With so many fans out there claiming that The Orville (which just had their season 3 renewal announcement go official this week) is their new Star Trek because Star Trek Discovery sucks so bad, I began to posture: why not? Why can’t The Orville BE Star Trek? Why can’t Galaxy Quest be Star Trek? The only thing that’s lacking and preventing these other shows from being official Star Trek is the name, “Star Trek” attached to it. Because of legal issues with CBS and Disney, it just can’t be. The crew of the USS Orville under Captain Ed Mercer can never share the same universe as Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise. But, does it need to?
I put forth the following theory: we’re all right! We consider The Orville “Star Trek” because it IS Star Trek. I’m not just talking about a different timeline or alternate reality. I’m talking about another whole Star Trek universe. Is that so bad to fathom? Is it that far out that it’s inconceivable?
No, not at all, considering one of the greatest anime and manga series of all time has done just that: Mobile Suit Gundam.
How many incarnations of Gundam have there been? Too many to count, that’s for sure. Only a small handful are sequels or share the same continuity with the original (Gundam 08th MS Team being a parallel story to the original MS Gundam, for example). However, many others take place in entirely different universes, separate from each other. The original MS Gundam has nothing to do with Gundam Wing, yet they share many of the same things: technology is the same (mobile suits), weaponry is similar (beam sabers, Minovski particle weapons), ships and space objects (gigantic space colonies, huge star fleets, each equipped with mobile suits). The alliances are even similar – Earth vs. space colonies.
However, the original Gundam and Gundam Wing’s similarities end there. The universe, the characters, the stories are so drastically different, you can tell the differences in universes.
I postulate that based on that, Star Trek and The Orville are, indeed, one in the same – yet completely different.
The similarities of both universes include, most importantly, a large, vast union of planets (plainly called the Planetary Union in The Orville, and the United Federation of Planets from Star Trek). Both unions have an Earth-based armada (unnamed in The Orville, and Starfleet in Star Trek). Both universes have ships prefixed with USS serving in their respective star fleets (no pun intended), crewed with richly diverse personnel ranging from the multi-racial and multi-cultural planet of Earth to the vast reaches of both unions. Both the Union and the Federation stand for peaceful exploration and expansion through diplomacy and voluntary service.
Some technology managed to crossover, such as replicators and holodecks. The FTL technology in The Orville is similar to warp drive from Star Trek, but is known as “quantum drive” in The Orville, which could also be shared with Star Trek’s “quantum slipstream drive” technology.
Tricorder hand-held scanners and communicators are also staples of both universes, and hand-held pistol-like particle weapons.
That’s where most of the similarities end. However, is that substantial enough to consider The Orville as part of Star Trek, rather than simply a rip-off, homage or parody?
If applied, the Gundam Theory gives credence to the idea that The Orville is, in fact, Star Trek; not just in the hearts and minds of the fans who are disappointed with Star Trek Kurtzman, but in general statement of fact. If Seth McFarlane gained permission to add “Dedicated to Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry” in his title sequence for The Orville, there would be no mistake that we are, indeed, watching a Star Trek show. If the Gundam Theory proves to be true, not only would we be justified in feeling so, it would be just a few words in an opening or closing credit crawl from being proven true.