Who’d have thought that a sci-fi series by Seth MacFarlane would be this good? Yes, the very same Seth MacFarlane who’s responsible for American Dad, Family Guy, and a farting not-child-friendly teddy bear.
As a show, The Orville has matured quite bit in this second season – the story arches and character development feel like they’ve been made more of a focus.
Don’t worry, there’s still a fair amount of toilet humour, with an entire episode dedicated to a solemn pee ceremony. Yup. You read that right.
Pee jokes aside…
The writers are still able to weave in social commentary in a way that’s not preachy, or completely irreverent. Anti-vaxxers, gender politics, and porn addiction are just some of the themes tackled as easily as a Xelayan wins an arm-wrestling match against a human.
Playing these themes out over multiple episodes makes each instalment more of a must-watch, a bit of an improvement on Season 1’s stand-alone-episode anthology style.
Exploring heavily political themes can be trickier than avoiding GoT spoilers, but the show handles these in a way that keeps each episode interesting.
The theme of gender politics is played out through our favourite supposedly all-male humanoids, the Moclans. As a result, Bortus and Klyden’s relationship goes through some challenges. The crew of the Orville found themselves in the centre of some rather charged sovereignty negotiations involving the Moclan male-dominated home world, and a rebel group of Moclan female exiles. These female rebel Moclan exiles quote the great Earth poet, Dolly Parton (listen out for this in episode 12).
Pop culture references are part of what grounds this show, making it more relatable than other series in this genre. It grapples with things like time travel and alien cultures, but stops to ask the questions we all want to know the answer to, like how do aliens pee?
And what would a Star Trek homage show be without franchise cameos?
In the third episode, titled “Home”, Trekkies are treated to cameos by Robert Picardo (who returns as Alara’s father) and John Billingsley. The two Star Trek veterans share some pretty intense screen time with Billingsley’s character seeking revenge.
The Orville has embraced its identity as a throwback show, created by the ultimate Star Trek fan. It blends humour and drama, satire and social commentary so effortlessly it can be forgiven for being a little predictable at times.
We know that Gordon’s (Scott Grimes) relationship with a simulated woman, long dead, is going to end badly – just as we know that Bortus is going to end up heavily addicted to cigarettes.
But it’s still surprisingly wholesome and fun, making it one of the best sci-fi series to binge at the moment. The latest episodes are on DStv Now.