The Expanse: Season 1
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The Expanse: Season 1

In the last decade science fiction has graduated from being a specific genre to the much broader location. This permits it to be a setting upon which stores of all the genres may be told. The latest example to substantiate this claim can be found in the new series on SyFy,’ The Expanse’. Is considered science fiction because it does take place two centuries from today but fundamentally story contain strong elements of a traditional mystery inexorably entwined with multiple layers of political conspiracy and intrigue. This enables the series to do result in something that is entertaining. It allows the show runners Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby to project stories that we are all familiar with 200 years into the future of mankind. This gives a new spin to such mundane plot contrivances as a missing person or the tension generating political water is between competing factions. The show is based on a series of books written by James S.A. Corey is true for any great science fiction he creates his own universe populating it with his own rationally considered concept of the physical and sociological changes impose on our species by advancement into outer space. He was able to do such an incredible job crafting this environment that will watching you immediately accept the people and places as real and not the contrivances of science fiction. This places the series an excellent company using the temperature to the future in such an organic fashion such as the 1981 film ‘Outlands’ which created a western in space by transporting the classic morality play ‘High Noon’ to Io, a large moon of Jupiter. ‘The Expanse’ demonstrates a significant amount of panache by taking on the story concerning a politically charged mystery. The fans of science fiction expect the explosive fast-paced narrative found in many blockbuster films, you will be disappointed. The storytelling method used in this case is precise in methodical with each scene building upon its predecessors allowing each episode to be crucial piece of the puzzle but the audience is expected to figure out.

The 23rd century mankind has expanded beyond the earth first to the moon and subsequently out too much of the solar system. One of the most important commodities required for this expansion is water. The simplest of compounds can be split in to oxygen, necessity for life itself in hydrogen an excellent source of fuel. Vast amount of this material has been found in the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest body of the asteroid belt. Most members of the audience may be accustomed to futuristic scenarios where mankind has evolved socially beyond such divisive factors as social equality various factions willing to go to war prompted by the need for political power and scarce resources. The main players in this scenario include Earth as represented by the United Nations, the Moon, and Mars, which has its own government, The Martian Congressional Republic. At this point the asteroid belt has become the new frontier for prospectors and others seeking to discover financial gain and live independent from the large governments. They are collectively represented by the OPC, the Outer Planet Command, a branch of the United Nations based on Luna with jurisdiction over the belt plans on the outer edge of the solar system. For the most part the animosity between the confections has settled into recall more between the belters and the forces of United Nations infused into this mix of various trade organization and labor making for a socio- political environment not unlike the period of time when the American West was being settled. Of course, thanks to the translation of the setting within the solar system technology is far greater which only makes the persistence of human behavior even more interesting. The diehard science fiction fan, particularly those who are devotees of the space opera, readily be able to identify many of the literary influences on Mr. Corey. For me the most noticeable were the work of Larry Niven, particularly his ‘Known Space’ saga. Main consideration is given explored as his stories expanded from earth not only the social and political changes that would follow a more importantly the physiological changes of our bodies possible in a very short time. In this story, as Mr. Niven’s people in low gravity environments such as Luna tend to have very slender frames with elongated limbs. People born amongst the asteroid belt, The Belters would be among this group and would also have the psychological propensity for agoraphobia as a result of generations living I man made caverns dug into rocks floating through the void of space. An interesting secondary similarity is the hairstyle preferred by Belters is half the head shaven, reminiscent of the Mohawk used in the ‘Known Space ‘stories.

The story begins with a young woman, Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) in a space suit alone on a vessel. She goes missing which would barely be of any concern to the pervading authorities except she is the heir to one of the most powerful and influential corporations in the Solar system. On Ceres Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) is initially a local police detective assigned with locating the missing girl. The next mysterious event is a freighter hauling ice to Ceres is deceived by a fake emergency call. At first they were going to ignore it, contrary to the law and code of those living and working in space. When one of the crew has an attack of conscious and logs the message they are forced to respond. This leads them into a deadly trap. The progression of the story’s unfolding is paced exceptionally carefully with meticulous planning and focuses on the slightest nuances required to create a fully formed, believable world. This also makes it problematic to relate anything greater than the most general synopsis would be a disservice to the story and the fans.

This is definitely not the glimpse of the future embraced by such masters of Si-Fi as Gene Roddenberry; money is still a prime motivator for the actions of corporations, induvial and governments. The technology is in advance of ours and even more pervasive but the screens of smart phones crack, facilities break down and you still have to coax your snack out of king vending machine by smacking it. Almost no one can be trusted, at least to any effective degree. As much as we would like to believe the future is clean, full of hope and fulfilled potential this series gives us one were technology cannot alter some of the darker inclinations that drive our kind. This is what makes it possible to infuse elements of a mystery worthy of Bogart to be constructed. Government’s deceit is everywhere with the rich and powerful using the poor to generate more influence without any concern for their impoverished plight. I other words while there may be a CGI dependent space battle or two the vast majority of the story hinges on the unchanging human nature. We may be on the verge of contact with unknown forms of life but our species retains our inclination towards base self-interest. This is by far one of the best series to come out of SyFy in a very long time.

Posted 04/02/2016

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