The Orville season 3 has come to a close, providing a chance for the show to replicate the triumphant return of the Star Trek: The Original Series cast. Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi comedy-drama is a loving tribute to Star Trek, particularly its 1990s iterations. With a likable ensemble cast and a focus on tackling real-world issues through a sci-fi lens, The Orville has been cited as a better Star Trek show than some modern Trek shows.
The Orville has also featured many Star Trek actors both in front and behind the cameras. Behind the camera, Will Riker actor Jonathan Frakes and Tom Paris actor Robert Duncan-McNeill have both directed episodes. The most notable casting in front of the camera is Penny Johnson-Jerald as Doctor Claire Finn, who gives The Orville a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine connection through her previous role as Benjamin Sisko’s partner Kassidy Yates. However, the uncertain fate of The Orville after season 3 draws some unfortunate links with the fate of Star Trek: The Original Series, while also offering hope for the future.
Following low ratings on NBC, Star Trek: The Original Series was canceled after three seasons in 1969, airing its final episode just over a month before humans first landed on the moon. It feels like a cruel twist of fate, but perhaps the real-life scientific advances of the space race were more exciting to audiences than the fictional ones of the Enterprise crew. Seth MacFarlane’s show faces a similar problem, and The Orville season 4 is currently in doubt. The cancelation of Star Trek: TOS in 1969 was not the end of the Enterprise crew’s story, however, and they returned four years later for Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1973 and for Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. In the face of uncertainty about future seasons, a series of Orville movies could, like the original Star Trek movies, secure the show’s legacy.
How The Orville Can Replicate Star Trek’s Movie Successes
One of the main problems facing The Orville season 4 is that the cast was released from their contracts after they completed filming season 3. Depending on how successful the actors are in securing long-term future projects, reuniting the Orville crew for another 10-episode season could prove difficult. This wasn’t a problem for the Star Trek movies as the series entered the 1980s, allowing William Shatner to juggle his titular role in T.J. Hooker with reprising Captain Kirk. Family Guy‘s Seth MacFarlane, who creates, writes, directs, and stars in The Orville has multiple TV projects, including an upcoming Ted show. Therefore, an Orville movie every few years could be an easier prospect for MacFarlane than mounting a full season.
The Orville season 3 has already experimented with feature-length storytelling, with many of the episodes clocking in at almost 80 minutes long. Some of the episodes have been action-packed epics, such as the sci-fi horror movie episode “Shadow Realms,” or The Orville‘s Star Wars-inspired episode, “Domino.” The show’s visual effects team has previously received an Emmy for their impressive VFX work and pushed themselves even further throughout The Orville season 3. As the show is already delivering movie-level storytelling and VFX, The Orville‘s exploration of the new horizons of movie-making is the logical next step.
Despite the show’s astute political commentary, The Orville doesn’t have the same cultural cache as Star Trek: The Original Series, which makes a theater release for a potential Orville movie unlikely. However, the show’s future is currently dependent on how well it performs when it moves to Disney+ in August. The current streaming landscape favors IPs with a demonstrable fanbase, and as viewers make their love of The Orville known on social media, a series of streaming exclusive movies could be seen as a viable option for the show’s future.
All episodes of The Orville: New Horizons are now streaming on Hulu.