REVIEW: ‘The Orville: New Horizons,’ Episode 1 – “Electric Sheep”

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The Orville: New Horizons

The Orville: New Horizons is a Hulu Original Series created by Seth MacFarlane. The premiere, “Electric Sheep,” takes place after the events of the second season as the U.S.S and Orville are undergoing repairs. Tensions aboard the ship are high concerning crew member Issac (Mark Jackson) — especially since Issac’s fellow machines, the Kaylon, have launched an interstellar assault against all organic life that’s claimed the lives of friends and family. Despite the best efforts of Orville Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) and first officer Commander Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), things get to the point where the usually calm and collected Issac makes a decision that shocks the Orville crew — especially Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald).

Much like Stranger ThingsThe Orville is making a grand return after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying production. That delay turns out to have been worth it, especially in the visual effects department – “Electric Sheep” opens with a massive space battle between the Planetary Union’s fleet and the Kaylon ships. Bolts of crimson and cobalt energy streak through the stars as the Orville and its sister ships weave in and out of the enemy’s fire. MacFarlane, who wrote and directed “Electric Sheep”, looks to have pulled inspiration from J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek films while staging this opening and that same level of craft continues to permeate the hour-long running time, including a sequence where Orville pilot Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) flies a sleek shuttlecraft through a training simulation. Clearly, Hulu gave a larger budget to MacFarlane for New Horizons, and from the look of things, every penny went into making this a good-looking show.

The Trek comparison also extends to the plot of “Electric Sheep,” as Issac deals with his shipmates turning on him and Finn works through her own feelings. MacFarlane has been fairly open about his love for the Trek franchise. There’s even an episode of his animated mega-hit Family Guy where Stewie Griffin kidnaps the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. When it debuted, The Orville drew unfavorable and favorable comparisons to Trek. But MacFarlane’s love for the series helps him craft something entirely new; he infuses New Horizons with the spirit of Trek as well as homages to its world. And even with the Trek franchise experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks to shows like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Discovery (ironically, the latter premiered around the same time as The Orville), New Horizons manages to carve out its place in the sci-fi streaming world by giving its characters just as much focus as its visuals.

It helps that MacFarlane is backed by a great cast, particularly Jackson and Jerald. Jackson’s performance as Issac has mostly served as a homage to Data on The Next Generation, but this season firmly parallels him and Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager. Both Seven and Issac have a link to a terrifying, inhuman force in the form of the Borg and the Kaylon, respectively. And much like Seven, Issac has to get used to his other crewmates shunning him or looking at him with little more than hatred. Jerald runs the gauntlet of emotions in this episode. Not only does Dr. Finn have to deal with her feelings for Issac, as the two briefly dated in Season 2, but also her anger at the fact that he kickstarted the Kaylon invasion. The standout of the episode is Anne Winters as newcomer Charly Burke, who blames Issac for losing her friend during the Kaylons’ initial attack. The scenes between Burke and Issac are loaded with emotion, as Winters pours her heart into her character’s grief.

The Orville: New Horizons features a level-up in terms of craft and story as Seth MacFarlane’s space series settles into its new home at Hulu. If you’re a die-hard Star Trek/Star Wars fan, or you’re looking for other sci-fi series to start, I’d highly suggest binge-watching the previous seasons of the Orville and then starting New Horizons. Hopefully, future episodes will keep up this level of quality.

The season premiere of The Orville: New Horizons is available to stream on Hulu. New episodes premiere on Thursdays.


The Orville: New Horizons
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

The Orville: New Horizons features a level-up in terms of craft and story as Seth MacFarlane’s space series settles into its new home at Hulu. If you’re a die-hard Star Trek/Star Wars fan, or you’re looking for other sci-fi series to start, I’d highly suggest binge-watching the previous seasons of the Orville and then starting New Horizons. Hopefully, future episodes will keep up this level of quality.