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Final Thoughts on The Orville Season Three — What Went Wrong

Unlike Star Trek, which put conflicting opinions in the mouths of beloved characters, Orville 3 screams its opinions to the point of harming the story

What a terrible season! I remember watching the beginning episodes of The Orville and thinking the show wasn’t quite there yet but held promise.

Sadly, things did not improve with time. I think part of the problem is that The Orville was taken over by Hulu which is now owned by Disney. This, likely, prompted a degree of studio involvement that dropped the show’s quality.

The Orville tried to address controversial subjects, just as Star Trek did years before. But it did not understand or reproduce the most important ingredient of the way the classic sci-fi series dealt with such topics. Star Trek used its main characters as voices that represented various positions.

This is not to say that Star Trek was fair in its representation of differing opinions. Straw men were always a looming threat — as is the case with any form of network television that tries to discuss political issues. But Star Trek understood that the best way to present a disapproved opinion was not to outright attack it. Rather, it was to have a beloved character believe the said opinion. So, if Kirk and Spock debated a topic, even if one of them fell on the losing side of the show’s narrative, the viewer didn’t feel insulted. Both characters were liked, and there was at least an attempt at proper representation on the part of the writers. However, The Orville doesn’t show such restraint. It screams its opinions to the point of being narratively disingenuous.

For example, when Lysella attends Dr. Finn and Isaac’s wedding, there is no way that this girl from an equivalent planet to modern day Earth would see a grown woman marry a robot and treat the occasion as normal. Questions would be asked, debates would be aired. But the show is so committed to its transhumanist narrative that it stubbornly refuses to address the simple fact that such relationships are abnormal and potentially unhealthy.

Also, look at Klyden and Topa’s interactions during the Orville’s poor attempt at a transgender allegory. Klyden, as is customary among Moclans, was turned into a man when he was born a female — just as Topa was. Yet he expresses no concern over the fact that Topa insists on recovering her natural state, what such a decision would cost in terms of her mental wellbeing. One issue is that she will, undoubtedly, be forever isolated from her culture. Instead, Klyden is upset with Topa because he is a sexist. And sexism is bad.

This makes no sense, given what we know of the character. Klyden loves the child. His approach would be motivated by Topa’s well-being, no matter which side of the subject he falls on. But the writers want Klyden to be bad because anybody who opposes transgenderism is bad, and they want to scream that opinion from the mountaintops.

There are other disturbing opinions expressed during the show. Advocacy for eugenics, total submission to arbitrary authority, the rejection of family in favor of a career, Bortus and Klyden’s homosexual relationship, transitioning children, every single subject is seen as good… and the viewers who disagree are bigots.

There is no debate. There is no controversy, not in The Orville’s world. This is antithesis of what Star Trek attempted to do.

And if the actions affirmed by the show weren’t disturbing enough, consider the things the show tells the viewer to reject. Reject your identity as a man, a woman, a father, a mother, a Christian, a Muslim, a member of a sovereign nation… All forms of individual identity must be done away with in order to reach enlightenment. Ironically, this rule doesn’t apply if you’re a kid wishing to transition to another gender.

To make matters worse, Seth MacFarlane is reduced to a side character in his own show. I can’t think of a single thing his character Ed Mercer does to progress the plot aside from telling Heveena to confess that she is smuggling females off the planet Moclus to the Union. That would endanger her entire operation and is akin to asking Harriet Tubman to confess to her key role in the Underground Railroad in the hopes the United States would protect her, a risky choice at best. Beyond that, he stares slacked-jawed at everything that happens around him but does nothing.

And this show had some of the worst acting I have ever seen, which is saying a lot, considering that I spent years performing in community theater. There is literally a moment in the show where a character loses a leg and just sort of groans, and this wasn’t an extra mind you. This was one of the main cast members, the actor who played LaMarr.

Then there are the plot holes. Most of them are caused by writers wanting to shoehorn in a conflict or event that simply doesn’t make sense. When Gordon is trapped in the past and starts a family, a family he clearly loves, ethical issues aside, it would’ve made sense for the rest of the Orville crew to refuel their ship and pick up Gordon at an earlier date. But because the writers want to force Gordon and Ed into an unnecessary conflict, they make Ed and Kelly go down to the planet and tell Gordon they’re going to take his family away from him, even though Isaac and Charly took less than a day to retrieve the fuel. The setup made no sense, and only happened because the writers had a shady message they wanted to imply, and they wished to force some drama.

Last of all, there is the clunky dialog and redundant scenes. Information is repeated. Conversations which involve alcohol drag on, creating the illusion that the viewer is sitting in the middle of a cocktail party rather than watching a story develop. Potential jokes are lost or weakened by scenes cut out of order for no apparent reason. Some of these episodes could’ve been half-an-hour shorter, and the viewer would’ve missed nothing.

In short, I wouldn’t recommend this season of The Orville to anyone. It’s preachy, inconsistent, and contains moments full of cringe but no humor. If you’re wanting to get your sci-fi fix, just stick to Star Trek.

You may also wish to read: Orville Episode 10: You’ve heard of saving the best for last? Well, decide for yourself if you think that’s what the writers did. Some of us would describe it in other terms. If Dr. Finn wants to marry robot Isaac to be a father to her sons, how can a robot that has no emotions teach a child how to deal with them? (Gary Varner)


Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

Final Thoughts on The Orville Season Three — What Went Wrong