For Star Trek fans, there would never be a more shocking moment. After three seasons of the original series, an animated series, a bunch of movies, and then three seasons worth of Star Trek: The Next Generation, fans of the show thought they completely understood the formula of the show: The crew of the Enterprise would encounter some sort of problem and within the 40-odd minute run-time of the episode, they would fix the problem and fly away. Roll credits.
Only this time, for the final episode of season three, things were different. Not only did the story-line not conclude, but it ended on Star Trek's first cliffhanger. And oh my was it a good one. Viewers were horrified to see the lead character of the show, Captain Picard, defeated and turned into one of Star Trek's most fearsome villains: the cybernetic Borg.
These days, viewers of any TV show would be accustomed to knowing that everything will work itself out in the next episode. Nothing really changes much on TV. But this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation felt different. This was the first time Star Trek hadn't wrapped up in one episode. Those words 'To Be Continued' and a wait of several months for the next episode got fans incredibly anxious. The show they knew and loved just doesn't end that way.
It should also be noted that the episode, The Best of Both Worlds - Part 1 is also a genuinely great episode of television. It is tense and thrilling, with some series best work from the actors and production team. There's a reason it regularly appears in lists of the best episodes of TV ever.
Considering all of this, it is little wonder that The Orville is making an effort this week to catch a bit of the same magic as this classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Like with The Best of Both World', this is The Orville's first 2-part episode, and like with the Star Trek episodes, the series really ratchets up the tension with a potentially series-changing shift for the characters on the show. There are, also, a lot of other parallels between both episodes, but they will become apparent by the end of the episode. No spoilers in this article!
It was Best of Both Worlds that immediately came to mind for the panelists on SBS' The Orville podcast ORVILLELAND:
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As fans have come to know, The Orville, even at its silliest moments, is meticulously considered with both the social allegories it tackles, but also in the pop culture references used. Creator and series star Seth MacFarlane is a keen Star Trek fan, so it is safe to say that the parallels between this episode and Best of Both Worlds is very intentional. MacFarlane is enough of a fan of the episode to have wanted to use the music from the cliffhanger in the 100th episode of Family Guy. When he couldn't license the music, he got Star Trek: TNG composer Ron Jones to compose a similar track.
This week's episode of The Orville, 'Identity - Part 1', probably won't make it onto lists of the greatest episodes of all time (they're really hard lists to get on), but fans of the show will experience that same feeling of tension and excitement fans experienced watching Best of Both Worlds - Pt 1 in 1990 as Identity - Pt 1 reaches its cliffhanger. Thankfully, unlike the classic Star Trek: TNG episode, fans won't have to wait months for the finale - the very satisfying (and show exploding) follow-up episode airs next week.
The Orville fans will be discussing these episodes alongside chats about the iconic Best of Both Worlds with the same reverence for many years to come.
The Orville airs on SBS VICELAND Friday nights at 9pm. Every episode is also streaming anytime at SBS On Demand: