In 2017, audiences were given two television series that carried on the legacy of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, after years of none, with one of them not even carrying the Star Trek name. Alongside Star Trek: Discovery, there was the comedy-drama series The Orville from Fox and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.
While a bit rocky at first, leaning a bit too heavily into the type of humor Family Guy is known for, The Orville quickly found it’s feet and leaned more into the drama and science-fiction, being compared by many to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Which makes sense as many former writers, producers and stars of that series and other previous Star Trek shows are involved behind the scenes for the series.
Now that the show has secured a second season renewal, MacFarlane spoke to the press during the Television Critics Association winter press tour about how moving forward the series will lean more into that science-fiction/drama over the humor. MacFarlane said that the first season taught him that the series could be a genuine science-fiction series and didn’t have to use humor if it didn’t fit the story being told.
The show was experimental in a lot of ways. Tone was the biggest experimental part of it. What we found was that we can lean a little more heavier into the science fiction and not have to worry so much about knocking out a joke every page. The show is an hour and really can and wants to service its storytelling in a way that makes it a priority. The jokes come as they come, the comedy comes as it comes.
Later episodes of the 12-episode first season proved this as much of the humor took more of a backseat in some serious episodes, popping up more so as a way to dispell the tension somewhat. Which is in line with many science-fiction series out there, knowing when to use the humor rather than overly rely upon the humor.
The episode “Into the Fold,” where Doctor Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) along with her children and Isaac (Mark Jackson) get stranded on a planet, is the one that MacFarlane said really put them to the test.
It was a very dark, somber episode that still lived in that world very successfully. That episode for me in the first season was the real test of how far we can take the genuine science-fiction aspect of it.
MacFarlane and the other writers will have a bit more room to play around with the science fiction in season two as he confirmed that the new season will likely have 14 episodes rather than the 12 that it had to begin.
I think it’s going to be at least 14. If we did 22, they wouldn’t be good. I’d rather do fewer episodes and have them be better content-wise than do 22 and have them be filler.
The Orville returns in the fall.