Inspired by several science-fiction sources, but mainly the original Star Trek as well as its Next Generation successor, both of which it heavily parodies and pays homage to, the show follows the crew of the starship USS Orville on their episodic adventures. Two seasons were aired on Fox in 2017–2018 and 2018–2019, and the third season is due to be released on Hulu. In Canada, the series was made available on February 23, 2021 on Disney+ under the Star brand, whose account holders can filter out more adult content for child audiences.The Orville is a joint production by Fuzzy Door Productions and 20th Television.
Season one received generally negative reviews from critics, while season two was better-received. The show had relatively successful ratings on Fox, becoming the broadcaster's highest-rated Thursday show as well as Fox's "most-viewed debut drama" since 2015.
The Orville is set on the titular spacecraft: USS Orville (ECV-197), a mid-level exploratory vessel in the Planetary Union, a 25th-century interstellar alliance of Earth and many other planets. The show consists of adventures encountered by the ship's crew, usually involving planet exploration and visits to various parts of the galaxy.
Seth MacFarlane as Captain Ed Mercer, who commands the Orville. Mercer was an up-and-coming officer, on the fast track to commanding his own heavy cruiser by age 40. Following the end of his marriage due to his wife Kelly's adultery, he is cited for being lax in performance of his duties and for being hung over while on duty. Despite this, he is informed that the Orville, a mid-level exploratory ship, needs a new commanding officer, and that he is the man for the job.
Adrianne Palicki as Commander Kelly Grayson, first officer of the Orville and Ed Mercer's ex-wife. The two divorced after Mercer caught Grayson in bed with an alien, triggering Mercer's year-long emotional crisis. Unbeknownst to Mercer, Grayson personally appealed to Admiral Halsey, asking him to give her ex-husband a command, insisting that, despite personal setbacks, he deserved it. Grayson asked that her involvement remain confidential. When Grayson is assigned as the Orville's first officer, she and Mercer agree to set aside their differences, to work as a team and stay friends.
Penny Johnson Jerald as Doctor Claire Finn, chief medical officer on the Orville, holding the rank of lieutenant commander. She has expertise in molecular surgery, DNA engineering and psychiatry. These exceptional credentials gave her her choice of assignments on heavy cruisers. Instead, she chose a mid-level exploratory vessel. As she explains to Mercer in the pilot episode, she prefers to serve where she feels she is needed, finding such assignments more stimulating. When she tells Mercer that she felt that he could use her assistance on his first command, he misinterprets this as indicating her lack of confidence in him, although she denies this. She never found the ideal person to marry, and she chose to become a single mother. Her two sons, Marcus and Ty, travel aboard the Orville with her. Although she repeatedly rebuffs Lt. Yaphit's advances, they become physically intimate in "Cupid's Dagger," after falling victim to a Retepsian sex pheromone.
Scott Grimes as Lieutenant Gordon Malloy, the helmsman of the Orville and Mercer's best friend. Considered the best helmsman in the fleet, he was relegated to desk duty after he attempted to impress a girl with a precarious shuttle docking maneuver, damaging the vessel and losing cargo in the process. Mercer specifically requested Malloy's assignment to the Orville, despite Admiral Halsey's lingering concern over Malloy's history of sophomoric pranks. He is generally comfortable with his reputation for limited intelligence, to the point where he willingly answers a series of questions from Grayson, with the expectation that his answers will demonstrate in a Moclan court that males are not always intellectually superior to females.
Peter Macon as Lieutenant Commander Bortus, the second officer aboard the USS Orville. Bortus is from Moclus, a planet where the primary industry is weapons manufacturing, and whose society is dominated by males. This is explained in the first season as the result of the rarity of female births, one of which occurs when Bortus and his Moclan spouse, Klyden, bear a female at the end of the series' second episode. Per Klyden's wishes, but against Bortus's, the infant undergoes a procedure to transform it into a male following a controversial legal ruling on their home planet. This development, and the attitudes prevalent among Moclans toward females that Klyden himself harbors, subsequently persist as a source of tension for the couple, and is a sensitive matter for Bortus in particular, who harbors resentment over it. It is later revealed in the second-season episode "Sanctuary" that female births are far more frequent than Moclan society publicly admitted, and that an extensive network of adult Moclan females exist in hiding from the Moclan authorities. Among the unique aspects of Moclans' biology is that they urinate only once a year, with this event being of such significance that Moclans return to their home planet with those closest to them to urinate in a sacred spot chosen by each individual. Moclans reproduce by laying eggs, which must be incubated for 21 days by a parent. Politically, Moclus enjoys considerable political clout because it is a weapons manufacturer on which the Union depends.
Halston Sage as Lieutenant Alara Kitan (seasons 1–2, special guest star after "Home"), the Orville's young chief of security. Kitan is from Xelaya, a high-gravity planet that gives her greater-than-human strength in Earth gravity. She can knock down doors and walls, and crush a solid block of titanium and reshape it into a small sphere with her bare hands. She receives the Sapphire Star for her role as acting commanding officer after Mercer and Grayson are abducted by the Calivon during Bortus' incubation of his egg. Sage departed the series in the third episode of the second season when her character resigned her post to be with her family on her home planet after it was discovered that she was losing her strength due to her long period away from her home planet's gravity, using the opportunity to reconnect with her parents.
J. Lee as Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander after "New Dimensions") John LaMarr. He is navigator of the Orville for most of the first season. He and Malloy strike up an immediate friendship in the first episode. Though intellectually gifted, he learned while growing up to hide his intelligence and settle for modest ambitions in order to fit in with his peers. When Grayson discovers his high aptitude in "New Dimensions", she encourages LaMarr to fulfill his potential. As a result, he acquits himself so well during that episode's crisis that he replaces the outgoing Lt. Commander Newton as the Orville's chief engineer.
Mark Jackson as Isaac (named after Isaac Newton), the Orville's science and engineering officer. Isaac is a member of the artificial, non-biological race from Kaylon-1 that views biological lifeforms, including humans, as inferior. In the pilot episode, Isaac explains to Mercer that the Union's Admiralty offered a posting to any willing Kaylon, as an attempt to initiate relations between the two powers. Isaac accepted the offer as an opportunity to study human behavior. During the course of his time with the crew, he comes to observe and understand aspects of human behavior, such as relationships, sarcasm, slang, and practical jokes. Isaac perceives his surroundings with his body's internal sensors. His two glowing blue "eyes" are purely anthropomorphic, with Gordon once putting a Mr. Potato Head face on him without Isaac realizing it. After returning to Kaylon-1, the other Kaylons engage in a campaign of genocide against biological lifeforms; however, Isaac chooses to side with the Union and betray his own people.
Jessica Szohr as Lieutenant Talla Keyali (from season 2), the ship's second Xelayan Chief of Security, who replaces Alara Kitan after her resignation in season 2.
Chad Coleman as Klyden, Bortus's mate and father of their child. He revealed that he was actually born a female and had the procedure to correct his gender when he was an infant, only learning about it when he was first examined by a non-Moclan doctor after joining Bortus on his first ship assignment.
Norm Macdonald as the voice of Lieutenant Yaphit, an amorphous, gelatinous, shapeshifting engineer on the Orville, who repeatedly attempts to obtain a date with Dr. Finn, and frequently flirts with other females on the ship. Despite his telling her in "Cupid's Dagger" that he is in love with her, she does not reciprocate his attraction, though they become physically intimate in that episode after falling victim to a Retepsian sex pheromone. Despite his jocular manner, he was actually the original front runner to replace Newton as the ship's chief engineer before LaMarr was given the position. When the ship was taken over by the Kaylons, Yaphit played a key role in retaking the ship and assured Claire that he would protect her son Ty when Ty was the only person who could assist him at a crucial moment. Yaphit later helped the crew restart Isaac, using his knowledge of Kaylon internal workings gained from experience during the crisis.
Larry Joe Campbell as Lieutenant Commander Steve Newton, chief engineer of the Orville until episode 1.11, when he leaves to take a new job designing space stations, and is replaced by the promoted Lieutenant Commander LaMarr.
BJ Tanner as Marcus Finn, elder son of Doctor Claire Finn.
Kai Wener as Ty Finn, younger son of Doctor Claire Finn. He is the one most attached to Isaac, explicitly stating that he sees Isaac as a father. When the Orville was taken over by the Kaylons, Ty assisted Yaphit in transmitting a distress signal as he was the only other person who could fit in the ship's air vents. When Ty was captured by the Kaylons, the Kaylon Primary ordered Isaac to kill Ty to prove his loyalty to the Kaylon objective, which prompted Isaac to make his choice and turn on his own people to protect Ty.
Mike Henry as Dann, unnamed alien species member of the engineering staff, who suggests music be played in the Orville's elevators and makes unsuccessful attempts to befriend fellow crew members
Rob Lowe as Darulio, the Retepsian archaeologist whose affair with Kelly ended her marriage with Mercer. He came back to the ship to consult during a crucial research mission, where his pheromones caused Mercer and Grayson to be attracted to him and Claire to have sex with Yaphit (although he declines to confirm if his pheromones were the reason for Grayson's original affair).
Giorgia Whigham as Lysella, a barista in "Majority Rule" who helps rescue John on a planet where public votes determine a person's social status; Lysella learns of the crew's alien origin when she sees Alara's ears and subsequently provides them with understanding of how to rig public support in John's favor.
Liam Neeson as Jahavus Dorahl, captain of a derelict multi-generation ship in "If the Stars Should Appear"
Charlize Theron as Pria Lavesque, a time-traveler from the future who attempts to steal the Orville in "Pria"
James Horan as Sazeron, the Krill high priest on the Krill destroyer Yakar
Michaela McManus as Teleya/Lt. Janel Tyler, a Krill teacher serving on Krill destroyer Yakar, who has developed a particular focus on Mercer after he destroyed her ship
Patrick Warburton as Lt. Tharl, an alien who temporarily takes over Alara Kitan's position when she goes back to her home planet. His species has a second esophagus that resembles an elephant's trunk, to make it easier for them to eat large amounts.
MacFarlane originally wrote The Orville as a spec script, which was given a 13-episode order by Fox in May 2016, making it the first live-action television series created by MacFarlane. Following the project's greenlight, MacFarlane stated, "I've wanted to do something like this show ever since I was a kid, and the timing finally feels right. [...] I think this is gonna be something special." According to MacFarlane, The Orville was inspired by The Twilight Zone and Star Trek. He was also encouraged to sell the series due to the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool.
In November 2017, Fox renewed the series for a second season. "Primal Urges", one of the thirteen episodes for season one, was held for the second season due to a gap in broadcast dates caused by the broadcaster's lengthy Christmas programming.
Filming for the second season began in February 2018, and Frakes and McNeill each returned to direct another episode. Production for the second season concluded in October 2018, having spent $69.2 million.
The show uses a 75-piece orchestra for the music in each episode, written by several different composers, such as John Debney, Joel McNeely and Bruce Broughton, who wrote the show's theme and composed the score for the pilot. MacFarlane said "We score it like a movie" and "We really put as much into that as we do into the effects." A soundtrack album for season 1 was released by La-La Land Records on January 22, 2019.
On July 22, 2018, Fox released the trailer for the second season of The Orville at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con. To promote the series, Fox sponsored a series of Orville-themed pedi-cabs for people attending the San Diego Comic Con. In addition, Goodman moderated a Q&A panel on July 21 at the Comic Con alongside cast members MacFarlane, Palicki, Jerald, Scott Grimes, Braga and Jon Cassar.
New episodes aired Thursdays on Fox during the 2017–18 season. On November 2, 2017, Fox renewed the series for a second season, which premiered on December 30, 2018. Fox renewed the series for a third season that was originally scheduled to be released on Hulu late in 2020.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has an approval rating of 30%, with an average rating of 5.22/10 based on 53 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "An odd jumble of campiness and sincerity, homage, and satire, The Orville never quite achieves liftoff."Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 36 out of 100, based on 21 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Liz Miller writing for IndieWire compared the series to Star Trek, calling it a rip-off and "bankrupt: creatively, morally, and ethically." She criticized the lack of creativity, the blatant imitation, and was surprised that the show is "uninterested in being a comedy".
Kevin Yeoman of Screen Rant suggested, "The show might have stood a better chance with a different actor in the captain's chair, one better suited to navigating the inexplicable tonal shifts and maybe earn the audience's patience and empathy in the process."
Tim Surette at TV Guide says, "The truth is, The Orville was never going to win over critics because it's a throwback and goes against everything modern television is. It's not that The Orville doesn't know what it wants it to be, as critics assume, it's that it wants to be a little bit of everything".
On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season has an approval rating of 100%, with an average rating of 7.6/10 based on 14 reviews. The website's critic consensus states: "Fun, focused, and surprisingly thoughtful, The Orville's second season makes good use of its talented crew."
Nick Wanserki of The A.V. Club praised the season's first episode "Ja'loja" for its character-driven drama and focus on low-stakes plots which built upon the first season's efforts to develop the crew of the Orville into a group of people that the audience cared about. Liz Miller of IndieWire awarded The Orville a B rating, expressing hope that the series could evolve into a character-driven "dramedy" set in space, which she described as something unique that could make the show worth watching. Ryan Britt of Den of Geek praised the second season for playing to its strengths as a sitcom and addressing the "wonkiness" of the first season.
Kevin Yeoman of Screen Rant opined that the series "had found its footing and maybe its identity in telling smaller, more character-driven stories, that better serve its sometimes confounding mix of sincerity and irreverence."
Will Harris of The Verge similarly noted that the two-part episode "Identity" demonstrated the series' ability to downplay its humor and "hold its own with any of the more traditional science fiction properties out there."
In the October 15, 2017 episode of The Angry Joe Show, "The Orville Mid-Season Angry Review", host Joe Vargas noted the gulf between the response to the series among critics and viewers, contrasting the Rotten Tomatoes' 19% approval rating from professional critics to the 91% viewer approval rating. Vargas compared this to Star Trek: Discovery, which received an 83% rating from critics but a fairly low audience score of 54%, and stated "Star Trek fans—at least the ones that watch my show—like The Orville way more than they like Star Trek: Discovery". Tim Surette of TV Guide also wrote about the critic-to-viewer Rotten Tomatoes rating, noting the balance had shifted to 21/93, and that its Metacritic score was 36% approval from critics, and 82% from viewers. As a critic himself, Surette notes that, as a throwback, The Orville is an anomaly in modern television, and found showrunner David A. Goodman's admission that MacFarlane wants to vary between serious or dramatic and lighter or comedic episodes a potentially dangerous or risky strategy, but concedes that the show's viewers appear to like it for that reason.
After its premiere on Sunday, September 10, 2017, the show moved to Thursday nights at 9 p.m. In its first broadcast in the new time slot, The Orville became Fox's highest rated Thursday 9 p.m. broadcast in two years. After taking into account DVR and VOD, The Orville was Fox's most-viewed drama debut since the premiere of Empire in 2015.
Season 1 of The Orville was released on DVD on December 11, 2018. Season 2 was released on December 10, 2019.
In 2019, Dark Horse Comics released a pair of two-issue comic book miniseries set between the first and second seasons of The Orville, collected as The Orville: Season 1.5. Both miniseries were written by television series executive producer and writer David A. Goodman, illustrated by David Cabeza, and colored by Michael Atiyeh. The first storyline "New Beginnings" deals with Captain Mercer and Lieutenant Gordon responding to a distress call from a lost Union ship while Commander Grayson has to contend with a domestic dispute between Bortus and his spouse over their son's education. The second storyline "The Word of Avis" deals with the Orville crew investigating a Union ship heading into Krill space.
In 2020, Dark Horse Comics reunited the same creative team for The Orville: Season 2.5, beginning with the two-issue miniseries "Launch Day".
July 17, 2019
David A. Goodman
The Orville: Season 1.5—New Beginnings Release date: February 5, 2020 ISBN 9781506711348
August 14, 2019
"The Word of Avis"
September 11, 2019
October 16, 2019
September 2, 2020
David A. Goodman
The Orville: Season 2.5—Launch Day Release date: March 24, 2021 ISBN 9781506711355
October 7, 2020
November 4, 2020
December 2, 2020
May 5, 2021
David A. Goodman
The Orville: Season 2.5—Digressions Release date: March 16, 2022 ISBN 9781506711362
^ abcd"Identity Part II", The Orville, Season 2, Episode 9. Fox Broadcasting Company. February 28, 2019. Cite error: The named reference "Episode2.9" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
^ abcd"Pria", The Orville, Season 1, Episode 5. Fox Broadcasting Company. October 5, 2017.
^"CITYTV". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on April 11, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2019. Citytv does not bid for dramatic programmes produced in the United States, with the exception of importing the contemporary Star Trek series