Comedy mastermind Seth MacFarlane has stepped out from his animation roots for the upcoming fall TV season, and is giving us a live action, sci-fi space comedy, The Orville. Science fiction fans will recognize the similarities to previous shows like Star Trek, and now star Penny Johnson Jerald (who also co-starred on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine back in the day) has revealed just how much the shows have in common. CinemaBlend's own Nick Venable was in attendance at San Diego Comic-Con 2017 during an interview session with the actress, where he asked just how The Orville is like Star Trek shows. Here's what Johnson Jerald had to say:
There are similarities. They are similarities in that we are in uniform and we take on a very professional militant-type of physicality where they're in opposition, which is a lot like Star Trek. I thought it would be different from Star Trek where you could get a little loose with the words, because I come from the Larry Sanders days where we could be making up stuff. That's not so here. So it's true to Star Trek where we're crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. Because I believe Seth has written a composition in which each word, each connecting word, is part of some beautiful piece of music. We all pay attention to trying to be word-perfect, and that is very much like Star Trek. Because we don't want to upset [the flow]. You know, let's say your plan is, 'I'm gonna do it this way.' And it's like, 'Well you just played my classical beat to a jazz tune.' And we don't want to do that. We want to pay homage to the creators.
Well. According to Penny Johnson Jerald's answer, it sounds like the similarities between The Orville and Star Trek are more than just skin deep. Sure, they both focus on interplanetary, military-type organizations where there's a clear hierarchy and everyone wears uniforms, but the behind-the-scenes work is also a lot like that of working on a Star Trek series. Johnson Jerald was prepared, at first, to bring her A-game when it came to improvising, and seeing as how show creator and star Seth MacFarlane is known for his wacky comedy style, it makes sense that she would think he'd be interested in having the cast play around with the dialogue from time to time. But, it sounds like every beat and joke in The Orville is so well planned that Penny Johnson Jerald and the rest of the cast might as well be working on a more serious show like Star Trek.
While it's cool to hear that The Orville is so precisely thought out, it is surprising. It's hard to imagine that MacFarlane's other shows like Family Guy and American Dad didn't feature a large amount of improvisation from the cast, but animation is very different from live action comedy with a science fiction and adventure bent. It's possible things had to be planned out more and then set in stone just to make sure everything would make sense for the stories the show is trying to tell.
The Orville focuses on the crew of an exploratory spaceship 400 years in the future, as they deal with the (often ridiculous) problems of regular life and the (frequently crazy) dangers of outer space. The show stars Seth MacFarlane as the ship's captain and Penny Johnson Jerald as the ship's doctor, Claire Finn. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Adrianne Palicki, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, John LaMarr, Scott Grimes and Mark Jackson. You can check out The Orville for yourself when the show debuts Sunday, September 10 at 7 p.m. CST on Fox.