The Orville Season One review: Is Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek homage worth catching up on?

Seth MacFarlane takes on sci-fi comedy with The Orville but is it a must-see?

Let’s kick this review off with a pretty bold statement: almost all of the critics who previously passed judgement on The Orville when it aired across the pond were wrong. Yes, we said it… The Orville is not the terminally bland car crash show you’ve been led to believe.

Created by Seth MacFarlane, this genuinely hilarious sci-fi comedy successfully manages to mix silly gags and that encompassing “humanity can do better” ideal behind the show on which it’s so obviously based, without ever laying on the life lessons too thick. It’s optimistic, relatively light-hearted and full of characters that are fun to hang out with. Quite frankly, what more could you want?

It centres on the careers and personal lives of the people aboard Planetary Union ship the USS Orville, particularly the motley crew that run its exploratory missions. Among them is newly-appointed Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane), who’s still trying to move on from the fact that his wife cheated on him over a year ago, crude prankster/helmsman Gordon Malloy, single mother and Doctor Claire Finn and oh, Ed’s first officer who just so happens to be his ex, Kelly Grayson.

It’s evident throughout that this show would never have worked so well if it hadn’t have been for The Orville’s fleshed-out characters and brilliant ensemble cast – among whom MacFarlane divides screen time effectively. Peter Macon nails every one-liner with his deadpan delivery of Commander Bortus and Halston Sage’s young Alara Kitan is as skilled at adding serious heart to the show as she is playing up her character’s inhuman strength for laughs. Meanwhile, J Lee portrays genius-disguised-as-a-lazy-layabout John LeMarr with ease.

The Orville really shines when it uses its players to lean into its more meaningful episodes. Black Mirror-inspired episode ‘Majority Rule’ explores themes such as prejudice, technology addiction and snappy judgements while ‘Firestorm’ sees Alara face crippling self-doubt.  Another standout sees Bortus and his life partner debate whether their newborn baby should have gender reassignment surgery. (The child was inexplicably born female while their race, the Moclans, is all male). Perhaps not the kind of deep stuff you’d expect from a mere “MacFarlane Star Trek spoof” now, huh?

But things aren’t all serious. Each episode boasts plenty of mystery, banter-filled humour and a plot that wouldn’t seem out of place in a big screen production starring Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine. We’re quantum driving it to Season Two’s release date…