The Orville: New Horizons wrapped up its latest season today with “Future Unknown” — an apt episode title, since The Orville has yet to be renewed. We were already fans of the Seth MacFarlane show, but those “New Horizons” weren’t just an empty promise; season three (the show’s first on Hulu; it’ll soon also be streaming on Disney+) proved to be a triumphantly bigger, better outing. Here are 10 reasons why we’d love to see a season four.
Oh, and if you haven’t caught up on season three, here’s one of these…
The Stakes Feel Real
At the start of season three, we met new character Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters), a traumatized survivor of season two’s war with the Kaylon — a race of robots intent on wiping out all “biologicals.” Gradually and begrudgingly, Charly came to accept Isaac (Mark Jackson), the Orville’s Kaylon crewmember. But in “Domino,” the penultimate episode of season three, Charly ended up sacrificing herself to destroy a weapon with the potential to exterminate all Kaylons in the galaxy — a selfless act that made Kaylon Prime, the robot leader, reconsider his rigid worldview, signalling a chance for a peace that had previously seemed impossible. Charly’s death felt earned, rather than a mere plot device, and though we did feel sorry to see The Orville’s most prominent lesbian character signing off forever, at least it brought her arc to a heroic conclusion. (And hey, a season four could offer a chance for even more diversity and representation among the characters!) It also underlined the fact that nobody is safe on this show, not even one of its main stars.
The Special Effects
The Orville has always shown us new worlds and outer-space action, but season three really leveled up on its technical aspects — especially in the extended battle sequences, which felt genuinely cinematic, and the way they made alien characters and settings seamlessly integrate with the show’s more organic elements.
All the Drama
Props to the writers here. One of this season’s most compelling plots followed Topa (Imani Pullum), who was born — er, hatched — in The Orville season one to Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon) and his mate, Klyden (Chad L. Coleman). Their home planet is almost entirely male; women are seen as inferior, to the point that female babies undergo compulsory gender-reassignment surgery. This is a topic that The Orville has returned to throughout its run; born female, Topa was surgically altered to be male against Bortus’ wishes, but in season three, as a young teen, realises she’s not living life as her true self, and returns to being female. This decision has huge political ramifications, as well as personal ones for Topa and her family and friends, and The Orville manages to handle particularly the latter with surprising sensitivity — especially given the fact that the whole thing is a fairly heavy-handed allegory.
I didn’t really realise it until I was looking back over the entire season, but The Orville has scaled back a bit on its goofy comedy. However, the more serious tone it took overall didn’t blot out all the humour; characters like J. Lee’s Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr and Scott Grimes’ Helmsman Gordon Malloy can always be counted on for random quips to lighten the mood. The show also found humour in some of its more surreal storylines, including “Mortality Paradox,” which saw several Orville crew members trapped in a simulation of an American high school. How else would we have gotten the chance to see Bortus informing a mean girl that she has “a five-head”?
Ruthless, cruel, cunning, and vindictive, Krill leader Teleya (Michaela McManus) could have been painted as a one-note font of evil. But since we’ve known this character for a while now — in previous seasons, she befriended Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) and Gordon when they went undercover dressed as Krill; then, in her own human disguise, she had a fling with Ed — we know Teleya has layers, which makes her actions this season all the more unpredictable and alarming. Sure, she’s currently in Planetary Union custody for her nefarious deeds — but she’s still angry as hell, and the fact that she and Ed have a secret daughter together definitely has “season-four plot fodder” written all over it.
The Alien Cultures
The Kaylon, the Krill, and the Moclans are the main alien species we meet on The Orville, but the show has a way of integrating different aliens into its plot (especially as crew members on the ship) in a way that feels unforced, like this is how a future where humans aren’t always the centre of the universe might actually function. This season, we got a glimpse at a Planetary Union meeting showcasing members from across the galaxy, suggesting just how many more worlds there are for The Orville to visit.
The Guest Stars
Sure, she was just a simulation — but they got the real Dolly Parton to play a Dolly Parton simulation. Did she offer sage advice? Of course. Did she sing a song about it? You know she did.
It’s Not Just a Star Trek Homage (Anymore)
There’d be no Orville without Star Trek, that much is obvious. But despite the similarities, The Orville has managed to distinguish itself from the sci-fi giant that came before (and is still very much boldly going). “It’s this genre that emerged in the 1930s, of a ship in space, captained and crewed very much the same way that a sailing ship was,” MacFarlane told Gizmodo at the beginning of season three. “It’s something that dates back a lot of decades. Star Trek was really the first to take it and turn it into something that really mattered and was a serious form of storytelling. You know, for us… sci-fi right now is very dark. It’s very dystopian. It’s very grim in a lot of ways. It’s very cautionary. And the optimistic, uplifting part of that genre is something we haven’t really seen in a while. So there was a pretty obvious open pocket for us to kind of slip into when we started. How we fit in now is — it’s really up to the audience, I think — what we’re bringing to the table in tone, in structure, in scope, is in a class of its own.”
Dr. Claire Finn
Speaking of Star Trek, Penny Johnson Jerald is a veteran of that franchise, but she plays a completely different sort of character on The Orville. Dr. Claire Finn went through a lot in season three dealing with her rascally kids, reuniting with her ex-husband (who then became overtaken by a hideous alien parasite), and most importantly figuring out her complicated feelings toward Isaac (a robot who has no feelings, who she ended up marrying in the season three finale!), all while healing everyone on the ship and also acting as the voice of reason (most of the time). Look, Claire’s my favourite character, and therefore she’s getting her own spot on this list. More Claire, Hulu! WE DEMAND MORE CLAIRE!
There Are So Many More Stories to Tell
With its (nearly) feature-length episodes, chemistry-laden cast, and high-quality production values — we didn’t even mention the show’s incredible use of music, from its orchestral score to its sly integration of show tunes (Annie on far-future Earth, anyone?) — The Orville: New Horizons felt like you were getting a new movie every week. It kept in its sci-fi lane, but along the way it also brought in romance, horror, high-stakes action, and a bit of comedy to boot. The Orville’s structure allows for both standalone episodes and continuing storylines that introduce new characters and settings in ways that are both logical and entertaining. It sure feels like the show’s storytelling and worldbuilding have just barely begun to scratch the surface — and there’s plenty of room for more.
The Orville’s first three seasons are now streaming on Hulu. Starting August 10, you can also catch them on Disney+.
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