“When we began this, it was designed to be a little bit more of a hybrid, straddling the line pretty evenly between comedy and drama,” said Seth MacFarlane, creator of Fox’s sci-fi adventure series, The Orville. Speaking at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmy confab on the Paramount lot, MacFarlane — who is known for his comedic writing on Family Guy, American Dad! et al. — was nervous about how the audience would react to a different tone.
“I have been a big sci-fi fan since I was a kid,” he said. “I think secretly that was the show I wanted to do, but I figured there’s no way in hell anyone would swallow that from me.”
MacFarlane, who also stars as Capt. Ed Mercer and directed some episodes, was joined onstage by fellow executive producers Brannon Braga and Jon Cassar and production designer Stephen Lineweaver.
Ultimately, the darker approach played out well for the show. “With an hourlong show, in order to sustain it, you have to have real stakes,” MacFarlane said. “That was my fear at the beginning. If people aren’t with us on that side of it, we’re probably not going to last very long. But they were, so we really leaned into that.”
Currently in its second season, the show set 400 years in the future follows the adventures in the final frontier of the USS Orville, as its human and alien crew tackles the battles, politics and workplace drama of galactic travel.
Speaking on The Orville‘s obvious Star Trek influence, MacFarlane said: “Star Trek was the first franchise to bring it to a point that reached the mainstream in such a massive way. In many ways, it does have ownership on this idea of a captain on a bridge of his spaceship instead of a sailing ship. But it’s become the convention. You can’t help but go there if you’re doing this type of show. … You just try to start by learning from what your predecessors have figured out and then take it off in its own direction.”
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