With Discovery shaping up to be a complex and challenging television series, The Orville is like slipping into some well-worn slippers. Enjoying it is low-effort and, in many ways, very appealing. I would almost call this Star Trek Lite, something that would have fit in quite well with the early seasons of The Next Generation before Deep Space Nine came along and made Trek too complicated for whiny people. (Forget you if you say this isn’t true, I was there and I remember!)
This leads us to two questions: Can I ever write a review for The Orville without calling out entitled and exclusionary Star Trek fans and, can The Orville be taken as serious sci-fi?
The answer to the first question is, probably not.
The answer to the second question is, it looks like it can.
“If the Stars Should Appear” is the second of two very strong episodes that The Orville has churned out. While still rife with pop culture and wiener jokes, they have been delving into some very serious topics with this new outing running between science denial and archaic religions holding back progress. Hell, you can even say that it was about climate change deniers if you want to. The fact that something from the same man behind Family Guy, Ted, and The Cartoon Cavalcade is doing things like this is nothing short of extraordinary. Yes, The Orville is serious sci-fi… with wiener jokes and burns about boffing your mother.
The Orville is puttering around space when they come across a massive and ancient ship drifting towards a star that it will crash into in six months. They go on board and discover that the ship contains a complete biosphere with people, plants, and an entrenched belief system that nothing exists outside of the walls of their community and those in charge are willing to do anything to preserve their power. Can Captain Mercer and his team, left alone on the ship as the Orville goes to help somewhere else, save this society from themselves?
So, yes… I’ve been a little hesitant to commit to this series, but you can call me a fan now. I can honestly say that I’ve fallen in love with Seth MacFarland’s low-brow and yet high-brow take on Star Trek. It’s not only a lot of fun, but it’s actually a very good science fiction series to boot. “If the Stars Should Appear” is thought provoking, it’s beautiful in many ways, it has surprise guest stars, and it can teach other movies and television shows how to write strong women.
I loved this episode. I’ll see you all back for the next one.