For those who have seen the trailer of Seth McFarlane’s new TV show The Orville, “Hey, that looks like Star Trek” seemed to be the first reaction. Honestly, the trailer did appear like a spoof of the popular sci-fi franchise. It even resembled Futurama. Fans were speculating that it was another of Seth MacFarlane’s parodies of a popular genre, like what he did with A Million Days to Die in the West. However, the actor disagrees.
According to Seth, his new show is a “sci-fi comedic drama,” where the emphasis is on drama, not on comedy. The trailer, it seems, was actually misleading. But then, one cannot blame the producers to make the trailer comedic, since Seth MacFarlane’s name is almost synonymous with comedy today.
No matter how much you try, you cannot stop yourself from comparing the new show with Star Trek, given the outrageous similarity of concepts and tropes. Yet, MacFarlane doesn’t seem to agree. In his own words:
“Star Trek itself sprang from a lot of different sci-fi tropes that came before it. The idea of a ship, in the naval sense, cruising in space did not originate with that show.”
The popular comic might claim to be creating something original, but the vast similarities cannot be discarded; especially when they could easily invite legal issues. However, the producers seem not to think so. According to Fox TV Group CEO Dana Walden:
“We’re not really concerned. We obviously have a big legal team. We vet things, so it’s not like we’re just flying by the seat of our pants out here. Seth’s intention is to do something that clearly pays homage to Star Trek, that clearly was inspired a lot by Star Trek. I can’t imagine, especially when you see the direction that the Star Trek franchise is moving, that anyone would consider it anything other than a compliment,” she said, adding “most shows have some DNA of previous shows.”
Despite all the justifications from the producers and the actor, the fact remains that The Orville shamelessly copies from Star Trek. Furthermore, the puny budget compared to the famous franchise renders the show from a “copy” to a “cheap copy.”
MacFarlane seems to be quite delusional about the objective of the show. According to him, the sci-fi genre today is quite grim and pessimistic. So, on his show, they would cover detailed storyline in a single episode, with a new plot every episode. But this is where Seth errs. Today, the episodic storyline is reserved only for sitcoms. Audiences are mature enough to understand and grasp narratives that move over hours of content, often in parallels. But maybe MacFarlane believes us to be still naive children.
But this underestimation might cost MacFarlane both his reputation and the show. Any casual look at the current scenario would tell you about the type of sci-fi comedy people love today. Even animated ones like Futurama and Rick and Morty are smarter than most dramas. If MacFarlane is complaining about the trend of portraying dystopian future in sci-fi, it is because the world seems to grasp it more convincingly than the perfect ones. And given the way humanity is headed, it does look like a likelier option.
However, the team of The Orville still seems quite oblivious to it. They do not understand that people neither want optimistic nor episodic sci-fi shows. And they surely do not want rip offs. Claiming anything otherwise is like saying “yes, it had lightsabers, but it isn’t related to Star Wars. The spaceships, uniforms, and Klingon-lookalike are not doing anything to make The Orville any more original.
To be fair, we would still want to take a look at The Orville before passing final judgment. But so far, it only seems like a fantasy of MacFarlane to bring back his childhood sci-fi show back on the screen but making sure to name it something else.