The Expanse - Is This The Best Sci-Fi Show On The Telly Ever?
The Expanse REVIEW
When sci-fi is done right, writes PAT PILCHER, it’s a wonderful genre. The Expanse does it right in spades, making it a rarity in an industry that treats sci-fi fans with contempt.
Available: Amazon Prime Video
When sci-fi is treated with respect (and given some creative juices) it can really rock. Unfortunately, however, movie studios and TV networks continue to do the genre a real disservice.
Hollywood is one of the worst offenders. They seem hellbent on treating sci-fi movies as an exercise in big-budget effects, while the important stuff (you know, acting and plot) wither and die on the vine.
The Expanse is something different. Yes, there are plenty of cool special effects, but the characters and the storylines are nuanced, well thought-through, and superbly executed. It’s a breath of fresh air for sci-fi, and the genre is all the better for it. A big reason for this is that The Expanse isn’t based on production team group-think. More often than not, this sees sci-fi shows descending into a lame version of Beverly Hills 90210 with spacesuits. The Expanse is instead based around the excellent novels by James S. A. Corey.
Set several hundred years in the future when humans have colonised most of the Solar System and Earth is run by the UN, the first series centres around the unravelling of a conspiracy that almost undermines the fragile Cold War-like peace between earth, militaristic Mars and the Belters, an exploited class of workers who live in the asteroid belt. Without getting into spoilers, the root of the conspiracy turns out to be a game-changer for the entire human race.
The show’s cast is made up of a United Nations Security Council member Chrisjen Avasarala (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo), old school detective Josephus Miller (played Thomas Jane), all-round good guy and astronaut James Holden (Steven Strait) and a crew which consists of Cas Anvar (Alex Kamal), Martian pilot Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper) and tough guy Amos Burton (Wes Chatham).
Over its four seasons (thus far), the cast has been given the freedom to grow into and develop their characters, and the net result is a cast you end up giving a shit about. Here’s hoping other studios learn a thing or two from this.
The CGI visuals used in The Expanse are excellent, but the real star of the show is the seamless and slick way in which the rich universe that it’s all set in unfolds. Belters have a South African-like accent and a unique way of looking and dealing with things. Similarly, the main Martian character, Bobbie Draper (played by New Zealand-Samoan Frankie Adams) is a tough-as-nails Martian Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, and she speaks with an Antipodean twang (Kiwis are from mars, right?).
The attention to small details means the show really feels authentic. Tech isn’t used as a prop to make up for a poorly developed plot, and the science that is used is consistently applied. There is no sugar coating or dumbing down, and this actually makes for some seriously compelling viewing.
In its first season, The Expanse built up a near-fanatical following. This is best demonstrated by the massive stink that fans kicked up when the SYFY pay-TV channel announced it was canning the show.
This was followed by protests and howls of outrage as fans gathered over 100,000 signatures in an online petition. They also lobbied Amazon Studios to pick up the show and most bizarrely, a crowdfunding campaign even paid for a plane to fly a ‘#SaveTheExpanse’ banner around Amazon Studios. Amongst the fans were celebs backing protests, including Wil Wheaton, George R. R. Martin, Patton Oswalt and Andreas Mogensen.
Finally, Jeff Bezos relented and announced that Amazon Prime Video had indeed picked up the series and produced the fourth season. Fans rejoiced again as Amazon announced that The Expanse has also been renewed for a fifth season. It’s not every day that a show attracts such a massive level of fanaticism. This speaks volumes about just how good it really is.