Star Trek, Discovery; The Orville

When Star Trek TNG came out I didn’t like it. So didn’t watch most of the first year. Only later did I come around to liking it. For that reason, I now give shows at least 3 episodes before I form an opinion.

Well, we’ve had 3 episodes of Star Trek Discovery now, and I have an opinion.

Similarly, we’ve had 3 episodes of the “comedy” space show The Orville.

Oddly, my opinion about the two shows is similar in most counts, divergent on just a couple of points.

For both of them, I’m underwhelmed compared to the hype / expectations. Both have lots of good “eye candy” special effects, good costumes, hair, sets, even decent acting. What both lack is a compelling story line.

For ST-D (Hmmm… I wonder if they thought about that acronym…;-) my major complaint is that the Klingons are seriously wrong. Their tooth appliance (to give them all nice pointy reptilian like teeth) causes them to lisp. Klingon spoken with a lisp is just wrong… OK, so it’s Yet Another Klingon Reboot. Got it. Sigh.

Then we’ve got a sprinkling of various other alien species on the bridge that we’ve never seen before… but wait, isn’t this supposed to be BEFORE The Original? So where did all these odd ducks come from? OK… So you can cross “sticks to canon” off your list of expectations.

SPOILER ALERT! I’m going to talk about story line. You’ve had time to watch it by now, but if you haven’t and want to stay pristine, skip the rest down to The Orville.

Now I like new shiny things as much as the next guy, and plot twists are a great thing. But really? You introduce 2 strong Female Leads in the first episode, and by the 3rd episode, one is dead and the other is in prison? BTW, in the first 2 episodes there is only 1 White Male Lead and he gets killed off quickly. One could easily call this Star Trek Minority Showcase… but by the 3rd we do have a White Male captain of the ship Discovery, but he has an ambiguously malevolent character…

There’s lots of new ships, new toys, new gizmos and gimmicks. Not much to please anyone looking for story lines that connect other Star Trek eras together. No, it’s a Full On Reboot with disjoint reality. The Creatives left off leash too much creating Their Dream and not what the Community Trek would expect.

So, OK, if you want to like this show, you need to check that baggage at the door. Don’t even try to think of it as “connecting” to anything else much. Take it as a stand alone Sci-Fi show.

Now, step 2:

It is a DARK show. The first episode has our “Earth Child Raised on Vulcan” put onto a ship with a Female Captain. So we’ve got a Chinese Captain and a Black 1st officer both women. OK, you figure it’s going to be a Pro-Women show…. Except in the second episode the Captain is killed and our Earth Girl semi-Vulcan has been convicted of mutiny. In the 3rd episode, she gets hauled off of a prisoner transport to work on a secret (and somewhat illegal) development project on the Discovery. No, not reinstated as crew, just sort of quasi-indentured-brilliant-mutineer who goes on away missions and is given a gun…

So what’s the Discovery up to? Um, growing magic mushrooms. No, honest. (Though one can be forgiven for thinking the writers may have had too many…) They are developing a genetically modified mycelium that when sprinkled in the air lets you bounce around in space instantly (another wiz-bang never seen in later Treks…) I guess genetic engineering lets you turn vegetables into space-time quantum manipulators (per their description…) But if that isn’t enough, they end up fighting an elephant sized beetle thing that killed folks on their sister ship, but not to worry, the Captain eventually gets it put in his private zoo / cell… Probably picked up when their sister ship went flashing past the Beetle People Planet and left a door open…

OK…

But there’s lots of action. The folks all look buff in their uniforms. And you don’t need to actually think much when watching it. Oh, but you DO need to read lots of captions when the Klingons are in a scene as they lisp along in volumes of Klingon…

Oh, and they seem to really be “into” Inversion Social Commentary. One white Klingon being commented about “others seeing your color as” some kind of bad thing.

So, all in all, I’ll keep watching it. It isn’t bad, just don’t think of it as being Star Trek…

The Orville

This is touted as a Seth MacFarlane Comedy. Well, if you go into it expecting laugh after laugh, it isn’t going to cut it for you.

Yeah, it’s got some good moments. But it isn’t a comedy so much as a Sci-Fi show with some humor and self deprecation.

In the first episode you get the majority of the jokes that we saw in the trailers. The stage is set for a Running Joke of the Captain (Seth) having a divorce from his unfaithful wife (caught with a blue alien who leaks) and then a year later having her be assigned as his 1st Officer. Well, after a few dozen Spouse Jokes in the first 2 episodes, that’s starting to wear a bit thin. Then there’s the usual mix of “potty humor” level remarks.

Eventually you come to realize that it’s just not a full on comedy show. There’s an alien species on board that has only 1 gender, male. (They don’t bother to explain how that works). In the second episode ‘he’ has an egg, and then a child is born to him and his partner. Except the child is a female. Now we get told they have one of these about once every 75 years, and a sex change operation is needed. Well, most of the rest of the show is then Inverted Social Commentary about sex change operations and same-sex lifestyles. It is presented in a light hearted way, but it just doesn’t really rise to comedy. Social commentary just isn’t funny. Later we find out his ‘spouse’ was born female and converted, and they find on their home planet (in court sorting things out) that their Most Famous Author is a clandestine female living in the mountains. Now by my count that’s at least 3 in 75 years in one small part of the planet… clearly math is not high on their list of skills… or continuity in the script.

The third show has them rescue a generational ship from plunging into a star. Social commentary on religions and male authority abound. Snippets of comedy dancing at the edges.

So, all in all, I’ll keep watching it. It isn’t bad, just don’t think of it as being a Comedy…

Think of it as Social Commentary wrapped up in hokey Sci-Fi with good special effects and some “sit-com as work environment”. The basic humor there being folks acting more like Frat Boys or high school kids on the bridge than military folks.
Galaxy Quest it ain’t.

Good for a laugh or two. Lots of fun stuff in the FX department. Interesting to see what space would be like if run by folks with poor social skills or no HR department…

In Conclusion

For two shows that offered so much potential in the trailers, both have ended up being “OK, I’ll watch it for a while”. A comedy that’s too serious and socially conscious at times and a Trek that’s not much Trek and a whole lot of Reboot and straying from the general Trek theme of positive vibes.

Worth watching, I guess, but if I miss some episodes it isn’t going to upset my day.

My Spouse, a hard core Trekkie, owns every Star Trek book written, watched the first 2 episodes (3 days late…) and hasn’t been motivated enough to catch up the next one this week. She’s the “Core Audience” and is underwhelmed. Just keeps muttering “The Klingons are all wrong…” when watching it. I’ve not been able to get her to watch The Orville yet, but she loved Galaxy Quest.

So I’d give them both about a B, or maybe a B- for some of it. More shows will improve the granularity. Oddly, I like both of them about the same amount. Enough, but not too much… Buying CBS All Access was worth it, but mostly for the large library of old shows and other shows, not for this one show.

As the Orville cast settle into their roles, it ought to improve. Hopefully some of the running jokes can run a little less often (spousal infidelity humor has limited lifespan) and they can add in more depth of comedy. Maybe drop the trying to be Relevant and Socially Aware a lot. ( I want my comedy to be funny, not ‘raise my awareness’) Or maybe it will just drift into a serious show about social issues set in space… with occasional slapstick…

The nice thing about getting it over the internet is that I can pick a time when nothing else is really all that interesting to me and watch it then… You know, news is dreary and overdone on politics, sports is on its knee so turned off, not up for a movie that makes me think, feeling like vegging after a big dinner and the spouse is headed off to bed. Put it on and see if I get sleepy too…

OTOH:

I have found all sorts of really good stuff on the various channels and services for which I have signed up. Months of it queued up already. There is a very large mass of good stuff for free out there and more arrives daily. I launched the TED channel on the Roku. One of the TED Talks was by a guy who watches YouTube for a living for Google. It was about what makes a video go viral. IIRC, he said there is 48 hours of new video uploaded each minute. Something magic has to happen to make a video stand out and get to the Million Hits level.

Well, something similar is showing up on the TV Feeds. Between Netflix, Amazon, CBS All Access, dozens of news & weather channels, Pluto, Fox, and many more free channels, There’s more new stuff each time I check than what I’ve watched of the already selected stuff. I’d guess the total inventory at my clicker click is somewhere around a few lifetimes worth.

In that context, something has to really have a reason to be watched. We’ll see if these two hold up to that volume of choice…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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18 Responses to Star Trek, Discovery; The Orville

  1. Verity Jones says:

    EM, I humbly suggest “sticks to canon” rather than “sticks to cannon”.

  2. jim2 says:

    Personally, I’ve had enough social commentary. Someone else is going to have to about White Whatever, or Male Whatever. I have a life to live.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @Verity:

    Fixed, thanks :-)

    I own a Canon camera and usually talk about cannons in warfare, not religious canon, so have trained myself to “not the word like like the camera”… which clearly needs an added step…

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jim2:

    Yeah, I’m in it for entertainment, not morality nags…

    It seems the Hollywood Types have forgotten their industry exists to provide entertainment . I wish they would take their desire to impress their peers with their Social Relevance somewhere else… (About 1975 inter-racial couples lost any impact and now we’ve got a nearly obligatory same sex couple in shows. So much it has become boringly trite. If being done for shock value, it fails.) Now it just distracts from the show .

  5. jim2 says:

    It seems to me one thing that needs fixing is to get rid of bad cops. I saw the video of the cop shooting the black man in the back then planting a gun. That is horrific. Other than that, what I can do is treat people with respect no matter their situation in life, and that I try to do. I work with all colors and sexual orientations. For a job, I judge on ability, not other factors.

  6. p.g.sharrow says:

    I watched “Orville”, it was lame. Sat through the whole thing hoping it would improve, it didn’t. A Hollywood sitcom SiFi. The old Star Trek was a cowboy show with a SiFi twist. Loved “Galaxy Quest”. Kind of Mel Brooks like, fun.
    “Discovery” seems to be a knock off by people that are ignorant of the existing Star Trek story line, why bother? Just a commercial product to suck in Trekkie s. That will go over like a lead balloon with them.
    I really dislike message shows that masquerade as sitcoms.. I prefer light entertainment. My lady is really into the dark side as well as sitcoms. If I want messages I watch the news…pg

  7. Lionell Griffith says:

    What ever happened to the Prime Directive? Seems that they are trying to change our culture so it suites their way of thinking. I have better things to do with the rest of my life than letting myself be harangued by the politically correctness du jour.

    It is all much too much like those idiotic multiple choice tests where you are graded on how well you think like the test maker thinks you should think he is thinking. All too often, I had to turn off my brain and pretend to be a tape recorder to do well on that kind of tests. Thankfully, I left most of that crap behind over a half century ago.

  8. philjourdan says:

    You have heard of “Jumping the Shark”. Have you heard of “Growing the Beard”?

    The latter is taken from ST-TNG. It is considered when it got good and does coincide with Riker growing a beard – hence the cliche.

    Oroville seems to want to plagiarize other SciFi Works. Can anyone say “Enemy Mine”? I am sure that Louis Gosset’s species had females, but then there were none around when he got marooned with Dennis Quaid, so he had his own kid.

    Thanks for the synopsis. It saved me a bit of time. I will not watch either one. They can call it anything they want. But ST it is not. And Seth is not interesting unless he is doing comedy, and then only mildly.

  9. Richard Ilfeld says:

    Thank god it’s hockey season. What passes for entertainment is grade school bludgeoning of the current politically correct memes into our supposed chowderheads without leavening intelligence, commercials included. If there are people in Hollywood who can simply tell a good story they’ve sure been marginalized. (True confession, my wife does binge on Blue Bloods, and I don’t vomit).
    There are way too many “script by Onion” moments. Since I don’t watch, I’ll wait for you to report on the facetiousness of thee “Klingon Lives Matter” episode. Between games, I double dipped on the Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, just to reaffirm that it’s possible to tell a story with an underlying morality without either special effects or comic book caricature. It is, you know.

  10. Greg Hall says:

    Episode 2 of The Orville was nothing more than an old episode of “The Star Lost” from 40 yrs ago. Better graphics but same plot.

  11. “Discovery” is off to a better start than “Next Generation.” If I wanted to show NG to a newbie, I’d start with season three.

  12. Peter_dtm says:

    Discovery : I didn’t ‘do’ any of the pre-release propaganda/ sorry adverts.
    As such I assumed the story arc was post ‘real’ Star Trek, but you say they set in in the past ? WOW.

    It was bad enough having to ignore the pc casting/characterisations; but I suspect I’ll give it another couple of episodes before giving it up for benighted pc wrecking !

    This side of the pond; the only Orville I know of (on TV that is) is a rather mad ventriloquist act involving an ostrich (puppet) and a 1960-80 comedian.

    When I want comedy I don’t want preaching at by misguided political zealots !

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_Discovery

    Star Trek: Discovery is an American television series created for CBS All Access […] Set roughly a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series and separate from the timeline of the concurrently produced feature films, Discovery explores the Federation–Klingon cold war while following the crew of the USS Discovery.

    So “a decade”… you would expect something to be similar… but no.

    Everything is “over the topped” fancier. New aliens. New uniforms. New ship layouts and glorious bridges. Tech and bio-weapons never seen before. Etc. etc. In short, it’s a full on Re-Boot with little do do with The Original and not much in common with TNG that comes later, either.

    So throw out the idea that it is at all connected to them, and it’s not bad. Expect it to be a Star Trek that “fits in”, and you will be unhappy.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and The Orville at IMDB describes it with details
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5691552/

  15. jim2 says:

    I’m wondering when the glitz of special effects, used more and more to depict really stupid things, will wear off. Same with “smart” phones. I see ads on TV for apps that allow people to draw things on pictures and send them to someone. I guess that’s great if you’re an artist – or maybe not because you would be working for free. But for the average person, who needs it? And then there is the girl who learns someone is in love with her over the phone. How sad is that? That’s something I would want to happen face to face.

    I think civilization would be better off if phones were dumber. JMO.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jim2:

    I still carry a flip phone for a reason… and it isn’t just increased security. I want my phone to be a phone, damn it! My Florida Friend taunts me with “Oh, yeah, you use your phone as a phone” from time to time (he of the iPhone craze). I sometimes answer with “yes, and I use my tablet as a tablet…”

    I want to be able to turn off all the computer stuff when just talking, or waiting for a phone call. I’ll turn it one when I need it, and on a different device…

    My other line is “IF someone wants me to work on my computer, they can pay me…”

  17. Larry Ledwick says:

    I’m wondering when the glitz of special effects, used more and more to depict really stupid things, will wear off.

    Remember when Windows brought out all the goofy sound effects so that you could make the computer make a sound like flushing the toilet when you deleted an email?

    That wore off really fast.

    I think smart phones are moving in the same direction. I would guess that only 10% of users do much on their phones other than sms text messages, voice calls, check the weather, occasionally check google maps and a few other “practical uses”

    Text messages are by far the most useful immediately followed by voice calls and voice mail then a few practical functions like checking weather, breaking news, restaurant hours or menus, google maps etc. I don’t know many people that really “use” more than a couple “apps” except the geek addicts who have to try out every new feature.

  18. The all male aliens having 3 female births in 75 years while only admitting to 1 in 75 might be a writing issue or it might reflect the cultural secrecy around the genetic potential for women to be born. When I was teaching in China, the older generation of Chinese often refused to admit there were any Chinese homosexuals.

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