The Expanse: The Complete Seasons 1/2/3 (DVD TV series review).

Watching the opening season again, I started to pay particular attention until anyone was actually given names. It wasn’t until the fourth episode that the key detective (actor Thomas Jane) was called Miller. It’s only with the 5th episode that we learn the captain of the escape pod/spaceship and whose announcement that Mars was behind a suspect derelict spaceship attack was caller Holder (actor Steven Strait) and in the next episode, his forename of James. The lady revealing it is the undersecretary of Earth (actress Shoheh Asdhdashloo) in all of this and some of the dots join up. You shouldn’t play around with protomolecules.

As I’ve reviewed season one a couple years back, , I’ll focus more on season 2. The biggest surprise was the number of times characters were being identified by name so I couldn’t have been the only one spotting the deficit in season 1. We also get audio commentaries although producers and actors say nothing about this change and none at all in season 3.

The focus of the second season is the protomolecule and the various Earth and Mars factions want it stopped than spread across the solar system. Although the audio commentaries point out that no side is truly evil in doing this, just different points of view, they tended to ignore the private enterprise actions and their using children to stabilise the protomolecule clearly is. If that isn’t deemed as evil, I don’t know what is.

The audio commentary for the episode ‘Home’ regards is as their best episode although no one seems to question why it would take 150 nuclear warheads to destroy the Eros space station or how they can be sent from Earth and get there so quickly to Jupiter space.

With the ‘Paradigm Shift’ episode, we are show 137 years earlier and the creation of the Epstein zero-inertia drive, presumably to explain how those warhead missiles can travel so fast. It’s all very well for crewless missiles, but travelling from Earth to Jupiter is still not going to be done in hours, even under medication, and, as Epstein demonstrated, a bit difficult to move under such accelerations. To stop would still have to be a gradual process. Mind you, having the various starships flip over does suggest they use their motors to decelerate. Although I don’t expect any TV SF show to stop for science lessons, information can be incorporated than leave it open for interpretation or query.

Much of the second season still revolves around the protomolecule, who created it and who wants ownership. Considering that this is Earth, Mars and the Belters, there’s a conflict of interest and a desire not to go to war…just yet. Oh, there’s 5 minutes divided into 3 extras and, if nothing else, gives names to some of the characters and actors, assuming you haven’t had to look them up already. I still think the damage from the opening season is still there and still ended up watching than naming Holder’s crew names did finally sink in.

The third season progresses ownership of the protomolecule, experiments, wars and civil wars, with various fingers getting into the pile and different people rising ever higher trying to find some peaceful resolutions, especially when they get the evidence.

What was weird about the ninth episode of the third season was a sudden jump to further into a different story and me thinking I missed something. No doubt this is supposed to reflect the change to a different book but considering up to that point the approach had been a continual storyline, it does seem like a strange decision. Granted there was some explanations along the way for some of the changes but we are talking about the end of a three way civil war in not having some sort of aftermath.

It was interesting that everyone got the wrong end of the stick and that the protomolecule wasn’t to alter humans but to create a gigantic portal that once inside slowed spaceships down although didn’t explain how they could get between spaceships so quickly as if distance had gone away.

What does become pretty obvious is we have our first big dumb object for a long while in TV Science Fiction. I was curious if anyone else had recognised it as such and not the case. It certainly has all the right qualities.

Despite my criticisms, ‘The Expanse’ is watchable but elements of the story are introduced and, as with the two sisters back history, dropped as quickly in significance. Whether this mirrors the original books by James Corey or just acknowledging some of the expected details is up to you. The audio commentaries do point out that some characters were introduced early to prepare the viewer for their later importance than just spring them on us. Even so, they still did that. This does tend to make for a spread-out narrative. Granted that this might be a reflection of life where players come to the fore for a brief time and then step back into the background but some of these are leaders and prime movers which makes less sense. The traditional keeping to core characters throughout is invariably to keep the number of people needed down although you would ask how so few can be so lucky or unlucky depending on your perspective but that’s seen as storycraft shorthand that both writers and readers understand. For a TV series, it does to make the series bitty and it shows here.

In many respects, the balance is off between characters and events, giving neither of them enough space but you do have to do a lot of thinking over what they show and what they do.

Would I watch any more seasons? The fourth season is available but not the final two seasons and in the hands of Amazon on a digital channel, so who knows when they’ll be released. Season 3 at least has an ending, no doubt caused when SciFy channel cancelled it originally. I would hesitate until all three of the last seasons are available then find myself annoyed if I got cut off in season 4.

GF Willmetts

March 2023

(pub: Dazzler Media. 13 DVDs 35 * 40 minute episodes 1500 minutes.  Price: £29.99 (UK). ASIN: DASZ00832)

cast: Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Shoheh Asdhdashloo, Cas Anvar, Frankie Adams, Cara Gee, Shawn Doyle, Thomas Jane and many more

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