Tuesday, 15 November 2016

TV review: The Expanse, season 1

This SyFy series is based on the series of books by James Corey. The setting is the solar system, a few hundred years from now. There are colonies on the moon and Mars, and “Belter” space stations, on Ceres and elsewhere. Someone is trying to raise tension between all the groups, someone is blowing up ships, someone has disappeared, and something is on the loose.

There are two main plots strands, plus a few minor ones. First, world-weary Belter cop Josephus Miller is tasked by his boss to track down missing Earther Juliette, because her rich father has asked for a favour. Second, world-weary space freighter officer James Holden is one of only a handful of survivors when a mysterious cruiser blows up their ship the Canterbury; he sets off to find out what happened. These quests are unsurprisingly connected, and Miller and Holden eventually end up in the same place, and discover something terrifying threatening all the colonies.

I haven’t read the books, but, despite these ten episodes covering events in more than one book (so I am told), the pace is glacial. They have spent a lot of money on the futuristic sets and weightless SFX, and they want the viewers to appreciate that. Pity everywhere is so grim and grey, then. The actors are clearly depressed by the locations, as they mostly mumble their way morosely through the script.

Some of the world building is good: the dialect spoken by the Belters gives a feeling of language evolution (and is no harder to understand than Earth-standard, given the way everyone mumbles out in space). They get round the weightlessness on-ship with magnetic boots, and have Coriolis forces visible in their whiskey back home on the asteroids. Other little features in the world building are irritating, though. For most of the time, the Belters are complaining about desperate water shortages and rationing. Then, in the final episodes, everyone is fleeing through a maze of twisty little corridors on the asteroid Eros. To demonstrate how decayed and run-down the whole place is, these corridors have water streaming down their walls, and dripping from the ceilings. Right.

And then the season ends on an cliff-hanger, with essentially nothing explained or resolved.

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