Expanding on The Expanse, or not

I thought I had written before about the “TV” series which I have been both watching and reading, but it seems not; perhaps only brief mentions here and there.

Series one and two of The Expanse were on Netflix, but now the whole lot, along with the third, have been moved over to Amazon Prime (it’s a nuisance when this happens if you can’t justify being subscribed to both); fortunately I had a month’s free trial waiting in the wings and finally an additional reason to activate it (ordering an item that I needed promptly and would ultimately receive next day with Amazon Prime).

But yes, The Expanse. It’s a science fiction series based on novels by James S. A. Corey. It is set in a future where humanity has colonised the Solar System and follows a variety of people and groups, from politicians on Earth, and on Mars where we have started to colonise, the “Belt” and spaces in between. A conspiracy (according to Wikipedia) unravels which threatens the system’s fragile state of Cold War-like peace, class balance, and the survival of humanity as a whole. There is also a religious undercurrent that seems to run through which especially got me intrigued at the start.

I found the first series a challenge to follow as we learn about those various people and groups and the camera jumps between different locations. It was fortuitous for me to discover the novels and I began reading them along-side the TV series to get me up to speed. The books use each chapter to present the unfolding story from the perspective of a different character – in the first book it alternates between just two (Miller and Holden), but in the second more character viewpoints are added into the mix. I have just requested my local library to source me a copy of the third book which I look forward to reading and expect it to follow a similar fashion; they are very well written and as gripping as their on screen counterparts. The books and on screen versions don’t necessarily line up perfectly though with some points being grabbed from ahead to help make the story work for that format (a couple of times I’ve had to stop myself from reading too far ahead because I preferred, on this occasion, to watch it unfold on screen first, and then use the book to provide me with further insight).

So, the first series, as I reflect, was about getting to grips with the various characters and theme, the second had this challenge out of the way and I could sit back and enjoy the spectacle in a more relaxed fashion. The third has kept up the pace with a perpetually gripping and unravelling story, however I did find a few things to be described as niggles here.

Early on in the third season I felt some of the graphics were a little off; I can only really describe these situations as “Star Wars”esque, like, they reminded me of the style of those early films where you see large space ships or the death star; perhaps it was more to do with the style of some of the larger space craft we were seeing. My impression was that a budget limit had been imposed which is something I recall from other sci-fi series, namely Stargate/Atlantis, where I would watch the DVD box sets with added commentary and points would be raised about budgets being restricted for certain episodes so more effort could placed on others where it would be more greatly needed and appreciated. This seems to be what occurred in The Expanse, with later episodes of the series where things really started to kick off, not having this hint of a lack of quality to jar me; it’s not that the graphics were crappy in those early episodes, it’s just that something seemed “off” to the point where I was momentarily snapped back to reality.

Other things annoyed me more so, which is a feeling I wouldn’t have ever thought I would have felt about a series I so thoroughly enjoyed. One of these issues was where I felt technicalities had been skipped over. What I mean by this is that The Expanse is a sci-fi story, it has science in it and feels like the future for which it is set is one that is believable as a possible future where humanity has finally begun to colonise and mine the solar system. With this element of believableness in place it’s not too hard to carry this over to the ultimate plot regarding the “Protomolecule” that is causing havoc; you have to believe it’s something that could happen. There are then the various solutions that the various teams might have to come up with along the way, again involving science, but at one point at least I felt a disservice was done to the viewers and some process was put in place as a solution with a lack of explanation; perhaps the book will go into more detail, I hope it does, but I was annoyed in the instance when I felt cheated out of an explanation or the joy of following along while something is put together – perhaps there were time constraints and a challenge to make something work on screen, but for a sci-fi series, techy explanations should not be skipped over, even if they are perhaps leaning towards being too far-fetched; make it work! To mention Stargate again (which wont be the last time I do so here) I always remember those series fondly with the memory of actual and/or plausible science being employed in problems and solutions (which work for the non-physicists among us at least).

My third, and I think final, annoyance is Holden’s pouty face. He doesn’t actually pout, but it’s the best way I can think to describe it; typically this occurs (repeatedly) when things turn particularly challenging and he has a heart-to-heart with Naomi and he does these screwed up/squinty teary eyes. It’s like the director saw the actor do that a few times and liked it so much that he requests he do it again and again at every given opportunity; his money shot. It has been seen so many times now that it bugs the hell out of me. The reality is Holden has found himself in proverbial poop so many times now that you’d think he was used to it. This is coupled with Naomi who I have noticed in response, seems to lack any sort of emotion; perhaps a fault of the actress who can’t do that whole pitiful look that ‘Holden’ does to sympathise, or maybe her character is supposed to be that much stronger, or cold, but it’s like she doesn’t feel the humanity of those situations as Holden does, which would be offensive to me if I was Holden – to have such a talk with a partner and for her not to feel what I feel.

Some further observations…

I have noticed how there are certain “character” traits that are found both in The Expanse and in Star Trek Discovery.

Naomi – Michael Burnham – both have that hair which goes through various phases of crazy:

Drummer – The baddy Philippa Georgiou from the alternative time line; the latter has hair extensions for added effect but it’s so obvious it’s kind of terrible. Both are kick-ass and I particularly liked it when Naomi tries to have a heart-to-heart with Drummer and is basically told “don’t bother”; I can’t recall if this was done solely through a facial expression but it certainly had one that was pretty good!

I can’t think of who the male members of the cast might remind me of. Feel free to add your suggestions below.

Links:

Watch The Expanse on Amazon Prime: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3

Book 1, Book 2, Book 3

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