It's out and it's AWESOME!
It's also quite different from what many expected. Let's discuss that.
What I am referring to is...
The first episode of the third season of Seth MacFarlane's Science Fiction Action-Dramedy The Orville, titled 'New Horizons', has aired on the streaming service hulu.
Before we go any further I want to give everyone both a SPOILER and CONTENT WARNING. This episode discusses some serious subjects and goes to some dark places and some of that will be talked about here.
You have been advised to proceed with caution.
As I am using the universal translation software and am incapable of stuttering,
I must assume you understand me.
This discussion has concluded.
Following a delay in the production of Season 3 due to both the COVID-19 Pandemic and the sale of Fox to Disney, the season was further delayed a bit by the reorganizing of the Fox properties Disney obtained. It has finally been released, starting on June 2nd, 2022 with the first episode, Electric Sheep.
Following the events of the previous season's episodes Identity - Parts 1 and 2, the USS Orville is at the Earth orbital Dockyard undergoing a refit. The ship is being heavily upgraded in order to handle the potential threat of their new, highly advanced enemy, the Kaylon, a species of artificial beings. A member of the Kaylons, an individual called Isaac, has served on the Orville for approximately two years or so as its Chief Science Officer.
Isaac was originally on the ship as a supposed cultural exchange between the Kaylon and the Planetary Union. It was a hopeful precursor to the possibility of the Kaylon joining the Union. As noted, in the Season 2 episode Identity - Part 1, Isaac suddenly shut down and was brought to the Kaylon homeworld in order to repair him. It is revealed that his mission to the Planetary Union was a farce designed to amass knowledge on the Union's combat capabilities and weaknesses. The true end goal of the Kaylons being destroying the Planetary Union and all biological life in the universe (see the episodes for why - trying to keep this as brief as possible.).
So here we are a year or so after the Kaylon-Union conflict, the battle at Earth that saw the Planetary Union Fleet team up with their enemy the Krill Empire, to defeat a genocidal attack by the robotic Kaylon.
[Actually, I don't know the exact time difference between the last season and this new one. I assume some time has passed since the USS Orville and other ships of the Union Fleet have under gone considerable refits and upgrades.]
Some members of the crew - including the newly added Chief Navigator Ensign Charly Burke (played very well by actress Ann Winters) - have grown to distrust Isaac and his presence on The Orville. Many blame him for the actions of his species and for the part he played in helping the Kaylon get through the Union's defenses.
From there the episode explores the ramifications of these events, the actions taken, and the feelings they left behind. It looks into some philosophical and social themes related to anger, grief, trauma, and goes to some dark places. It is quite an impressive episode but I will finish my overview here so you can enjoy the show if you haven't watched it already. If you have, please continue reading.
This episode may appear to those familiar with the previous seasons to be a 180 from the what we expect from The Orville. I can definitely understand that viewpoint and to some degree I even agree with this assessment. 'Electric Sheep' is quite serious and dark, missing the typical lighthearted approach that has become synonymous with the show up to this point.
To me this isn't a 180 but it isn't a straight line progression either. The Orville has definitely made a hard left into more mature and serious territory. In my opinion it could have used a bit more humor sprinkled through out in order to ease the audience into the deeper, graver elements so it didn't come off as so drastic a change in atmosphere.
The show's identity thus far has been directly linked to the comedic tone it has had since the very beginning. It's a key element that separates The Orville from its Star Trek inspirations and makes it a unique outing in the Science Fiction TV/Streaming landscape. That said...
The Orville was initially sold as a comedy because that's how Seth MacFarlane was able to pitch it to Fox and get the funding to make the series happen. As the show has progressed through the first two seasons, the humor has been toned down more and more and the serious subjects have been brought closer to the forefront. The Orville has already generated some thought provoking stories and addressed numerous social topics. The Season 3 premiere isn't a new direction, though it is perhaps atypical of the balance between the earnest and the funny we've grown used to.
Season 3 Episode 2, Shadow Realms, brings the humor back in tiny trickles. There is some great lines and banter here the there but an overall horror tone in maintained for this very creepy installment into the franchise. Another excellent episode and highly recommended, definitely more 'fun' than the premiere.
We are only two episodes in so it is too soon to make a final assessment but so far I am loving it. The Orville is my kind of Science Fiction and it's definitely inspiring thoughts of another attempt at an Orville campaign. Interestingly, it impresses me and satisfies me in a way Star Trek's new series, Strange New Worlds, has not.
For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, Strange New Worlds is not connecting with me. I don't find the characters all that engaging (with a few exceptions) and their need to bring up TOS elements before (chronologically) the TOS crew first encountered them is irritating. It isn't a bad show, not poorly written or executed the way, say STD was in its first two seasons but it isn't WOWing me either.
Anyway, that's all for now. More thoughts as they come to me.
The Orville airs on the Hulu streaming service in the USA, Disney+ in many parts of Europe, and on other services elsewhere. Check your local listings. New Horizons, Season 3, puts out new episodes every Thursday in the US.