Both The Orville and Star Trek Discovery are settling into their series, and fans are still wondering which is more Star Trek. Whilst Discovery is part of the official franchise, many believe Orville is more true to the classic Star Trek formula.
There’s no denying that Fox’s The Oville is modelled after Star Trek. It can be considered a comedy parody of sorts. Everything from the premise, set and costume design to characters screams of Star Trek. Makes sense when you consider how big a Star Trek fan Seth McFarlane is.
That being said, Discovery is the first Star Trek series to hit TV again after a decade. Following after the JJ Abrams movie franchise, it’s definitely taken a more modern and edgy tone compared to the previous Trek series. It’s also the first to have a non-captain as the main character, and she’s a black woman on top of that.
Orville, on the other hand, is more traditional and keeps the main character as a white male Captain. A small point, however. Orville takes a lot of inspiration from the original Star Trek series as well as Next Generation.
Set and costume design
Discovery has a newer, more modern look when it comes to uniforms. They resemble a lot more like the uniforms from Voyager or Deep Space Nine rather than the original series or Next Gen. It also lacks a distinct variety in the uniforms, with no dress or skirt options. Medical personnel do get to wear a fully white uniform to distinguish them. Everyone also has the iconic Star Trek badge.
Orville has brightly coloured uniforms that feel more Star Trek. It suits the comedy of the series. The whole series is a lot more light-hearted and this can be seen by the set design as well. Very much like Next Generation, it has the feel of a comfy hotel, with soft lighting and intimate spaces. Compare this with Discovery’s much more metal and “cool” looking set, it’s interesting to compare.
Of course, the ship in Orville is set for exploration, whilst the one in Discovery is a science vessel turned warship.
One final gripe that many fans have for Discovery is the designs of the Klingons. Completely different from Klingons as we’ve seen before, many are upset by this change. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll be fixed later on in the storyline though.
Discovery follows the Federation in a midst of war. The main crew we follow belong to a science vessel with the secret weapon. Accordingly, there’s not been many chances to meet new alien species. That being said, there have been a few ethical dilemmas that are classic for Star Trek.
The first few episodes hinted at a more continuous season story arc, involving the war with the Klingons. However. as the series has progressed, the episodes are very self-contained and the overarching plot isn’t really heavily played.
Orville has a very classic Star Trek plot. Each episode can be watched stand-alone, meeting new alien races and solving ethical or moral dilemmas. It has the classic formula, but some can argue the comedy setting means they only ever scratch the superficial.
For instance, one episode of The Orville tackles the gender-identity of a baby. It feels very modern, is an interesting topic especially in the context of the alien race the baby belongs to. The resolution however felt basic, almost silly.
The Discovery is tackling the problem of Michael Burnham, our main character and the Federation’s first mutineer. Her reason to mutiny is complex but highly logical. There are moral and ethical dilemmas brought up in Discovery and not all of them are resolved in one episode, but rather continue to be developed through the series.
Both The Orville and Star Trek Discovery have strong elements of Star Trek. The first visually closer to earlier Trek atmosphere, the latter more modernised to capture the feeling from both the TV series and the movie franchise.
Having them on at the same time gives fans everything they need. Do you want complex and modern, or light-hearted and nostalgic? Well, you can have both. They both come with pros and cons.
Discovery is doing something right though. In modern TV climate, it has to rival shows such as Walking Dead or Game of Thrones and wants to be taken seriously. The whimsical era of The Next Generation wouldn’t offer that. It also has to provide for newer audiences whose first exposure to the franchise are the blockbuster movies.
But The Orville hits the heart of fans who love the old style. It has more leeway since it advertises itself as a comedy and audiences come in with different expectations. When it comes to who does Star Trek better, it falls short. The writing is fun, but doesn’t penetrate the deeper layers that Star Trek does.