The first season of The Orville has aired. The show is far from perfect but it exceeded my modest expectations. At its best moments the show captures a very Star Trek vibe (or at least what a Star Trek vibe is to me). Here are some thoughts on this season and things I’d like to see next season.
Spoilers below the not-at-all-like-Trek opening credits
Over the course of the series (and sometimes over the course of an episode as in the season finale) Ed Mercer can range from being the dedicated but flawed captain of a mid-level exploratory vessel to “Seth MacFarlane in space.” For me the show gets teeth gnashing bad when we get the latter version for more than a moment. But there were fewer of those moments as the season progressed, even in the Seth MacFarlane penned episodes.
I wonder if eventually Kelly Grayson runs into the Riker Dilemma of having to choose between staying on the Orville as First Officer or getting command of her own ship. I don’t think it’s been explicitly stated but it doesn’t seem to me that the Orville is her first time in the First Officer chair. She may be younger than Mercer (and has that black mark on her record from committing cultural contamination) but she is competent, has connections, and the fleet has 3000 ships to man. We don’t really know Kelly’s career ambitions but I doubt her goals end with being someone else’s First Officer. But like Riker, she’s comfortable where she is with the people she works with. Perhaps Kelly can find a way to have the best of both worlds.
Like many, I disliked John LaMarr at first and particularly after the statue humping episode. But “New Dimensions” changed my view of him. I don’t know if the promotion was always planned. Chief Engineer is a key role on this kind of show (and I thought it odd there wasn’t a regular character in the role) so maybe the plan was to introduce LaMarr to the audience before doing a Geordi La Forge. Or it was a mid course correction to a character that wasn’t really working at first. Either way, it is a positive and welcome change for the character and the show. I’m sure that even with his new responsibilities LaMarr will still find time to get into mischief with Malloy. In small doses the Bridge Bros can be okay.
Gordon Malloy is Gary Mitchell to Mercer’s Kirk. Like Mitchell, Malloy is the captain’s old friend and Mercer personally requested Malloy to serve on his first command. I would like to see the show do a riff on “Where No Man Has Gone Before” where Malloy is transformed into some sort of evil superpowered bro who is a clear danger to the ship and crew (and perhaps even the Planetary Union). Bortus and Isaac give Mercer the practical unemotional advice to kill Malloy before he becomes too powerful while the others urge him to find another solution. Someone makes the big speech about not giving up on Malloy’s humanity and in the end Malloy is restored to his normal self.
I liked the episodes centered on Alara Kitan since I have a fondness for stories about junior officers learning life lessons (insert your prefered Horatio Hornblower/Honor Harrington type character here). I wouldn’t mind one or two more of those or similar ones centered on the other crew like LaMarr’s episode.
This season opened the door to other universes, time travel, and alternate timelines so I wonder how far The Orville is willing to go in those directions. Will we get an alternate universe with the Planetary Empire instead of the Planetary Union (and a red-eyed Isaac)? Will the Orville or a shuttle somehow end up in the late 20th/early 21st Century then have to rely on Malloy’s knowledge or the era to keep a low profile and not screw up the timeline?
The Krill consider themselves at war with anyone who isn’t Krill. But the Planetary Union doesn’t seem to be in a formal state of war with the Krill. The Orville has destroyed two Krill warships and Mercer captured a third after killing the crew. But the Orville never opened fire first without some offensive action by the Krill. Those are terrible rules of engagement if you’re at war. The fact that Mercer is still in command of the Orville means the Admiralty condoned his actions. Mercer should be near the top of the Krill shit list and they might be hunting the Orville in the future.
With LaMarr now Chief Engineer his bridge seat next to Malloy is open. In the season finale there was a different person in the chair after every commercial break. I suppose next season that will settle into a set of recurring characters who rotate through the seat. It would also be an easy way to slip in some cameos or guest appearances for an episode.
Speaking of guest appearances Seth MacFarlane did a duet with Gwen Stefani so will she return the favor and make an appearance on The Orville? It could be something as simple as playing an alien singer or being one of the rotating bridge officers sitting next to Malloy for an episode.
These are just my quick and dirty thoughts and far from comprehensive. Feel free to add your own in the comments.