The Orville season three review part 1 (episodes 1-2 bring ups and downs)By Matthew Martin| June 12, 2022 TV Blogs Two years ago, after growing increasingly dissatisfied with the current state of Star Trek, I binge-watched the first two seasons of The Orville, in the hopes that the Seth MacFarlane science-fiction adventure show could scratch an itch that neither Discovery nor Picard had been able to soothe. My initial concerns before diving in were that the show would be little more than a mocking parody and that its connection to Star Trek of old would be limited only to the knock-off terminology and characterizations. Little did I know the show would quickly become a favorite of mine… Bless you, Orville. If you’re interested, I wrote a summary of the show’s first season HERE and the second season HERE. The first season of the show was a bit messy, tonally. It was still trying to be Family Guy in space in terms of its humor, but there was enough obvious love of Star Trek to be found to keep me going and, by the end of the season, there were hints that this was not going to be a show content simply to ape The Next Generation but, instead, to be a worthy successor to it. By the time they reached the second season, the show hit its stride, producing a string of stellar sci-fi outings in the back half of the year. I ended my binge-watch eagerly anticipating what would come next. That was two years ago. A third season was in development when Covid struck, forcing the filming at first to stop entirely and then resume extremely slowly. During the long development, the show moved from its original home on the FOX network to HULU. With the move has come an increase in the budget, a reduction in the episode count, and a lengthening of each episode. Having the season cut down from 12-14 episodes to a mere 10 was a tough pill to swallow but the change was sold to fans as a plus since each episode would have about 15 extra minutes of screentime. In the end, there will be more “minutes” of season three than there were in either of the previous years. Whether or not the longer episodes allow for better stories is the question. The first two episodes are out. How do they stack up to what’s come before? 3×01 – ELECTRIC SHEEP One thing I appreciate about The Orville is how thesis-driven each plot is. What I mean is, that there is always an obvious “human condition” element that each episode is going to focus on. It’s something Star Trek’s Original Series did just as obviously while The Next Generation worked harder to make the “moral of the week” a little less obvious, probably to keep the audience guessing a little longer as to what was going on. With The Orville, the audience usually doesn’t have to wait very long before it becomes obvious and you say: “Oh okay, in this one we’re exploring the sci-fi implications of_____.” Where it really shines, however, is how it takes that one central idea and divides it up among the crew so that everyone gets a chance to comment on it, perhaps to offer a different viewpoint, to reflect on it emotionally, or just to toss out a quip or two. The story this week is suicide but the sci-fi twist is: Can an android commit suicide and, if so, what might compel it to do so? As a season opener and a soft reboot of the series, I thought Electric Sheep offered a really solid start. I appreciated the subject matter and the way they tackled it in a sci-fi setting while not shying away from the effect suicide has on real people, even if the victim is not a human being. I liked the commitment to the characters, the emphasis on the drama inherent in such a story, and how the humor was notably absent (with good reason). I don’t this episode portends a complete removal of the comedic elements from the show. There’s too much of it built into its DNA, but I think now, in year three, we’re able to have an Orville that doesn’t feel compelled to make a joke or three every episode. When there’s a good moment for it, go for it, but when there’s not, don’t try to force it. That was an issue with season one but not anymore. I expect the lightheartedness will return, but only when it’s needed/appropriate, which is how it always should be. On the negative side, I do think the longer runtime each week will be a problem. The episodes aren’t long enough for each outing to be a made-for-TV movie, with a traditional three-act film structure, but they’re also not the tight forty-five-minute structure that TV scripts have relied on for decades. Each episode is still written like a six-act TV episode, only each act is now longer than usual. At times, the pacing was too slow and things tended to drag more than necessary. Episode one was seventy minutes long, a full twenty-five minutes more than typical. There’s probably a great sixty-minute outing in there somewhere. What we got was a really good seventy-minute one. 8/10 – The Orville returns with a solid start, exploring heavy subject matter that leans on the well-establish mythology the show has built for itself. 3×02 – SHADOW REALMS This season of Orville promises to take us into uncharted space, an idea that might mean more if it was Star Trek since so much of the galaxy in that universe is known to us. In the Orville, we’ve mostly focused on just a handful of recurring alien species. Still, I’m happy to go along with it since, attached to that promise, is the ominous warning that we’re going to encounter the scary side of space exploration. I think it was the gang at Red Letter Media that remarked how The Original Series of Star Trek is a horror show. It’s obviously sci-fi mixed with a western in terms of its structure, but the week-to-week plots often had horrific elements in them, as a way to convey the idea that space (the “final” frontier) is a terrifying thing to explore. I hope that idea becomes a central theme in this season of the Orville. I hope also that subsequent episodes do a better job with it. I didn’t love this episode. In fact, I found it to be the weakest outing since season one, although I will temper that critique with a ray of hope: The constant problem with season one was the odd tonal discrepancy: The stories were straight sci-fi adventure stuff but the characters in the middle of it were all telling dick and fart jokes. By the end of season two, both of those extremes had met in the middle and the result was sublime. Season three seems almost to have swung too far in the other direction, where the humor is almost completely gone, leaving the episode to live or die based solely on its plot of the week. And this week’s plot is a mess. It felt, in a lot of ways like two episodes’ worth of stories smashed together. On the one hand, there’s the personal drama between the newly arrived Admiral and Dr. Claire. Throw in a basic sci-fi plot around that and you’ve already got enough for an episode. On the other hand, there’s the “giant space station that infects visitors, turning them into a new species” story. That’s the horror element and it’s an idea good enough to be explored in length. Unfortunately, the second half of the episode just becomes TNG’s Genesis, one of the worst episodes of the series, and a Brannon Braga script to boot (Braga wrote this one, too). I would have much preferred a focus on the sci-fi nature of the station and the aliens who designed it. As best as I can tell, the idea is for the station to lure people to it, infect them, turn them into aliens, and then they would be picked up by their new fellow aliens to…live? Colonize? Whatever? There’s an endless fountain of possibilities but the show isn’t interested in considering them, sadly. So, while the first episode was a long episode that needed to be cut down, this one was two short episodes that needed to be fleshed out (and split in two). Also, I need a lot more Bortus. He had one good line this week, after being told he might have to suffer from a mild head cold: “I am prepared” he replied in all earnestness. His deadpan humor has been the most consistently great for the whole series. I need more. A lot more. 6/10 – While episode two piqued my curiosity, it did not do enough to answer my questions or sustain my interest in the runtime.