Friday, February 1, 2019

Little River Band - Take It Easy on Me

 This song was rolling around my head for some reason.  Don't know why, just was.

Oh well...

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Orville: A better Star Trek than Star Trek

What a ridiculous name for a StarShip.

The Orville.

Instead of going where no man has gone before...Instead of evoking visions of the first flight with the brothers Wright (as in Orville and Wilbur) 

I think of Redenbacher...

You know, the popcorn guy...

...and maybe that's the point.

But somewhere along the way Seth McFarlane managed to do something no Star Trek Series has done in 4 decades.  

In a time when the "official" Star Trek canon has been bastardized into some weird amalgamation of action movie meets Sci-Fi chic peppered with  liberal doses of gratuitous sex and violence for no other reason than they could.

Here comes a parody, a spoof, the comic relief of the genre that somehow managed to get it right.

The Orville while not as straight-laced as Star Trek: The Next Generation or as moody and lifeless as Discovery has more in common with the original series than either of them.

What made the original Star Trek series good was the writing and the chemistry of the actors.  You didn't have to club the viewer over the head with the message.  The drama made sense.  Tension had a reason and didn't have to be manufactured.  You cared about the characters, maybe even shed a tear at their pain.

Tonight while watching The Orville it happened for me.  Yes, it was campy in spots but there were moments every bit as poignant as the the best Star Trek episodes regardless of who sat in the captain's chair.  It touched me like any good Star Trek episode would.  It made me think.  It made me feel.

The Orville works for the same reason Star Trek worked in the 60's.  We can identify with the characters.  We can see ourselves in their trials and tribulations without being forced to.  I think of The Orville as kind of a Next Generation if Picard had a better sense of humor.

It's a funny show but not Family Guy kind of funny.  The laughs aren't forced, they're natural and fit the narrative.  The kind of thing you might say to a friend in a similar situation.

OK the obvious question....

"It's a show about being on a spaceship with alien people 400 years in the future.  How would I EVER be in a similar situation?"

That's the gist of it, it's relatable, recognizable.  Not in the way that Deep Space 9 was in defiling the rose colored glasses of Roddenberry's Star Trek universe by exposing its dark underbelly.  Its rai·son d'ê·tre  to make the future just as ugly as our present.

No, the problem with many of the Star Trek series that came after Kirk and Spock was that they took themselves too seriously.  Somewhere along the line, they forgot that just shoehorning a current event into a Science Fiction context wasn't enough to be relatable to those of us that were watching.

For any work of fiction to succeed it has to meet us half way.  It has to connect us to their world by reaching a hand out to ours. 

I've seen that happen repeatedly on The Orville.

In "Nothing Left on Earth Excepting the Fishes" a title which references "The King and I" we saw multiple story lines intersecting and filling out the narrative.  The most primary of which spoke to finding common ground.  Something very much in the public conscience and something only addressable through a narrative in the current political climate.

It's no surprise, however, with Star Trek heavy hitters like Andre Bormanis and Brannon Braga showing up in the show's credits.  In the previous episode "Home" we even saw a couple of veteran Star Trek actors in Robert Picardo ( the EMH from Voyager ) opposite John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox from Enterprise)

You don't have all of these celebrated Star Trek alumni  jumping onboard The Orville just because they need a paycheck.  They see it too.

Where Discovery is a militant, lifeless shell devoid of passion or reason for being other than just...being, The Orville has managed to bring us back to what good Sci-Fi should be.

It's not an action movie, it's not sexy or gratuitous just for the sake of being so.  It's not trying to make Star Trek into Mission Impossible: Space Camp.

It's good writing, a good story and a dose of humor just where it's needed.  Even if that means poking fun at it's progenitor.  

And the fans love it.

I've had a very positive view of  The Orville since it launched ( pardon the pun ) but this season seems to be raising the bar.

At the end of "....Fishes" there was a poignant scene where Ed ( Seth McFarlane ) sets free a Trill ( the primary antagonist species ) that  betrayed him by appearing as a human and starting a relationship just to lure him into a Trill trap.  As the scene closed and she boarded her shuttle, Billy Joel's "She's always a woman" played the episode out.

I literally felt that moment.  Maybe it was the maybe....the song fit the story perfectly.

That's good writing, that's making something completely alien relatable. 

That's why The Orville is a better Star Trek than Star Trek...