Years: 2015 – Present
Synopsis: Based on the long running book series, in a not too distant future, a group of often reluctant heroes unravel mysteries that may threaten humanity.
• One of the best pure science-fiction series on TV now.
• Has more a relation to Game of Thrones at times than other science-fiction series out there.
• Reminiscent of not only sci-fi of the 1990s, but also Lovecraft’s short story The Colour Out of Space in the first few seasons.
• The devotion to realism ironically makes the show unique next to shows with artificial gravity and warp drives.
• The devotion to realism might be seen as obsessive to viewers expecting the more fantastical.
• The first season is a touch less coherent narratively than the succeeding.
• For the first three seasons, the SyFy channel.
How can we understand the wholly alien when we as a race fail to understand ourselves? That was a recurring theme in HP Lovecraft’s work, which can be seen in The Expanse. In the show, humanity has colonized the solar system, and has repeated terrestrial history by creating a new cold war of distrust and misunderstanding. Then, perhaps inevitably, comes the alien life-form: the “proto-molecule.” Instead of burning those in contact from devastating levels of radiation, the crystalline molecule transforms (“The Work”). It drove scientists mad in their desperate attempt to understand it, and was unwittingly the spark used to start interplanetary war. Unraveling the human conspiracies and mysteries surrounding the molecule, even when human unity seems impossible, is the strong heart of the show.
In some ways, it is more surprising that SyFy picked up the show than it recently canceling it. The network, however they spelled their name, has a history of abrupt cancelations and shows not lasting more than five seasons (Expanse could last more than seven going by number of books). Farscape (1999-2003), after near randomized scheduling, was suddenly canceled after the fourth of five planned seasons, and it took the producers purchasing the show outright to finish their story in a miniseries. Later shows like Warehouse 13 (2009-2014) and Eureka (2006-2012) had extended penultimate seasons and canceled after a shortened fifth season. Battlestar Galactica (2003, 2004-2009) only lasted four seasons plus a miniseries and short-lived spin-offs, with the producers wisely ending the main show on their own terms. These cancelation phenomena were referenced on the long running Big Bang Theory (2007-2019) a few years back via the completist Sheldon complaining about Alphas (2011-2012) being canceled on a cliffhanger.
All that isn’t to say that SyFy is unique on seemingly abrupt cancelation decisions. A show’s continuation is several factors, including ratings, writers, producer-network finagling, but SyFy is a notable example. The production company behind the series, Alcon, is indeed looking to continue the show elsewhere, perhaps Netflix, and if we’re lucky, we haven’t seen the last of The Work.
Update: Amazon has picked up the series for the next season.
And yes, it was glorious. In fact, it was perhaps the best Weird Fiction I have ever seen, stealthily packaged within a Space Western.
S1 — 76%
S2 — 95%
S3 — 100%
S4 — 100%