Much like the titular ship roaming the galaxy searching for adventure, The Orville found itself hopping from platform to platform in recent years. Despite a lukewarm reception to the first season, Fox had announced that The Orville had been renewed for a third season, as the show had found a more comfortable niche, and a steady audience in season 2.
Almost as if by galactic design, cue two major ‘big bangs’ in the 20th Century Fox television universe: an acquisition by Disney and global pandemic. While production had begun on season 3 over three years ago, the production team had no idea where the show would end up, but the Disney-owned streaming service Hulu warped in to save the now fan-favorite.
The hour-long sci-fi adventure series, starring creator Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Peter Macon, Scott Grimes, and J. Lee is set 400 years in the future and follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory spaceship and its crew. They voyage out into the universe to meet the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the problems of everyday life.
Den of Geek had the opportunity to sit down with the cast and production team to discuss what we can expect from the long awaited third season. Here’s what we know so far.
New Addition to the Crew
Having seen two of the first episodes of season 3, one of the strongest additions is new cast member Anne Winters as Ensign Charly Burke. In the very first episode, she makes an impact not only on the show, but with the crew of the Orville as well.
Winters describes the impact Burke has as explosive from her very first scene, “She definitely comes in very strong in her point of view and she’s not holding back her thoughts”.
As much as Burke finds her place among the crew, and finds friends and allies, she doesn’t get along with everyone. She has to find a careful balance between duty and her own personal beliefs, which creates some amazing dramatic tension.
Tackling important issues
Winters’ welcome addition helped evolve past storylines, including one of the greatest threads from season 2 – the war with the race of artificial lifeforms, the Kaylon. Fans of the show knew that the crew of the Orville and the Planetary Union may have won the battle, but the war is far from over. The death and devastation of the climactic battle in season 2 has major ramifications throughout this universe, and that tension is embodied in the interaction between Ensign Burke, and Kaylon crew member, Isaac (Mark Jackson).
Winters gave further details on Ensign Burke, detailing “She’s one of the only survivors from one of the other ships that [the Kaylon] destroyed. So she’s coming in with a massive hatred towards the Kaylon. Burke and Isaac definitely have a massive storyline and arc, and I’m excited for the audience to see that”.
Jessica Szohr, who plays Chief of Security, Lieutenant Talla Keyali, boasts how proud she is of season 3 and the important issues the addresses. “I’m so excited for everyone for this whole season, in terms of the subjects that we tackle”.
Already hinted in the trailer for season 3 are the racist undertones Ensign Burke and some of the crew show towards Isaac, and on top of that, season 3 even promises to deal with extremely important issues like suicide. This subtextual political and social examination of important topics is undoubtedly what has drawn the consistent fan base The Orville was searching for. Many classic Star Trek fans; card carrying admirers of the original Kirk era or The Next Generation have gravitated towards The Orville as the show has become the perfect continuation of the Gene Roddenbery school of writing. The Orville has become just as skillful at writing contemporary metaphors hidden in plain sight, through a futuristic science-fiction lens.
The Serious Tone First Found In Season 2
That is by no means a coincidence, as the production and writing team of The Orville are heavy hitters in the classic ‘Trek’ world. Executive Producer of The Orville, Brannon Braga wrote approximately 50 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise combined, and penned the first two entries of the Next Generation feature films. Fellow EP, David A Goodman also brought his production experience from Enterprise to give ‘Orville’ that Star Trek flare.
The Orville had arguably one of the most drastic shifts in tone from its premiere season to its sophomore effort in season 2. Not quite finding its footing with the humor Seth MacFarlane’s other shows are known for, it shifted to a more consistently dramatic and darker tone in season 2. That change, as mentioned, really found an audience hungry for the spacefaring adventures they watched as a child.
Goodman says every ounce of credit for that decision falls solely on MacFarlane. “Seth made that decision. We’ve gotten away from leaning into the comedy a little more, and that really spoke to Seth. He’s a master of comedy, I’ve worked with him for over 20 years, nobody understands comedy better than him, and he was leaning into that at the beginning, [but] now he says, ‘No, this is a drama’, and that is what the show is”.
Braga explains the show now prides itself on not being afraid to explore some very “serious stuff”, and uses his brilliantly written Star Trek: First Contact film as a guide.
“First Contact is a good example of a balanced picture. It’s scary. It’s emotional. It’s fun, and oftentimes funny. And that’s everything that Orville aspires to be”.
As much as the show has grown, and will continue to evolve in season 3, The Orville would have never made it past its pilot if it weren’t for the popularity of MacFarlane’s humor.
The aforementioned balance that Braga discussed comes only if The Orville remembers its roots. While arguably MacFarlane’s most mature show, it has to maintain at least some of the lightheartedness the comedic writer is known for. Scott Grimes, who plays Lieutenant Gordon Malloy on The Orville, and voices Steve Smith on McFarlane’s American Dad says the Orville is still finding that perfect balance, but there’s no one better for the job than Seth.
Season 3 also teases a little Star Wars to go with the Star Trek, perhaps merely a bit of brilliant subconscious cross-content marketing by Disney, but an aspect Grimes says we should expect from McFarlane.
“He is such a fan of all the things. There’s some Galaxy Quest, there’s some Guardians of the Galaxy, and we’re there to bring it all together into one show”.
Drama, comedy and science-fiction aren’t the only genres the show dips into. Grimes, an accomplished singer, had a memorable musical moment in season 2, and there were a couple of cast members that hinted that may happen again in season 3.
The easy answer is, as much as you can expect drama, or lightheartedness, when it comes to a McFarlane show, the one thing you can expect… is the unexpected. Chad L. Coleman, who plays Klyden, simply put it as “no exaggeration… you’re not gonna believe what you get to experience.”
The Orville: New Horizons premieres Thursday, June 2 on Hulu.