Today, at their upfront presentation in New York, Fox revealed the first looks and details for The Orville, a new hour-long live-action sci-fi dramedy created by Family Guy creator/star Seth MacFarlane. Set aboard a 25th century starship, the show is clearly inspired by Star Trek. When the series was first announced last year the official description included the line: “this motley crew of space explorers will boldly go where no comedic drama has gone before.”
Here is the brand new trailer for the show:
Today’s reveal of The Orville (formerly known simply as Orville) included this new synopsis:
The Orville is a one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel. Its crew, both human and alien, faces the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of regular people in a workplace…even though some of those people are from other planets, and the workplace is a faster-than-light spaceship.
The series stars MacFarlane as the ship’s Commanding Officer and Adrianne Palicki (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as his ex-wife, who is also his First Officer. The show is set in a 25th century where Earth is part of a “Planetary Union” (sound familiar?), with a fleet of 3,000 ships. From the official description:
Down on his luck after a bitter divorce, Planetary Union Officer Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) finally gets his chance to command one of these ships: the U.S.S. Orville. Determined to prove his worth and write a new chapter in his life, Ed finds that task all the more difficult when the First Officer assigned to his ship is his ex-wife, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki).
The “qualified, but eccentric crew” that Ed gathers together includes his best friend Gordon Malloy, played by Scott Grimes (Justified, American Dad), who is described as having “problems with authority, but is the best helmsman in the fleet.” Star Trek fans will recognize Penny Johnson (Kasidy Yates from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), who plays Dr. Claire Finn, “one of the Union’s most accomplished physicians.”
Peter Macon (Shameless) plays Bortus, “an alien from a single-sex species.” Mark Jackson (That Royal Today) plays ISAAC, which is “an artificial life-form from a machine society that thinks biological life-forms are inferior.” Navigator John LaMarr is played by J. Lee (Family Guy), “whose casual humor cuts through even the most dire situations.” Halston Sage (Neighbors) plays Alara Kitan, “a young, inexperienced security officer whose home planet’s high gravity gives her superior physical strength.” Rounding things out is Yaphit, a gelatinous creature voiced by comedian Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live).
The official synopsis of The Orville concludes with:
Somehow, Ed and Kelly must put the past behind them and, with the help of the crew, navigate fascinating and sometimes dangerous adventures in outer space, as well as the tumultuous and captivating day-to-day personal relationships with their colleagues.
Trek Vets Behind The Camera
Joining MacFarlane as a writer and executive producer on The Orville is long-time Star Trek writer/producer Brannon Braga, with dozens of writing credits from The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise as well as two feature films (Generations and First Contact). Braga also worked with Seth as co-executive producer on the revival of Cosmos. Another familiar writer/executive producer for The Orville is David A. Goodman, who has worked with MacFarlane on Family Guy, and was a writer and consulting producer on Star Trek: Enterprise. Goodman also wrote Futurama’s Star Trek homage, “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” and three in-universe Star Trek reference books, including the upcoming “Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard.”
The pilot was directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), who is also an executive producer, but directors of subsequent episodes have a particular Star Trek bent. The second episode was directed by James Conway, who helmed 18 episodes of the Trek franchise, spanning Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, including the series premiere “Broken Bow.” Brannon Braga directed the third episode and Robert Duncan McNeill (Voyager’s Tom Paris) directed the fourth. The fifth and most recently wrapped episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes (The Next Generation’s Will Riker and director of two TNG feature films and many Trek episodes).
Frakes recently tweeted out a picture of himself on the set for The Orville, which some Trek fans initially thought was him on the set of Star Trek: Discovery.
Where am I now? pic.twitter.com/dQrbVfLDwg
— Jonathan Frakes (@jonathansfrakes) May 5, 2017
MacFarlane’s Star Trek fandom is well known. His animated comedies Family Guy and American Dad regularly feature Star Trek gags and he even found a way to get a couple of cameos on Star Trek: Enterprise. In the video below from a Paley Center event in 2011 he explains why he loves Star Trek, while also showing off his impressive William Shatner impersonation.
In another nod to past sci-fi TV shows, the production team is using physical models in addition to CGI:
We’re doing old-school model filming on The Orville in addition to CGI pic.twitter.com/lbjDd1cZgm
— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) May 15, 2017
Running in parallel with Discovery
In a way, The Orville is running in parallel with the upcoming CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery. Beyond the fact that both are set on spaceships of exploration centuries in the future, both shows are slated for fall releases. Both The Orville and Discovery will have 13-episode first seasons, and both shows started production in January with a few episodes already completed.
In fact over the last couple of months a shuttle prop for The Orville has been spotted a few times around Los Angeles, where the show is produced. Even though Discovery is being shot in Canada, fans took to social media posting pictures of it, thinking they had spotted something from the new Star Trek TV show.
The Orville is set to premiere on Thursdays at 9:00 PM this fall on the Fox Network.
It could be that like with another homage, the 1999 film Galaxy Quest, Trek fans will adopt The Orville series as a sort of adjunct to the franchise. TrekMovie will be tracking the progress on this Star Trek-inspired and Star Trek-vet-populated show.