Review for The Orville Season 2
What’s happened with Star Trek? What used to be the biggest sci-fi franchise around had seemingly vanished into obscurity. The re-imagined film series has been on hiatus since the third film, while the new television series, Discovery, Picard, and the new Lower Decks animated series are increasingly niche, narratively bleak and dystopian, and consigned to the backwater of online streaming, no longer transmitted on television at all. And social media seem overflowing with commentators ready to bury the franchise, but with little in the way of supporters lauding the new shows; or that could be the confirmation bias algorithm at work on my Twitter feed. When it comes to Star Trek like I used to know, I found the unlikeliest of saviours, Seth MacFarlane. A vocal fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, he decided to make his own version of Trek, and in The Orville, we get social commentary, and adventures still boldly splitting infinitives all the way to the final frontier. Last year, I bought both The Orville and Discovery’s first seasons to do a compare and contrast. When it comes to the second season, while I’ve caught season 2 of The Orville in a sale, season 2 of Discovery hasn’t yet dropped low enough in price for me to shell out as yet, so no comparison this time.
Four hundred years into the future Earth is part of the Planetary Union, and Ed Mercer is a rising star in the exploratory fleet. That’s until the day he catches his wife cheating on him, and thereafter his career nosedives. A year later, he gets one last chance to salvage his life when he is offered command of the Orville, a mid-level exploratory ship. The one snag is the officer who is assigned as his first officer at the last minute, Kelly Grayson, his ex wife.
Fourteen more episodes of The Orville are presented across 4 discs from Twentieth Century Fox.
It’s Bortus’ time of the year, his one urination. Naturally such an event has a ritual associated, and he asks that the ship diverts to his homeworld, and that his crewmates attend the urination ceremony. And apparently it’s bad luck to attend without a date, which isn’t good as Ed and Kelly are having issues.
2. Primal Urges
Speaking of relationship issues... Bortus and Klyden aren’t communicating, Bortus is addicted to simulator porn, and for Moclans divorce can be fatal. Worse, the Orville is currently studying a dying planet orbiting a supergiant star, where they are surprised to find the remnants of a civilisation underground, waiting for the end. The middle of a rescue mission is a bad time for Bortus’ porn program to infect the ship’s computer with a virus.
Alara is the chief of security aboard the Orville, a cute little elfin girl who happens to be from a high gravity planet, such that her strength is comparable only to Isaac, the android aboard the ship. But when she breaks her arm in a wrestling match with Isaac, it suggests something is very wrong. An extended period in low gravity has weakened her, and her only hope is to go home to Xelaya to get re-acclimated. But there’s no guarantee that she’ll ever be able to return to the Orville.
4. Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes
Ed Mercer’s actually happy. Kelly has noticed this in her ex-husband, and it could be down to love. He’s actually getting serious about the new cartography officer Janelle Tyler, so much so that he accepts her suggestion of taking time off for a trip together. And then a Krill warship captures their shuttle.
5. All the World is a Birthday Cake
Kelly and Bortus have birthdays coming up, although he’s reluctant when she suggests a joint party. But the crew have another reason to celebrate when a radio signal is picked up. A world has just called to the universe to see if anyone is out there. It’s the chance for a first contact, but as with all first contacts, cultural interaction can be touchy, and there are bound to be surprises, like Kelly and Bortus being imprisoned because of their birthdays.
6. A Happy Refrain
Claire Finn is developing feelings for Isaac, the artificial life form. That could be problematic, but not as problematic as Bortus growing a moustache.
The Orville’s defences are getting an upgrade courtesy of a Moclan engineer named Locar. That he’s Bortus’ ex is liable to cause issues, but Locar is harbouring a dangerous secret as well.
8. Identity, Part I
When Isaac abruptly shuts down, Ed Mercer gets permission from his superiors to take the Orville to seek the help of Isaac’s fellow Kaylons. When the Orville reaches the Kaylon homeworld, the Kaylons tell Mercer that Isaac was designed to shut down when his mission was complete. It’s now time to make a decision on whether to join the Union. As the Orville waits for their decision, the reactivated Isaac announces that with his mission over, it’s time to leave the ship. But the Kaylons hide an ominous secret beneath the surface of their world.
9. Identity, Part II
As the Kaylon fleet heads to Earth, Isaac has to make a choice.
10. Blood of Patriots
Following recent events, the Krill are ready to explore the possibility of a peace treaty with the Planetary Union, and the Orville is assigned to meet with their envoy. But peace may be out of reach when a Krill shuttle fleeing from that ship seeks sanctuary aboard the Orville. On board are two humans escaped from a Krill prison camp, and the Krill demand their return. One of the humans, a man named Orin was Gordon Malloy’s best friend.
11. Lasting Impressions
An archaeologist is using the Orville to transport a valuable time capsule uncovered from 2015, over 400 years old. It’s full of all manner of strange artefacts, but of most fascination is a cellular phone. It’s full of the data of a woman from that period named Laura. There’s so much personal data that Gordon Malloy can actually create a simulation. Bortus and Klyden on the other hand have discovered a strange object called a cigarette.
Following a weapons upgrade at Moclus, the Orville is transporting a Moclan engineer and his mate for a rendezvous with another ship. But these Moclans have a secret that threatens the very existence of the Planetary Union.
13. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Commander Kelly Grayson happens to reminisce at the wrong place and time, in the lab where Isaac is experimenting with a time manipulation experiment. Now, Lieutenant Kelly Grayson, seven years younger and more inexperienced is faced with life in the future aboard a starship, butting heads with her older self. But for Captain Ed Mercer, he sees a second chance that he could never have conceived of. But there are ramifications...
14. The Road Not Taken
History has been changed, and the Planetary Union is on the verge of destruction. But one person has a plan. Kelly Grayson needs to gather a group of people together, including Ed Mercer. Gordon Malloy, and Claire Finn to find a crashed starship, and uncover a time travel experiment that is their one chance to get history back on track.
The Orville gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic PAL transfer with the speedup that goes with it. The image is clear and sharp, detail levels are good, colours are bright and consistent, and compression isn’t too evident. There is some shimmer on fine detail, and colours don’t exactly pop, but what do you expect from DVD? Imagine Star Trek the Next Generation with modern CGI effects, and you have some idea of how The Orville looks, all bright, primary colours, the ships are bright and shiny, clean and brand new, and the production values are pretty solid. The Orville is a decent design, a ship that looks like a cross between a sneaker and a squid (a squeaker?), but the effects really do sell the show.
You have the choice between DD 5.1 Surround English and German, with subtitles in these languages and French and Dutch. The English is fine, there’s no telltales of pitch correction apparent if it has happened, and the surround brings the music and the action across well, without burying the dialogue. The music suits the show well; certainly the theme works with the space opera genre. The incidental music still homages furiously, touching on James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith’s Trek scores (and this season throwing in some John Williams as well) and expressing its own identity.
You get 4 discs in an Amaray case, two overlapping on both inner faces. The inner sleeve has a contents listing for the set. The discs boot to static menus.
Disc 4 has all of the extra features but it’s slim pickings compared to the Season 1 release.
Deleted Scenes (4:07)
Character Recap: Kelly (1:07)
Character Recap: Bortus (1:17)
Gag Reel (2:06)
The Orville at Comic-Con 2019 (16:27)
The latter featurette may have the longest run-time, but five minutes of that is devoted to stage introductions.
I was about to get a little scathing before I took a breath and did some maths. Star Trek: The Next Generation ended broadcast in 1994, and The Orville started airing in 2017. That’s a gap of 23 years. Films have been remade in less time that, and people who were born after TNG ended might have been starting families of their own when The Orville showed up. I’m probably in a minority then, of people who have stuck around long enough for both series. So while it might have annoyed me that at least a third of the episodes of Season 2 of The Orville were essentially remakes of Star Trek The Next Generation episodes, it may not be as big a deal for the show’s target demographic. Still, if you were a TNG fan back in the day, expect to see slight variations on In Theory, The Outcast, The Best of Both Worlds 2-parter, Second Chances, Yesterday’s Enterprise, and a cross between Galaxy’s Child and The Neutral Zone.
For me, with that much active homage in this season, it sort of takes the sheen off the show that had so impressed me with its first season. I kept being distracted by all these reminders of Star Treks past, and couldn’t get into the stories and the characters the way that I did before. I also grew tired of the Moclans, so obviously the Klingons of the show, the proxy for modern day humanity to point out our 21st century flaws and weaknesses. My heart would sink a little with each new ‘Moclan’ episode. As it is, I really only appreciated the show’s originality and inventiveness in about half of these episodes.
The smart thing still about The Orville is bringing a modern day sensibility to the Star Trek premise, with characters easier to relate to and a definite sense of humour to the show which works in its favour, without overpowering the drama or the messaging in the stories. The opening episode of Season 2 isn’t the show’s strongest though, practically a soap opera with a toilet humour punchline, but thankfully things get stronger from there. Primal Urges may be one of those Moclan episodes, but the Orville crew do with their version of the holodeck what we all secretly knew was going on aboard the Enterprise. It’s a warning from the future about the dangers of porn addiction.
The villains of season 1, the religious fundamentalist Krill return, albeit with a twist or two that leads them in an interesting direction, and there is a great first contact episode, where the crew falls into a cultural misunderstanding trap that neither side could foresee. Again, you see in the Orville crew the reaction that you’d expect, but never get in Star Trek, the urge to party when they hear a message from a species emerging into the galaxy for the first time, and the eagerness to make new friends.
There are some entertaining and interesting episodes as well in the rest of the run, developing the Orville universe in interesting ways, especially with the Krill, and the machine Kaylons, Isaac’s people. But in the latter half of the series, The Orville recycles more and more TNG stories. I suppose recycling is good for the environment, and seeing a different take on familiar tales can be provocative, with characters turning left instead of right and leading to different outcomes. And once again, I have to remind myself that it has been around 25 years between the two series. After that much time, a remake or two is more than justified. It certainly looks as if The Orville is going from strength to strength, albeit in an entertainment landscape where it can only really get the budget and time it needs for the production values it’s aiming for, from online streaming and not broadcast television. For Season 3, The Orville has switched from Fox TV to Hulu, although Covid came and spoiled that production schedule as well. And I admit the irony of that given my opening rant about the newest Trek TV shows.
If The Orville is looking to better Season 2 though, it’s aiming high indeed, as in terms of production value, Season 2 is already aping Star Wars quality visuals for its worlds and its battle sequences. The only real disappointment is that the show isn’t available on Blu-ray. I hate to say it, but you’ll get the most out of Season 2 if you’re not a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is ironic given where Seth MacFarlane was coming from when he dreamed this series up.