Over six months ago, The Orville wrapped its third season, titled The Orville: New Horizons, with the aptly named episode “Future Unknown.” The Season 3 finale saw Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) and Isaac (Mark Jackson) tie the knot in a beautiful ceremony, with Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) officiating. Alara Kitan (Halston Sage) returns for the occasion. The Kaylon and humans peacefully converge in one space in a historic meeting. Everyone feels the love — even Ed and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) join hands toward the episode’s end, indicating they might rekindle their romance. 

While the outing felt like a series finale, I believe there are more stories to tell. MacFarlane sat down with Decider in August 2022 to convey his thoughts regarding a fourth season and his hopes the show will continue. Fast forward to January 2023, wherein TVLine published a somewhat cryptic and bleak update. Editor-in-Chief Matt Webb Mitovich asked Craig Erwich, President of ABC Entertainment, Hulu & Disney Branded Television Streaming Originals, if the latter could reveal any news. Here’s what Erwich had to say: 

“We don’t have anything to share right now. It’s a great show, and I know that the fans loved having it back in their lives. And Seth [MacFarlane] did a great job, uniquely as he can, in front of and behind the camera. But we don’t have anything to share right now.”

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It’s a bit vague as far as quotes are concerned. Erwich could be telling the truth, and the network doesn’t have “anything” to share, or it’s code for something else (I’ll take my tinfoil hat off now). Like MacFarlane, I’m holding fast to hope we’ll get a Season 4 renewal sooner rather than later. In the interim, allow me to present a short list of reasons The Orville deserves a Season 4. 

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers can be found in these here parts. Proceed with caution. 

Topa and Heveena admire the luminites on The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 8 "Midnight Blue."

The Orville: New Horizons — “Midnight Blue” – Season 3 Episode 8 — Topa (Imani Pullum) and Heveena (Rena Owen), shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

The Performances 

The Orville has always boasted solid performances across the board, but New Horizons catapulted said performances to the next level. One of the episodes that best showcases the depth and nuance these actors bring to the table is “A Tale of Two Topas.” Peter Macon infuses Lt. Cmdr. Bortus with poignancy and heart as a father trying to subvert deeply entrenched, narrow-minded Moclan traditions in favor of supporting his daughter.

Chad L. Coleman does the hard thing by working against Macon as Klyden struggles, like some parents of trans kids, to understand. We don’t leave this episode despising Klyden because Coleman’s sensitive approach to his performance reminds us that some folks fear what they don’t understand. Of course, plenty of others are vile bigots with nary an empathetic bone in their bodies, but that’s not what The Orville depicts with this family. Eventually, Klyden returns to his loved ones and accepts Topa for who she is. 

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Imani Pullum blew me away, especially as a newcomer. I hadn’t seen her in anything before The Orville. She doles out a bold, courageous, triumphant performance as a girl living as her true self. I watched Pullum’s scenes in a state of admiration between fits of blubbering. 

All this to say, the performances in this series are top-notch. From Lt. Gordon Malloy’s (Scott Grimes) refusal to leave his family from another timeline to Claire’s turbulent love story with Isaac and Ensign Charly Burke’s (Anne Winters) emotional death scene, Season 3 showed us how versatile these performers are. 

Dolly Parton sits in a cabin while looking intently at Heveena on The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 8 "Midnight Blue."

The Orville: New Horizons — “Midnight Blue” – Season 3 Episode 8 — Dolly Parton, shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

The Stories 

It’s abundantly clear MacFarlane derives inspiration from Star Trek. Season 3 feels inherently more like Trek than the first two installments, adopting a more serious tone and discarding some of the humor. Not entirely, of course. Never forget Bortus’s Elvis impersonation. I digress. Anyway, these stories are immersive and entertaining while eliciting powerful emotions from viewers and offering food for thought. 

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Some of the incredible plotlines covered in Season 3 besides Topa’s powerful story include dealing with the fallout from the Kaylon war in Season 2, fostering peace with the Krill, rescuing Gordon from another timeline, questioning whether AI can genuinely feel emotions and saving a Moclan female colony. New dynamics, such as the brief tryst between Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee) and Lt. Cmdr. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr), were explored. The Dolly Parton guest stars in an episode. What’s not to love about that? 

These onscreen tales are as compelling as they are enjoyable. 

Dr. Claire Finn smiling at Isaac on The Orville.

Pictured: Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn on THE ORVILLE. Photo courtesy of The Orville Wiki.

The Themes

I love sci-fi because it allows us to examine our modern world through a futuristic lens. Thematically, The Orville runs the gamut from proudly supporting trans lives and addressing capitalism’s detrimental effects to championing the environment and tackling artificial intelligence. This show never shies away from relevant, timely topics that deserve a platform. It always has something important to say. 

Unresolved Storylines

“Future Unknown” could feasibly serve as a series finale; however, unresolved narrative threads flap in the breeze. For example, two major galactic superpowers have forged an alliance: the Krill and Moclans. This alliance could harbor ramifications for the galaxy and Mercer and his crew. There’s still Ed’s daughter to contend with, who’s on Krill. Said alliance undoubtedly affects that plot point. 

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The Effects

The Orville: New Horizons spared no expense concerning the visual and special effects. It made me wish I could watch it on the big screen. Each episode is longer than your typical 40 to 50-minute sci-fi outing, with some boasting runtimes of around 80 minutes. I enjoyed tuning in for a mini-movie week after week. The effects contribute significantly to the immersive story. My tiny mind can only imagine the creativity, ingenuity and time that goes into making the world of The Orville look so real. 

Case in point, the incredible effects on display in “Domino” felt like watching a battle in Star Wars. If you go on IMDb, you’ll see 575 names under visual effects alone. Mindblowing. 

Cmdr. Kelly Grayson and Lysella stand in a simulation of the interior of an asteroid on The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 10, "Future Unknown."

The Orville: New Horizons — “Future Unknown” – Season 3 Episode 10 — (Photo by: Gilles Mingasson/Hulu)

The Score 

As you can probably guess by my name, I’m a sucker for a good musical score. The Orville never falls short on the score front, whether it’s Bruce Broughton’s thunderous opening credits theme or John Debney and Joel McNeely’s series-wide work. The music perfectly complements the story, giving us chills when it crescendos during a major battle sequence and inducing tears when it’s a simple and soft melody on the piano amid an emotional scene. It’s a wonderful storytelling tool for any sci-fi series, but it especially works beautifully in The Orville

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What do you love most about The Orville? What do you hope to see in a potential fourth season? Sound off in the comments below!

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Melody McCune
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