In this Golden Age of Geekery, we have a bounty of wonderful science fiction to intake. While the TV screen has been previously dominated by Star Trek… but now we have something that is better Star Trek than Star Trek: The Orville.
This is not a popular opinion, but let me explain everything about my opinion.
CBS has recently started a new Star Trek TV series, Star Trek Discovery, and the look of the series is definitely towards the Kelvin Timeline, they have positioned themselves in the Prime Timeline. While this would be something to behold, they put the show behind a subscription service exclusively on an app and that has limited my personal viewing of the show. I’ve seen about half that series and apparently I stopped watching before the “good stuff” happens.
Seth MacFarlane pitched a Star Trek series (supposedly) and got rejected, leading to MacFarlane heading over to Fox to pitch the same basic idea. Thus, The Orville was born. (I couldn’t find supporting documentation but I’ll stick with the here-say on this one).
While Star Trek Discovery has gone in a direction I’ll call “gritty,” the trend among media these days, The Orville has kept the essence of what previous Star Trek has been in the past: exploration of themes. Without having seen the whole Discovery season, I am going to be judging the merits and faults based on what I have seen…
Disco, as some are calling it, feels more like a thematic “dark” for the sake of saying “we’re examine the dark underbelly of Starfleet.” The brightly colored and well lit days of Trek have been left behind for lease flares, monotone colored, and not well lit sets that make the realism seem real. What I witnessed was a stretched out version of a movie, jamming in action and intrigue as if they were presenting us with a movie instead of a TV show. That’s fine, in and of itself, but the lean towards “gritty,” in my opinion, was done for the sake of just being gritty… the thing that everyone complains about the direction most media is heading.
And yet, there are some diehard supporters of Disco, in the face of denying that which they are complaining about.
The Orville seems to have taken off straight out of the Next Generation. In the second season, we’ve seen some expansion into the DS9 or Voyager style of Star Trek, but overall, The Orville has maintained a system of storytelling that has a proven track record without sacrificing the “fun” of what Star Trek used to be.
Now, I’m a fan of the original Star Trek movies because they left the campy stories of the Original Series. Without those campy stories, though, I wouldn’t have a deeper appreciation for the movies like I do.
I am not one of the people out there campaigning for dark and gritty. I do like a little more realism in my science fiction (which is why I love the hell out of the Expanse), but I think Star Trek should remain more like Star Trek. Hell, even the Kelvin Timeline movies are more like Star Trek than Discovery currently reflects.
The other kicker with Disco is something that Marvel Comics fans currently have an issue with: continuity. Rather than adapt the media to tell new and interesting stories without being bound by what has come before, fans of Marvel and Disco insist on continuity laded storytelling. In the case of Disco, I want to point out that this means that Spock’s Brain, a highly derided OS episode, is absolutely canon. How the hell does THAT fit with the new dark and gritty storytelling?
All in all, The Orville is better Star Trek than Disco. I’d rather watch The Orville than Disco. The lack of access to Disco has a lot to do with my hard stance on this, but even if Disco had more accessible options, I’d still be leaning towards The Orville.
I am a fan of telling stories without needing to point to hundreds of episodes or issue to tell the stories. If Disco had been something outside of the already established continuity (like, if they didn’t try to jam it between Enterprise and the Original Series), I probably wouldn’t have as much of an issue with the series.
Disco suffers from what Star Wars is currently doing: filling in all the gaps. Rather than just let us assume what happens in between movies (in the case of Star Wars) or series (in the case of Star Trek), they have the compulsion to tell us about every second of everyone’s lives from start to finish. I don’t need that and no one else should, either.
What were the intricate details of what happened between the end of Enterprise and the start of the Original Series? Who cares! Move into the future, look FORWARD, don’t look backwards…