Why The Orville Is the Better Star Trek Series
I realize that “The Orville” is not officially part of Star Trek cannon. Then again, “Star Trek: Discovery” doesn’t want to be part of Star Trek cannon, either, while deliberately ignoring it while periodically violating it at will. That is only one of the reasons why “The Orville” is better than “Star Trek”.
Spoiler Alert: I will spoil the first two seasons of both “Discovery” and “The Orville”. If you want to learn about the ethics of spoiler alerts, you can read my review of the book “Spoiler Alerts”.
It Honors Roddenberry’s Vision
Canon matters to fans because it sets the rules for the universe and the history that makes it feel real. Crapping on canon means you’re violating the rules that help fans believe in the universe. Ignore the rules, and you erode the suspension of belief. Throw in more and more implausible hand-waving solutions (spore drives, mystical alien forests reached by such) and you undermine the very franchise you’re trying to continue.
Obviously “The Orville” doesn’t have the same timeline. But it has its own “Starfleet” headquarters on Earth. It is dedicated to peaceful resolution of problems, and despite the problems they encounter, they have a positive outlook. It honors Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek.
Compare this to dark, gritty and proud of it STD. A main character who is emotionally immature and unstable is not just a member of Star Fleet but someone who is forgiven for striking a senior officer because she’s just so awesomely good at everything. Who cares if we start a war with aliens, because we’re supposed to side with the edgy, grim-dark character whose main flaw is forever hungering for a surrogate parent? How do we get peace with the Klingons? By putting weapons of mass destruction on their home world and threatening to murder everyone on it. I prefer the Orville’s solution to the war with the Krill and their Borg substitutes.
The Character Drama Reflects Respected Values
Let’s set aside the emotional immaturity of main characters causing bad emotional decisions of the main character. And I’ll ignore the crappy, campy moments like “pinky swear in the alien space warp forest because I so trust you’re not a hallucination” scene. Instead, I am looking at the crew of the Orville’s character drama being both rich and along the lines of Star Trek’s values. Isaac the android struggles with his loyalties and chooses to side with life. The Captain struggles with his attachments and his obligations, and he chooses both peaceful solutions at home and in interspecies relationships.
STD is almost the opposite. A human child is given to a Vulcan ambassador who intentionally emotionally abuses her, knowing that his society will not accept her as an equal while denying her healthy emotional support from a human foster mother. Her constant quest for surrogate parents leads to constant back-and-forth that is toxic, until they decide to drop the surrogates and bring back Mom via high tech hand waving. To heck with honor and duty, gotta save Mom, because guilt-tripping over Daddy Sarek and surrogate Mom starship captain was getting stale.
The Humor Is Better
“The Orville” has a few campy moments. Dolly Parton’s song “9 to 5” becomes the anthem for an alien feminist. Miscommunications and cultural differences provide safe humor, and that’s aside from the realistic abuses of technology like kids hacking a system to synthesize alcohol or stealing a shuttle to spy on an ex. It is relatable, and it is funny in concept and execution.
Star Trek Discovery shoe-horns in jokes to try to offset the gritty and dark atmosphere. And there are plenty of moments where you’re supposed to cheerlead the tearing down of guys because girls are so awesome. All of it falls flat.
“The Orville” is the Star Trek spinoff I am happy to watch with my kids. It reflects the entertaining, amusing and enlightening ethos that Star Trek has always been, the show Star Trek Discovery chooses to be the opposite of.
© 2019 Tamara Wilhite