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We could all use a good cry.

So Star Trek Discovery continues to be violent and dark and basically the antithesis of everything Star Trek. On a whim I started watching The Orville on Hulu. It’s not what I would call GOOD (Seth Macfarlane’s brand of ubiquitous ‘awkward’ humor doesn’t really do it for me), but it IS far more Star Trek-ish than Discovery could ever hope to be.

The first two episodes of Orville are heinously bad. The main character, a Starfleet-surrogate officer played by Macfarlane, starts the show by discovering his wife is cheating on him. Skip ahead a year, and he’s assigned as captain to a mid class exploratory vessel named The Orville. His now ex-wife is assigned as his first officer.Β  A running gag, that may very well be the pillar of comedy the show runs on, is quickly established where the captain brings up his wife’s cheating on him in front of his crew and anyone else in earshot ad nauseam. Sexual harassment runs pretty much rampant on the ship, and I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not, especially since it’s established that he’s equally as responsible for his failed marriage, if not more so.

The thing is, when the show isn’t throwing in ‘humorous’ awkward conversations or random anachronisms, it actually plays its plots mostly straight. Episode three sees a noticeable shift in the show to episodic drama-based story telling, with a storyline exploring the moral quandaries of performing a sex change operation on an infant; a clear allegory for societal gender issues. It ends with notable moral ambiguity. The fourth episode involves religious suppression of science to perpetuate the consolidation of societal power, although it’s resolved rather easily. Even so, The Orville scratches my Star Trek itch surprisingly more effectively than STD.

The Orville was originally marketed as something like Galaxy Quest the TV show. The writing is NOT as sharp as Galaxy Quest, and the humor frequently takes a back seat to the drama, which plays in the show’s favor as the drama is more effective than the humor.

Also, I have to mention the show’s soundtrack, which is incredible and most definitely elevates the storytelling.

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  • Sunwu

    nn4b has come so far! the dialogue and art hit me right in the feels with this one great job guys

  • Wanderer

    “Yorikiro, I know that you have a lot to say and probably feel overwhelmed by it all right now, but maybe we should have this talk somewhere else.”
    “Why, what do you mean, Master Genchu?”
    “Well, we’re right next to Tadashii’s still warm body, and in another couple of moments we’re probably going to be ankle deep in the slowly growing pool of blood. Plus, it’s just weird to have such emotional conversations by the body of a friend… not to mention we really should get out of here before his sphincter relaxes. Trust me, you never think of someone you cared about the same way after they die and you see that happen.”
    “Oh… right… maybe we should walk for a minute or two before we finish this talk.”

    • Xinef

      Also, they could be talking while digging a grave, it’s going to take a while anyway.
      Though sure, they don’t have to dig it right next to the body.

  • Turul

    Awww!

  • lightsabermario

    You know, STDs are usually the ones causing the itch rather than providing relief from it. (That show has a really unfortunate acronym.)

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      STD, very unfortunate. (feel free to take that out of context)

  • clogboy

    I like The Orville. Episode 3 and 4 are good. It is intended to be a hommage and not a parody. And while the drama is relevant, it breaks the tension unexpectedly with MacFarlane’s humor.
    It’s what Star Trek used to be at its best, while Discovery boldly sets a vision where no man has gone before, which is a lot harder. I give it credit for trying something new.
    Bortus IMO is the best thing from The Orville, especially the interactions between him and his partner. It’s effectively awkward, shoehorns the mind and feels just disconnected enough from reality to be funny.

  • Kid Chaos

    Time to track down Honou-ko and finish the job? πŸ’€

    • Turul

      Yep. It’s now Sorrowmons: gotta catch ’em all!

      • Kid Chaos

        And then it’ll be time for Yorikiro “Prodigal Son” Wataro vs. Hirotomo “Big Daddy” Wataro. 😎

        • http://thishasbeenatest.tumblr.com Fred

          Who do you think is under the oni mask?

          • Kid Chaos

            Santa Claus? πŸŽ…

      • Xinef

        Yorikiro uses KATANA it’s SUPER EFFECTIVE!

        • Turul

          Yorikiro uses TRICK KATANA and it DOESN’T DO SHIT!
          Yorikiro: oops…

          • Kid Chaos

            Yorikiro uses TRICK KATANA to bash Honou-Ko right in his stupid face! It’s SUPER EFFECTIVE! 😎

    • Wanderer

      Plot twist: Honou-ko easily dispatches Yori. Hirotomo is left to ponder the worthlessness of a philosophy that resulted in losing both his heir and the majority of his most valuable swordsmen in one stroke, all in an attempt to prove themselves sufficiently macho and worthy. Plus it leaves him with only Eijiro, who is even less qualified than Yori, as a potential heir to take over the clan. The Wataro clan then falls because internal conflicts and simultaneously fighting external enemies has cost too many lives and too much talent. Nobody lives happily ever after.

      The end.

      (Kidding, of course.)

  • LordBolanderFace

    Genchu’s face in the last panel. “Pssshah, that mass murdering sonofagun. Good times. Good times.”

    • Xinef

      sonofa-sho-gun πŸ˜›

  • Arkone Axon

    I actually VERY much enjoyed the Orville. It was what Discovery should have been. It’s entertaining and funny – and anyone who’s watched the original three Star Trek series will remember how often comedy was king, preventing things from becoming too heavy handed or melodramatic. And their Union is showing the idealism of the Federation without even commenting on it – whenever they have the opportunity to help others, they do so without hesitation.

    I will admit that things get a little “iffy” when gender issues get brought up. But at least the men are not presented as self-destructive idiots with the women as simultaneously saintly yet insane (as in other Macfarlane works); the captain is genuinely brilliant (saving the day with more than one clever display) while his first officer is both massively flawed (for example, refusing to acknowledge that her adultery was not “inevitable” but was simply a massive betrayal of someone whom she could have simply confronted and communicated with, or at least divorced without “banging a smurf”) yet also professional and penitent (pulling strings to get her ex-husband a chance at command in order to partially fix the damage she was responsible for inflicting, being a supportive first officer who leaves the personal issues outside the job… mostly…). Some of her ideas are brilliant… others less so (her claim in court that their navigator is an idiot depends on his seeming inability to answer trivia questions, and their reaction suggests that they’re convinced the navigator is giving the wrong answers on purpose). But here she is, a character that we’re immediately predisposed to dislike on account of her introductory scene… and yet she’s sympathetic and interesting and likable.

    Which leads to the next thing. STD was very short in their supply of actual characters. Here we have an actual ensemble cast. The two helmsmen, the condescending (yet never too annoyingly so) robot, the beautiful and superstrong security officer, etc. They too have their flaws and quirks (why is EVERY guy supposedly intimidated by the security officer’s strength? Some guys have that as a fetish… not to mention that she keeps phrasing it in terms that imply physical abuse of romantic partners), but entertainingly so. There are times when they save the day – much as with proper Star Trek (how many times was it Data, or LaForge, or Spock, or O’Brien, who got things done instead of just the Captain?).

    It’s not a perfect show, it’s got it’s flaws… but this is just their first seasons. And pull up Star Trek TNG on Netflix and watch the first few seasons and you’ll be reminded that it literally named a trope: Growing the Beard.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      I do generally agree with your opinions on the two shows, but I have some issue to take with your view of the first officer in Orville.

      “the captain is genuinely brilliant (saving the day with more than one clever display) while his first officer is both massively flawed (for example, refusing to acknowledge that her adultery was not “inevitable” but was simply a massive betrayal of someone whom she could have simply confronted and communicated with, or at least divorced without “banging a smurf”)”

      Yeesh, sure, she cheated, but it’s very clear that captain Mercer put a wall between the both of them. She clearly states she tried repeatedly to express her frustration with their relationship and he grudgingly admits he ignored her. And as easy as it is to say “she should’ve just divorced him before cheating on him”, divorces (at least in our current day) are an extremely lengthy, expensive, and life changing process even if the two participants are willing. Considering how the characters treat divorces as ‘messy’ in The Orville, it doesn’t seem the process of separation has gotten any less painful in the future.

      “yet also professional and penitent (pulling strings to get her ex-husband a chance at command in order to partially fix the damage she was responsible for inflicting, being a supportive first officer who leaves the personal issues outside the job… mostly…).”

      It is far more Mercer’s fault their marriage fell apart, and his ex is clearly a reasonable, competent person who regrets the adultery but wants to make things right, while Mercer CONSTANTLY, INCESSANTLY brings it up at inappropriate times and makes her out to be the antagonist. I actually dislike how much his ex tries to placate him and make amends to him as much as she does while he only occasionally, grudgingly accepts some of the blame for their relationship woes. It’s kind of gross to me.

      “Some of her ideas are brilliant… others less so (her claim in court that their navigator is an idiot depends on his seeming inability to answer trivia questions, and their reaction suggests that they’re convinced the navigator is giving the wrong answers on purpose).”

      This is also true for captain mercer and basically every character. One second they’re highly intelligent, the next second they’re doing something extraordinarily dumb for a gag. It’s that Macfarlane brand of humor that constantly breaks immersion, and it’s the show’s biggest problem. TNG had PLENTY of humor, but it didn’t remind you that you were watching a TV show, the jokes made sense in the context of the world. The Orville’s humor is most often anachronistic and immersion breaking (so is NN4B’s, but we started writing the thing when we were teenagers).

      I do admittedly enjoy The Orville, but I also agree it’s got flaws, and I suspect it’s appealing to too niche an audience to survive more than a season, but we’ll see! I don’t wish it to be cancelled, but I’m not terribly hopeful for its continuation. I hope it keeps scaling back the bad immersion breaking jokes and just lets the humor flow more naturally from the characters they way older Trek shows did.

      • Arkone Axon

        Regarding who is at fault for the divorce… I should note that I do NOT believe in monogamy. I believe in faithfulness. Because adultery isn’t about sex, it’s about betrayal (which is why going to orgies with your spouse or being a married porn actor is not adultery, but a secret cyberaffair is). Simply put: she betrayed his trust. She did something he trusted her not to do.

        Even assuming that the 25th century (or whenever the show is set, I forget which century exactly) has rigid laws regarding divorce roughly equivalent to that of the medieval Catholic Church… she could have simply left him. Let him come home to an empty house and a note, “I’m sick of being ignored, contact this number when you’re ready to pay attention to me again.” She could have pulled strings to have him given a special assignment of… a week of communicating with her to address the situation (given her obvious connections on account of her parentage, that would have been far easier than convincing the chain of command to give a ship’s captaincy to her ex-husband after a year of accumulated black marks on his record). His crime was one of neglect, but hers was one of active misdeed.

        Of course she’s trying to placate and make it up to him. She HURT him. Badly. She betrayed his trust. She torpedoed their marriage. The fault is hers; the fact that she felt justified does not absolve her guilt. And whenever it comes up she keeps trying to deflect the blame, much like the characters in “Rick and Morty” (Particularly Rick and Beth. The “Pickle Rick” episode does the best job of showcasing this; I LOVED that therapist and I hope we see her coming back in future episodes).

        As for his bringing it up… unless I’m mistaken, the only time he’s brought it up in public (as opposed to private discussions with her or a potential suitor) was in the pilot episode, when he was trying to stall for time (and to her credit, she played along and they had the enemy captain utterly bewildered and at a loss for a little while). On other occasions the fact that people can hear them through the ship’s thin walls is presented as humor, but the joke is that they think they have privacy and the crew can still hear them.

        I do agree with you about the dumb gags… honestly, it was the LAST episode of the first season that I disliked the most, not the first few. The constant use of American pop culture references, euphemisms, and speech patterns when they’re supposed to be pretending to be members of a theologically fanatical alien species was a big problem for me. But… on the positive side, at least their security measures are actually slightly LESS ridiculous than in ST:TNG (and also presented as a consequence of them NOT being the cream of the crop, the way the Enterprise’s crew were supposed to be).

        And I don’t think the niche audience is all that small. People are hungry for more of the optimistic futurism that Star Trek represents, and even this parody/homage shows a bunch of “everyday schloes” being genuinely heroic and capable, not only showing us a universe of adventure and space exploration, but showing that there’s a place in it for all of us. So… let us dare to hope :)

        • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

          You raise good points, I can’t really disagree with any of them. I do still dislike the plot thread in the show. It rubs me the wrong way, maybe because of how it’s used as a running gag. My initial reaction when the show literally starts with it was to say “ugh” out loud. It also doesn’t really jive with the concept of a brighter, more enlightened future, where we’re still dealing with stuff that’s so common in our modern day, as it means our future society hasn’t really done much to address it.

          I guess what I’m saying is that it’s my least favorite part of the show. Either that of the slime monster that frequently sexually harasses the doctor.

          I would’ve preferred the overdone trope of him feeling inwardly insecure as a leader, and then he’s assigned some amazing first officer to kind of oversee his first tenure as captain, and he realizes she’s seemingly more suited to the position than him. Then we could have some character arcs of him learning to accept help and advice when he needs it, which makes him a better captain, and
          cover why she has no interest in a captain position, maybe guilt from a failed leadership position when she was less experienced. They could even have sexual tension. But I’m just spit balling stuff that I might prefer over what we’ve got.

          • Arkone Axon

            Now those are things to discuss and argue and debate – just ways we might have done it differently and all. And as I said, I agree that the “dumb gags” get tiresome. Though at least they’re competent when it comes to their actual jobs – the Captain can fight and shoot and strategize and command with the best of them.

            The slime monster… I gotta admit, I’m not sure how to feel about that one. Someone really should sit him down and point out that he really needs to tone it done if he wants any humanoid females to reciprocate his interest. On the other hand… it’s definitely funny watching him extrude a short protrusion (that could be seen as an attempt at a limb… or as a thinly veiled suggestion of tentacle play) and purr, “there’s more where that came from. Eh? Eh?”

            (Wait until season two and the new female crew member with the love of anime. Then we’ll see the gelatinous cube guy crying to the doctor, “You gotta help me! She won’t leave me alone… she keeps jabbering at me and calling me a “hentai no baka,” and then her mood keeps shifting…”

            “I think she’s trying to emulate an anime character archetype called a “tsundere.””

            “It’s called being bipolar, doc! You gotta do something!”)

          • RickRussellTX

            > a brighter, more enlightened future, where we’re still dealing with stuff that’s so common in our modern day, as it means our future society hasn’t really done much to address it

            Yes, that’s exactly what it means. That’s what makes it funny. People will always get interrupted in the hallway on the way to the bathroom, there will be deviant personalities like Malloy who are always causing trouble, there will be B and C students from Union Point who get posted to a low-level starship to do star mapping duty, and sometimes you get assigned to the same ship as your ex. This isn’t a Union flagship packed with honor roll overachievers.

            And still, life among the third-stringers is pretty darn great and they get to be space heroes. They live in a Utopia, but they’re still people we recognize.

          • clogboy

            That’s what I like too. Besides, social commentary from a ship filled with flawed characters is always more fun and interesting than from a utopical, enlightened future.
            I like and appreciate what both The Orville and Discovery are trying to do, but if IMDB is something to go by then MacFarlane did it better (7.7 and 7.3 respectively) if only marginally.

  • Crestlinger

    Plot twist! Hi Dad!

  • endplanets

    Those plenty of people were pretty on the nose since his brokered peace was a huge lie.

    • Andy Nguyen

      But whose lie, exactly? The impression I got from the flashbacks was that Hirotomo brokered the peace in good faith, but then went crazy when his wife died. Given what we saw Nataku do recently, perhaps Nataku was actually the one behind her death, and he framed the Daisuke clan somehow?

  • Xinef

    Hirotomo: “My dear demons of sorrow, I believe it’s best for you to go and die while fighting Yorikiro! See how much I care for the wellbeing of my people?”

    • Kid Chaos

      I’m sure the Demons all thought they would win. After all, they had the edge in training, experience and ruthlessness; killing Yori couldn’t be that hard…right? πŸ’€

  • Thomas

    Not joking: Thanks for your public service warnings (e.g. about “STD”s or other “heinously bad” attempts at humor and entertainment).

    About the sex change episode, it wasn’t that long ago that involuntary sterility was imposed upon people even in the U.S. as part of the prevailing “enlightened” and “scientific” ideas about eugenics. Post WW2, such ideas fell out of fashion and receded, at least for a time.

    In a wildly fictional world envisioned by the TO series, perhaps they imagine imposing a sex appearance change on an infant could be done without the side effect of sterility. Yet any meaningful allegory to the current societal issues could not disregard that real consequence. I wonder what the show’s authors really think about whether imposing involuntary sterility upon an infant is morally ambiguous.

    • clogboy

      I really enjoyed that episode. It raised some good points, but not to the point of flame war like TNG did. In the end though, you can’t expect other species to follow human morals if they have a different social background, and whichever ritual is common for parents to make their children go through on their home planet is their business. The arc played out accordingly. The circumcision argument was really convincing.
      What I believe was the straw that broke the camel’s back, was that they didn’t think their species is ready to accept a woman as their greatest literal talent, thus they decided to cover up that fact and pass it on as moot and irrelevant.

      • Thomas

        Did they deal at all with the moral issue of imposing involuntary sterility on an infant? Or did they handle it as if that moral issue did not exist?

        • clogboy

          The captain ain’t exactly Picard, and even he shouldn’t have the power to change a culture. The show acknowledges that sometimes, the root material sits on a high horse, and in a real universe no single outcome is ideal.

          • Thomas

            My question is about whether they grappled with imposing involuntary sterility as a real moral issue to be considered, or instead just talked around it as if that moral issue didn’t exist. You didn’t quite answer that, but reading between the lines it sounds like that particular serious moral issue was never examined. Is that correct?

          • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

            The episode focuses on the daughter of a species that is primarily male. The two male parents wanted to perform a sex change on their daughter to make her male as well. The moral dilemma was whether imposing that choice on a child who can’t make the choice themselves at that age was just, even though the culture would inevitably ostracize a the girl without the sex change.

            The moral question is a good one, but it raises a lot of questions concerning the species, how they reproduce, and what the role of both sexes is in their reproduction process. Honestly, the alien species was kind of introduced as a joke in the first episode (“You’re all male? I guess you never have to argue about leaving the toilet seat up!”), so I don’t necessarily think the writers were considering the potential for sterilization of the girl through a sex change when they wrote it.

            The topic of the morality of circumcision comes up, but not sterilization. Although I admittedly don’t know how you could view sterilization of children as anything other than morally reprehensible, outside of maybe some very specific “for the survival of the species” scifi circumstance.

          • clogboy

            One big issue was also whether it is right to impose Earth-morals on another species. I think both questions are equally relevant, and also the root cause for Star Trek’s prime directive. The fact that it doesn’t exist in The Orville is both convenient and an open door to make some episodes more edgy.

          • clogboy

            I assumed that you watched it, but I don’t think you did.
            Here’s a review that explains it better than I could:
            http://www.denofgeek.com/us/tv/the-orville/267715/the-orville-episode-3-review-about-a-girl

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