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So am I the only one to get sucked into “The Expanse?” May 25, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, fun, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology, Uncategorized, watch.
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Regular readers know that we haven’t got any cable or satellite, but I’m not completely dead to the culture, yet.  I still hear about things through blogs and news sites.  I heard about the SyFy network program The Expanse several months ago and quickly got sucked in.  Enough so that after I had exhausted the first season episodes available free on Amazon Prime, I waited a few months but finally cracked and bought the second season.  The show is by no means perfect, but it is very, very good.

One warning.  I guess the broadcast standards have really collapsed because the show has all kinds of cuss words in it.  It’s not really gratuitous, the situations generally call for such language, but the show features such dire situations so frequently the language does tend a bit blue.  And another warning – one unfortunate failing of the production was the inclusion of totally gratuitous sex scenes in the first episodes of both seasons.  This is such a sop to the sick and fallen culture it’s really sad to consider, because neither of these scenes is even remotely necessary for plot advancement or character development.

But aside from that there is very much right with the show.  The Expanse is set in the late 23rd century, a time when man has colonized much of the solar system, with Mars a heavily populated independent power and a huge population scattered on myriad asteroids and moons of the gas giants.  The Earth is still the greatest power in the solar system but Mars is rising and seeks to ultimately displace Earth.  There are lots of cold war-type tensions and then a radical new discovery literally changes everything.  The fight to gain control over this discovery and weaponize it for advantage drives much of the plot in the first two seasons.

The thing I like best about the show is that it is relatively realistic, as Sci-Fi goes.  It’s not quite 2001: a space odyssey, but it’s close.  They show real weightlessness, they show the effects of “high-G burns” when the interplanetary spacecraft must impose huge G-loads on the crew to do certain maneuvers, they show mostly realistic weaponry (but no anti-missile missiles is a pretty bad miss), long-range ship-to-ship, missiles, nuclear warheads, point defence guns, interplanetary guided missiles, etc.  It’s a quite fully realized universe and one that is enjoyable to watch.

The third major party in the series are the “belters,” souls who live among the asteroids and many moons colonized on the outer planets, people who have been in low-G and low-oxygen environments for so long their physiology has changed and they can no longer live on Earth.  They also have a unique language developed for the show, which to me sounds a lot like Afrikaans (and the English they speak is spoken with a South African accent).  The belters view themselves as outcasts who are preyed upon by the “inners” and violently punished whenever they “get out of line.”  This is another major story arc through the series.

The production values and CGI are top-notch.  There are some errors, like spacecraft with voluminous empty spaces serving no purpose (but they look pretty on TV) and crazily sped up transit times between, say, the rings of Saturn and the asteroid belt (which even at 5 million miles per hour – a speed the ships in the series regularly attain – could take many days or even weeks).

The acting ranges from fair to superb.  Shohreh Aghdashloo is brilliant as a leading Earth politician Chrisjen Avasarala.  I love Cas Anvar’s Martian of Indian-descent who speaks with a Texan accent, Alex Kamal.  Dominique Tipper has grown on me.  I think the dude playing James Holden is just OK.  Most of the others are serviceable but overall the acting does not bring the show down at all.

What really carries it along is the plot and the very well-realized universe.  The story is gripping and tends to draw you in.  They are dealing with end of the world solar system type scenarios quite regularly (hence, the language) but the scenarios are not utterly implausible.  Once you accept the MacGuffin that drives everything along it all flows very sensically.

If you like sci-fi it’s a definite must-see, provided you can get past the language and the two brief but gratuitous scenes in the first episodes of series 1 and 2 (fortunately you have a bit of warning for both and can easily skip past).  If you like good drama with a healthy amount of action, you’ll also probably enjoy it. If you think this culture has absolutely nothing to offer anyone and prefer a good book to anything broadcast, you’re probably wiser than I.  But sometimes my ‘ol noggin’ wants a break and this one wasn’t too bad.

Season 3 will air sometime in the first half of 2018.

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Comments

1. Richard Malcolm - May 25, 2017

“The thing I like best about the show is that it is relatively realistic, as Sci-Fi goes.”

I’ve been struck by that, too. I am hard pressed to think of a show which has taken the “science” part of “science fiction” as seriously. This is especially true in how in how it handles gravity, which outside terrestrial environments is only generated by acceleration, or centrifugal force. Otherwise, you’re in zero g, mate.

Likewise, its projection of the 23rd century is clearly dystopian, but as such it’s far, far likely closer to the probably economic and political reality (notwithstanding the absurdity of a truly federal United Nations) than is, say, STAR TREK’s 23rd century.

For now, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2003-09) remains the best sci-fi TV show I’ve ever seen. But THE EXPANSE is moving rapidly up to the runner up position. The occasional immoralities are just something I’ve had to accept as part of the package in this day and age.

Tantumblogo - May 25, 2017

I felt I had to give people fair warning on the immoralities in the show. It would be unjust, otherwise.

The language really doesn’t bother me, as it rarely seems gratuitous, but the sex scenes do. They really went to far with Holden and Niigata going at it in an airlock. But anyway.

I found Moore’s BSG too negative, too dsytopian. This show is more realistic to me. There are factions, but it’s not endlessly bleak, and there are people trying to do the right thing. I am a bit miffed that the only religion shown having any role in the culture is Mormonism, of all things, though Mormonism is, ideologically, one of the best suited for space exploration/colonization of other stars – they can literally be gods of new worlds! Exaltation on the cheap!

Yeah the tech realities are pretty cool. They at least try to keep it grounded in reality, instead of technobabble like inertial dampeners and Heisenberg compensators in Star Trek.

Glad you like it. My all time fav sci-fi will always be Kubrick’s masterpiece but The Expanse is enjoyable. I think in future though, given how the books have gone, it’s going to veer a bit more into fantasy than hard sci-fi.

Richard Malcolm - May 25, 2017

1. 2001 set the bar for serious sci-fi. It’s what has made all of this possible. Watching it today, it doesn’t really look very dated, which is a stunning achievement.

2. I agree that the language makes sense, but the sex scenes are simply gratuitous. I’m tempted to chalk this up to the GAME OF THRONES effect.

3. I have mixed feelings about the depiction of the Mormons. On the one hand, I’m actually pleased to see a recognition that religion – traditional religion (which for the showrunners, Mormonism functions as) – remains alive and well in this universe, and it doesn’t seem especially caricatured. One wishes there was more exploration of 23rd century religions, but one senses that the authors (speaking of the books) were more interested in unpacking other social questions.

But can I see Mormons building a generation ship in the 23rd century once the tech made it possible? Absolutely I can. Certainly more easily than I can Catholics.

4. BSG *was* an awfully darned bleak show, and I can understand why it was not everyone’s cup of tea. But that was baked into the very premise: wipe out my entire civilization and leave me and a handful of survivors fleeing for our lives in whatever ships we could get hands on, and I’m going to have a very dark tale to tell. Certainly it was true to its premise, unlike the 70’s series, in which the ragtag fleet was off to the Casino Planet in Episode 2. And one must give props to Moore for handling abortion in a balanced manner, willing to resolve the struggle with a complete ban in the interests of human survival. Where the show really sang was in the top notch writing and characterization (which is not quite as strong in THE EXPANSE, although it’s steadily improving).

But as I say, I can see why the darkness of the show can be hard for some to take.

2. Randy the Redneck - May 25, 2017

You are not. Now you have sucked me in.

3. DM - May 26, 2017

I’m hooked on the show as well, so much that I went and read the plot summaries of the books that take place after these first 2 seasons. Couldn’t wait years for the TV show to get that far. And Richard is right, the gratuitous sex scenes in this show and others are exactly because of the Game of Thrones effect.

Another sci-fi/drama show that has really come into its own this year has been Colony. Highly recommend, especially season 2. Not as focused on the sci-fi aspect, but good nonetheless.

Tantum, I’ve also been wanting to ask what you thought of season 2 of The Man in the High Castle?

c matt - May 26, 2017

Where can you find season 2?

Tantumblogo - May 26, 2017

Of which? Man in the High Castle? Amazon. The Expanse Season 2 is on Amazon as well.

4. c matt - May 26, 2017

Will have to check it out. Also been hooked on Colony, which is a not so subtle crack at our “War on Terror” at least as I see it.

Man, do I miss Caprica.

5. Camper - May 26, 2017

It would be better to boycott it. Read a classic book instead, like Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island. Please try to do an article on healthy alternatives to anything on TV instead of showing this sort of thing.

Camper - May 26, 2017

In this regard, we should copy the… Mohammedans. They would be outraged by such a thing and would demand that it be banned. Just think about how much stronger they are.

Numbskull - May 26, 2017

Not only would the muzzies ban it, but they would have the heads of the entire cast and crew chopped off for good measure. Then they would get pirated copies, and watch it while no one is looking.

Camper - May 26, 2017

Seriously, think about how much more zealous a culture that will execute adulterers is. If they are willing to execute adulterers, shouldn’t we be willing to boycott filth, no matter how interesting the science is? Those with an interest in space exploration could follow that without following some trashy “romance.”

DM - May 27, 2017

I do totally agree with your point about Muslims. Despite all their faults and errors, they are certainly far more zealous in defending morals and modesty in their societies. I will certainly give them credit for that. If Christians had a fraction of the dedication they have, our parishes, and wider culture would not be in nearly as bad a state as they are today.

6. Camper - May 26, 2017

You could play chess or flag football. You could read classic histories, like Livy or Gibbon. There’s “The Death of Christian Culture” for ideas on things to do. Buy a piano and piano lessons for one of your daughters and sing Palestrina. Learn music theory.

7. เบอร์มงคล - May 27, 2017

เบอร์มงคล

So am I the only one to get sucked into “The Expanse?” | A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics


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