The Expanse – The future will still kind’a suck
Most sci-fi things that take place in the future focus on how the future’s going to be different then today. If that future is Star Trek, then it’s this wonderful place where mankind zooms around the cosmos in great ships meeting exciting alien species and having wonderful adventures. If it’s the future of something like Blade Runner, then it’s 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. That’s why I think the future depicted in the SyFy series The Expanse is so interesting — unlike the rest of sci-fi the future in that show is much like our present. It’s almost like the message of The Expanse is, “The future will be exactly like the present which means things will still kind’a suck.”
Based on the series of Leviathan Wakes novels by James S. A. Corey, in The Expanse, it’s the near-future where we’ve 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 it’s up to the “Belters” who live on the asteroids to stop this threat before it gets to the Earth and ends everything. Which, admittedly, sounds like something that’s been done many times before. But I think how it’s 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 something’s going on in the dark depths of the solar system if only anyone would listen. UN Ambassador Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) on Earth who’s 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 he’s got a dark secret in his past he’s trying to make amends for.
Except for the Avasarala character, these people aren’t the best and brightest. They’re not the special forces, aren’t Sherlock Holmes and for the most part have low-level jobs without a lot of responsibilities just like most people today. But they’re 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 there’s this overarching storyline in The Expanse, for the most part the paths of these characters don’t really cross until the end of the season. It’s almost like each of them all are working at different parts of the plot and really don’t know what any other group is doing and it’s not until the end of the first season when characters stories begin crashing into one and other that they get this fuller picture of what’s been going on the whole season.
The characters of The Expanse don’t 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 don’t have a spare or can’t fix it yourself…well, you get the picture. But what’s so different here is that the characters of The Expanse aren’t frightened of all this. To them, their reality is a horrific banality that comes from living in space.
It’s like someone of today who’s 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 don’t 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.