You know how sometimes in Star Wars there's talk of bringing balance to the Force rather than there being two sides, light and dark? Well, we're kind of living in the light and dark times right now, but for Star Trek.
Star Trek: Discovery represents the darker, more Deep Space Nine side of Trek, and Seth MacFarlane's The Orville is the lighter The Next Generation side.
And you know how the dark side and the light side existing simultaneously was really entertaining for Star Wars? The same can be said about Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville being around at the same time.
And the best way to bring balance to these shows lies within you watching both of them. Be the balance you want to see in the world, young Trekawan.
WATCH STAR TREK: DISCOVERY BECAUSE...
Star Trek very rarely goes to the "Federation is super wrong about stuff" place unless it's prime directive related. Sisko tricked the Romulans into going to war with the Dominion that one time. And also the Federation was controlled by bug aliens once. That's about as questionable as the Federation got for a long time. But otherwise? The Federation is largely benevolent.
Watch Star Trek: Discovery because it is boldly leaving that aspect of Trek behind. We're seeing a Federation at war. Our lead character, Michael Burnham, is a mutineer who got her captain killed. Her new captain, Gabriel Lorca, is so dark that he literally has eyes that can't see in bright light. How's that for subtlety? Aliens get tortured for a perceived greater good, Harcourt Fenton Mudd almost seems like a good guy, and the crew drops F bombs!
Discovery is the Torchwood of Star Trek shows. And while Torchwood wasn't always great, it took the universe of Doctor Who to places its parent show couldn't go. It asked its audience to consider if allowing children to be captured by aliens so that the Earth could be safe is the kind of thing a protagonist could do and still be labeled a hero.
Can Michael start a war with the Klingons and still stare at the stars in wonder? Can Lorca leave someone like Mudd to the Klingons and still be considered a good captain? Can Star Trek: Discovery get us from this dark place and still convince us there's light at the end of the tunnel? I think it can.
At its best, Star Trek: Discovery is a show that is "Sisko tricking the Romulans" moral grey storytelling at full blast. And since it's a Star Trek show, it's going to take Discovery time to find its feet. Trek shows always do. In the meantime, you should watch it because the potential is there.
WATCH THE ORVILLE BECAUSE...
If you watched Star Trek: The Next Generation as it was first transmitting, you remember how fun and positive it could be. Picard might give a compelling argument so Data doesn't become a slave, or Worf and Troi might go to the wild west. Riker probably has sex and it gets everyone into trouble. Oh, TNG -- you so wacky!
If you add in Seth MacFarlane's sense of humor to that, you get The Orville. Honestly, most of the time MacFarlane doesn't even go to that silly of a place. Sure, there's an episode where they get their Klingon stand-in to eat a cactus, but Worf eats gross stuff all the time on TNG, so we're not exactly stretching the formula here.
Most of the rest of the time, though, The Orville deals with stuff like a species that's trapped in a dying arc but doesn't know it, or getting into time travel dilemmas where the only solution is doing this one cool piloting thing. There's even a direct lift from the TNG episode, "The Outcast," in which the crew of the Orville has to deal with the complexity of a species that only wants there to be one gender on their homeworld.
The Orville isn't deep, but, like TNG, it tends to be optimistic and given towards endings that make you feel hopeful. It's also like TNG in that most of the cast tends to be kind of goofy, there's a robot/android with no emotions, and the ship has wall-to-wall carpeting. In short: it's very familiar.
You should watch The Orville because it is the nostalgic jab in the arm a lot of people hoped Star Trek: Discovery would be. Even though it's not actually Star Trek, Seth MacFarlane is such a devout Trek fan that you can see its influences in every strand of The Orville's DNA. It makes sense to want this kind of storytelling because, frankly, there isn't much of it on TV anymore, and it's a welcome relief from the gritty realism of most storytelling during this, the new golden age of television.
YOU SHOULD WATCH BOTH BECAUSE...
We kind of need both Star Trek: Discovery AND The Orville right now. The world is... bad. Shootings are happening almost on the daily, there are tons of natural disasters ripping communities apart, and we're constantly in the process of unearthing — or finally talking about — how rampant harassment exists across every industry.
There are times we need to acknowledge these bad things, and there are times we need a break from that. And that is why my prescription for every science fiction fan right now is to watch both Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. Because sometimes you need a solemn nod of recognition, and other times you need to feel like eventually Earth will find peace, build spaceships, and bro-fist it with bumpy-headed alien dudes.
Remember: Do or do not, there is no try. And we think Yoda would agree, we don't want to hear any excuse for not watching both Star Trek shows... even if one of them isn't really Trek.