Expanding the Genre: How One Show is Changing Science-Fiction

Orion Bress, Contributing Writer
“The Expanse,” available on Amazon Prime (Photo courtesy of denofgeeks.com)

With “House of Dragon” returning us to Westeros and “The Rings of Power” returning us to Middle Earth, I believe now is a perfect time for us to revisit the lesser-known world of “The Expanse.” Based on the book series by the same name written by James S.A. Cory, a pseudonym for writers Daniel Abraham & Ty Frank, “The Expanse” is available on Amazon Prime.

Set a few hundred years in the future, “The Expanse” is a science fiction political thriller mystery show about the divisions between humanity and peoples’ reaction to the unknown. In “The Expanse,” the solar system is divided between a stagnate and overpopulated United Nations-run Earth, an ascendent militarist Mars, and the oppressed Belters who live, work and die providing resources to Earth and Mars. The solar system exists in a tense and fragile peace where just a single spark drives the entire solar system into war. This is just a taste of what “The Expanse” holds.

The first thing that stands out to me about “The Expanse” is the show’s fantastic writing. “The Expanse” has some of the most interesting and concise writing and worldbuilding of any fictional world. The worldbuilding sets up an interesting and frighteningly plausible vision of the future where the fundamental problems of today are carried forward. This depiction of a future solar system is easily as rich and compelling as any of the other great fictional worlds of literature. Furthermore, “The Expanse” is populated by interesting and fully developed characters, from the foul-mouthed UN politician Chrisjen Avasurala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), to the right-out-of-Noir detective Joseph Miller (Thomas Jane), to the troubled and unintendedly hilarious mechanic Amos (Wes Catham), and numerous other well-acted and memorable characters. Along with the fantastic characters and worldbuilding is the relevant and nuanced social commentary written in such a way that it  comes off as a natural part of the story and world of “The Expanse.” Lastly, despite a slow start, “The Expanse” maintains high quality episodes that keeps the audience invested with plenty of rewatch value.  

One of the most noteworthy features about “The Expanse” is the show’s relative realism. “The Expanse” works hard to get the details of living and working in space right in such a way that it becomes a fundamental part of the show and its world. Gone is the space magic of artificial gravity, shields, ray guns, faster than light drives, and lack of inertia, that defined so much of past science fiction. Instead, the reality of space travel like microgravity, acceleration and inertia, the hard limit of light speed and other real-world considerations are used to create unique obstacles and situations that most science fiction stories ignore. However, if you are concerned that this dedication to realism sounds boring and complicated, I promise you it’s neither. The brilliant writing and direction of “The Expanse” can get viewers with little scientific background to understand the rules of its universe (and to a lesser extent, our own) in a natural way. On top of that, “The Expanse” has plenty of heart pounding action and drama that would put most shows, both science fiction and otherwise, to shame.

“The Expanse” is one of the best shows of the past 20 years and if you’re looking for something to watch, I cannot recommend it enough.

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