The Expanse is a science fiction television show based on the book series by James S.A. Corey (the collaborative pen name of two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), and it originally aired on Syfy but has since been picked up for a fourth season by Amazon. This space opera follows humanity in the future where, due to the lack of interstellar travel, we've colonized our solar system which have split into three particular factions -- Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid belt -- and primarily focuses on the tensions they have with each other, possibly on the verge of war with one another, while at the same time gradually discovering something mysterious that can very well threaten the change the existence of human evolution.
Much like how the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica revitalized the genre, The Expanse continues that streak with being a story about human beings, exploring the complexity of our interpersonal connections, of understanding the conflict of our political, cultural, ethical, and ideological differences, and how we can come together despite these differences in great times of need.
I discovered the show not too long ago myself, just before the third season premiered, and I'm so glad I did because everything about this show is precisely what I want in a science fiction series. Ever since the absence of Battlestar Galactica and most recently Dark Matter, this has filled a particular emptiness in my soul that has been missing for some time in regards to finding some good, rich scifi. From the acting to the production value and the story being told, here are some reasons why I, personally, believe The Expanse is absolutely fantastic and is worth checking out.
→ The rich world-building. From the very first scene of the first episode you're left with a sense of curiosity and wondering, it draws you in immediately and never falters in capturing your interest, and it just builds from there. It's safe to say that the world-building in this show is phenomenal in more ways than one. It is rich and enthralling because it doesn't need to announce itself, it just takes you along for the ride. While some exposition can occur, it never holds your hand and never treats the audience like they're dumb and need explanations for everything. And even though it's probably way more elaborate in the books, the show does a fantastic job with just allowing the audience drink in the atmosphere and to observe what is going on without being told every five minutes. Furthermore, the way everything is shown is done quite beautifully. There's so much attention to detail. It's what attracted me to the series in the first place, right from the first episode.
→ Diverse cast. Aside from a few characters, the entire cast is primarily non-white, having a mix of multiracial actors among not just the main characters but also recurring and minor roles, as well. This is an important factor for many people who are looking for shows that don't have the tired stereotypical "mostly white cast with the token minority character" trope. Science fiction, at least on television, is one of the few genres out there that have this kind of multicultural representation, most recently with shows like Dark Matter, Sense8 and Killjoys, and this show is no exception. It's also very deliberate, too, since the books themselves make it very clear that most of the characters aren't white, and the show reflects that by casting appropriately. One of the prime examples of this was finding the right actress to portray Bobbie Draper for the second season, which it's been claimed that Syfy executives tried to convince the casting producers of the show to not focus on race, but they did anyway because they wanted to do right by the book character.
Furthermore, practically all the characters are incredibly well-written, fully fleshed out with complexities and nuances to who they are as individuals and their motivations that even the most minor characters will make an impression on the audience. Plus, I guarantee once you get introduced to Chrisjen Avasarala (portrayed by the fabulous Shohreh Aghdashloo), you'll love her instantly.
→ Putting the science in science fiction. One of the many praises The Expanse has is how it utilizes certain aspects of real science that oftentimes is ignored or isn't really thought about much in most science fiction stories. In truth, science fiction is just mere speculative fiction, where it's an open sandbox for exploration of the unknown. It's expected that we're going to have to suspend belief a little bit when it comes to this genre, but sometimes that can only go so far before it starts getting a little hokey or ridiculous and can be hard to take it seriously. With The Expanse, however, they pay special attention to detail and physics when using scientific accuracy that correlates with the story they're telling, from how the varying levels of gravity affects people differently and how human biology can be altered with long exposure to atmospheres that aren't like Earths, to even simply understanding the physics of space travel from one planet to another that doesn't rely on faster than light travel. It is so particular that there are plenty of videos discussing this topic at length on the realism of its science in the series, and how it doesn't feel like the typical "scifi magic" that we're so used to seeing of this genre. It's a great combination of being grounded in reality and still having that curiosity of the possible future and the mystery surrounding the unknown. It's a testament to what great research does to enhance the story instead of merely hand-waving it to, "well, it happens just because." Grounding a fantastical element with an already existing aspect of our world makes it more believable, and The Expanse, both the books and the show, does this rather well in a way that we haven't really seen before.
→ The soundtrack. Composed by Clinton Shorter, the score soundtrack for The Expanse perfectly sets the tone and mood of what is happening, immersing the audience with the story and, much like what Bear McCreary did for BSG, it complements the atmosphere that is being presented on the screen. I highly recommend giving it a listen, at least the score for the first season.
→ Quality production value. It's pretty evident just based on any footage you see that the show has incredible production quality, from not just the writing and direction but from the sets to the special effects; designing not just spaceships and planets but also cities, civilizations, technology, and everything else in between. It all comes together perfectly. Of course, it's expensive as hell, but the final product makes it all worth it.
→ The S1 trailer. As I said, this isn't a spoilery post, so to get an idea of what to expect from the show itself I do recommend looking at the first season trailer and the first season story featurette trailer. You won't regret it.
In Conclusion: The Expanse is probably one of the best science fiction shows we've had in a long time, and that's not even an exaggeration. It mirrors the political space opera that the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica was and amps it up to eleven with being an adaptation of a book series that is equally as phenomenal, if not more. As someone who has a liking to these kinds of scifi stories, The Expanse is a breath of fresh air I didn't realize we needed in this particular genre, and it has rejuvenated something that has been missing in science fiction for a long while now. From rich storytelling to phenomenal performances to the gorgeous visuals and effects, this is something special that shouldn't be overlooked. I highly and definitely recommend this show, especially for anyone who loves scifi and wants something new and different to watch.
As a sidenote, since The Expanse was picked up by Amazon for a fourth season, anyone who wants to support the show (as y'all should because as I mentioned it's absolutely amazing) I suggest getting an Amazon Prime account if you don't already have one and watch it when it comes out. The Expanse got a second chance at life, and it deserves more seasons to continue telling the story.