We get a look at all of the fun and adventure that happens to the flunkies of the Federation.
Welcome aboard the starship U.S.S. Cerritos. Captained by the capable Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and staffed by First Officer Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell), Lieutenant Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore), and Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman), they boldly go to all the places that other, better ships have just discovered. However, we don’t really care about them, because the party is down a few floors in the lower decks. It’s got Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), a drunken ensign so disrespectful that she’s been kicked off multiple ships; Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), an ambitious ensign that often takes Mariner’s abuse; D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells), a medical ensign who is super enthused about being on a starship; and Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), an engineering ensign who is adjusting to his recent cyborg status. Together, these four… exist.
I think at this point I’ve mentioned that I am a fan of Star Trek roughly fifty times on here, including putting multiple episodes on my 100 Greatest Episodes List, so I’ll skip most of my fanboying and just say that I was probably going to like anything that adds to the franchise that’s better than Enterprise (minus the Mirror Universe stuff). This was definitely better than Enterprise (Sorry, Bakula).
When The Orville came out, I figured that was the closest that I would ever get to a mostly-official comedy Star Trek series, unless they actually made a show out of Galaxy Quest. However, while both of those mostly parodied the original Star Trek, this show couldn’t really try to do that, since the events of Star Trek actually happened here. By setting itself in the universe it was going to mess with, this show ironically had to be a bit more of its own animal. It reminds me a bit more of Futurama than those parodies, but the animation style is more modern and frenetic. On a side note, I think it’s interesting that the first season is set in the year 2380, meaning that, aside from Star Trek: Picard, this show is set the furthest in the future of any Star Trek series. At the end of the first episode, we even hear Mariner start to name drop many of the main characters of the original show and The Next Generation. I don’t think they referenced Deep Space Nine or Voyager, but it’s possible that, since Voyager only got back two years before this show, maybe the full extent of their adventures haven’t become public.
The humor in this show is a little more graphic and a little more base than you might expect from Star Trek, but I still enjoyed it. It makes for a bigger contrast between the typically clinical and sterile settings that we usually expect aboard a starship and the messy, gooey, and sometimes a bit freaky things that Mariner and Boimler get into. Another aspect of the humor appears to derive from how much the crew has become immunized to the chaos that fills an average episode of a Star Trek show. They’re shown to carry on leisurely conversations while dealing with a viral outbreak akin to a zombie horde, which makes some sense, given how often crazy things like this happen. The show also takes shots at the other series’ common trope of attributing all of the successes to the command staff at the expense of the many other people that help keep the ship running and provide support.
Overall, while we’re only two episodes into the show, I think it’s got potential. If you’re a Trekkie, you’ve gotta watch it. If you’re a fan of Futurama, you should probably check it out. If you’re neither… well, try it anyway.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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