*Spoilers for the show ahead*
Let's first get some things clear here....I thought the Orville was going to be a joke when the tv trailer came out. Poor Star Trek parody from Macfarlane? Yikes, this had all the features of a flop written all over it. The first episode didn't disappoint. Barely good CGI, forced jokes, barely interesting story, yeah I didn't have much hopes for it. Which was why it is surprising to say, this is now my all time favourite sci-fi right on right now.
The crew of the Orville doesn't try to take itself much seriously. Think of it as the equivalent of your bunch of crazy friends in a bar that decided to go on a spaceship adventure. They flirt, they laugh, make crazy plans, act like a bunch of high teenagers and still save the day. Unlike TNG and other Trek, there is no morally upright, stick-in-the-ass type Prime Directive toting captains or officers here. But that's what makes this story so much more interesting. While Trek was always defined by the need to be above the human failings of our current present in the distant future, the Orville is about taking what we have, the failings of our current times, yet still finding the courage somehow to do what is right and necessary. While the first episode concentrated more on humour and fun, the second and third are ones that any Trekkie would find not only full of depth, but also of deep moral questioning.
The second episodes touches on zoos and the experimenting of animals. Captain Mercer and First Officer Grayson are trapped by a hunter's trap set up by a species far more advanced than humans. So advanced, that they consider humans to be the equivalent of mice or rats. They take them to their interplanetary zoo, not even considering them fit to be talked to. It touches on our own treatment of the cohabitants of our green Earth and makes a point of self reflection I honestly didn't think possible in a show like this. It also gives a glimpse into the age old debate between orders and conviction of righteous cause, as Lt Alara has to face taking command of the Orville. The insecurities of her character take a deeper look into our own problems with responsibility and our fears.
The third episode deals with gender issues. The Moclan are a race of beings that have only one gender predominant in their society. When Lt Bortus is tries to face the prospect of having a child that was not of that gender, he has to confront truths about his own society and himself as he tries to get her gender reassigned. Not to mention, the audience is left to wonder about the traditional male prejudices and the right of choice. Many gender issues come up, almost as a nod to our transsexual and transgender community, as the question of whether the right of choice is important or not.
To be fair there are plenty of dick jokes, crude humor and general shenanigans. But while it certainly adds to the fun of the experience, The Orville is not just a joke or a cheap parody of Trek. It is a show in itself that will make you laugh, cry and even think. Macfarlane truly hasn't disappointed, and I for one can't wait to see what happens next.....