On June 2, 2022, the third season of Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” will be debuting on Hulu. I am beyond excited for the third season and have written about all of the things I desperately hope will be in “New Horizons.” However, not enough of you have watched this show, and so to combat that, I’ve written this numbered list about why you should drop everything and start catching up on episodes.
1. Relevant Issues in a Science Fiction Setting
The wonderful thing about science fiction is that it creates scenarios that allow us to ask questions about what it means to be human. Science Fiction can allow us to test ourselves mentally and open doors within our imagination. Questions we might ask include, “Is this android really human if they feel everything a human does?” or “Should I give in to my internal parasite and mate with this handsome alien man?”
“The Orville” enjoys asking these questions.
Critics weren’t in love with Season One, but I still felt like “The Orville” had a few solid ideas. Particularly in Episode 7, “Majority Rule.” The crew of the Orville land on a planet that looks suspiciously like 21st-century Earth in search of two missing anthropologists. Instead, they find something worse: a society that acts as judge and jury based on a person’s social media reputation. I’ve heard that the inspiration behind this episode was Jon Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.” When this episode first aired in 2017, people were unimpressed. However, as social media has the ability to crush someone’s life, I think this episode has aged well.
2. It’s a Funny Show
No, it’s not “Galaxy Quest,” but “The Orville” is still a comedy. The Orville’s mission is serious, but the crew aboard the Orville are regular people. And just like in real life, people are strange and funny. The characters say goofy things at the wrong moments, crack dumb jokes, and engage in stupid pranks. Constant misunderstandings lead to wild outcomes, made even more outrageous because we’re talking about humans, aliens, and robots in the 25th century. The show is warm and friendly because the characters are warm and friendly. It’s light-hearted, and you feel good at the end of each episode, like you’ve just spent time with people you like.
3. The Orville Crew
A simple joy of science fiction is taking people from diverse backgrounds, locking them in a shared space, and giving them a common goal. In the Orville’s case, that goal is to peacefully explore the universe (sort of “to boldly go where no man has gone before”).
This mostly goes well, except when it doesn’t, because the crew of the Orville is not the Union’s best, but the Union’s okay-est. Ed Mercer, the captain of our ship, wants to be the best possible captain, but that is hard considering his second-in-command is also his ex-wife, Kelly. And no, they’re not over each other. Add a couple of weird aliens (and a few much weirder humans), and you have your crew. This makes achieving that “common goal” a little more complicated.
4. Dann, the Man (and Other Scene-Stealing Side Characters)
The main crew is excellent, but the side characters have made me love this show. I especially love Dann and everything he says. His awkwardly sincere comments about having neat shirts anyone can borrow and his deep love for refinishing antique furniture have given us tantalizing glimpses into this dork’s rich inner world, and I want more.
Another brilliant side character is Yaphit, voiced by the late Norm MacDonald. Yaphit is the only gelatinous life form on the Orville, and thus he channels that loneliness into hitting on the ship’s doctor, Claire Finn. She does not return his affections, but that won’t stop him from trying. Sadly, Norm MacDonald passed away in 2021, so I don’t know what that means for Yaphit’s character, but I will always appreciate what Norm MacDonald has contributed to comedy and “The Orville.”
5. The Love Stories
This show gave me the romance I never knew I wanted. And no, it was not between Dann and anyone else (though I desperately hope that comes to fruition in Season 3 because I love him).
The romance I never knew I wanted but now cannot imagine living without was between two of our most competent characters: my girl Dr. Finn, played expertly by Penny Johnson Jerald, and our arrogant, obtuse robot friend, Isaac, played by Mark Johnson. They have an interesting relationship. Isaac is a diplomat hailing from a robotic species that has no trouble declaring its innate superiority to organic life forms. This makes Isaac something of a jerk, a trait that other people are less inclined to call him out for because he’s also the smartest and most capable crew member aboard “The Orville.” Everyone except for Dr. Finn, who has no trouble criticizing him for his arrogance and unfriendliness. This openness between the two characters develops into a genuine friendship that takes some unexpected turns.
6. Incredible World Building
Xelaya! Kaylon! Whatever weird ball of mucus Yaphit comes from! The Orville takes place in a rich, complex galaxy with thousands of species and hundreds of planets. With each episode, viewers are introduced to new worlds of possibilities, meet unique characters and cultures, and explore fascinating concepts. I appreciate the sense of continuity within the universe. Ideas introduced to the audience within the pilot episode are present in the second season’s finale, which I did not pick up until I rewatched the series. It is exciting to turn to a new episode and watch where the story will take us because we know it will feature characters we’ve come to love experiencing something grand that builds upon the stakes established in this universe.
7. Stunning Special Effects
I suppose I could rhapsodize about the nebulas, planets, or ship itself, but I’d rather focus on one of my favorite characters within the series. Some viewers were divided over the character Yaphit for his boorish behavior, and while I won’t disagree that he could be annoying, I thought he was a great addition to the crew. When humans make first contact, I firmly believe that we are more likely to interact with sentient balls of goo than creatures who look just like us. So the addition of a gelatinous crew member was a good choice for scientific realism, but why stop there? The show’s creators happily used Yaphit’s unique genetic make-up to accomplish inventive action sequences that would be literally impossible without the advancement of VFX software. There are scenes within this show that have shocked me in the best possible way. Fans of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 might remember Odo Ital and his liquid state of being, but as the show was produced in the 1990’s, the special effects weren’t there yet. I’d love to see what “The Orville” could have imagined for Odo.
8. An Original Soundtrack
Seth MacFarlane charged Bruce Broughton with composing the theme to “The Orville.” The result is breathtaking. Each episode contains an original composition, and for each season, there are roughly two and a half hours of orchestral music. These compositions accompany the crew of the Orville as they encounter the wonders and horrors of the universe. Fans of Star Trek will notice the similarities in the intro: a sleek spaceship chartering the beautiful unknowns of the galaxy while a grand orchestra plays in the background. It’s a grand opening that shows how much MacFarlane cares about creating the atmosphere for his world.
I recommend this article by Variety if you’re curious for more information about how MacFarlane collaborated on the music for this show.
9. The Songs
Yes, the score is exceptional, but the actual songs featured? Also great and deserving of their own paragraph. “The Orville” likes to spotlight 20th-Century bangers to set or close out the scene, like Billy Joel’s “Only A Woman” in the episode featuring Ed’s short-lived romance with the last person he expected. Or “My Heart Will Go On” at an awkward karaoke night.
This was a hard choice, but I have decided that my favorite musical moment was this: the first time Gordon Malloy, played by Scott Grimes, sings in “Identity, Pt. 1.” I was not prepared. I should have known – Scott Grimes has a fantastic singing voice, and the character he voices on “American Dad,” Steve Smith, also has an impressive set of pipes. However, when Gordon Malloy sings the chorus to Air Supply’s “Goodbye,” I literally gasped. My jaw dropped. I felt like Odysseus chained to the mast of my ship as sirens beckoned to me from the rocks. I listened to the song snippet over and over again as rage built within me because why isn’t there a longer version on Spotify???
When I quit my bookkeeping job, I requested that my coworkers sing “Goodbye” for me in tribute. They did not, and I still resent them for it.
Life is full of hardship and agony, but I know that my burden will be lessened if there was a musical episode of “The Orville” next season. Is it too late to start a petition for that?
10. It’s a Love Letter to Star Trek
Seth MacFarlane is known for many things, like being the creator of “Family Guy” and a million other shows and movies that are… okay. I guess. They’re fine.
Many people do not know that MacFarlane is a massive fan of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek.” MacFarlane has loved Space and Star Trek since he was a teenager (if you need proof, check out this fan film he was in as a teenager). I may not love all of his work, but damn, I admire him for using his Hollywood clout to bring his own version of Star Trek to life – one with just as much love for science fiction and the universe as the original story. I would do exactly the same thing if I had that kind of power.
As a Star Trek fan, watching “The Orville” is pure joy because MacFarlane’s love for the original series shines through each episode. The humor comes from the characters and situations but never feels meanly directed at anyone who enjoys science fiction. “The Orville” can never be “Galaxy Quest.” I love “Galaxy Quest,” and I appreciate how “Galaxy Quest” embraces the feeling of “Star Trek” and manages to deliver a hilarious movie that pokes fun at some of the sillier aspects of the franchise. “The Orville” doesn’t do that because MacFarlane loves Star Trek too much to even consider poking fun at the franchise. There are no jokes leveled at Star Trek or Star Trek fans because MacFarlane loves the series too much to ever do that.
As a science-fiction nerd and a Star Trek fan, I completely understand the intense love you can develop for a comforting franchise. I admire MacFarlane for taking that love and continuing Roddenberry’s vision. Though selfishly, I’m happy with anything that gives me more Star Trek.