After the last Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, wrapped up in 2005, it looked like we might never see another Trek show on television. Twelve years later, and our proverbial cup runneth over with not just one Star Trek series, in the official CBS show Discovery, but also with The Orville, a show that feels so much like a Star Trek series that it could be mistaken for one. Fans are split on which show most successfully carries the franchise’s torch, and who can blame them?
Star Trek: Discovery goes out of its way to subvert expectations about what a ship, crew, and show in this franchise is supposed to be. Even as a prequel, Discovery doesn’t feel beholden to the structure of the rest of the franchise, choosing instead to build a show that more closely resembles successful shows on streaming services like Netflix, than it does anything that came before it in the franchise.
The Orville, on the other hand, succeeds at appearing as though it had stepped out of the early 90s at the height of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s popularity. Yes, the show is a comedy rather than a drama, but that only magnifies the show’s similarity to the franchise in comparison to Discovery.
When you break it down, it becomes clear that while Discovery might have the name, but The Orville just feels more like the Star Trek its fans grew up with.
Traditionally, Star Trek has been the kind of series that you could watch with the whole family without worrying too much about inappropriate themes. The Orville continues that tradition, while Star Trek: Discovery takes a hard turn in the other direction.
After the first set of Discovery episodes, the audience has already seen the crushed bodies of both Starfleet and Klingon officers, two F-bombs, naked Klingon sex, corpse piles, throats being slit, surgical implement torture, and what appears to have been the rape of a prisoner by his captors. In short, it’s been a rough half-season.
As a comparison, viewers of The Orville have thus far seen: blue alien ejaculate (which stains, apparently), a culturally required sex change, a plague, and blood-thirsty cannibals, and the hilarious severing and eventual regrowth of a crew member’s leg. It’s been an interesting half-season.