It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally evil, but by people being fundamentally people.
So I was very curious when someone mentioned “The Orville” as possible alternative to Star Trek. And frankly, it’s great, if similar but different to Star Trek (the good Star Trek, e.g., TOS/TNG/DS9, the rest is crap).
It does what Star Trek should do, put up a mirror in mankinds face. Not dystopian, not with glee, but with an impartial eye. Just showing mankind what mankind is — and could be. Using aliens and alien worlds as metaphors for the human condition. Esp. an episode like “Majority Rule” shows just what mankind has become. It is timely, it addresses an important issue (Twitter storms and outrage culture), and it does it in a great manner.
While reminding of a sitcom-like comedy at times, it is not as optimistic as, e.g., Star Trek TNG (DS9 was darker, esp. “In the Pale Moonlight”, but still somewhat optimistic). An “The Orville” episode like “Krill” leaves you with a gut-wrenching feeling that there were not right decisions, that “doing the right thing” will backfire in the end. The mixture of almost slapstick humor and serious topics might turn some people off, but I think they straddle the line very well.
And in contrast to Star Trek’s humanism (again: TOS/TNG/DS9), “The Orville” is … human. The people are actually flawed, like affair with Papa-Smurf flawed (“So you banged Papa Smurf. In our bed. That’s one way to handle it.”). Or just compare the entertainment — in Star Trek (TNG), you had the crew members performing a classic concert (chamber orchestra). Even in DS9, you had Vic Fontaine, a 1960s-era Las Vegas singer (think Frank Sinatra) with a lot of class. In “The Orville” (“Cupid’s Dagger”), you have a crew member singing karaoke — like a normal human would (almost gruesomely). This isn’t Star Trek TNG’s “Lower Decks”, this is blue-collar style entertainment. This isn’t humanism, it’s human. Deeply human.
So, yeah, the first season of “The Orville” was very very good. Here’s hoping for more to come. 🙂