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The Expanse ó The future will still kinda stink

By Bert Ehrmann

Fort Wayne Reader

2017-01-24


Most sci-fi things that take place in the future obviously focus on how the futureís going to be different then today. If that future is Star Trek, then itís this wonderful place where mankind zooms around the cosmos in great ships meeting exciting alien species and having wonderful adventures. If itís the future of something like Blade Runner, then itís a dark and dreary place where it always rains, everyone smokes and life is terrible.

Most sci-fi futures are in place to contrast our own. Thatís why I think the future depicted in the SyFy series The Expanse is so interesting ó unlike the rest of sci-fi the future in that show is much like our present. Itís almost like the message of The Expanse is, ďThe future will be exactly like the present which means things will still kinda suck.Ē

Based on the series of Leviathan Wakes novels by James S. A. Corey, in The Expanse, itís the near-future where weíve moved off the Earth and have colonized Mars and most of the near-Earth asteroids. Those who live on Earth have the most power, Mars the second and the asteroids a distant third if any at all. But, without spoiling things, something happens in the depths of space that threatens the future of mankind and itís up to the ďBeltersĒ who live on the asteroids to stop this threat before it gets to the Earth and ends everything. Which, admittedly, sounds like something thatís been done many times before. But I think how itís done on The Expanse that makes this series so unique.

These three groups are represented by the crew of the ship the Rocinante captained by Jim Holden (Steven Strait) who have proof that somethingís going on in the dark depths of the solar system if only anyone would listen. UN Ambassador Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) on Earth whoís trying to avert a war with Mars as ships begin disappearing and each blames the other. Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) who works on asteroid Eros and is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young woman and finds more than he bargained for. And a space station chief Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) who represents the interests of the Belters even if heís got a dark secret in his past heís trying to make amends for.

Except for the Avasarala character, these people arenít the best and brightest. Theyíre not the special forces, arenít Sherlock Holmes and for the most part have low-level jobs without a lot of responsibilities. But theyíre all thrown into this conflict where regardless of their status, they all have to step up and do their best and stop this greater threat while trying to overcome their limitations.

The interesting thing about all these characters and stories is that while thereís this overarching storyline in The Expanse, for the most part the paths of these characters donít really cross until the end of the season. Itís almost like each of them all are working at different parts of the plot and really donít know what any other group is doing and itís not until the end of the first season when characters stories begin crashing into one and other that they get this fuller picture of whatís been going on the whole season.

The characters of The Expanse donít live in this wonderland among the stars, they live in a place where what separates them from instant, boiling death is sometimes just a few millimeters of plastic. A place where the air can, and sometimes does, literally run out. And in a place where if something breaks and you donít have a spare or canít fix it yourselfÖwell, you get the picture.

But whatís so different here is that the characters of The Expanse arenít frightened of all this. To them, their reality is a horrific banality that comes from living in space.

Itís like someone of today whose house is next to a busy intersection. They know that at any moment an accident outside might send a truck careening through their home. And they might think about this when they first move in, but later on they donít think about it whatsoever. And the same holds true for the people of The Expanse who just accept that their day-to-day lives might at any moment be interrupted by something that might end everything.

The second season of The Expanse premiers February 1 on SyFy.

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