I had pretty mixed feelings as I watched the preview episode of the new sci-fi TV series, The Expanse (which has been made available on space.ca and syfy.com) which premieres in mid-December. It is part of the US Syfy channel’s efforts to return to better quality science fiction programming, and has been hailed as a potential successor to the previously acclaimed, hit series Battlestar Galactica (which I loved). So all those signs point to good. However, other recent new shows that have been part of Syfy’s renaissance, including Helix, Dark Matter, Killjoys, and even Defiance, have been somewhat unremarkable. On top of that, I have read the novel on which The Expanse is based, and definitely did not love it. Nevertheless, I’m happy to say that The Expanse was not bad; definitely has potential to be a flagship series for Syfy (and Space channel here in Canada).
The show focuses on a few different story arcs that (spoiler alert) will eventually come together. Thomas Jane stars as Joe Miller, a hard-boiled detective working for the privately-funded Star Helix Security. He is secretly tasked with investigating a missing daughter of wealthy parents. Miller is also a Belter (i.e. a human born outside of Earth and Mars, probably on a colony within the asteroid belt). There is a lot of political tension between Earth, Mars, and the Belters, and one of the characters involved is Chrisjen Avasarala (played by one of my favourite actresses, Shoreh Agdashloo), a UN politician somehow involved in the Earth-Belter conflict. Avasarala is from the second novel in the series, so I’m not familiar with her or her role in the story, but she seems like an interesting and extreme character (tranquil on the outside, severe on the inside). The third main character is Jim Holden, XO on an ice hauling ship who seems like your Han Solo, anti-hero, heart-of-gold type. His ship, “The Canterbury”, receives a distress signal from an apparently abandoned ship and when they go to investigate, a whole bunch of things happen that precipitate the events of the rest of the season (I’m assuming a season covers one book).
The acting is pretty good, an the production values are not bad either. This show has less a feel of that overly-coloured future, where it looks like everyone lives and works inside a German nightclub from the 80s. Also, unlike other shows, the dialogue doesn’t sound like writers tried too hard to use today’s vernacular to make the characters sound gritty or relatable. (That was always distracting to me because I would think that people in the future would not use the same slang or expressions that we use today, and I would be taken out of the scene.) The premiere episode was not the most action-packed, but it does feel like they are taking some care to build this world/universe, and I think they have a good chance of success. Episode 1: Dulcinea (4 out of 5)