Seth McFarlane has done some great things over his career. Family Guy and American Dad spring to mind first, but let’s not overlook The Orville. Is the Star Trek styled show becoming more Star Trek than the Federation itself?
Parody or not?
Based in the 25th century, the show revolves around the adventures of the USS Orville. The ship is an exploratory vessel that is part of the Planetary Union. Which itself is made up of a galactic alliance of planets, including Earth. Sounding familiar yet? When The Orville first hit our screens in 2017, it wasn’t quite sure what it was. Was The Orville a pure parody of Star Trek? Or maybe a sci-fi comedy with a hint of drama pinched from Gene Rodenberry himself? Season One certainly gears towards the former.
The core crew of the ship are made up of Captain Ed Mercer (played by McFarlane), a navigator, helmsman and second officer. The latter is Commander Bortus, an alien from the planet Moclus, where the primary gender is male. The ships doctor is played by Penny Johnson Jerald. She had a recurring role in Deep Space Nine as the love interest of Captain Sisko. As you can see, the Star Trek themes are running deep. Pardon the pun. But there’s more. The original Star Trek series had a Vulcan science officer, and Next Generation had android commander Data serving on the bridge. The Orville doesn’t disappoint with science officer Issac. He’s an artificial non-biological being from Kaylon-1. He, just like Data before him, wants to learn about human behaviour. Although, unlike Data, Issac believes his race is superior to humans.
Family Guy in space?
Season One does have you thinking The Orville is one great big Star Trek parody. There are the obvious character comparisons, along with ‘the federation’ and Orville’s mission. But it is genuinely funny. There are some laugh-out-loud moments that are reminiscent of Family Guy. The odd crude joke here and there, along with some modern-day quips. But there are also glimpses of it trying to be a serious bone fide science fiction show.
The relationship-building between Mercer and his crew slowly grows, along with the addition of his ex-wife to the crew. Adrianne Palicki does a great job of playing the now-defunct Mrs Mercer, and the two of them play off some brilliant lines together. That aside, it’s pretty much pure comedy through all the episodes. One of the highlights was when an entire episode was dedicated to Bortus returning to his home planet to wee. Ok, so his species only do it once a year, but a whole episode? Genius.
As we progress into season two we start to see the show settle into itself a bit more. The episodes are more focused on character development with the stories reflecting that. Don’t get me wrong, there are still the in-your-face jokes, but fewer of them.
We see more themes of exploration, new species and relationships. Sounding more like Trek? You’d be right. There has been much discussion about the new series of Star Trek not keeping with the feeling of series gone by. By that, I mean there is a departure from the optimistic and exploratory themes that made the originals so popular. Discovery in particular has received criticism on fan forums for being too dark and violent, and for being too focused on one character. Season Two of the Orville definitely moves in the territory that Discovery in particular has left. It also drops the parody by a warp factor and ups the power of stories.
The two-parter ‘Identity’ episode is a prime example. It’s based around Isaac, who after deactivating, is taken back to his homeworld. Once there, the crew discover humanoid remains and large-scale weapons. After hijackings and battles, all ends well. It’s an example of how McFarlane proves he’s more than capable of writing some serious science fiction. Some of sillier humour has been dropped, but there are still a few 21st-century references thrown in for good measure.
Bringing in new fans
The first series received negative feedback from critics for being too silly, but that consensus is slowly beginning to shift. This may partly have to do with the online criticisms the new Star Trek series has had. As I mentioned earlier, fans of what’s described as ‘proper trek’ are not happy. Social media is awash with people bemoaning the loss of what Star Trek is meant to be – hope, optimism and exploring the human condition.
The second season of the Orville definitely brings those elements to the fore in its storylines. So, we have the obvious Trek fans jumping ship for something more nostalgic. But what about ordinary sci-fans? The ratings and critic reviews would suggest that support is growing from that fan base too. You only have to read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The jump in ratings from season one to two is clear as day. It goes to show that Seth McFarlane is steering his ship through the tonal wonkiness of season one, through to some top quality sci-fi. This lends itself to genuine excitement about what season three will bring. It’s in production at the moment so it’s looking like we could see it drop by the end of 2021.
There is something about the music of science fiction that makes it even more special. This is certainly true of Star Trek. The theme music is iconic and has the ability to make the hairs on your neck stand up. The Orville also has a pretty good soundtrack. Those opening credits scream TNG. The graphics of the ship powering up combined with the big orchestra is a definite doff of the cap. That’s no bad thing, though. If only they had used this for the intro of Star Trek: Enterprise. Ahem. More on that another day.
To sum up, if you love Star Trek of years gone by, then you will love The Orville. Kudos to Mr McFarlane for keeping the dream alive.
That’s why The Orville is becoming more Star Trek than Star Trek itself. What do you think, do we have a point? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out what we know about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds HERE.
Read IMDb information on The Orville HERE.
Cobra Kai Season 4 – Review
Cobra Kai season four is out now on Netflix and the All Valley is back and better than ever. Here’s our review.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
It’s January, and new shows are popping up everywhere. This brings us to the show that I and my friends have been holding our breaths for: the fourth season of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai! After three seasons, I wondered if there was anything left to mine from the Karate Kid lore or the Johnny/Daniel dynamic. I am happy to report that this might be my favourite season yet! It manages to not only expand upon the universe it has created, but to bring in a new villain, who is so bad that he threatens to outdo even John Kreese!
Season four sets us off where the third left off, with Johnny and Daniel having joined forces to fight Cobra Kai. Their friendship arc is the glue that holds this season together. The story focuses largely on whether they will be able to pull it together and make their partnership work. As in previous seasons, their relationship has its ups and downs. The stakes are heightened, however, as the season leads up to the All-Valley Tournament. A bet between the three senseis – Kreese, Daniel, and Johnny – means that losing the All Valley is losing the title of sensei.
This season explores the ways that both Johnny and Daniel work with the kids. It also examines the kids’ struggles as they prepare for the All Valley while dealing with conflict within the ever-changing network of friends and enemies in the dojos. Robbie has left juvenile hall and decided to join up with Cobra Kai as a means of inflicting revenge on both his dad and Daniel. Tori and Sam continue their rivalry. And John Reese’s old friend Terry Silver (of Karate Kid 3 fame) shows up to kick Cobra Kai into high gear.
Daniel’s son, Anthony, who has largely been absent until now, faces his own dilemma when his friends begin bullying Kenny, the new kid in town. This soft-spoken middle school character brings us into the world of the younger kids, setting up yet another storyline. Kenny becomes the victim of a gang of kids (including Anthony), enduring round after round of bullying before Robbie takes him under his wing. After his induction into Cobra Kai, the formerly shy middle-schooler becomes a bully himself.
Shades of grey
This brings me to one of my favourite things about the show. The constant back and forth dynamic between characters makes us feel that anything is possible. There is no black and white in the world of Cobra Kai. Where the Karate Kid told us that Daniel was good, and Johnny was bad, this show gives us a very different point of view. It’s a world where we’re never sure who to root for. In this season, we even see Hawk make a return to the “good guys” side after giving up his spot at Cobra Kai.
With Eagle Fang (Johnny’s new dojo) and Miyagi-Do teaming up, the kids – and the adults – have to learn to work together. Of course, complications ensue. Johnny becomes jealous of what he perceives as Miguel’s preference for Daniel over him. Sam wants to learn both her dad’s karate style and Johnny’s, despite her father’s discouragement. Meanwhile, at Cobra Kai, Kreese is losing his grip on the dojo. His former war buddy, Terry Silver, puts off a rather benign appearance in episode one, growing more and more evil with each episode.
This season is lacking in many of the big fight scenes of the previous seasons, instead choosing to focus their energy on the characters. The All Valley Tournament features several great karate matches and offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnny and Daniel’s arc. In the end, Cobra Kai takes the tournament win, but Johnny and Daniel have reached an understanding.
Tori defeats Sam to take the women’s All Valley trophy but later overhears her sensei paying off one of the referees. It’s clear that Cobra Kai has pulled yet another fast one. But the season ends on an even more ominous – and unexpected – note. Terry Silver assaults the over-aged former Cobra Kai member, Stingray, sending him to the hospital. He then makes a deal with Stingray to blame the crime on Kreese. We end the season with Kreese in handcuffs, Terry Silver set to take over Cobra Kai, and the future of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do uncertain. In a last shocking twist, Miguel leaves town in search of his biological father.
Although some may miss the school hallway throw downs, I found this one satisfying in a different way. It just goes to show that the ever-expanding Cobra Kai universe can keep bringing surprises season after season.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10
Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai season four. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out our Hawkeye episode one and two review HERE.
Read IMDB information about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.
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