Highly Illogical: 'Orville' TV Space Spoof Launches Tonight

The Orville spaceship
The eponymous ship in "The Orville," a new space-comedy show premiering Sept. 10 on the Fox network. (Image credit: Michael Becker/Fox)

A new "Star Trek" spoof takes flight tonight (Sept. 10) on the Fox network. "The Orville" is a space-comedy and drama show set 400 years in the future aboard the USS Orville. The show debuts at 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. CDT; check local listings for other times.

The show has a lot of Seth MacFarlane (creator of the "Family Guy" animated sitcom) in it, and his interest in space is well-known: He was an executive producer of the new series of "Cosmos," and he also donated a large collection of astronomer and science popularizer 'Carl Sagan's personal papers to the Library of Congress in 2012.

MacFarlane is creator, executive producer and star of "The Orville," which is directed by Jon Favreau. [The Evolution of 'Star Trek' (Infographic)]

The crew of the "Orville": from left, Penny Johnson Jerald, Mark Jackson, Seth MacFarlane, Peter Macon, Scott Grimes, Adrianne Palicki, J. Lee and Halston Sage. (Image credit: Noah Schutz/Fox)

"In this day and age of dystopian science fiction, where everything is grim and dark and depressing, I think there's an appetite for a show that is aspirational and optimistic and hopeful and maybe provides a blueprint of the future we could have if we get [it] together," MacFarlane said in a San Diego Comic Con panel in July, archived on YouTube.

The show promises to showcase the typical humorous problems of a workplace. One such situation involves a newly divorced couple working on the crew: Planetary Union officer Ed Mercer, played by Seth MacFarlane, and first officer Kelly Grayson, played by Adrianne Palicki. "It's kind of a fun and tumultuous thing," Palicki said at the panel. [The 10 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows Ever]

While on the surface, this may sound like just another "Star Trek" derivative, the actors said the audience will see something different. Some of the usual tropes have their own unique, humorous spin, they said. 

For example, the security officer (Alara Kitan, played by Halston Sage) is young and inexperienced and likely recruited only because her home planet happens to be a high-gravity environment, giving her a physical advantage.

Instead of an android hoping to be more human (a theme found in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," for example), there's an artificial life-form (Isaac, played by Mark Jackson) on the Orville who thinks biological life-forms are terrible.

The crew also shared some light moments from filming and from their personal histories. J. Lee (who plays navigator Jon Lamarr) recalled that his first gig in Hollywood was as a receptionist for "Family Guy," and it's strange to look back on that today, he said. "I'm taken aback, because I always wanted to be up here," he said.

Peter Macon (who plays the character Bortus, an alien from a single-sex species) has to wear a full-helmet mask to do his work. He said it was a fun experience, until some ants crawled into the helmet.

"They go and they seal me up," Macon recalled of the makeup crew, "and I feel this…" — he began slapping at his head. "Ah! Ah! Ah! And I'm glued in, and I can't rip it [the mask] off as I'll rip my skin off. But otherwise, it's good."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace