When “The Orville,” a send-up of “Star Trek” by Seth MacFarlane, was first announced, one would have been forgiven for being skeptical. MacFarlane is best known for vulgar humor in his animated shows such as “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” Indeed, the storylines and characters of his cartoons often verge toward the vicious.

Happily, “The Orville” takes a slightly different approach. Think of the series of being more like “Galaxy Quest” had it been a real series than “Family Guy in Space.” Indeed, the show may not have been considered a spoof at all had it come out in the late 1970s.

In the 25th Century

The future of “The Orville” is pretty much the one of “Star Trek.” The pilot episode, “Old Wounds,” starts when Captain Ed Mercer, played by MacFarlane, catches his wife in bed with a blue skinned alien. A year later, Mercer is offered command of a mid level exploratory vessel, “The Orville.” The bridge crew is staffed with a number of officers of various dysfunction, including a representative of a single sex alien race, a cybernetic life form who looks down on the carbon based variety, and Mercer’s old friend, Lieutenant Gordon Malloy, who is the best pilot in the fleet but prone to off color behavior. However, Mercer is disconcerted to find that his estranged ex-wife is his First Officer.

The plot of the pilot is typical “Star Trek.” A routine mission to deliver supplies to a science base turns into a life or death battle with a vicious alien race that is out to steal a device that accelerates time. The dysfunctional family that is the crew of the USS Orville melds as a team.

The humor of ‘The Orville’ is more subtle that one might think

One of the satisfying aspects of the series is the decided lack of fart jokes. A lot of the humor resides in the snappy, ironic dialogue, the over the top theme music, the 1980s style special effects, and the constant homages to “Star Trek.” Clearly, MacFarlane is a fan of the material that he is spoofing, much like the people who created the film “Galaxy Quest.” He is having a great time pretending to be a Star Ship captain who has decidedly less luck with women than Captain Kirk ever did but is less obnoxious than Captain Picard.

Captain Mercer clearly has what it takes to command a star ship. He just has to get over his personal issues. In short, “The Orville” is well worth the watch for anyone who always loved vicariously exploring the Final Frontier.