It was a win-win situation this fall with two brand new but very different sci-fi space adventures.
In this corner, we have The Orville, weighing in as a fly-weight with creator and star Seth MacFarlane's fan-boy enthusiasm of space shows and pop culture. The show was predicted to be a farcical send-up in the style Galaxy Quest with the cheap one-two combo of poop jokes and juvenile pranks.
And in this corner, we have the highly anticipated legacy champion, Star Trek: Discovery, the first of its lineage on TV in over a decade, sporting the banner of diversity and scars of controversy that pushed back its premiere over nine months.
So, taken point-by-point, with which crew would you rather take a journey through the stars?
Captains: Mercer vs. Lorca
ED MERCER (Orville):
First time in command. Best friend at the helm. Ex-wife as First Officer. Looks to Kermit the Frog as a leadership mentor. Spent his time in captivity in a bathrobe, drinking beer.
GABRIEL LORCA (Discovery): Long-established career in command. Blew up his last crew. Complicated relationship with the Admiralty. Spent his time in captivity choosing his pain by taunting his torturer.
BOTTOM LINE: I'd rather have a beer with Mercer after shift but would want Lorca in charge in a crisis.
1st Officers: Saru vs. Grayson
Genetically predisposed towards cowardice with a heightened sense of self-preservation. Promoted to First Officer for exemplary conduct at the Battle of the Binary Stars.
KELLY GRAYSON (Orville): Captain Mercer's ex-wife. Arranges for Ed to be promoted to the command of The Orville. A modicum of legal training. Worshipped as a goddess for some length of time on the multi-dimensional planet.
BOTTOM LINE: Saru's ambition is admirable but his insecurities leave him susceptible to influences like the Pahvons. Grayson may not be as highly-educated but is a much better fit as First Officer for her captain.
Ships: Planetary Union's Orville vs. Starfleet's Discovery
Mid-level exploratory vessel in service for some time to the Planetary Union. Equipped with shuttles, tractor beam, deflectors, plasma torpedoes, and pulse cannons.
DISCOVERY: A brand-new Crossfield-class starship, officially designated a Starfleet science vessel, equipped with highly advanced technology and top-secret experimental spore drive.
BOTTOM LINE: Discovery definitely has the bling-factor but the Orville is probably the ship you want if you're worried about being phased out of existence in some sort of horribly disfiguring and/or fatal Black Alert maneuver.
POINT: DISCOVERY (because who wants safe when you're in frakkin' space?)
Science Specialists: Isaac vs. Burnham
Representative of the artificial species of the planet Kaylon-1. Joins The Orville for the opportunity to observe human behavior and further relations between Kaylon-1 and the Planetary Union. Tends to save the day in a matter-of-fact sort of way.
MICHAEL BURNHAM (Discovery): Orphaned human raised by Sarek and Amanda alongside Spock on Vulcan. First human to to attend the Vulcan Science Academy. Starfleet's first mutineer after her actions at the Battle of the Binary Stars. Has difficulty reconciling her human nature with her Vulcan training. Gets blamed for a lot of stuff.
BOTTOM LINE: Both are capable of performing heroic acts and both have been programmed to approach decisions from a place of logic. As much as I enjoy Isaac's contributions and learning curve, Burnham's character development is far more unpredictable and interesting.
Doctors: Finn vs. Culber
CLAIRE FINN (Orville):
Most seasoned member of The Orville with experience in molecular surgery, DNA engineering, and psychiatry. Two sons, Ty and Marcus, live aboard with her. Romantically pursued by Yaphit. Comfortable with firearms.
HUGH CULBER (Discovery): Lieutenant Commander serving as physician to Orville's crew members and consultant on Ripper's well-being. Romantic partners with Lieutenant Stamets and a fan of Kasseelian Opera.
BOTTOM LINE: No disrespect to Dr. Culber for his obvious abilities (and super cuteness!) but Dr. Finn just has him beat on all fronts here.
Security Chiefs: Kitan vs. Landry/Tyler
ALARA KITAN (Orville):
One of the youngest members of the Orville crew, as a Xelayan, she has super-human strength and has proven herself capable of command in crisis situations.
ELLEN LANDRY (Discovery): Experienced Security Chief, with a strong prejudice against Vulcans, made a poor decision to provoke and take on the captive tardigrade she'd named "Ripper" and ended up dead and replaced by...
ASH TYLER (Discovery): Survivor of the Battle of the Binary Stars, spent seven months as a Klingon prisoner of war, with obvious PTSD effects, appointed by Lorca to Security Chief position almost immediately upon joining the ship.
BOTTOM LINE: Tyler is intriguing but I'd feel safer with Kitan in charge of opening the pickle jars.