Why The Orville’s Penny Johnson Jerald ‘Detests’ Comparisons To Star Trek

Penny Johnson Jerald as Claire Finn on The Orville: New Horizons
(Image credit: Hulu )

The Orville: New Horizons is finally out after a long wait, and Hulu subscribers can enjoy new episodes of a series they’ve followed since it was on Fox. Seth MacFarlane’s live-action show has gained fans within the Star Trek fandom, who likened it to classic installments in the franchise like The Next Generation. As it turns out, one prominent member of the cast has ties to both franchises, and Penny Johnson Jerald “detests” comparisons between the two shows. 

CinemaBlend recently spoke to Penny Johnson Jerald, who plays Dr. Claire Finn on The Orville and played Kasidy Yates-Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Given her connection to both franchises, I asked if she felt The Orville: New Horizons has successfully escaped comparisons to Star Trek at this stage. The actress shared her thoughts about the matter:

To be honest with you, I thought that in Season 1, we could definitely say we were set apart from it. Some people would claim, ‘Oh is this Star Trek? Is this a spoof?’ And, actually, I just detest it when people said it’s a spoof. It wasn’t slapstick. We were really doing the work. It was Star Trek-like in that it’s in the future, you have a team, it’s led by a captain, and you’re going inside the lives or the shenanigans of this crew. So I guess that any future ship-like show would be compared to Star Trek because it set the standard.

Penny Johnson Jerald didn’t like the idea that some considered The Orville a funnier version of Star Trek, and she certainly has a point about the Fox-turned-Hulu series setting itself apart by this point. At the same time, she did note that there are similar elements between the two shows, which I’d imagine played a large part in the series pulling in Star Trek fans over the years. 

As The Orville went on to Season 2, Penny Johnson Jerald said she saw the similarities between it and Star Trek fade even more. The actress talked about the key difference she saw between the two shows that truly sets them apart, based on her experience: 

The second season I never thought of Star Trek, and I’m a Trekkie. I just never did. It was like these are people that are so human, most of them, and the lives and the situation that they’re talking about are not far from what’s happening right now. The difference in Star Trek was like, ‘Imagine if this were to happen.’ With The Orville, this is happening, and it’s still happening in the future, but there is a different attitude towards this same thing that we’re familiar with. And I think probably that is why it’s truly set apart from Star Trek.

The former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress and current star of The Orville: New Horizons makes a great point. Star Trek tends to tackle modern issues with the futuristic mindset of a society that’s worked to conquer many of humanity's issues, whereas The Orville often feels like people from our era directly injected into the future. 

Of course, just because Penny Johnson Jerald doesn't appreciate the comparisons between the two doesn't mean that Star Trek fans won't see some of what they love about that franchise in The Orville. The series has an episodic style of space adventure that calls back to the more classic adventures of Star Trek, and debuted on Fox not long before the launch of the very serialized Star Trek: Discovery

The Orville: New Horizons certainly seems to be the series' greatest step forward in establishing its own legacy in sci-fi, though there is always the question of how long the ride can last. Speaking with members of the cast, CinemaBlend learned that while Season 4 of The Orville isn’t off the table, it seems viewership and fan engagement will play a role in its renewal or cancellation. 

We’ll have to wait and see if that renewal happens and if Seth MacFarlane’s series will further escape the shadows of other franchises as Season 3 continues. The Orville: New Horizons streams new episodes on Hulu on Thursdays. Tune in to see what adventures the crew will get into, especially with so much uncharted territory ahead of them. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

I like good television but also reality television. His day largely consists of balancing his workload between reporting on the latest and greatest news in Star Trek and other sci-fi, as well as 90 Day Fiancé, WWE, Big Brother, and more.