One might argue science fiction shows are a dime a dozen and others would argue even harder (with furious anger) there is no good science fiction TV unless it starts with “Star” and ends with “Trek”. It’s not like science fiction shows set in space or at least cast with a variety of alien characters tend to stick around a long time—just look at the recently cancelled Defiance. But maybe that’s because nobody can get the correct formula right. Seeing as I’ve read The Expanse series up until the latest book I can safely say there are 10 very good reasons this show should be on your watch list.
The Expanse (SyFy)
1. The show is streaming for free right now
Any channel willing to give away their first episode for free is confident they have something worth watching. Sure this isn’t a guarantee, but you have to like SyFy’s boldness in giving it away. It could be they have a lot riding on the show too, namely because of a big budget, but a big budget typically means they have faith in the product.
The iPhone 15 is pretty sick.
2. It’s set in a not-too-distant future with plausible technology
That’s right, this show and the book aren’t trying to make us believe teleportation is a thing or that spaceships can jump through space faster than light. Instead our very human characters are just trying to keep their soft fleshy selves alive in spaceships that aren’t flying with technology that’s all that implausible. Plus, they look like they were built for function, which isn’t usually the case with TV and movies. The show doesn’t get too deep into the explanation of how things work yet, but believe me, there are reasons characters need to be strapped down and injected in order to travel very fast. All of this plausibility makes the show feel like a future we could actually live in, which makes the experience more interesting.
And hell, there’s nothing that ruins great CGI and good acting like a character clearly being hung by wires to simulate gravity (looking at you, Powers). Thankfully, that’s not the case here; when gravity is gone you really believe the characters are out there in space and the crushing cold and darkness is right there with them.
What is she looking at?
3. There are aliens…sort of
Martians and “Belters” are actually human beings. The funny thing is though, being born and living on another surface that’s not Earth changes your body and maybe even your psychology. In the case of the “Belters” – people born in the Asteroid belt – the lack of gravity has made their bodies adapt in interesting ways, like being taller and thinner. Because they are still human—yet people who live elsewhere hate them—the idea of racism is still very real in this universe and something the show can explore as time goes on. Another facet we can relate to.
Wait…is that real?
4. This show is gorgeous
While movie goers have been spoiled with The Martian and last year’s Interstellar the look of this show almost puts those to shame. I don’t know what they’re doing, but the space scenes look strikingly realistic and lush. There isn’t a ton of color—space is a very dark place after all—but it’s pretty clear we’re now in an age where the best computer graphics no longer have to live on the big screen.
5. The books are fantastic and will add to the TV watching experience
The fifth of the nine book series came out this past June and if the events in these books is any indication the show isn’t catching up any time soon. That said, there is robust character work going on and details the show will assuredly not cover simply because of the nature of adapting novels to the silver screen. It’s also always fun to see what was changed from the source material. Plus, you can read ahead if you’re dying to know what happens.
6. Wait they have who in this cast?
Everyone is going to talk about Thomas Jane taking up the role of a detective and they rightly should. The guy nails the grizzled noir detective who’s not the perfect hero everyone expects him to be. He’s weathered in this show and it’s obvious from the start, which makes him more interesting. Steven Strait is our second main protagonist and he’s quite good in the first episode. He’s the young “I don’t want responsibility but I am a good person” character and he plays it well. Knowing how this plays out I can safely say he’s got this covered as far as the personal journey he’s on. Plus Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad fame gets an appearance!
A brief scene but you haven’t seen him like this before.
7. The sets are keeping it real
So often in science fiction shows the makeup gets all the budget which makes the sets look cheap and fake. Not so here. The spaces our characters inhabit look lived in and quite real. This is helped by great ambiance made by the lighting. You simply won’t find a single wall in this show that looks like you could punch through it.
Something tells me there’s a wall due to global warming and rising water.
8. There are dueling stories going on and one of them takes place on Earth
We all live on Earth, and when a show takes place in a not-too-distant future one of the most fun parts is seeing how it all looks in the future. One of the best aspects of Minority Report is seeing how life has changed, how cars look and what we think we could be in store for when technology eventually does catch up to the entertainment. Back to the Future II wasn’t right about everything, but seeing what 2015 could look like was certainly one of the most amazing aspects of the original.
This show isn’t going to stay in the dark and claustrophobic settings for 100% of the show—though Alien, which has similar vibes, managed to pull it off—it should eventually show us other places in our Solar System.
9. There are major events that will flip this show on its head
This may appear to be the sort of series where characters roam around dark hallways, solve crimes, deal with issues in outer space and that’s about it, but that’s just the setup. I won’t ruin it here for you, but some cataclysmic events are in store for our characters and what is already good drama is going to get a hell of a lot more thrilling soon.
Our resident detective.
10. The show blends genres
You can call this a science fiction show, but ultimately that’s underselling what it really is: Great writing. Case in point, people often ask Stephen King why he writes horror and he always replies it’s not his intention. In fact he doesn’t view them that way, but as a story worth telling that has many different elements from a variety of genres. This show is similar, as it opens on a scary sequence and over its 46 minute run time we see aspects of a political thriller, mystery and drama.
Do yourself the favor and watch the show while it’s still free online. You’ll quickly see the cinematography, CGI, acting and story all combine to prove this isn’t any other TV show, but a 10 hour cinematic pleasure. Just nine more hours to go!
The Expanse debuted on VOD November 23rd and can be seen here. The series begins its run on SyFy Monday, December 14 at 10pm ET and you can watch it weekly at the same time on Tuesdays with the second episode hitting December 15.