During The Orville media tour and set visit, TrekMovie had a chance to speak briefly with the show’s creator and star Seth MacFarlane. We of course talked about the show, but also talked about Star Trek and specifically his love for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Captain Ed Mercer and his mission
I know you do a legendary William Shatner as Captain Kirk, and you are a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation so I thought your Captain Mercer was going to be cut from one of those molds, but after watching the pilot he seems to be a totally different kind of captain. The way he talks about becoming a captain being his dream it made me wonder, is Ed you? Are you playing a version of yourself?
In some ways. It is a character that does have to be good at his job to do this kind of thing. I personally would never want to go into space. I am very happy with other people going and taking pictures and bringing back rocks and things. But there are certain elements of the guy who is thrilled to be there and yet at the same time is struggling with whether or not he deserves to be there. Which is something I haven’t really seen.
We have seen the Kirk approach, the Picard approach, the Janeway approach. These are all paragons of nobility. And you think “What if Albert Brooks was in that chair?” It’s just a tone that I haven’t seen on a show like this that brings it into a real, grounded place that isn’t quite so Gary Cooper. That was part of what led me to bring the ex-wife (Commander Kelly Grayson, played by Adrianne Palicki) into the equation. Because the side-by-side chairs and the constant presence of that relationship makes every scenario, no matter how insane or out there or crazy sci-fi, it just grounds it all. It constantly reminds you, here are two very human people.
You mention those Star Trek captains. With those captains and ships there were clear missions given. What is the mission of the U.S.S. Orville?
We say it in the pilot, that it is an exploratory vessel. I like the simplicity of that, because it keeps your options option. You can be ferrying people. You can be on a rescue mission. You can just be out there mapping or searching for new stuff. I like the simplicity and the breadth of that classification and that to me is what we have locked in on.
In defense of TNG’s optimism and replicators
You have talked a lot about an optimistic sci-fi show and there have been comparisons to Star Trek. There have been five Star Trek shows, but there seems to be something specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation about this. Would you say that’s fair?
You even hired the Next Generation cinematographer [Marvin Rush]…
We brought on a lot of alum from that show. In the world of sci-fi there are a handful of franchises that have done that thing where they reach the broadest of audiences imaginable. Twilight Zone has done that, Star Wars has done that, and some incarnations of Star Trek have done that. For me The Next Generation is the show that did it the most. It really tapped into an audience that wasn’t necessarily there for the sci-fi, they were there for the people.
The inspiration I took most from that show was – it was more of a production design thing – if you are in space for a long period of time, you cannot really be in a dark, dimly lit submarine or you are going to go crazy. If you are out in a tin can for long stretches it has got to feel like a Four Seasons. There has to be houseplants and sofas and carpeting. It has to be a place that is really comfortable, or the psychology of it just doesn’t work. You would go batshit if you are out there for too long.
That show had a lot of rules for the writers. I am sure you have heard of the Roddenberry Rules. Recently Ron Moore talked about how he felt the replicators destroyed drama. You have replicators [called “synthesizers”] on The Orville. How do you feel about living in a similar universe where there is no want and no material need?
With a show like this, there are certain concessions you have to make. I don’t entirely agree with that. I think the replicator was one of the greatest inventions because the replicator more than any other device allowed the philosophy of that show to exist. How is there no money? Of course you wouldn’t need any money because you have f—king replicators.
More than any other device on the show – more than the warp drive – it was the replicators that defined the social reality of that series. I respectfully disagree with Ron Moore, who happens to be one of my favorite writers.
Will Fox give The Orville a chance?
Fox has a history of taking chances on sci-fi shows, but they also have a history of killing them off after a season or maybe not even letting them finish a season. What do you think are the parameters for your success to get to a second season? Are they going to give you time to find an audience?
That is a very good question. I don’t know the answer to that. I think my long history with Fox makes it more likely that they will give it every chance that it deserves up until the point where it doesn’t make sense anymore.
I think if we are doing OK, but not great, I think they will give us the benefit of the doubt to grow. If we come out of the box huge, that is obviously a no brainer. It’s hard to say. If we are in that middle area where we are still finding ourselves and there seems to be something great, but we just haven’t hit on it yet? Then I think that is the hardest area to be in because how hard do you fight. I am hoping that we come out of the box that we are so different than anything that is on TV today that we hit our stride on day one, but you never know.
360 Inside Look Promo
The Orville premieres on Fox on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 8:00 pm eastern, following a following NFL doubleheader. The second episode airs the following Sunday at the same time following another NFL doubleheader. It then moves to its regular Thursday time slot on September 21st at 8 pm.
For more check out this new 360 degree promo with Seth MacFarlane and the cast giving an overview of the show and characters (turn around to activate the viewscreen which starts a new behind the scenes video).
For more on The Orville, check out TrekMovie’s Orville category for all of our coverage.