The Orville is a show most folks weren’t prepared for. Seth MacFarlane’s latest work combines comedy with sci-fi sensibilities and I think most people expected a comedy as over the top and crude as Family Guy. What they discovered however is the show took its science fiction very seriously, told meaningful allegorical stories, and had production values that could match Star Trek. Titan Books’ The World of the Orville further proves just how serious MacFarlane and Fox made a show commanding respect.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Four-time Emmy Award winner Seth MacFarlane creates a new sci-fi dramedy universe on the Fox Network with his new show, The Orville. MacFarlane plays Captain Ed Mercer, an officer in the Planetary Union in the 25th century who gathers a crew from the farthest reaches of the galaxy–his ex-wife included–to man the exploration vessel Orville and patrol the mysteries of deep space. Filled with alien species, exotic worlds, futuristic technology and awe-inspiring spaceships, this lavish companion to The Orville takes you behind the scenes through concept art, on-set photography and technical schematics to explore the show’s production design, costumes, makeup prosthetics and visual effects. This is the ultimate guide to this new space-faring epic adventure.
Why does this matter?
Commercials and promos don’t give this show enough credit in how thorough and serious they took the production of a new show that was a lot like Star Trek. This book shows how much work goes into making aliens look real, planets believable, and the general aesthetic of a sci-fi show stand out. After reading this book I ended up having far more respect for the show that I already deeply liked.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The chapters on the ship itself are excellent.
Jeff Bond has created quite a thorough art book here, covering the major alien designs, planet designs, and the creation of sets and the Orville ship itself. Since I’ve seen every episode this book served as a nice reminder of the intricate and varying episodes of the show. You’ll come away from reading this book with a new appreciation for the show in part because so much work had to be done on every single episode. It’s quite clear Seth MacFarlane had a unique vision to dazzle viewers with each episode and never hold back. You get the sense from the many art designers and directors who chime in on this book that the challenge to make this show was great, but that challenge was rewarding too. That makes this book a rewarding read in itself because you get a good sense of what production was like.
The book is organized first by three foreword pages by David A Goodman, Brannon Braga, and Jason Clark, then goes into ship design, ship interior design and characters, weapons, the Krill, and finally locations. Each section is rather thorough with the ship and interior design getting a lot of attention. The character pages offer a quick quote from each actor and a full page of the character in full profile.
Seth MacFarlane is quoted quite a bit throughout the book and designers of all sorts tend to quote him as well, reminding readers this is his creation on many levels. Some surprising takeaways include Jon Favreau helping out with production, Seth MacFarlane’s approach to the orchestral score, and the conscious decision to make the ship iconic but like nothing we’ve seen before. It’s fascinating to find out many of the production designers (some of which worked on feature films) found the challenge to produce entire worlds and new races from scratch rather taxing and yet they pulled everything off splendidly.
My money is on Charlize Theron popping up in season 2.
It can’t be perfect can it?
While MacFarlane is quoted quite a bit you do get the sense he wasn’t personally involved in making this book. A foreword by him would have been nice, although writer David Goodman does give you a sense of MacFarlane’s passion for the project via his point of view from the writers room. Still, I’d have liked to see more from MacFarlane seeing as he was involved with every aspect of production.
My only other gripe was the quality of some of the production stills. Seeing as this is a TV show I imagine the on set photography resources are limited and it shows as some images were grainy, or in one case, all of the actors in the picture had their faces blurred out. I find it hard to believe they couldn’t find a better picture than the one that didn’t have an okay from the actors to use and it sticks out like a sore thumb. You can also tell some of the 3D rendering images are at times rather rudimentary (like a badly Photoshopped Seth MacFarlane pasted into a scene) and again this may be because the TV production didn’t have a budget warranting better looking 3D images.
Is It Good?
I’ve reviewed my fair share of sci-fi and Star Trek art books and this new Orville book stands up there in quality and thoroughness. This book not only reveals the surprising amount of work it took to make this show look good, but also how serious this once thought silly comedy is taking its allegorical sci-fi. Give this book a look and I guarantee you’ll respect the show just a little bit more.