SyFy’s newest original series, The Expanse, opens with not one, not two, but three pages of expository text. We learn in these pages of text of that humans have completely colonized space, the UN controls the Earth, and that Earth, Mars, and independent freelance space workers known as “Belters” are essentially on the verge of igniting a war. Unfortunately for The Expanse, the information fed to the audience through these preceding messages are wildly more interesting than anything in the 45 minutes that follow.
The science fiction genre is hard to break into successfully in the modern age. Aside from aliens, robots, and space, or some combination of the three, there isn’t much room to be explored thematically. After SyFy unjustly cancelled what was unthinkably their best and most original series, Defiance, going into The Expanse was a worrisome journey. And conceptually, there’s nothing at all to separate this show from every other short-lived sci-fi series of the past 25 years.
Here is a show that wants so badly to be helmed as a modern sci-fi classic. It sacrifices coherent storytelling for endless bucketfuls of sci-fi space babble and made-up tech jargon, instead of doing both instead. This would be excusable, by some standards, if there were interesting characters and entertaining stories to back it up, but The Expanse is cardboard. The show has a lot of characters, and not a single of one of them makes themselves worth talking about – it’s chock full of bland characters being written blandly, with nothing of particularly interesting to put them through. Storylines and characters are scattered and distant – none of it feels cohesive, almost of it comes off as total nonsense (having alien characters speak in tongues without subtitles isn’t fancy or inventive – it’s annoying and tedious), and above all there’s not a moment where any of it feels like it matters. The show creates universe, surely, but it never gives us a reason to care.
But what happens in this universe, you ask? The show is based of a series of books of the same name by James S. A. Corey (which is the pen name of collaborative writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), centers around police detective Miller (Thomas Jane), who is assigned to task of searching for a missing young woman. He is later joined by James Holden (Steven Strait), a former ice freighter, who is largely responsible, apparently, for much of the conflict happening between Mars, Earth, and the Belters. Meanwhile, Shohreh Aghdashloo plays UN executive Chrisjen Avasarala, whose job is to try to ease all these interspace conflicts. The trio later finds out that the woman Miller is investigating is connected to conspiracy to destroy the human race. I’m sure you’ve this story before.
As for sci-fi originals are concerned, The Expanse has nothing new to bring to the table, and offers nothing worthwhile for entertainment value. It’s stale in a way that makes it instantly forgettable, exceedingly dull, and quite simply, not worth it. This series will come and go in a year or so at best, and it will descend into the seemingly endless pantheon of dry, nameless sci-fi dramas.
I thought about ending this review with “Next please!” curious what see the SyFy channel has in store for us next, but given their recent track record and reputation, I can’t even bring myself to take that leap.
The Expanse OVERALL RATING: 3/10
Dylan Brandsema is a staff writer for Pop-Break specializing in film and television. When he isn’t writing reviews or spending too much analyzing the medium, he’s writing and directing his own independent films as well as drinking way too much soda. Currently at full-time film major at Full Sail University, Dylan eats, sleeps, and breathes everything related to the cinema. You can follow him on Twitter @SneakyOstrich69.