While SyFy’s Expanse series isn’t slated to start until December 14th, they unleashed the first episode on the Internet a couple of days ago. Since James S.A. Corey’s series, on which this adaptation is based, is one of my favorite current reads, you know I had to watch. Now you can too!
I was leery about the adaptation before seeing the first episode. First, I was worried that its aesthetics would be too similar to SyFy’s other new shows Dark Matter and Killjoys.
Second, I read an interview with Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (I wish I could find it again) wherein they explained the reason the show was on SyFy was because that channel offered the most money to produce it. Having seen what I consider to be the lower budget look of the aforementioned shows, as well as 12 Monkeys and Defiance, I was concerned The Expanse would suffer from a budget not nearly large enough to match its scope. I have to say results here are somewhat better than mixed. I find the physical sets to be well done and they look great. Especially the bridge of the Canterbury. But the CGI ranges from adequate to obvious green screen to almost awful. The outside shots of people moving around just aren’t convincing while the interior shots of, say, Ceres are just good enough to get past the obviousness. The less said about the effects in the zero-g sex scene the better.
Thirdly, low-budget (or not-enough-budget) shows don’t have to be awful. The two shows mentioned above are entertaining enough, but there is one show that didn’t have a big budget yet is still my absolute favorite SF TV show ever: Babylon 5. B5 survived on its overarching plot, great storytelling — Yes, yes, season 5. True. There were reasons. — and tremendous characters, especially Lando and G’Kar. After watching one episode, I can’t tell whether The Expanse will match any of those traits, though I do know the story in the books, which the pilot follows closely, is awesome. If they stick to that then the show will be interesting. But I don’t know if the main actors and their characters will pop on-screen as Lando/G’Kar. I think Steven Strait (Holden) looks way too young to be an XO, and I don’t know if he has the acting chops to pull off Holden as a character. Thomas Jane (Det. Miller) just doesn’t feel to me like a world-weary, cynical private security police officer. He looks too clean-cut. I do think Shohreh Aghdashloo nails the part of Chrisjen Avasarala. It’s too bad the pilot was juggling three different story-lines and hers got the short end of the stick.
All that said, when the episode ended, after seemingly no time at all, I wanted to see more. Even with the above reservations, I still want to the see the story from the books shown on TV. I want to see how the writers adapt the story and I want to see the characters come to life. I also applaud SyFy for not being afraid to use actors that have non-American accents and, also, to throw in the Belter polyglot method of speaking. It adds a tremendous amount of “differentness” without being different for its own sake. I know I will be watching this show when it airs on SyFy. I think anyone who likes the books should watch this too.
I’m curious about the reactions those who haven’t read books have towards the shows. Let us know what you think in the comments!