After years without a Star Trek presence on TV, Star Trek: Discovery is bringing the franchise back to life, but some long-time fans prefer Seth MacFarlane's dramedy The Orville on FOX, and the show's producers think its because The Orville has a wide audience appeal like the original Trek.
MacFarlane's series - which just earned a second season - takes place in the 25th century and revolves around Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) and the crew of the titular Orville. It's a surprisingly faithful homage to the feel and aesthetic of Star Trek: The Next Generation - a show MacFarlane unabashedly loves - peppered with moments of the Family Guy and Ted creator's signature humor. The series launched the same month as Star Trek: Discovery, which is the franchise's first television series since Star Trek: Enterprise was unceremoniously canceled in 2005.
Surprisingly, some fans prefer MacFarlane's Star Trek homage to the real deal. In an interview with CBR, The Orville's producers David A. Goodman and Brannon Braga - the latter of whom worked for many years on several Star Trek series - attempt to explain why their show appeals so strongly to longtime Star Trek fans, with Goodman acknowledging the shared DNA between the series.
Goodman: There’s no getting around that there’s some Star Trek inspiration in this show…Seth wanted an uplifting show; a show that presented an optimistic view of the future, which is what Roddenberry [did]. So, they share that philosophy.
Goodman and Braga go on to explain how The Orville is aiming for a broader audience through more traditional storytelling like past Star Trek series have done.
Goodman: I think the difference for us, is that Seth was very much aware…he’s making a show for everybody. That’s what gets lost in the discussion of Star Trek fans liking and not liking a show. The original Star Trek was a show that millions of people watched, all over the world. A subset of them - like me - are super passionate Star Trek fans. I’ve written three Star Trek books. I’m a big fan, but we represent a very small, tiny part of the audience that watch that show.
Seth wanted to do a show that was for everybody. And I think that may be closer to the reason that people are making that connection. That, this is a show, that people don’t need to know the backstory of that universe to get into it.
Braga: And you don’t need to watch every episode to swing into the story. It’s more classical storytelling.
It's difficult not to interpret that as a swipe at Discovery, which is both confined to the viewer restricting CBS All Access streaming service, and which relies on the sort of modern, serialized storytelling tropes that Star Trek has generally avoided in the past. Neither show is perfect, though they have decidedly different flaws. With both shows returning for sophomore seasons, this is likely a fan debate that will continue to rage on into the future.
The Orville airs Thursdays at 9 PM on FOX.