Verdict: The Orville
I will admit the first episode of The Orville did not reel me in to the show. It was not bad, but it was not good either. There were definitely a few points that made me chuckle, but overall it felt like the blasé day-to-day life that we know now set in the future.
Now maybe I had my expectations high as a fan of Star Trek and Galaxy Quest, but this is definitely something a little bit different. The problem is that I am not sure that it is as good as either of those, which is almost what you have to be at this point. You can be different, but space exploration has been done by a couple of shows and you have to somehow bring something new to the table. I am still not sure that The Orville has completely given me that, but the third episode has shown me that it has more to offer than originally thought. Now the first episode is alright, the second episode a little painful in my opinion, and then the third episode you have an episode that kept me engaged and interested the entire time. At this point the general verdict is we are going to keep watching, but it is on thin ice. (Potential spoilers for the first three episodes of The Orville.)
So let’s start with the bad of the series. So far the some of the comedic elements have fallen flat for me. I think some of it stems from being typical relationship comedy or just somewhat expected. The second episode I think really fell flat because the humor was based off of throwing the divorced couple (also Captain and First Officer of the ship) together to be kidnapped and displayed as zoo animals. The bickering between the two is expected. Then at the end the crew gets them out by giving them the backlog of 21st century reality television (all of which comes from today). It is such a cliche joke that of course reality television would be a popular look at “human” culture, that it just falls flat for me.
This brings me to one of my other complaints about the show so far and that is the lack of new entertainment and media. I understand that you want the references to be ones that most of the audience understands, but you need that mixed with references to things that have not happened yet. Now there has been at least one past reference that was used brilliantly, but it is still interesting that there seems to be a lack of “current” entertainment it is almost all past references. Now using this for a specific moment is one thing, but having it feel almost as if that is all there is just feels a little off. It makes it feel less like the show is taking place in the future and more like it’s taking place nowadays.
There are a few things that I have appreciated about the show. Introducing some new types of aliens is always a welcome feature and I do appreciate that at least one of the aliens is not a typical humanoid, although it is the slimy flirt-with-anything character who happens to also be literally a slime, so still a little on the nose. At the same time hopefully discovering more about the alien species that they have created for the show will be part of the interest in the show. Part of what made the third episode so interesting was that it explored a different culture from our own and in some ways subverted some of the expectations, although not all.
I don’t want to do too deep an analysis of the third episode, but it deals with what is supposed to be an “all male” alien race having a female child. The second officer is from this all male species and ends up having a female child. Apparently on their home planet the indication is that a female is only born once every 75 years and when it does happen they perform a sex change on the baby. Now my question is what does male and female really mean in a society that doesn’t require the same sort of biological pairing for reproduction? But that is another issue. At the same time it does an interesting job of addressing the typical stereotypes of male versus female biologically, and even brings up some interesting questions about the society as a whole.
The mate of the second officer was born female and had the sex change performed when they were an infant. They didn’t find out until a human physician found evidence of the sex change. There is a question of how many babies have had the sex change performed on them and how many more females are born to this society? One of the best moments is that a couple of the crew use the old claymation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to try to demonstrate that just because someone is different there is no way to know the potential that they will display. It was a great way to use a modern day reference that you would believe will last the ages to try to show a different perspective from an alien culture. The reaction by the second officer is what is priceless and makes the whole scene amazing.
In the end one good episode does not entirely make up for the some of the other pieces lacking in the show, but it gives me hope that future episodes will be better. So we will tentatively keep watching the show, but if some of our other shows turn out to be better and we run out of time in the week this show may end up getting dropped. I am willing to give it more chances, but it is not definitive that it is going to stick around for too much longer.