The inclusion of strong female characters gives the show a chance to attract more female viewers across all age ranges.
The cast is versed in comedy, and combined with MacFarlane's knack for humor there are shining moments of great banter.
Some of the basic characteristics of this universe are hard to believe - specifically the anachronisms that appear out of place in such an advanced technological society.
At times, the storyline suffers for the sake of laughs, which is risky given that science fiction fans are big on world-building.
Watching The Orville 1X01 “Old Wounds” was like attending the first day of school – hopeful and awkward
Known primarily for his animated series Family Guy and American Dad, executive producer Seth MacFarlane’s first foray into live television comes from his love of comedy and Star Trek. Directed by Jon Favreau and joined on screen by some of his friends, we held high hopes for the series premiere. In “Old Wounds,” Captain Ed Mercer has spent a year ruining his own reputation by partaking in every vice in the book after finding his wife Kelly in bed with a Reptepsian. Called into Admiral Halsey’s office, he’s surprised to hear that he’s being offered command of the USS Orville, a mid-level starship. Jumping on the offer to salvage his career, he recommends old friend and helmsman Gordon Malloy to help out.
Joining Lieutenant Commander Bortus, Chief Security Officer Alara Kitan, Lieutenant John Lamarr, medical officer Dr. Claire Finn, they head to a research station to provide supplies. Just before arriving, he discovers that his new XO is none other than his ex-wife, Commander Kelly Grayson. While unhappy, Mercer does not want to jeopardize his job. When they arrive at the outpost, they are greeted by Dr. Aronov, who quickly informs them they were brought there under false pretenses. The research team has created technology that can accelerate time, and they believe an alien species known as the Krill want it. After a surprise betrayal, the crew must fight off the Krill while keeping the technology out of enemy hands.
Can this disgraced captain redeem himself by saving the day? Will he be able to stare at Kelly without seeing her in bed with Darulio? Let’s go back through the mission logs and see what we can figure out, shall we?
The Krill may skip leg days, but they aren’t that easy to scare off
The Orville is barely out of dry dock when they face off with the Krill, a militaristic race. Dr. Aronov (Brian George), the chief of the facility on Epsilon 2, deceives the crew into coming to help. The research team has built a device that will create a quantum bubble that can accelerate time. This could be used as a powerful weapon, which he explains is the reason for the secrecy. Unfortunately, there’s a traitor in their midst. The Krill are alerted and a fight ensues on the planet, but after a narrow escape the crew return to a crippled ship. Ed comes up with an unorthodox (and funny) plan to defeat their enemies and protect the technology.
Ed: Let’s give him the device.
Ed: Dr. Aronov, can you preset the field to fire up at a specific intensity the moment the Krill activate it?
Aronov: I think so, but why?
Ed: And the field can accelerate time a hundred years. Correct?
Aronov: Yes, it can.
Ed: About how long it takes a redwood to grow.
While Trekkies has the Borg, the Klingons, and the Romulans, The Orville has the Krill (so far). While they share a similar penchant for violence with their Starfleet counterparts, we know little else. Their early introduction suggests the Krill will be part of the central storyline, so we hopefully will learn why they are the enemies. What we do see is the considerable effort and manpower they put into retrieving the quantum bubble device. Ed demonstrates the skills that made him a rising star, which was important in gaining his crew’s respect and trust. However, we suspect this race will be returning to seek revenge once word gets back to their planet about the defeat, so we hope The Orville is ready!
Who needs marital conflict when you can air out your laundry at work?
We find out pretty early on the Captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) is embittered by catching his wife Kelly (Adrianne Palicki) in bed with a blue liquid spewing Reptepsian. He goes on a one year bender before realizing that he’s throwing his career out the window. Luckily, Ed is offered a command to prove his worth. While he says that he is over the divorce, once he discovers Kelly is his new XO all bets are off. While in what must be the room with the thinnest walls known to man, they lay it all out on the table for everyone (and we mean everyone) to hear. Kelly accuses him of being a workaholic that neglected her, while Ed reveals he is still hurt by her betrayal. Unfortunately, they are trapped on the same ship until the mission is complete, so the two make peace for the moment.
Ed: So, it’s an anti-banana ray?
Kelly: It’s really interesting.
Ed: We need no longer fear the banana.
Kelly: Does it work on all fruit?
Ed: What about salads?
Despite the tension, we get glimpses into their formerly happy life as their mission progresses. Between a witty exchange over an anti-banana ray and a clever rouse to defeat the Krill, we understand why Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) thought their skills would be a good match. It’s easy to see that Kelly’s presence on the ship is intended to provide opportunities for witty repartee. While MacFarlane did surprise us by revealing she convinced the Admiral to give Ed the command, the friendly/rekindled exes trope is overused. Only time will tell if he lets it lapse into predictability. Either way, Ed will have to find a new normal to prove he’s more than meets the eye.
The universe may hold many planets, but we all share something in common
One of the notable things about Ed’s new command is his crew. There are three female officers, Xelayan Chief Security Officer Alara Kitan and humans Dr. Claire Finn and Commander Kelly Grayson. There is also Lieutenant Commander Bortus, from a single-gender race called the Moclans, and Issac, hailing from an android-like race called the Kaylon. Joining them are Lieutenants John Lamarr and Gordon Malloy, the ship’s navigator and helmsman respectively. While they seem like a ragtag bunch of individuals, we see quickly that they work well as a team. Each member performs their role admirably, especially when under attack by the Krill.
Ed: All right, uh, Lieutenant Commander Bortus, our second officer. You know, I’ve never met a single-gender species before. Your entire species is male, isn’t it?
Bortus: That is correct, sir.
Ed: So, there’s probably not a lot of arguments about leaving the toilet seat up and that kind of thing, right?
Bortus: No. Moclans urinate only once per year.
Ed: Really? That’s…me, I’m-I’m up two, three times a night.
Bortus: That is unfortunate.
Ed: It is.
Very much like his inspiration, Star Trek, MacFarlane incorporates a great deal of diversity in the crew of The Orville. One thing that we appreciate is that the crew has strong female characters. Alara (Halston Sage) not only has super strength but the courage of a lion despite her young age. Claire (Penny Johnson Jerald) is immensely intelligent and is quick to act. Kelly (Adrianne Palicki) knows Ed’s strengths and weaknesses but supports him rather than shame him. Interestingly, the men seem less put together, which is refreshing. It doesn’t hurt that the cast all have great comedic backgrounds. We definitely hope to see more of their interactions during upcoming missions.
Final Verdict: To us, The Orville 1X01 “Old Wounds” tries too hard to please and falls a little flat
For Ed, taking command of The Orville is a fresh start and chance to redeem himself professionally. For many in the crew, this is their opportunity to prove themselves and make a mark. Ed showed with this first mission he does have what it takes to captain this ship, and those under him are reassured of his competence. Now that everyone has made it through the first hurdle, it’ll be interesting to see which direction each takes in the future.
There’s so many unanswered questions from the pilot. Will Ed and Kelly kiss and make up? Will one of them face jealousy when the other becomes romantically involved with another? When will the Krill return to wreak havoc? Can Dr. Aronov recreate the device without his trusty physicist?
Trying to live up to the Star Trek franchise is no easy task. While Seth MacFarlane and the show have talent in comedy, many moments throughout the series premiere are more imitation than homage. We are in the 25th century, but the anachronisms (the marbles, the seat belts) distract more than add to the universe he’s trying to create. As we mentioned, there’s a high risk of losing our interest over the exes trope, and the balance between plot and comedy isn’t quite there just yet.
One thing that we do feel MacFarlane does right is live up to the diversity that is part of Star Trek and the science fiction genre. We also love his take on stronger women working alongside messier men. With that much comedic chops on that bridge and the promise of more cameos from friends, there’s definitely a lot to look forward to in coming weeks.
With what we’ve seen from the show so far, we definitely want to know more about the races we’ve seen so far. We want to meet Alara’s kind, go mingle with Bortus and the Moclans, and even be insulted by the Kaylons over our inferiority. We also want to know more about why the Krill are trying to steal weapons, and what the history is behind the animosity.
While this was a bit of an off start to the season, we know MacFarlane has a good track record at translating his brand of humor onto the screen. The cast is talented and there is enough of a storyline to garner a chance from us. As Captain Picard would say – “Engage!”
It’s a vast universe out there, and we have so many questions!
- What is the true mission of The Orville? Will it stay an exploratory vessel?
- Can Dr. Aronov recreate the device?
- Why do the Krill want the technology so badly? Are we at war?
- When will Dr. Finn try to diagnosis Ed’s mental state?
- Are there any secrets the crew members are keeping?
- Is Ed really over his divorce? Really?
- Will Gordon stay sober or mess up again?
- When will Bortus finally have to pee?
- Better yet, can Dr. Finn tell us how Moclans reproduce as a single-gender species?
- Just what kind of soda is John obsessed with drinking on the bridge?