Science fiction has brought us innumerable visions of the future of mankind, ranging from our journey to the stars to our first contact with alien races and back again. Writers and directors of the genre have shown us gritty, bleak worlds full of violence and disaster and glittering utopias that offer an endless promise of hope. However, few have managed to capture quite the enigmatic balance that the Syfy channel’s newest series, The Expanse, has with its delicate mix of suspense, detailed world building, and character studies that will leave you hungry for more with every single episode.
The series, based on the best-selling book series of the same name, takes place roughly two hundred years in the future, where humanity has broken free of the bonds of Earth to explore the galaxy. However, as humans are prone to do, once the human race colonizes the solar system, entire planets hover on the brink of war. Mars has been colonized, and hosts its own microcosm of society, while the asteroid belt hosts various industrial colonies, barely squeaking by. Meanwhile, Earth, home of the central political power of the United Nations, is a planet in decline. In the asteroid colony of Ceres, an embittered Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) starts working a seemingly straightforward missing persons case, while elsewhere in the belt, contented executive rogue James Holden (Steven Strait) becomes indirectly involved with the case when the ice freighter he works on answers a distress call that draws him, as well as several of his crew, into the high running tensions between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Swiftly drawn together, the pair will go on to expose an intergalactic conspiracy the likes of which human history has never seen.
The series premiere, a two night event that will take place December 14 & 15 at 10PM ET/PT, lays the first stones of its foundation in episode one, which sets Miller on his path towards locating a missing heiress named Julie Mao. Meanwhile, second officer Jim Holden aboard the ice freighter Canterbury, rejects a heavy promotion in favor of far more critical pursuits: namely, fraternizing with the ship’s lovely navigator and trying to find a decent cup of coffee in the bitter vastness of space. However, when a distress call is received by the freighter, and is summarily ignored so the Canterbury will be able to claim an arrival bonus for its cargo, Holden cannot lay his conscience aside, and forces his shipmates to answer the call.
The special effects in this series are to be applauded, as they showcase Belters living in zero gravity and countless other aspects of this world with a beautiful subtlety that calls attention to the everyday marvels of life in a colonized solar system, such as the cracked screen of Miller’s high tech cell phone. At the same time, the characters are beautifully flawed from the word “go,” with even the smallest players capturing the viewer’s eye, and heart, for their brief time on screen. While some of the cinematography and washed out, tinted lighting may be a little overdone and overly typical for the space opera genre, stick around: rebels like Holden and his crew will charm you, while broken souls like Miller and ruthless power players like United Nations politico Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) will keep you tuning in to try and ascertain which of them is on the right side.
The Expanse can be seen in its two night premiere on December 14 & 15 at 10PM ET/PT on Syfy, and will air Tuesday nights at 10PM ET/PT for the duration of its ten episode run.
Liz Carlie, the Mad Woman with a Box, a regular book reviewer for SCIFI.radio and a regular guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. She has been in and around science fiction fandom for years, and works with the American Red Cross on blood drives at science fiction conventions all over Southern California.