The Expanse (season 1)

The-Expanse-header-1200x675I’ve read all the novels in this series (though not the Kindle singles because I’m off screens), and I had been looking forward to the television version for a long time. The James S A Corey novels are decent enough space opera, written by a couple of George R R Martin’s team of researchers/assistants. As such, while they might not be Robert Charles Wilson quality, they were clearly written with adaptation for television in mind.

When the series finally became available on the other side of the Atlantic in November, I was confident that it wouldn’t be long before it was available in the UK. If nothing else, I was prepared to buy the series pass on iTunes. One might hope it would turn up on NowTV, or Amazon, or Netflix in the UK, but I was always prepared to get legit viewing experience.

Well, it’s almost March and it is still not available, nor has it been broadcast by the network SyFy. I can only assume that NBCUNiversal has its collective corporate head up its collective corporate arse. In this day and age, it remains preposterous that simultaneous global release is still not a thing in so many cases. What do they think is going to happen, as they merrily publicise the series on social media, and all the podcasts I listen to have already covered it – all the way up to the season finale?

The premise of the show (dare we go there?) is a little like Game of Thrones in space: power struggles; decent people stretched to the limits of their decency; events taking place in several different locations; and a fairly large cast. Throw into the mix a Robert Charles Wilson style incursion by the Alien Technological Sublime, and you have an exciting mix.

Two ships, in quick succession, are destroyed by an unknown force. A small crew of survivors bicker their way into public consciousness, and a cold war (between a colonised Mars, Earth, and the raggle taggle society of the asteroid belt) threatens to erupt into a shooting war. The survivors are ‘led’ by the unpredictable, naive, boy scout James Holden. Meanwhile, on Earth, the deputy General Secretary of the UN (Chrisjen Avarsala) tries to unravel the underlying power struggle and prevent war. On the asteroid station Ceres, a cop follows an off-books missing persons investigation (a billionaire’s daughter who appears to have joined a suspected terrorist cell). And in the midst of this appears some kind of weird disease/fungus called the protomolecule which might just possibly be some kind of nanotech weapon – or is it, etc.

Events in season 1 take us to a point just about halfway through the first book in the series, and a second season has been commissioned. In story terms, the books follow distinct plot-lines, so a putative season 3 would take us into a kind of offshoot of this initial plot.

I really enjoyed this, though I suspect that episode 1 is going to be bewildering for anyone not up to speed with the books. Most of the acting is decent, and though much of the casting seems a bit odd in comparison with my ideas about the characters, it works well. I especially like the way that Holden and his crew are most definitely not a team for most of the episodes: there is real character growth here as they come to trust each other. The Earth sequences have been brought forward from later books, which helps to balance the plotlines. Some of the gun battles are boring (I barely bothered to look up), but this is proper science fiction and well worth checking out if you like that kind of thing.

I haven’t seen it, of course, because it’s not yet available in the UK.

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