CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery and FOX’s The Orville are two wildly different, yet equally valid, takes on Star Trek. Despite only one of them being a canonical Trek show, both series deliver a unique perspective on the franchise, sure to appease different kinds of Star Trek fans. Those that yearn for Roddenberry’s nuanced, yet optimistic vision for the future (and thus, the future of storytelling) are likely to prefer Discovery, while The Orville is sure to satisfy fans who prefer a level of familiarity and comfort in their Trek entertainment, delivering digestible and very tight case-of-the-week installments that pack a sci-fi punch.
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But while each show has something for a kind of Trek fan, we wanted to look at which show does Star Trek better overall? Well, the easy answer is, of course, Discovery. But then, there’s the complicated answer.
Discovery is the true evolution of the franchise — what it’s meant to be in 2017 — while The Orville is what you remember about Trek on a more superficial level. This isn’t to say The Orville is a worse show; it’s just that it sets out to do something entirely different, focusing on comedy and not pushing sci-fi boundaries as Star Trek was intended to do per Gene Roddenberry’s vision.
The Orville succeeds in keeping the classic Trek TV format intact. The original Star Trek was renowned for its successfully tight, done-in-one, five-arc storytelling, and The Orville does a similar thing, offering easy-to-digest one-off episodes that don’t rely too heavily on what came before. In this regard, it’s very similar to classic Star Trek. It also follows a Trek tradition of relatively simplistic cinematography.
On the other hand, Discovery shakes up the visual aesthetic of Trek, borrowing a bit from J.J. Abrams’ lens flare style, but injecting a more impressively cinematic scope. Where The Orville spends its time developing a large cast of characters (in the tradition of Trek spinoffs like The Next Generation), Discovery has yet to bother with digging deeper into its secondary characters, instead choosing to focus its time (mostly) on Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham. Discovery spins our notion of a Starfleet crew — and the norms of introducing them — on its head.
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