Just watched the pilot episode of ‘The Expanse’. Trailer here:
Mmpf! That’s me trying not to release any spoilers about it 😀
Okay, I am under control.
So, this is a new TV series coming out in December (premiering on the 14th and 15th on the SyFy Space Channel to be precise). It’s based off of James S. A. Corey’s best-selling series by the same name (which I am now wondering why I haven’t read!) and has writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby on the team, writers who also worked on the likes of ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Iron Man’.
200 years into the future, humans have established themselves throughout the solar system, with humanity’s major strongholds located on Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt.
Ceres Station is the biggest space port on the Asteroid Belt and is the home of the Belters, working-class laborers toiling almost their entire lives in the cold, low-g bleakness of space, working the difficult and dangerous job of extracting resources like water from asteroids—a job that no one else wants to do. A job that is relegated to those who have few other choices.
Most Belters and their families are poor, underfed, and sick—exploited by wealthy corporations based off of Earth or Mars that don’t care about the fates of their workers. Generations of them have been toiling to extract precious resources from their own society to support the much wealthier and more comfortable lifestyles of those living on Earth and Mars. And those in power on Ceres would rather hoard any profit to themselves than replace something even as basic as air filters to improve quality of life for the masses.
At the beginning of the first episode, we hear of rumors that the military powers on Mars want to gain full control of Ceres and the resources it harbors. They are no longer willing to share access to those resources with Earth. If Mars should act, all-out war between Earth and Mars will ensue. And in the crossfire of this impending war? The Belters and those working and living in the Asteroid Belt. But perhaps this time the Belters aren’t going to just stand aside and let whatever power happens to win the war continue the age-old cycle of exploitation, again. Perhaps this time the Belters will make a stand and fight for what is rightfully theirs.
One of our main protagonists is Detective Miller, a gaunt-looking man who has seen misery, shadiness, and all-out corruption on Ceres Station far too many times to bat an eyelash at it anymore. At the beginning of the first episode, he is given a new assignment to locate the missing daughter of a wealthy Lunar Mercantile Family, Juliette Mao, who might have gotten embroiled in trouble-making activities on Ceres. His contract with an Earth-based security company makes citizens on Ceres resentful of him. By working with the Earthers that are their oppressors, he is essentially a traitor to his own people. But, he doesn’t think of it that way. He only concerns himself with surviving and making sure he is aligned with the side that will benefit him the most. For now, that’s Earth.
Meanwhile out near the rings of Saturn, the Canterbury Ice Trawler is busy doing its usual job of water extraction. The trawler is breaking down, rat-infested, and in need of a major overhaul. Workers are getting injured because of faulty machinery and they can’t afford the state-of-the-art medical care to get their limbs regrown. The crew can’t be bothered most of the time, making do with what they have to survive another job and return to Ceres, maybe eventually getting out of the “ice-hauling” business…maybe eventually even being able to return to Earth one day. But though most of the members onboard are over-worked and jaded, they’re a tough bunch that are used to enduring the harsh, miserable conditions in the lonely fringes of the solar system. Except, occasionally, when a few of them can’t stand it anymore and finally break down, becoming a casualty of space madness. When the XO of the Canterbury becomes suicidal, who do they replace him with? Holden, second officer of the Canterbury, a guy who isn’t too ambitious but has a flair for getting along with the crew and getting things done. He not eager at all to become the new XO of the rundown ice trawler, he’s just interested in taking the minimum amount of responsibility and being free to not have to care about bigger matters. But, when the Canterbury receives a mysterious distress beacon, he finds the better half of him wanting to do something about it, even if it might mean risking his neck for once.
The visuals of the Expanse are convincing enough to let me fall into this world with few minor trip-ups (what was with that bird?). Ceres is a crime-and-grime-ridden, messy station full of the raggedy dregs of humanity and artificial light—I could just feel my throat closing in from the barely recycled air. The Canterbury interiors are as dark and claustrophobic as a ship limping along in the far regions of space might be. Earth is beautiful, fresh, clean, and colorful—the jewel of the solar system. Mars? Well, we shall have to see.
I’m liking how there is room in the story to discuss realistic problems that might afflict those living in space and how technology may or may not help—problems with bone density, muscle atrophy, and space madness. Issues with growth hormones and prosthetic limbs. In particular, the scenes of ships accelerating and people attempting to walk in zero gravity were very well done and it makes me happy that the director took the time to try to make these details more realistic and let us see the everyday lives of these people of space.
Overall, I’m enjoying the pacing of the pilot and the potential narrative that is starting to unfold—a very tight first episode. Since I haven’t read the books, I can’t compare the two. I’m happy with the cast so far, they’re all quite competent actors. There’s a tinge of the humor, and grit, and texture of Battlestar Galactica (of which it is already being compared to everywhere) and the beginnings of very human-centered stories. A lot of thought was put into the details of the world and its characters (thanks to the book, no doubt) such as the odd local accent/creole the Belters carry.
I am SO ready to let ‘The Expanse’ fill that vast empty gap left behind by Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. I think it’s made a strong start with this episode—I hope their reactor has enough power to keep the energy and pacing high for the rest of the season!
Here’s the first episode—hurry up and watch it and let me know what you think!