We’re unabashed fans of The Orville here at Ars Technica, and like everyone else, we’ve keenly felt the absence of the series following its explosive S2 finale way back in April 2019. We thought we were getting a third season on Hulu in March, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a few months longer. The streaming platform announced that it is pushing the release of The Orville: New Horizons until June 2. To soften the blow, Hulu released nearly four full minutes of teaser footage, including the new main title.
Series creator Seth McFarlane addressed the long, frustrating delay when he announced the sneak peek on Twitter:
To all the Orville fans: Thanks for being so patient with us as we’ve navigated the production challenges resulting from the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. As occasionally happens, our show has been repositioned amidst the ever-changing television schedule landscape, which means that the wait will be just a bit longer, and we’re now preparing for a June 2nd launch on Hulu. We’ve always promised you a television experience that will make it worth the wait, and we’re not wavering on that. We understand the frustration you’re feeling over more delays, so we want to give you a little taste of what’s to come. Here’s a sneak peek at the first few minutes of our season opener, and our new main title!
(Spoilers for prior seasons of The Orville below.)
The series is set aboard the USS Orville (ECV-197), an exploratory spaceship in the service of a 25th-century interstellar alliance known as the Planetary Union. Series creator and star Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), who plays Captain Ed Mercer, was a huge fan of Star Trek growing up, particularly The Next Generation, so it’s not surprising that The Orville has embraced a similar sensibility. As I wrote in my S2 review, “This is a smart series that combines humor and witty dialogue with cutting-edge science, ethical musings, the occasional literary reference, and genuine heart.”
The first season introduced us to the characters and their fictional world while developing the central relationships. The second season put those relationships to the test, with an ambitious and emotionally powerful two-part finale, in which an alternate timeline is created wherein the Kaylons have conquered half the known galaxy (including annihilating Earth). It was the classic trope of how changing a seemingly insignificant detail in the grand scheme of things—Ed and Kelly going on their first date—can have world-altering ramifications. The Orville was destroyed in the process of trying to restore the original timeline, but we had no idea whether that effort was truly successful.
So what can we expect from the show’s third season? Details are being kept tightly under wraps, but it seems the show is taking a page from Star Trek: Discovery and sending the ship and its crew far into the future. Per the official premise, “Set 400 years in the future, The Orville: New Horizons finds the crew of the USS Orville continuing their mission of exploration, as they navigate both the mysteries of the universe and the complexities of their own interpersonal relationships.”
Filming for S3 was already underway when the COVID pandemic hit and production shut down in March 2020 along with everything else. The move to Hulu brings some distinct storytelling advantages, such as not having to hit a specific run time or factor in commercial breaks. There will be 11 episodes in the third season, two less than for prior seasons, but each episode will be 12 to 15 minutes longer. All the main cast members are returning, with the addition of new cast member Anne Winters, playing ship navigator Ensign Charly Burke. S3 also represents the final role of comedian Norm Macdonald, who voiced the gelatinous engineer Lt. Yaphit and completed his S3 voiceover work before he died of leukemia in September 2021 at age 61.
Based on the new footage, The Orville: New Horizon will open with a major space battle—an impressively ambitious VFX showcase for a series committed to constantly raising the bar in that regard. We also get our first look at the upgraded design of the Orville spacecraft (already pretty distinctive, with three of its “quantum rings” at the rear). The Orville takes quite the beating during the battle, with some significant casualties. There are shots of Claire’s (Penny Johnson Jerald) eldest son, Marcus (BJ Tanner) dashing through the corridors to find his younger brother, Ty (Kai Wener), plus a brief shot of Isaac (Mark Jackson)—the usually friendly Kaylon ally—transforming into a truly terrifying visage.
The Orville: New Horizons will premier on June 2, 2022, on Hulu.
Listing image by Hulu