Just about any new science fiction series that's set in outer space is going to be the center of some fan-heavy conversations, so it was inevitable that The Orville would face a seemingly endless amount of Star Trek comparisons. It was one thing back when The Orville first started, but the Fox drama now has two full seasons under its (Kuiper) belt, proving its worth as a standalone project.
For us, we are all science fiction fans. We consume it all. So, the Kelly double story [in the finale] is similar in some ways to a Next Gen episode, but it is similar to a lot of sci-fi episodes. So we are inspired by everything that we have watched and read, but we definitely always see it through the lens of our own show. What is it about our characters and what is it illuminating? So, the idea of Ed dating a younger version of his ex-wife, that is completely fresh. Nobody has done that before. And suddenly realizing that this isn’t what he really wants, is a completely fresh take on that story that has been done in numerous other sci-fi franchises and books and what have you. That is our goal. We are inspired by what we have seen and read, but then what is it about our show?
David A. Goodman's approach to The Orville's storytelling isn't so much different from what lots of TV creatives do out there: they take a central idea and morph it to fit the parameters of the show they're making. Just think of how many times The Simpsons has tackled a famous movie or TV show in some respect. So for any modern sci-fi show, it's only natural to hit upon familiar genre elements, if only to own them with signature flair.
Few would deny that The Orville has showcased some narratives that hit a little too close to storylines from Star Trek's multi-series canon, but the fact that the Seth MacFarlane series doesn't function like a Star Trek series is one of its saving graces. It's hard to consider any of the show's main characters being a lead in a Trek project. Except for maybe Bortus, and only for his more humorless nature.
Here, David A. Goodman talks with TrekMovie.com specifically about the differences in characters.
I think our characters are more flawed than the Next Generation characters. We embrace that society has become much better, but people haven’t necessarily. They are still jealous; they still get pissed off. One of my favorite scenes is in the season premiere where Ed steals a shuttle and spies on Kelly with her new boyfriend, which was Seth’s idea. To me, that is great. This captain on this ship borrowing a shuttlecraft to spy on his ex-wife while she is making out with her boyfriend. That is not something you would ever see Captain Picard do.
Now, fans might see Picard doing all kinds of unexpected things whenever Patrick Stewart's captain gets his own series on CBS All Access. However, I can accept Goodman's thoughts as they're intended, because again, The Orville's characters are a little too modern-day to wholly fit in with any iteration of the Enterprise's crew.
Some of them are a little too "Ted Danson."
All that isn't to say that The Orville only changes things up in ways that make these characters look more positive and/or enjoyable to viewers. According to David A. Goodman:
And we have bigotry, like Klyden in Season 2. And Klyden’s difficulties with his relationship with Bortus is not something we saw in Next Gen. It is the flaws in our characters that separates us.
Indeed, Bortus' pornographic hologram sessions were not exactly a weekly affair on The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. But if they were...that would have been extremely interesting to see.
Fans can expect to see more space-faring chaos when The Orville returns to Fox for Season 3. Unfortunately, given all the new NFL and WWE coverage Fox is promoting for the fall, The Orville's third season got pushed back to debut in the 2020 midseason. Now the question is, what'll happen with Halston Sage?