When The Orville moves to Hulu, there we a lot of questions. Science Fiction shows are expensive to produce, and we didn’t know how much they would foot the bill.
Any concerns were assuaged within moments of the first episode. There were some great effects shots as Gordon zoomed around showing off a new toy/shuttle.
There was also concern about the lower episode count, from thirteen to ten after a fifteen-episode first season. They added time to each episode since they did not have to be in a specific time frame though one is almost a movie at one hour and twenty-five minutes!
The writing stayed on point as well. There was a lot of worldbuilding including an introduction as to how the Kayllon came to be. Why they included guns in domestic housekeepers is a mystery for the viewer, but we found their origin. The Krill had a regime change and other than the Union visiting while not knowing that a) there was an election happening and B0 the current administration was losing is hard to swallow, but the new people in charge and not welcoming of peace. Things are not going well for the Maclon either when a secret enclave of women almost tears their society apart but leads to their expulsion from the Union.
It is odd that our crew in involved in all of this, especially since they were introduced at a time when the fleet was expanding, but they are following up on people they have met previously. It feels a little rushed. Even though we saw the death of K’mpec, the instillation of Gowron and the fall, that was over a nine-year period. There was a lot of plot put in with the Krill and Maclon over one singular year and the accelerated pace of a shortened season did not make it easier.
One of the strengths of this series is the extensive use of aliens. From Yaiplat as a recurring regular to an entirely CG engineer, we see a lot of diversity. This was very apparent when we saw an interracial performance of Annie open an episode. This very much shows different species greater than any Trek series with the possible exception of Lower Decks. On the other hand, Bruce Boxleitner is almost unrecognizable as President Alcazar.
There were two big casting changes to the season, the first of which is the replacement of Blesson Yate with Imani Pullum as Topa. Johnathan Frakes said that The Outcast would have been better had Soren been cast as a male actor. We will never know but replacing a male actor with a female worked wonders. Pullum knocks it out of the park as Topa knowing they are not comfortable in their own body. There are effects to disguise her gender but she own the role and makes it her own. She bonds with Grayson and their pairing is natural.
Of course, making Topa female cause friction with Klyden who leaves albeit temporarily. A traditionalist, Klyden is not on the side of Bortus until the Maclon’s leave the Union. That reignites his passion for his family and acceptance of his daughter. Bortus is the straight man but fiercely proud of his daughter and her desires.
Ever since he got a promotion to chief engineer, L lee’s LaMarr has not been on the bridge but is still seen around the ship. He also leads a strong engineering team but they are able to have some personal banter as things progress, just like any other office.
Gordon remains a great pilot and gets to live another life in what was undoubtedly a budget saving period partially set in the modern day. This was a great showcase for Malloy. It says a lot that Mercer told him the truth after they figured that problem out. He is an everyman, protecting the little guys even when it gets him in trouble in front of Union leadership.
Captain Ed Mercer continued to sue his crew effectively. He would represent the Union and lead his crew. He knew their strengths and weaknesses for any mission from landing on a planet or securing an enemy stronghold.
Grayson would continue to kind of be there as an intermediary between the crew and captain. She would advocate for them and take care of personal issues. It is clear that just like Riker and Ransom, the writers do not know what to do with the character. Still, she explains things to newcomers and offers good introductions solving problems as they arise.
Suit actor Marc Jackson is expressionless as Isaac but had great gestures. Despite not being able to move a muscle on his face, his body language spoke volumes. They continued to sue the trick from season two of him being on the holodeck to project a human version on top of him. He is more than just a pale imitation of Data; he is a fully fleshed separate character.
Penny Johnson Gerald is one of the most experienced members of the cast and she is great as Doctor Finn. She falls further in love with Isaac, to the point where they wed at the end of the season. There is a great scene where she if off duty with her girlfriends and they weigh the pros and cons of the marriage. This is a crew that I buy more than any other that hangs out in their off hours and enjoys doing so. We have seen Ty and Marcus grow up before our eyes and BJ Tanner as Marcus got some meaty material to work with.
The newest addition is Anne Winters as Charley Burks. She initially was wholly against Isaac but she did not know the lengths he went to keep the Union safe. From her perspective, he is an enemy. IT says a lot that she only reluctantly fixed Isaac and that was under the captains’ orders. Imagine that moment if she did so of her own volition after talking with Marcus but still reluctantly so. Having a lopsided interpersonal relationship is not good when we know the truth. Her death was a surprise, but Winters got to do a lot in her comparatively brief time, including show off eh singing ability.
Not all is great. There are only two directors this season, Seth McFarlane and Jon Cassar. Both experienced in their own right, it spread McFarlane a bit thin. Plus, in a season subtitled new Horizons, there was not a whole lot of new stuff, though there were present on occasions, just not at a frequency you would expect given the subtitle. Plus, the show still looks like it was shot thirty years ago. That fits with the vibe they are going for but not with the overall landscape. Additionally, there are scenes that go on ten to twenty percent too long. Plus, the body suits in the finale looked horrible.
One of the mandates imposed by Hulu was less comedy in a show billed as a comedy science fiction. That would allow the cast to show more of their dramatic chops but also let the humor get a little more dark.
The fourth season is up in the air, as opposed to Trek where not only do they get renewals years in advance, the second season of Strange New Worlds wrapped before the first one finished airing. With Solar Opposites and a new season of Futurama, Hulu has a lot for their Comedy Science Fiction bases covered. Still, a fourth season of the Orville would be welcome.
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