‘The Expanse’ is thankfully due to start airing its second season on the SyFy Channel in Feb 2017. I was incredibly pleased that this promising show didn’t go the same way so many other series that weren’t allowed to reach their full potential. Shows such as Defying Gravity, Outcasts and of course Firefly. It was recommended to me and I watched it with no real expectations, but found a well thought-out show with an intriguing plot-line and well-rounded characters.
This post is a brief review of the first season of the show, and as such contains a few spoilers. I’ll try to keep it vague and not spoil the major plot points.
The Solar System of the 23rd century is a very different place from the one we inhabit. The first 30 seconds of the title sequence paints a picture of the Earth becoming heavily populated, closely followed by massive population growth on the Moon and colonisation of Mars and other bodies in the outer Solar System.
- The UN controls Earth
- Mars is an independent military power
- All of the planets in the inner solar system depend on the resources mined in the asteroid belt
- While the asteroids are rich in mineral resources they are poor in water and air
- Belter is the term for humans who are born, live and work on the asteroid belt. They have developed elongated bodies due to the reduced gravity, and are in many ways a poor underclass of Solar System residents, having to work in extreme conditions, producing riches in order to get the air and water they need.
- Earth, Mars and the belt are under great political tension and any incident could spark a full-blown war.
- Further out there are colonies on various moons of the outer planets.
Out in the asteroid belt is an ice mining ship called the Cant, trapping icy objects from the belt and hauling them to Ceres Station.
The crew receive a distress call and a small team is sent to investigate. Their investigation of the ship in distress is interrupted by the presence of an unknown warship nearby.
As the team attempt to return to the Cant, shots are fired and this small rag-tag group find themselves alone in space, not knowing where to find a safe harbour or who they can trust.
Meanwhile, on Ceres Station, Detective Joe Miller is investigating the disappearance of Julie Mao, a rich girl who may have fallen in with a disruptive group, The Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), who strive for equality for Belters and are willing to use violent means in pursuit of their cause.
Without giving anything away, these two plot-lines progress through a series of twists and turns, introducing other protagonists into this grand solar system-wide story.
But while the machinations of the various players, both known and as yet unknown, clearly have implications for the whole region and the potential for peace between Earth, Mars and the Belt / Outer Planets, the main stories remain intimate.
In the most part the action follows these two groups as they overcome various obstacles until their stories collide.
Many parts of the storytelling has been seen before with some well-travelled narrative elements playing a big role. The disparate group of people thrown together in a perilous situation, not knowing who they can trust. The world-weary cop who forgets his lack of principle because this one case has got to him and he’ll chase it down, even to his own detriment. The Machiavellian politicians dicing with the lives of millions to further their own political ends.
You can draw comparisons to parts of Firefly, Blade Runner, Game of Thrones and many other recent films and TV shows. Yes this tale is, to me, quite wonderful.
It paints a vivid picture of a possible future for humanity out amongst the planets. It has forces and threats acting outside of our vision that we don’t yet know and can’t predict. The characters are believable and the political tension is an extension of what we see on Earth of today, with more players and more differing interests than you can track.
It’s different enough to not be a worn out story, exciting enough to keep me gripped and the untold story is intriguing enough to make me want the next season to be ready right now.
Look out for The Expanse – Season 1 on Netflix and Season 2 coming soon on SyFy.