Why 'The Orville' Can Legally Rip Off 'Star Trek: Discovery'

The starship Discovery may have some problems with the Klingons in the latest Star Trek TV series, but another starship — The Orville — might give the Discovery a run for its space credits. And the creators and studio behind The Orville aren’t worried about getting sued by Star Trek one bit.

“We obviously have a big legal team,” Fox Television CEO Dana Walden said on Tuesday. “We vet things, so it’s not like we’re just flying by the seat of our pants out here. Seth’s intention is to do something that clearly pays homage to Star Trek, that clearly was inspired a lot by Star Trek.”

For the casual viewer, squinting might make you think that The Orville is Star Trek: Discovery, just with different colored uniforms. And in some ways, The Orville is potentially poised to reach a larger audience than Discovery, simply because of the fact that it will air on Fox, a broadcast network. After the pilot episode, Discovery will only air on the CBS All-Access streaming service, giving it a more niche audience than the more general audience The Orville could potentially find.

Left: Real 'Star Trek.' Right: Fake 'Star Trek,' 'The Orville.'

But The Orville has another secret weapon beyond it’s network and lawyers: the show has writers and directors who worked on real Star Trek for a long, long time. Brannon Braga is directing at least one episode, which is a big deal mostly because Braga was a huge part of the writing Star Trek from The Next Generation days all the way through the ‘90s films and into the early 2000s with Enterprise. Other Trek veterans working on The Orville include Robert Duncan McNeil (of Voyager fame) and Johnathan Frakes, who is also directing an episode of Discovery.

In the end will the little-Star Trek-spoof-that-could beat real Star Trek? We’ll find out when The Orville debuts on September 10 on Fox.

Star Trek: Discovery hits CBS All-Access on September 24.

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