Last night, I watched the pilot episode to the new science fiction TV series, ‘The Expanse‘. It’s based on a series of novels by a writing team that goes by the pseudonym James S.A. Corey, the first of which I reviewed a while back. I’ve read all the books in the series and enjoyed them immensely. In broad strokes, it’s about an interplanetary civilization becoming an interstellar one, with most of the action focused on the crew of a small Firefly type ship.
The production values of the pilot are impressive. There are lots of zero gravity scenes, which are expensive to shoot, and the sets and special effects seem pretty first rate.
I’m also impressed by how intelligent the show is. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if the show had sacrificed the commitment that the books had toward the ships moving around in a realistic Newtonian fashion, but the show seems to have mostly stuck with it. Characters are in zero gravity when the ships are just coasting, and have weight when they’re accelerating. And ships are shown flipping around to decelerate.
So far, the show seems to be following the first book pretty closely. Most of the pilot story comes from the opening chapters of ‘Leviathan Wakes‘, except for the introduction of Chrisjen Avasarala, a character that doesn’t show up until the second book. It appears that the show is going to follow the ‘Game of Thrones’ formula by doing a season per book, at least to start.
My only real beef with the show, and it’s not a major one, is that the actors all seemed a bit too young compared to the descriptions of the characters in the books, or maybe in just a little too good a shape to be believable as the burnouts they are presented to be. The actor that plays the main character, Jim Holden, looks like someone who spends hours a day in the gym, rather than the coffee inhaling guy who muddles through the books. But then, this is TV and I guess some compromises have to be made.
One of my friends was bothered by the characters using magnetic boots in most of the zero gravity scenes, pointing out that they aren’t used in the books and wouldn’t be used in real life, but that doesn’t particularly bother me. Filming zero gravity scenes is difficult and expensive (I’m impressed the show had as many as they did), and at least the magnetic boots are a concession to the reality of zero-g in space. It seems like a reasonable compromise for a weekly show, a much better one than the typical solution of just ignoring it, or positing artificial gravity systems that never go out, even in derelict ships.
So I’m pretty excited with this new series. It looks like its going to very intelligent, and will hopefully raise the standard for space opera shows. I recommend checking it out. I watched it on Amazon (for free), but it’s also available on the SyFy site, Hulu, and a lot of other places.