I have been hoping for a new Star Trek show for a while now. I watched Voyager and it wasn’t terrible. I watched Enterprise and it was too short. Twelve years is a long time and now we (sort of) have 2 shows to potentially fill the need. The real question here: What should I not watch, The Orville or Star Trek: Discovery? (For reference, at the time of this writing we are 2 episodes into Discovery and 4 into The Orville). I would like to do a full comparison of the shows. For starters, they both have great special effects, some good actors, and a lot of promise. On those fronts I would say they are even. We are really early on in these first episodes still, so these opinions can easily change much like Rupaul.
First off let’s look at The Orville. While not actually a Star Trek property, there is potential for them to fill the void anyway. Seth MacFarlane is the captain of a spaceship not dissimilar to most Trek show premises. The main selling points:
- It’s a comedy (a change from the normal Trek)
- It’s on regular cable (Fox on Thursdays 9PM EST)
- It has a potential to stand out and create its own franchise
After viewing a few episodes it is apparent that The Orville has a lot of issues that can be corrected over time. The main WNTWs (What Not To Watches):
- The jokes do not land at all to the point of being unfunny
- It’s on Fox (They canceled Firefly, Futurama, and Arrested Development)
- The writing is too simple for a science fiction show
There are more downsides to The Orville at this point but I’ll stick with the rule of threes. There is nothing worse than a comedy that can’t make you laugh. Out of the 4 episodes so far, there has been one joke that made me actually chuckle. The jokes are very dated and cliché: ‘Wow, men and women are different.’ I’m expecting a whoopie cushion bit lasting 20 minutes in the next episode. Might as well roll out Ray Romano and let him do a solid 20 about his wife or two kids with dumb names or whatever material he’s been doing his entire career. There is a surprising amount of 20th century pop culture references considering this is supposed to take place 400 years in the future. It would be like me writing a killer Bonaventura Rubino joke. Yeah, it may be funny but it’s super dated, much like the musical stylings of Kid ‘n Play.
The Orville is like Friends. For dumb people, about dumb people. MacFarlane is Chandler, Adrianne Palicki is Monica and Norm Macdonald is the voice of the amorphous blob, Joey. Not even the genius delivery of Norm Macdonald can seem to save these jokes. The only thing missing is a laugh track and you got yourself the next Big Bang Theory. They even have their ‘Sheldon’ voiced by Mark Jackson (Isaac the Kaylon) who is an actual robot. If he starts knocking on doors 3 times, I’m out.
Now let’s move on to the next show. Star Trek: Discovery is about a first officer in a post-Enterprise pre-Kirk era of rising tensions with the Klingons. Only 2 episodes in but I am excited about this for a few reasons.
- It has seemingly good writing
- It’s in the Star Trek TV canon
- Solid action sequences
So far so good. I like the episodes I’ve seen and I am looking forward to more of it but Discovery does have it’s WNTWs.
- It’s on a pay streaming service not currently linked to a cable subscription
- Stylistically it is not where it should be (shiny Klingons)
- Release dates of episodes do not seem consistent at this point
CBS All Access is a paid service, like Hulu, but only for CBS. They have a great deal of older content but basically you will be paying for CBS on-demand and new (as well as old) Trek. I do not think it is worth it unless you really like all of CBS’s programming. You can pay extra to watch without commercials. I don’t like the way the Klingons look, they are shiny and have a Lord of the Rings monster look to them. I’m getting a Michael Bay Ninja Turtles vibe. The Klingons seem to talk a lot about politics considering they are supposed to be hot tempered and war-like. Is this Star Trek or Kramer vs. Kramer?
Between The Orville not being funny and Star Trek: Discovery costing additional money, it’s a toss up for me. My advice, try the CBS trial once most of the Discovery Season 1 episodes air. Unless you really like Seth MacFarlane and his buddies making cameos, I would say The Orville is definitely What Not to Watch. If you have to pick one, watch Discovery.