I like this. A lot.
I WAS kinda expecting NOT to like this, if anything to be a bit disappointed. I like SOME of Seth MacFarlane's HUMOR but practically all of his TV and movie stuff has left me a bit wanting. This is an exception to that.
The series is set in a Star Trek:TNG-like universe but with no transporters
(I guess current CGI has drastically reduced the cost of animation to allow this). In fact I wouldn't be surprised if MacFarlane is paying some royalties to the music creators of TNG because so far this series' music has been COMPLETELY familiar.
For its opening episode on 9/10 it was a bit though understandably contrived in that the show is forced explain things to the audience, but anyone who had watched TNG shouldn't need any explanations aside from those mostly small differences (so maybe MacFarlane should consider a royalties nod to the TNG writers too).
MacFarlane is playing Captain Ed Mercer, a down-on-his-luck disappointment to his higher-ups in the Union (Trekly Known As the Federation) who in the opening segment literally catches his then-wife, Commander Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), in THEIR bed (with an alien though that fact is incidental). Mercer's reaction is to immediately run away and to file for divorce.
The next shot is a year later of Mercer going into an admiral's office clearly expecting to hear bad news only to be told that he has been given the command of the Orville, a small exploratory vessel. The reason for the vacancy is that the former commander of the Orville had just retired. That admiral explains that as a captain Mercer should have been expected by his age to have the command of a larger class of ship but Mercer quickly explains that he understands why he is in his current position and is VERY grateful being given the opportunity of his first command.
There are only a couple of holes in the command of the Orville, those being the first officer and the helmsman. Mercer quickly recommends an old friend, Lieutenant Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) for that helmsman slot which the admiral questions due to Malloy's somewhat bizarre past behavior, so Mercer assures the admiral that he will keep Malloy in check.
The next day Mercer introduces himself to the crew in general (perhaps 100-150 members) then himself (and the audience) to the command crew which is the usual (for SF TV series) mixed collection from different locales and circumstances. For their shakedown cruise, the Orville has been given a simple supply mission to a remote science station but of course there are complications, one of them being that in mid-flight Mercer was told by that admiral that Commander Grayson had volunteered to become the Orville's first officer and that she would meet the ship at a waystation.
There are lots of nice touches throughout. On Mercer's desk in his quarters there is a tiny model of what I presume to be the Wright Flyer
, the Wright Brothers' first airplane. There is one scene [spoiler]where the audience is given the close-up shot of what looks to be a Trek-like phaser pistol only to have Grayson use that glue gun and to ask Mercer "Don't you have ANY hobbies?"[/spoiler]
This is not to say that there are NO problems. I had some problems with the episode ending fight with the Krill (TKA Klingons). I'll use my alternative ending below to explain:
[spoiler][The Krill ship has all of its lights turn off except for those for navigation and it begins to list visibly]
MERCER: Wait, what happened?
SCIENCE OFFICER <looking at scanner>: There appears to be no signs of any life aboard the Krill ship...aside from your tree.
SCIENCE STATION COMMANDER (SSC): Perhaps I can explain....
GRAYSON: Please do.
SSC: Your use of the time-accelerator forced the growth of that redwood, but the material for that growth had to come from somewhere.
GRAYSON: You mean to tell us that the tree essentially stole all of its atoms from the Krill crew?
SSC: Yes, and from the ship's atmosphere.
GRAYSON: But when the accelerator was applied earlier to the banana or on your late colleague, there essentially was no growth so no need in either case for it to grab anything?
SSC: Aside from some trivial elements from air, yes.
[Grayson visibly shudders]
[Over-the-shoulder shot from Mercer and Grayson with helmsman Malloy and navigator Lieutenant John Lamarr (J. Lee) in background looking at them]
MERCER <with a Marvin the Martian delivery>: But what about the KABOOM? I was expecting a kaboom!
GRAYSON <slapping Mercer's shoulder>: Stop that!
GRAYSON: You know...that Looney Toons stuff!
[LaMarr looks at Malloy with quizzical look]
MALLOY <shrugging>: I've never understood them. Not completely.
SSC <with a nervous grin>: Well, captain, every ship is essentially a large vessel holding in billions of tons of pressure. You cannot expect even a time-accelerated tree to burst out of any ship. If we were to study the tree inside the Krill ship then we will find that it is a twisted bonsai version of a redwood that has forced itself into every available open part of that ship.
MERCER: I'm still disappointed.[/spoiler]
But aside from such minor problems, I was quite happy with the Orville. While some people are calling this show a "Trek parody" I beg to differ. I think in the correct light The Orville is rather an homage to TNG though somewhat "correcting" that universe for the near-perfection of its Federation and the crew of the Enterprise.