Expounding on The Expanse


Syfy has another contender for its winners column with The Expanse.

The new series made an impressive double debut Dec. 14 and 15. The show is Dark Matter done right — mixed with a little Killjoys to produce something that might even rival the gritty, dramatic appeal of Battlestar Galactica.

Blasphemy, I know. Also going out on a limb for an unproven series, but the first two episodes have been that good. Besides, I’ve been out on that limb before (Dark Matter, Zoo), and I know that the fall won’t kill me.

The Expanse encompasses a large swath of our solar system — from Earth to the asteroid belt. I was excited to see that the Human Race had colonized all the way out to Ceres. I was disappointed that greed and war had been taken along for the ride.

But, hey. What’s a plot without conflict?

We’ve got conflict aplenty, here. It’s Earth vs. Mars vs. The Belters. Earth, run by a sinister United Nations which has somehow grown very sharp teeth, is at the top of the pecking order. Coming in second are the rival Martians, a name requiring some mental adjustment knowing that they are humans who are neither green nor small. At the bottom are the rebellious Belters, who mine the asteroids and are heavily dependent on the kindness of the “Inners” for little things like water and air.

The war drums are pounding, and the Martians seem to have the biggest drumsticks.

In the premier episode, an asteroid mining ship, the Canterbury is taking a load of precious ice back to Ceres when it reluctantly responds to a distress call from another ship. The Canterbury is nuked for its trouble, vaporizing 50 crew members and leaving only the five who had been sent to investigate the disabled freighter alive. Things go downhill from there.

The world-building gets off to a fast start. Viewers get looks at life on Ceres and the political structure on Earth. It seems that UN officials are not above “gravity torture” when it comes to extracting information from off-world terrorist suspects.

The characters develop nicely for an opening episode. On Ceres, we’ve got Josephus “Joe” Miller (played by Thomas Jane), a hard-nosed Star Helix Security detective with a heart. Lost in space is Canterbury second officer and reluctant acting ship’s executive officer Jim Holden (Steven Strait); and fellow Canterbury crew member Naomi Nagala (Dominique Tipper), the captain Holden will never be. Back on Earth, we get a taste for UN authority with Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), nasty deputy undersecretary.

The special effects are great — from tiny details like how birds might fly on a low-gravity dwarf planet to exterior scenes in deep space. The plot, with its world-building and political intrigue, has me anxiously looking forward to learning more in episodes to come.

Syfy has pulled out all the stops in its website supplements to The Expanse, including this very cool interactive page: http://www.syfy.com/theexpanse/enterthefuture/inside

It’s almost as impressive as the premiere. Check it out, then check out the series.