It Has A Better Score
The only parts of Discovery’s theme that are good are the beginning and end which just reuses the iconic motifs from the original series. The rest sounds like a Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones) wannabe, and if the music didn’t make it apparent, the diagram/field book look to the visuals make it clear this was the intention. Now compare that to this:
Gorgeous, sweeping, adventurous, spacefaring music. A theme that’s reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme for The Next Generation but unique enough to stand on its own. It gets in your head, you can hum it, and every time it’s heard in the show you can’t help but put on a beaming smile.
The Crew Is More Diverse
The cast of Discovery is mostly humans. There’s only one character known so far to be an alien and that is Saru. We’ve seen other aliens, like the Daft Punk looking helmsmen, but they’re just background characters. The rest are humans who are shady and villainous (Lorca), not very likable (Paul Stamets), or trying too hard to be likable (Tilly). They’re all a bit too one-dimensional with the exception of Michael Burnam who is the shows best character.
Also, the showrunners have already made it clear the Klingons are inspired by Trump supporters, with their “Remain Klingon” no doubt being a jab at right-wing views on preserving heritage and culture. Star Trek has always been progressive leaning but never this on the nose and antagonistic about it. It alienates the primary demographic who watches science fiction.
The crew of The Orville, on the other hand, consists of a white male Captain who is actually a good guy. A Female XO. A machine supremacist robot. A Klingon looking alien of an all-male species. A Bajoran looking alien girl who is also the security officer. A ginger and a black guy as the flight crew, and a Black woman as the doctor. Yet despite all of these differences none of it is made to matter in any pretentious way. They’re a multi-dimensional team with positive and negative qualities. Everyone can find someone to root for.
The Episodes Are Self Contained Storylines
The serial nature of Discovery makes it feel nothing like Star Trek. In past series you could point people to specific episodes as great examples of storytelling and people could watch those episodes with no prior knowledge of the show just fine. Discovery is trying too hard to copy Game of Thrones with its episodic nature and it falls flat. No episode so far could be recommended on its own.
We’re five episodes into the Orville and already there are go-to classics. Episode 2 is a great one focusing on Alara having to assume the role of leadership, failing, and then learning and growing from her mistakes. Episode 3 focuses on Bortus and his newborn baby and deals with the topic of giving a child a sex change. There’s even a last act courtroom sequence reminiscent of many Trek episodes). Episode 4 explores a really interesting sci-fi concept involving a generation ship. Episode 5 guest stars Charlize Theron as a time-traveling antique dealer who gets romantically involved with Captain Mercer only for it to not end well (similar to TNG 5×21: The Perfect Mate).
Actual Star Trek Actors and Directors Worked On It
The ships doctor is Penry Jerald, aka Kasidy Yates from Deep Space Nine. Episodes have been directed by Robert McNeil (Voyager), Brannon Bragga (TNG, 2 Trek movies), James L. Conway (Deep Space Nine) and Jonathan Frakes (TNG’s own William T. Riker).
Discovery does have Bryan Fuller who worked on Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and Alex Kurtzman, who worked on the JJ Abrams films, but it seems like no one else involved on the show really has any understanding of what makes Star Trek special and unique.
It Has A Bright, Hopeful, Optimistic View Of The Future
Most importantly, when you watch The Orville it’s colorful, the music is splendid, the characters are charming, and the world of the future is shown as a technological utopia. The hallmark of Star Trek is that yes, it is a socialist fantasy, but unlike a lot of sci-fi that portrays the future as dystopian or post-apocalytpic, Trek portrays a future where we don’t screw things up and you want that fantasy to come true. Thus, this is where Star Trek: Discovery fails the most. Its vision of the future is dull and sterile by comparison, and its storylines far too grimdark. That’s why I intend to tune out of Discovery and probably just watch The Orville going forward.
The Orville airs Thursdays at 9:00 P.M. EST on Fox
Note: Consider this our review for the first 5 episodes of The Orville. We’ll be doing individual episodes for this show now instead of Discovery.