Why is The Orville so good?

Some of the best Trek was GrimDark Trek. Off the top of my head.

  • Wrath of Khan

  • First Contact

  • The City on the Edge of Forever

  • In the Pale Moonlight

  • Year of Hell

  • Call to Arms

  • Balance of Terror

  • Chain of Command

  • Way of the Warrior

  • The Best of Both Worlds

I’m not sure I’d characterize “First Contact” as among the best Trek, but little of that list is grimdark, which I’d characterize as dystopian or celebrating (or at least emphasizing and featuring) characters of ambiguous personal morality and tossing gratuitous violence into the mix.

Basically, bad stuff gets featured and has been featured on TV as long as there has been TV. But it’s a more recent SF/Fantasy trend to (1) blur or eliminate that line between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys and (2) feature somewhat dismal settings where the conditions are what they are and there’s little hope that the human condition can or will improve - and I don’t mean technology but the general elevation of personal principles and ethics that lead to ethical conundrums rather than asserting rightness at the end of a phaser.

How on earth is this grimdark? Or most of that list?

Many scenes in First Contact are just poorly lit, does that count?

Dim lighting indicates that the show is Very Serious.

I can’t stand the current fashion for semi-darkness and washed-out colors. That’s another reason I like The Orville. I’m looking forward to Season 3.

This. I watch TOS from the beginning real time, in 1966, and the reason it appealed to me and a lot of other people is that it offered hope in a dark time. Even better, it subtly (usually) dealt with issues hardly anyone else was dealing with on TV in those days. The first season of The Orville did all these things.
Having a long arc about a war is a cheap way of generating scripts, and I realize that a lot of people like this, but I don’t. Errand of Mercy in the first season was written to introduce the Klingons as opponents but prevent the series from becoming a war story.
Later versions of Star Trek were run by people who hated Roddenberry’s vision. Some DS9 episodes were pretty specific about it. They lost me as a fan. McFarlane got me back.

Though Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started and ended before 9/11

A show that does that sort of thing well, as BSG initially did, can be terrific. For awhile, BSG leaned into the concept of the effect it would have on people if they were perpetually under siege and stuck on a bunch of ships. What would they eat/drink? How would it affect people when they were forced to do jobs they had never done before? How do they manage their affairs? Do you keep the systems you had before or create new ones? BSG was grim, but it explored that grimness in a clear, logical way, at least until they got into the dumber stuff and started to forget the situation the characters were in. (Where did they keep coming up with clean, perfectly tailored clothing?)

“Discovery” and “Picard” are grim because they think that’s what’s cool.

But they can also make for terrible TV. I won’t say that Stargate Universe going that way in the beginning was what killed the series, but it was a massive departure from what I had liked about Stargate SG-1 (and Andromeda, but I never watched much of Andromeda). Sure, there were perils. Yes, bad things happened to people. But it was generally optimistic and worked well with the idea that humanity is at a disadvantage but could both learn from the enemy and also build alliances. Stargate Universe started with that series of “We’re on a ship, we’re all about to die if we don’t solve this issue” that went on for several episodes and didn’t make for compelling TV. The casting and characters didn’t help.