April 8, 2019  (Web Review)

The Orville: The Complete First Season

Fox, 4 discs, 526 min., TV-PG, DVD: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Seth MacFarlane, creator of the hit animated comedy shows Family Guy and American Dad, takes the lead in this live-action sci-fi series that can’t quite decide if it is a good-natured parody, a space adventure with comic flourishes, or the most expensive Star Trek fan fiction ever produced. MacFarlane is Captain Ed Mercer, commander of the spaceship Orville, a mid-level vessel in the Planetary Union, and Adrianne Palicki is his first officer (and ex-wife) Kelly Grayson. More than simply a tribute to Star Trek, this is practically a knock-off, from the ship and uniform designs, to the crew of human and alien officers, to the longstanding conflict with the warrior race the Krill (the show’s version of the Klingons). And MacFarlane is working with executive producer Brannon Braga and directors James L. Conway, Jonathan Frakes, and Robert Duncan McNeill, all veterans of previous Star Trek series. The Orville stumbles through introductory episodes but does improve over the course of the season, even taking a surprise turn into serious themes in the third episode. Many of the stories are plucked out of the playbook of the Star Trek TV franchise—with an added twist of humor that is not always well-integrated. But while not exactly good and far from original, the series does have an easygoing quality to the camaraderie, a bright visual style, and an admirable optimism about the future. Charlize Theron and Rob Lowe guest star. Presenting all 12 episodes from the 2017 debut season, extras include a cast Q&A and brief promo featurettes. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)