Star Trek fans will find plenty of ways The Orville, the new FOX sci-fi comedy created by and starring Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), has gone where Trek has gone before. MacFarlane, a lifelong Trek fan who has even guest-starred in two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, teamed with Enterprise's producer Brannon Braga to bring The Orville to television. The result is a very loving homage of Trek's familiar iconography, tropes, and conventions.
Set in 2418, a hundred years after the 24th century of Star Trek's "prime timeline" that ranged from The Original Series in the 1960s to Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002, The Orville is about the down-on-his-luck Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane), who receives command of a "mid-level exploratory vessel" the USS Orville. The Orville is one of 3000 starships belonging to the Planetary Union, The Orville's version of the United Federation of Planets. The Union's uniforms are color coded like in Trek, but the colors are swapped (for example, command is blue in The Orville while it's yellow in The Original Series and red in The Next Generation and subsequent series).
MacFarlane is joined by several characters who serve as analogues for classic Trek archetypes: His first officer, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), is not just his ex-wife but, as a female first officer, she harkens back to how Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry originally introduced a female first officer named Number One (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) in the original Trek pilot "The Cage." The Orville's senior staff occupies positions very similar to how a starship senior staff is structured on Trek: the combined science officer/engineering officer is Isaac (Mark Jackson), an artificial lifeform from the planet Keylon, who joined the Union to study humans, not unlike Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner). There is the ship's chief medical officer Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson-Jerald), who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on the bridge like most doctors do on Trek. The stern Worf (Michael Dorn) character is Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon), the second officer, a Mocian. The chief of security is the super-strong Alara Kitan (Halston Sage), a member of the Xelayan race; a female chief of security is an ode to Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) from season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Finally, there's a helmsman named Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) and a navigator named John LaMarr (J. Lee), positions identical to those found at the helm of Captain Kirk's Starship Enterprise.
The starship Orville itself is designed to look extremely similar to a post-TNG starship. The bridge, with its dome above and forward facing view screen, could easily be mistaken for the bridge of the Enterprise-D in TNG, with identical touch screen controls and displays. However, there are two Captains chairs side by side for the captain and the first officer, which is a design lifted from Star Trek: Voyager; the Captain and helmsman sit on the right chair on the Orville, which is the opposite of where they sit on Voyager. Instead of a warp drive. the Orville achieves faster-than-light travel via its quantum drive. However, in a huge departure from Trek, there are no transporters on The Orville, and all travel from ship-to-planet and ship-to-ship occurs by shuttle.
The pilot for The Orville, "Old Wounds," plays off as a combination of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation "Encounter at Farpoint," and of course, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is arguably the most referenced Star Trek movie (so much that J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness essentially was a remake of it). The Orville begins with Mercer discovering his wife Kelly in bed with a blue alien called a Retepsian; this is both a nod to how Captain Kirk has a reputation for dalliances with alien women, but also to the scene in J.J. Abrams Star Trek when Uhura (Zoe Saldana) returned to her dorm room and her Orion roommate (Rachel Nichols) was in bed with Kirk (Chris Pine), who had to hide under the bed.
When Mercer receives command of the Orville, he recruits his disgraced best friend Gordon to be her new helmsman. This harkens to how Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) freed Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) from incarceration to be Voyager's helmsman. Mercer finds Gordon the Orville's version of a Holodeck dueling with a jovial ogre named Justin in a samurai village. The Holodock is perhaps the greatest invention of Star Trek: The Next Generation that provided the basis for countless classic episodes of TNG, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager, as well as providing memorable characters like Vic Fontaine (James Darren), the Las Vegas crooner from DS9, and Professor James Moriarty (Daniel Davis), who matched wits with Data and Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) on TNG.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is directly homaged in the scene where Mercer and Gordon fly a shuttle to the Orville, which is docked in an orbital starbase; the shuttle approach scene is played for comedy and is much shorter than the laborious version of Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and Scotty (James Doohan) approaching the retrofitted Starship Enterprise. The scene is backed by The Orville's score by Bruce Broughton, which is purposefully reminiscent of the classic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: The Next Generation by Jerry Goldsmith. Soon, Mercer addresses his entire crew in the Orville's hangar bay, just like Admiral Kirk did when he briefed the assembled crew of the Enterprise about their mission to intercept V-Ger. The Orville is also missing a First Officer at this point, just like Kirk's Enterprise was in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Picard's Enterprise was in Star Trek: TNG's pilot.
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