There are quite a number of traditional Star Trek fans who feel that now-Hulu‘s The Orville is the superior show over CBS All Access‘ Star Trek: Discovery. While we here at Bleeding Cool may still be on the fence when it comes to that debate, here are a few things I feel can help “win” those fans back.
Make Characters More Grounded
The paradox of Star Trek is you have a crew in the 23rd century, but the more appealing characters audiences relate to fall within certain personality types. Ideally, quite a few would like to be on the outside looking in, grounding ourselves in logic like Spock – but when we look at Kirk, we have someone at times who is willing to delegate, but most of time will rely on his intuition and sheer will. We also have Bones, who’s mainly driven by compassion and empathy. To Bones, it’s hard to fathom how one can perform his/her duties without the drive of emotions, which often puts him at odds with Spock.
Yes, Bones is a “racist” with his Vulcan colleague, but there’s also a mutual respect for one another no matter their difference of opinion – in an almost “military/serving in the same platoon” kind of way. Both Kirk and Bones don’t hold anything against Spock for his superiority complex as a Vulcan any more than Spock holds anything against the two for their emotions.
It’s hard to recreate the camaraderie that the three had, but The Orville comes close when you see how the crew interact with one another. Ed and Kelly, Ed and Gordon, Gordon and John. Claire and Kelly. Even as the relationships just described are strictly human, the compassion and respect for one another has rubbed off on the Mocclan Bortus; the Xelayans Alara and later, Talla; and the Kaylon Isaac, who eventually came to share those similar values that was once foreign to them as non-humans. The crew of the Orville have the kind of relatable bonds you just don’t see in Discovery.
When things weren’t as bad a melodramatic mess on Discovery, things have gotten better when it comes to exploring more interpersonal relationships especially how much better we see Saru develop with Michael. Same goes with Tilly and Stamets and Emperor Georgiou and Michael. When things get too political and over-the-top on exposition, it unnecessarily complicates things for the audience. It won’t kill Discovery to focus more on cohesion among characters.
Stop Being So Blatant with the Fan Service
There are some tongue-in-cheek moments of fan service that didn’t elicit the reaction of “Oh, this is so cool,” but rather “Is this really necessary?” in Trek in recent years.
Given when Enterprise and Discovery were released, it seems like the producers are trying too hard to connect the appearances from canon 50 years ago to the CGI-laden and superior technology of today. Were there seriously thousands of Trek fans who needed some explanation in continuity on why Klingons looked one way at the time of Star Trek: TOS compared to the creative decision to alter their look at the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that ended up explained in Enterprise as a botched experiment from The Eugenics Wars?
Was it killing people to know why the U.S.S. Enterprise inside looked so aesthetically pleasing in the modern films compared to the simple primary colors and blocky consoles of The Original Series, when it was decided in Discovery that Pike was the one who wanted the “retro” look?
Do you want to know how to celebrate the old canon without any gratuitous fan service that didn’t need to be there? How about retelling it your way?
Two of the most successful Star Trek films blatantly evoked Moby Dick unapologetically. One of the most memorable and favorite episodes of TOS was “City on the Edge of Forever,” about a fateful decision made in the past that forever changed the course of history. Do you know how The Orville did their own version to similar effect? Look at season two finale “The Road Not Taken”: instead of Bones saving the woman who ended up preventing the US from entering World War II, you had Kelly deciding not to go on a second date with Ed – who ended up not being captain of the U.S.S. Orville.
That’s how you can celebrate the past without going out of your way to do it – to offer a respectful nod to the fans without patronizing them.
Try a More Non-Serialized Format
For the most part, Star Trek: Discovery did too much over-thinking than necessary. Whether if it’s the long drawn out process of politically dealing with the Klingons in the first season or getting over long-lost feelings of neglect and family issues in the second season, the serialized format hurt the series more than it helped. When it came to the more traditional Trek and The Orville, having a more non-serialized format allowed the curious to tune in any time for a launching point that didn’t make them feel they needed to know seasons’ worth of backstory to play along.
The advantage such enclosed episodes is that it can draw in the viewer from multiple angles and points-of-view. Not everyone warms up to media the same way and having these choices provides more opportunities to draw fans. Don’t get me wrong, Trek has a long-established base that made the first two seasons of Discovery easy to assimilate to by first focusin on popular antagonists the Klingons, and the second season rode on the coat tails of Spock’s popularity.
The Orville didn’t have such foundations weighing it down at times like its counterpart, and it has paid off for the series creatively in a number of ways.
Discovery doesn’t need to be The Orville, but it sure as hell can learn some things from it to help it reach its true Trek potential.