I was sick for the week, so had some extra time and very little energy on my hands (as can be seen from the number of updates into this blog this week). Some of it was spent watching the full season 1 of The Expanse. It’s a Syfy production, but for some reason is marked as a Netflix original series in at least the Finnish market. I wondered about this, since production quality and cost is obviously above the Netflix standards. Biggest ever Syfy production explains it.
The series is a space opera situated in the 23rd century. Humanity has colonized the inner planets (well Earth and Mars) and there’s a multitude of space stations in various asteroids, moons and orbits. Earth is governed by a single UN government. It is in a bad shape, but still the best place to live in the system. Mars is controlled by a military regime. It has advanced beyond Earth in military technology, but is still a dead planet and everyone lives under a dome. The government and populace are single minded in their focus on terraforming Mars. The asteroid belt is a UN protectorate mining water, minerals and gases mostly for Earth, but also for Mars. There’s a peace that has been stretching very thin. Earth fears that Mars is making a move to claim Ceres, which is the trade hub for everything mined in the asteroid belt and the most important space station there. OPA, a terrorist organization based in the asteroid belt, is working to free the belters from their de facto slavery to claim the riches of the belt for the belters. A rich kid goes missing, a weird ship with contraband technology destroys a water mining ship, conspiracies are suspected left and right and pieces are set into motion.
The series reminds me of the unfortunately short lived Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome series. It had a similar setup of politics, intrigue, class based society, scarce resources, terrorism, gritty realism. They differ in that there’s no kind of leap of faith technologies present here. Technology hasn’t evolved into anything mystical, there’s nothing post human anywhere and everything happens in our own solar system – no warp drives or the like. I like it. The way Battlestar Galactica presented the Cylons and their more advanced technological feats was quite far fetched. On those parts the series jumped strictly on the side of science fantasy. Then again, all science fiction is science fantasy, but there’s always grades.
I like the setup, I like the focus areas (some adventure, some weird things in space, some intrigue, some detective work, some politics…) and I like the way the pieces are set in motion during this first season, but the few final episodes take the plot into a weird direction. There seems to be a big leap into science fantasy side of things. The fuse of the powder keg in the setting could easily be lit without any leaps into fantasy. I don’t like. The whole first season aims towards the big move in the final episodes, so it’s in a big role now. I hope the show runner will turn around on the topic and swipe it under the rug in season 2.
Despite the misgivings about the direction of the show, this is some of the best TV series scifi that I’ve seen. Very much recommended.