Trek when all people really want is something that feels like the old Trek.
But with the last two episodes, Orville has imho shed its “we’re a comic space adventure” label and grabbed on to we’re the new Trek. And I’m fine with that, more than fine with that.
I get what you are saying, the lighthearted Wagon Train to the Stars is in The Orville, but I think Discovery has the high stakes epic Sci-Fi feel that I think Trek has grown up into.
There’s definitely room for both.
In that respect, Discovery develops naturally from the earliest and the better episodes of TOS, which were a lot heavier and more SF-oriented. In some respects, more SF than any subsequent incarnation, though operating on a limited budget.
But I’ll maybe look into this show, especially between the end of things I’m watching and the return of Better Call Saul in late summer/early autumn, so I appreciate the comments. As J_W_W says, sometimes you just want a space adventure.
(But 3/6 for originality? Has MacFarlane created anything that isn’t notably derivative?)
I began watching this season and had only seen 4 episodes when this awesome two-parter hit. I wish I’d been watching longer because the twist in episode 8 would have been even harsher.
And yes, Seth being behind this is why it too be so long to warm up to it. I generally really dislike Family Guy.
I can name a few things I haven’t seen before, from large things like the exploration of a culture purely being to decide if it was going to need to be destroyed and the callous about face that was performed by beloved characters, to the small things like a head opening up into guns.
It’s not a lot, but it’s not exactly a remake.
I stayed away from this, because there’s only so much watching time and MacFarlane has always been, for me, that class clown whose “shocking” shtick is funny for a bit, quickly grows tiresome, but dammit if someone isn’t laughing so he keeps doing it. If I were to take up this show, should I just start with this episode, or should I go back a few?
I suspect either would work. The FratBoy of it all is kinda always there, like watching a good space adventure series through a cracked monitor, but once you get used to that it’s worth it. Even the “Ha ha, Gay Porn!!” episode or the “Ha ha, he’s going to pee!” episodes turn out to have some decent social commentary to them.
I’d say at least start with season 2. I wasn’t a believer until episode 8 though. The other episodes were ok. This two parter was a game changer.