Recently, a good friend of mine introduced me to a show on SyFy called The Expanse. And it is some of the best science fiction I’ve encountered in any medium for quite a while.
I do need to make a few disclaimers here. First, I do realize the TV series is based off of a novel series, which I haven’t yet read (although I do plan on it). Second, I’m not quite 100% done yet. I’m almost there, but this review is based on the first seven of ten episodes.
This series is great, and if you are a fan of science fiction, it’s definitely worth watching. There’s a few reasons I think it’s fantastic.
The first part about the series that I love is the sense of gritty realism. Space travel isn’t pretty, and living in space is less so. Often, science fiction presents the future as some sort of shiny perfection (here I think of the Star Trek series). I don’t think this is a bad thing, and it may even be good. But recent science fiction, like Battlestar Galactica, has broken this mold, I think for the better. Our exploration of space doesn’t have to be in perfect starships, and we can’t allow that expectation to damper our love of exploration.
Gritty sci-fi recognizes a simple truth. Humanity will bring it’s problems into the stars with it. We will always be flawed beings, and The Expanse and similar types of shows bring that out beautifully.
That brings me to my second point. Oftentimes, science fiction is about ideas. And to me, this is one of the great parts of sci-fi. I love that it is a medium for discussing new and big ideas. But great stories are about people, and The Expanse focuses on a group of singular characters. They are all flawed, but they are all interesting.
In general, I love the transition in television towards high-production, long story arc shows. It brings the best of novels and movies together for a type of storytelling we have yet to plumb the depths of what this new medium is capable of.
I haven’t gotten to the end of the show yet, but I expect I will in the next few days. In general, I love the optimistic potential of sci-fi, but I also appreciate shows that are willing to bust that mold, and if they do it well, like The Expanse does, I think we can all learn from them.