‘Star Trek’ may be the original space drama adventure, but Fox’s new hit series ‘The Orville’ from ‘Family Guy’ creator Seth McFarlane is an adventure filled space dramedy for a whole new generation! Bringing us a fresh new take on the genre while not exactly reinventing the wheel, ‘The Orville‘ tells the story of Captain Ed Mercer (Seth McFarlane) and his crew aboard the titular starship ‘The Orville’ as they explore deep space on behalf of Earth’s interstellar fleet four-hundred years into our future!
The show may sound quite a bit like ‘Star Trek’, and while it certainly has a few comparable qualities, it definitely stands on its own two legs. We were recently lucky enough to sit down with ‘The Orville’s Executive Producers David A. Goodman and Brannon Braga at New York Comic Con 2017 to talk about the show, what cues it’s taking from ‘Trek’, and what makes it a truly unique show to experience on its own!
Is it gratifying to you, now that ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is on, that people are saying “Well ‘Orville’ started it!”?
David A. Goodman: I think what’s interesting about it is actually that… it goes to Seth’s intent, which wasn’t necessarily to appeal to ‘Star Trek’ fans, but to do a show that everybody could watch! We certainly had a discussion about ‘Star Trek’ and us, because people forget that the reason the originals series is still around is that millions of people all over the world watch it! And they continue to watch it! People who aren’t like me, die-hard ‘Star Trek’ fans. They’re just audiences. And Seth created this sort of science fiction show that is intended for a mass audience, just the way that the original ‘Star Trek’ was. That is weirdly the connection. I think that is why people are making that “oh it’s more like ‘Star Trek'”.
Brannon Braga: I also think that it’s a return to form for classical, narrative, standalone storytelling. They deal with some new issue or storyline each week, and it’s a very refreshing break from the highly serialized television that’s on right now. That alone is kind of reminiscent of ‘Star Trek’.
How is working on all of these new aliens and creature effects and designs for this show, as compared to all of the other shows that you guys have worked on?
BB: One of the things that Seth wanted was to do things practically whenever possible. So there’s a beautiful model of The Orville that we shot, and we use the makeup effects. We want to use as little CGI as possible, which I think gives it a little more reality.
DAG: I also think Howard Berger, our makeup artist, Seth has really empowered him to create! To create aliens that aren’t necessarily a little bit of a mask, but are full head and makeup. He’s creating this really visually stunning aliens! It’s really just a joy to watch the creations.
BB: There are a lot more coming! Aliens that we could have never done on ‘Star Trek’! Even though this show has the same budget as most shows, Howard is pulling off some amazing stuff!
Seth is sort of known for his more ‘R-Rated’ humor, do you guys have to find the right balance or push back to decide how far to take it?
DAG: Seth has a very clear idea of where the lines are for the show. And interesting you should say that, but ‘Family Guy’ has been on network television since 1999. It can’t be ‘R-Rated’. It walks the line of what is allowed on television! But Seth, in this case, this isn’t ‘Family Guy’. He isn’t pulling himself back because in his vision of the show, we go to some edges, but that isn’t what the show is about. So it isn’t necessary for anybody to pull him back. It’s sort of baked into his vision.
Looking at the marketing campaign, it seems like the show was perhaps made out to be a lot more comedic than the show actually ended up being. Is that something you guys are careful about in terms of the tone and the balance as the show moves forward?
DAG: I think that the marketing is doing a great job, because we got a great number, and then people came back, and they moved to a harder time slot and we did really well, and people came back. So I have to give Fox a lot of credit because even though they emphasized the comedy, it got people to show up! And I think that the idea of that was… look, I’m a giant geek. You put a spaceship on the show, I’m gonna watch. Because I want to see it! But my sister, who is 60? Who never watches any of these things? She watches the show because the comedy brought her to it, and also because I’m her brother, but she continues to watch it and love it because there are things there for those who are out there who are not instant viewers. From a marketing standpoint, I give them kudos!
BB: We were wondering “is the audience going to accept the drama part of this? Are they going to accept the mixture of it?” and luckily they did! We’re happy!
DAG: When you’re right, you’re right! It was the right way to sell it.
Episode 3 of the show seemed to tackle some serious social issues, do you have plans to do more of that as the series continues?
BB: That’s part of the DNA of the show! We’re going to run into some strange situations that may be relevant today.
Anything in particular that you want to address?
DAG: We have a show dealing with the negative effects of social media, one that deals with religious fanaticism, and a couple of others.
BB: We don’t necessarily come up with an episode to tackle an issue, they usually manifest. But there are more!
You guys have been pulling in some amazing guest stars for the show! We’ve had Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, and Robert Knepper! Is that going to be an ongoing thing, bringing in some heavy hitters?
BB: Well its an effort to get them! I know Seth has an amazing working relationship with Liam and Charlize, and they love working with him. Seth has had years of ‘Family Guy’ and has worked with a lot of amazing actors over the course of that show, and people love him! Actors love working with Seth, so that allows a wide range of people you might not see on network television. But then Robert Knepper is somebody that Seth saw and said, “oh that guy is perfect for that role”, so it’s a mix!
How did you get Rob Lowe to play an alien in the pilot with only seconds of screen time?
DAG: Well, again, same thing. It’d be great if Rob came back, but Rob is a friend of Seth’s and a fan of Seth’s. He’s done ‘Family Guy’and likes working with him so he said “sure, I’ll do it!”. I’m glad you recognized him.
Do you ever hope to get any big ‘Star Trek’ names on this? I know there’s rumblings of Patrick Stewart.
DAG: You’ll have to keep watching! We’ve got some behind the scenes too, Johnathan Frakes and Robert McNeill directed episodes. James Conway did one and he’s done ‘Star Trek’.
BB: Watch and see! It’s very possible!
Seth McFarlane’s ‘The Orville’ stars Adrianne Palicki, Scott, Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Halston Stage, Peter Macon, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, and of course, Seth McFarlane himself. The show airs on Thursday Night’s on Fox! Be sure to stay tuned to ScienceFiction.com for more updates on ‘The Orville’!