Seth MacFarlane has revealed that The Orville is his response to dystopian science fiction. The mastermind behind Family Guy, American Dad and Ted has written, produced and starred in the show for FOX. It’s his first live-action TV project, and it debuts next month.
If you’ve seen the first Orville trailer, the San Diego Comic-Con preview, or even just the brief Orville clip, you will have noticed that the show takes rather a lot of inspiration from Star Trek. The influence of Gene Roddenberry’s franchise can be seen in the costume designs, the sets and the ‘captain of a spaceship’ dynamic at the heart of MacFarlane's new series.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, MacFarlane explained that he’s not just looking to lampoon or parody Star Trek - he actually wants to harness the optimistic spirit of the early adventures of the Starship Enterprise, correcting the course of modern sci-fi away from the dystopian dramas that dominate multiplexes and networks at the moment:
“I miss the forward thinking, optimistic, aspirational space that Star Trek used to offer. It’s a space waiting to be filled in this day and age when we are getting a lot of dystopian fiction.”
MacFarlane does have something of a point here. Even 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness and last year's Star Trek Beyond blew up the Enterprise and pushed their protagonists into grim and gritty situations. Although the latter film did display some reverence for Roddenberry’s initial vision, both of them painted darker pictures than previous Star Trek movies and TV shows tended to do.
Interestingly, CBS is bringing Trek back to the small screen with Star Trek: Discovery at a similar time to The Orville’s debut on FOX. However, MacFarlane doesn’t see his show as being in direct competition with Discovery. He believes The Orville is “doing something a little more old-school.”
MacFarlane also noted that he's not just aiming for laughs this time around. “Each week you’re seeing a little movie, and there will be some variance in tone,” he teased.
For example, one episode of The Orville apparently features a baby getting gender reassignment surgery. When asked about that at the TCAs, MacFarlane offered this response: “Part of the fun of sci-fi is telling stories with relevance but exist in the world of make-believe, so that you don’t come off preachy - if you’ve done your job right.”
It remains to be seen how audiences will react to that episode, or how the ratings of The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery will compare in the long run. Still, many sci-fi fans will surely be intrigued by MacFarlane’s promise - as an optimistic change of pace is hardly unwelcome.
The Orville debuts on FOX September 10.
Source: Seth MacFarlane [via Collider]