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SYFY WIRE The Orville

Seth MacFarlane reveals why 'The Orville' premiere revisits a major Season 2 episode

MacFarlane and writer David A. Goodman talk about what went down in the first episode of The Orville: New Horizon. 

By Vanessa Armstrong
The Orville Identity

The first episode of The Orville: New Horizons, “Electric Sheep,” packs a lot into its 70 minutes. There are awe-inspiring views of space, the introduction of a new character, and a serious storyline that addresses one of the big questions from Season 2. SYFY WIRE had the chance to speak with The Orville creator Seth MacFarlane and series writer David A. Goodman about how “Electric Sheep” came together and why they decided to revisit a certain plot from one of the previous season's most acclaimed episodes.

Warning: There are major spoilers for the premiere episode of Season 3 of The Orville ahead!

The Orville: New Horizons

In “Electric Sheep,” Isaac dies by suicide (and ultimately gets revived) after he realizes that many on the ship hold him accountable for the many deaths that happened during the Battle of Earth that took place during Season 2’s two-parter, “Identity.” That battle occurred because Isaac let his species — the Kaylons — take over the U.S.S. Orville, and while he eventually turned against his kind and saved humanity, many people died. 

“Identity” was something new for The Orville, and MacFarlane admits he wasn’t sure how fans would receive it. 

“I pay a lot of attention to what fans say — I'm always interested in what fans and viewers are saying and what they're reacting to and what they like, what they don't like,” he told SYFY WIRE. “We still make our own choices, but it's really helpful to know what's resonating. And the two-parter was something that really was an experiment for us. We didn't know if people were going to go for it, if people were going to respond to something that serious from The Orville. And they loved it. And it was actually the peak of the season … and the fans were saying, ‘Oh, man, what's gonna happen next week with Isaac?’”

The fan response was enthusiastic, but there was a slight issue: The rest of Season 2 had already been written, and MacFarlane and his writing team hadn’t addressed the repercussions of Issac’s actions in the remaining episodes.

“We were like, s***, we haven't really delved into it yet,” MacFarlane said. “So that had a lot to do with where we began the third season — we just went right at it … we had other crises that we were dealing with in the second half of Season 2 but there was a lot of conflict on board the ship that maybe we weren't seeing, that a lot of people were not happy that Isaac was still on board. And now you're seeing it mushroom and hit a breaking point.”

The Orville: New Horizons

Part of the way “Electric Sheep” addresses the trauma people felt after the Battle of Earth was by introducing a new character, Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters). “We wanted to introduce a character who had experienced a real devastating loss,” Goodman explained. “We felt that we couldn't really put that on any of our characters because we've already seen some of their response to that … a lot of people died in that battle on Earth — a lot of ships got blown up. And I think one of the things that really inspired us was people lost people in that battle — what is that like then if that person is now someone who's experienced loss is serving with Isaac, and what does that mean?”

Part of the answer to that question is Charly’s open hatred toward Isaac, even though she is the one who ultimately helps bring him back to life. The complexity of their interactions will be something to watch as new episodes of The Orville: New Horizons premiere on Hulu each Thursday until the season finale on August 4. 

Looking for more sci-fi? The entire run of SYFY’s Battlestar Galactica is streaming now on Peacock, along with the second season of Resident Alien, which returns to SYFY this fall with new episodes.