“Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical.” That line by Saavik from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, is true even to humans. What if funny to one person will explode into an argument with another person? Such is the danger in trying to make a comedy about any Star Trek theme or character.
The early reviews are in on Fox’s new Star Trek spoof, The Orville. It got mediocre ratings in its premier, but fared better in the Nielsen “Live+3” ratings. The initial reviews were mixed, some saying it was hilarious while other seemed more annoyed at its attempt at humor. This latter group is more likely than not to be of the Trekkie variety.
The biggest problem with The Orville is that it seems the writers and McFarlane didn’t take Saavik’s advice. The humor in Star Trek, whether it is in the original series or the latest movie, is mainly subtle. The Orville is attempting to change the humor of Star Trek from subtle to overt. This approach treats their source material as irreverent, at least to the millions of Trekkies and fans of the 50+ year saga. And that is why the disparity of reviews.
The attempt to introduce cameos to the series is head scratching, to say the least. If they are trying to be irreverent, why include actors who have made more than a livable wage from the series? The simple answer is they are seeking validation by having someone stick their head into the show to give it relevancy. One interesting part of the reported cameos is that the actors are not playing, or have not been offered, parts in the series. Perhaps they know better than to annoy or anger their Trekkie fan base.
Another possibility is that the goal of the series is not to promote Star Trek, but to make it irrelevant. There is a good chance that many of the fan reviews are by watchers who either prefer Star Wars or those who don’t like Star Trek at all. This group may also include diehards of the original series who feel betrayed by the newer Star Trek movies. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
But the motivation for including cameos may not be as sinister as it first appears. It depends on who will be appearing. The truth is, although Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto play their parts admirably, the latest movie was seriously lacking the quality of its predecessors. In fact, the entire series may be gasping its last breath, and McFarlane and Fox are filling in the upcoming void. One reason this may be true is the reported demographic of The Orville is men 18-34. That leaves most of the devout Trekkies out of the picture.
We shall see how the show fares, as its viewership reached 11.3 million in the Live+3 ratings. It is doubtful the cameos will make much of a difference, especially to the targeted demographic. It may be paying tribute to the dying series where many of those from the original series have passed away. But if George Takei shows up, that would be the least surprising moment of the show.