SDCC18: ‘The Orville’ Producers And Cast Promise Bolder, More Confident Sci-Fi In Season 2

In addition to all the Star Trek related events and product debuts happening at San Diego Comic-Con, there was also a panel for TrekMovie’s adopted show The Orville, as well as a press event which TrekMovie attended. We already reported on the season two trailer released on the same day, but now have highlights from the panel and the press event to get a sense of where the show is going for the second season.

The Orville cast at San Diego Comic-Con press event

A bolder Orville for season 2, confident in its tonal balance

During the panel, The Orville creator Seth MacFarlane started off talking about how the first season was a “tonal experiment” where they and the audience found the right balance. MacFarlane said The Orville was allowed to “really be a sci-fi show,” with the comedy as “a garnish.” With regards to the second season he said:

MacFarlane: I think what you are going to see in season two is a show that is even more comfortable in its footing as far as existing in that Goldilocks zone. Every episode feels like a movie. I think you are going to dig it.

Executive producer Brannon Braga followed that up, saying:

Braga: In season two the storytelling is even more assertive and bold and really there is some daring stuff that happens, narratively daring. I think the other big thing is that when we were writing season one, we didn’t have the cast. So, you were imagining these roles, but once the actors get into these roles, it changes everything and they way you are approaching these characters. It is a huge difference. It is such a great cast, perfectly cast.

Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki at The Orville panel at San Diego Comic-Con

Sitting down with TrekMovie during a press round-table, executive producer David A. Goodman talked about how the show will maintain its episodic nature in the second season, which means the balance of comedy to drama, will change from episode to episode, saying:

Goodman: There are episodes this year that are full comedy, start to finish. Then we got some serious, dark stuff. It is episode to episode. I think that is what attracted Seth to this kind of format. You don’t know what you are going to get week to week, because you are with these characters, the audience buys in. And the audience had no trouble with that in the first season and they wont’ have trouble in the second.

New to the show this year, executive producer/director John Cassar talked about how he starts with the drama when directing:

Cassar: You have to get all the dramatic beats first. If you can put the comedy into that, that is a bonus. That is the fun part for me and the challenge. They the key to all this is good storytelling. I think that is what Star Trek had, and that is what Seth loved, and that is what [Brannon and David] love, and that is what I love. If you can give me a good story, you can interweave whatever you want into it, if the story is good. And the stories are great, even better this year

At the same press event, Braga added:

Braga: We approach the writing the same way. We make sure there is a good story there. Sometimes the humor is laced in later than you might expect.

Goodman, Braga and Cassar at press round-table at San Diego Comic-Con 2018

A little more serialized, and more allegories

One of the core features of The Orville is that it is episodic and not highly serialized. However, as we have reported in our recent The Orville updates, the second season will feature a 2-part episode, a return to the planet Moclus, the return of the bad guys the Krill, and even the return of Star Trek: Voyager actor Robert Picardo as the father of Halston Sage’s character Alara Kitan. At the press event Braga noted that, like the show he began his career on, some serialization evolves, even within the episodic structure of the show, noting:

Braga: It’s like The Next Generation, the show [The Orville] most closely resembles, season to season you start accruing characters you like, villains you like, villains you like to re-use, all sorts of different reasons. You are building a world.

David A. Goodman also weighed in, saying:

Goodman: And then there are the characters on our ship. There is a serialization aspect in that our characters grow and change and their interactions with each other has effects episode to episode. So, for fans, there are payoffs for watching every week. So they will see something that references another episode, but if you are watching the for first time, it won’t take you out of it.

At the same press event, the executive producers also talked about how the second season will continue to tell allegorical stories, as well as explaining why they do them:

Goodman:  We definitely have some episodes which are allegories. We go back to Moclus, which was obviously was an allegory last year, and we explore a little bit more of that. And there are new worlds as well, where we explore. But it is not allegory in every episode. The balance is the same as it was last year.

Braga: If we find a topic that hasn’t been explored in a particular way, it is a story idea. At the end of the day, we are looking for good stories. We knew we wanted at least a couple of the episodes to be new cultures, that were interesting in some way. Otherwise it is just people with funny makeup.

Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald and Scott Grimes at San Diego Comic-Con The Orville panel

Something unexpected coming for Szhor and Sage’s characters

Not at San Diego Comic-Con were Jessica Szhor, who joins the cast for season two, or Halston Sage. During the press event, Goodman was able to confirm Szhor’s character’s name and that she was from the same race as Halston Sage’s Alara, however he wouldn’t weigh in on if Szhor will be replacing Halston Sage during the second season. He did promise something interesting for the two characters, saying:

Goodman: [Jessica Szhor’s character] name is Talla, she is a Xelayan, like Alara. Jessica is a great actress. She brings a lot to this part, and I think the fans are going to like her…I think you are going to be intrigued to see what we do with both of those characters [Alara and Talla]. I don’t want to spoil it, but it is unexpected.

Adrianne Palicki at San Diego Comic-Con The Orville panel

Trek vets Frakes and Menosky as part of season two (Tim Russ too)

Of course one of the things that ties The Orville together with the Star Trek franchise is the number of Trek veterans behind the camera. This season will see both Voyager’s Robert Duncan McNeill and TNG’s Jonathan Frakes return to direct an episode. The cast talked glowingly about working with Frakes during the panel, here are a couple of highlights:

Peter Macon: He’s an actor, DP, passionate nut job, all rolled into one. He is great and specific. We were working last night and I got stuck in the weeds and I literally could not get it right. And he is just there and…and as an actor, he knows where you are and what is going on. He is in it with you. And he is sharp, and sings opera… It is like being in a master class, with a master, because he understands the shots and he only slightly makes you feel like a dumb-ass… He’s an actor’s director, you can tell he loves it, because he inhabits it.

Mark Jackson: He has a form of set Tourette’s, which I really admire. It scares you into acting.

J. Lee: We like him!

Adrianne Palicki: Love, love love him… Energy-wise, he brings it. It’s long hours and he constantly brings this energy. I don’t know how he does it. Also, shooting bridge scenes which can be the longest, nobody knows the bridge more than that guy. That is the most fun.

Frakes has actually been directing on The Orville this week, as can be evidenced by this tweet with his TNG co-star visiting the set today:

Another Trek vet joining this season, who we first caught a hint about back in February, is writer Joe Menosky, who wrote many episodes of Star Trek including the classic TNG episode “Darmok.” At the press event executive producers David A. Goodman and Brannon Braga talked about Menosky’s contribution to the second season of The Orville:

Goodman: He is in the writers room and on the staff. Joe is a great writer, obviously. Brannon has worked with him for a long time. We are huge fans of his, Seth is a huge fan of his. He played a big role this year.

Braga: Joe actually was working on Star Trek: Discovery when that first started up, and I was really pissed because we wanted him last year. But, he had taken that job before [The Orville] got off the ground. So, we are lucky to have him.

Speaking of Trek vets showing up on The Orville, Star Trek: Voyager actor Tim Russ revealed this week he just worked on the show, presumably in the current episode which is being directed by Frakes.

Does Star Trek exist in The Orville universe?

An interesting question during the panel was posed that suggested because the first season of The Orville had a reference to Seinfeld and because Seinfeld had referenced Star Trek, therefore Star Trek must exist in the universe of The Orville. However, MacFarlane demurred, without confirming this fan theory:

MacFarlane: It’s a very good question, and it is what I thought about when we wrote episode 3, when Claire said “I’ll be your Obi Wan.” I don’t think there is any way to answer that, that would be satisfying to anybody.

Star Trek came up again when Penny Johnson Jerald was asked which of her on-screen sci-fi romantic partners was better, Yaphit on The Orville or Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For Penny, there was no question:

Penny Johnson: You don’t have to ask that question. I mean when you are next to a Hershey bar compared to a green blob of Jello. Come on now. You got the answer to that.

Penny Johnson Jerald shows off her morning dance routine

SDCC Orville Videos

Fox has released some videos from SDCC

Panel highlights

Post-panel Facebook live event

Cast hang out on Orville pedicabs

More from SDCC

There will be more exclusive interviews coming up from the Discovery press event. You may also want to check out our full panel report and the 8 things we learned from the press conference.

We have also been covering Star Trek merchandise and other Trek-related activities and panels from SDCC, with more on the way. Click here to see all our SDCC 2018 coverage.

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Grumpy

I have to admit, I enjoyed the heck outta The Orville last season. They let it all hang out when they could (the leg) and reigned it in when they needed to! It wasn’t perfect, but who wants perfect, that would leave nothing to talk about.

noraa

I loved the leg prank, had me laughing hysterically. Definitely was an homage of sorts to Data’s various cultural misunderstandings..though this was obviously a bit more extreme (and hillarious).

alphantrion

So Joe Menosky literally jumped ship from Discovery to Orville. I have a feeling he probably didn’t find what he was expecting in Discovery. Orville seems to be more in his comfort zone. Although Menosky’s Discovery episode was one of the best of Discovery for me.

DIGINON

Of course, I have no idea why Menosky moved from Discovery to The Orville. However, we (as fans) have to keep in mind that for people working on a show (or movie) the experience of doing it is often more important than the final product. It’s possible that Menosky left Discovery because he didn’t like the creative direction of the show. But it’s also possible that he just wanted to work with his old pals, and that’s the reason he moved to The Orville. Tensions in the writers room and even verbal abuse were cited as reasons for firing the showrunners a few weeks ago. If this had gone on for some time it might have motivated Menosky to seek a more friendly working environment. All speculation, of course. These things are usually not talked about in public, or only many years later.

ML31

For all we know it was a paycheck move, too. It feels like a loss of STD as he did write what I felt was the best episode of their season.

Unexpected? It seems clear that Halston Sage’s character is departing the series.

1. That wistful look towards the sunset we see in the trailer.
2. Her absence from SDCC18.
3. The new “replacement” (?) character.
4. Used to date the executive producer and star.

G’bye Halston. :(

ML31

The fact that the replacement seems to be like for like, too.

ML31

Nice to read there are a couple of flat out comedy episodes this upcoming season. For me, that is where The Orville REALLY shines. And am hoping they lay in as much comedy in the more serious episodes as they can possibly get away with. Looking forward to this show’s return.

Danpaine

Same here, 100%.

BorgKlingon

Tim Russ and Joe Menowski now as well?

This show simply can’t stand on its own without ripping off major IP elements of the legitimate Star Trek franchise, hook, line and sinker.

This is getting so ridiculous and obvious now that I do think CBS would prevail in court if they chose to sue Fox.

DIGINON

CBS may own the character of Tuvok but it surely doesn’t own the actor who played him. So unless Russ plays a Vulcan on The Orville (or a character who looks/acts like a Vulcan) no IP elements of Star Trek are being ripped off.

Ahmed

@BorgKlingon,

If you consider a show having people associated with Star Trek as one that “can’t stand on its own without ripping off major IP elements of the legitimate Star Trek franchise” then you’ll be in shock when you find about other shows having far more Trek actors than you can imagine.

Boston Legal: William Shatner, Scott Bakula, Rene Auberjonois, Michelle Forbes, Armin Shimerman, Joanna Cassidy, Ethan Phillips and Jeri Ryan.

Stargate: John de Lancie, Ronny Cox, Marina Sirtis, Rene Auberjonois, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Robert Picardo and John Billingsley.

CBS is surly preparing a lawsuit against them all, anytime now!

The one show that can’t stand on its own so far is ‘Discovery’ with their complete rely on nostalgia & familiar characters from TOS to carry the show.

Jeff

Let’s hope that they do a better job on the sci-fi, and use humor that doesn’t make all the main characters look like totally unqualified idiots.

Cygnus-X1

Goodman: There are episodes this year that are full comedy, start to finish. Then we got some serious, dark stuff. It is episode to episode. I think that is what attracted Seth to this kind of format. You don’t know what you are going to get week to week…

This sounds great, and it’s along the lines of what I’ve been hoping that they would do. Not that having comedic moments in otherwise serious episodes can’t work, but it’s tricky and they often ran into (diegetic) problems, creating plot holes or logical inconsistencies. Now we have the prospect of fully comedic episodes, like “Cupid’s Dagger,” that worked very well in Season 1 interspersed with darker episodes like “Krill,” which worked well enough, but can work even better without out-of-character slapstick moments taking the audience out of the story. And the weirdness of the series, not knowing what to expect week to week, is one of the most exciting elements of it. This bodes well for Season 2, though the trailer they released didn’t really indicate any of it.