By Donagh Broderick
Are you hungry for a TV drama with an ensemble cast of complex characters, layered worldbuilding, and fantastical, yet grounded locations? Well Prime Video’s The Expanse is just the show for you. The Expanse is often referred to as the sci – fi Game of Thrones, and for good reason. Based on the series of novels of the same name by James S.A. Corey, the show is set in the distant future. Humanity has colonised the solar system, but not the stars. Earth and Mars are vying for dominance and control of the belt, while various factions in the outer solar system look for a shot at independence.
Season one of The Expanse introduces us to spaceship officer James Holden, former U.N Navy officer now on the crew of a belter ice hauler as well as an ensemble cast of other characters, from UN politician Chrisjen Avasarala attempting to keep Earth safe by using any dirty trick in the book who suspects someone is attempting to push the major powers into war, and Joe Miller, a jaded belter detective on Ceres tasked with finding a missing billionaire’s daughter who may just be the key to all of this. They all become involved in the mystery, when the ice hauler Canterbury where James is stationed is mysteriously attacked. Holden and a handful of the remaining crew members must work together to survive as they unearth a vast conspiracy involving an alien lifeform that could trigger an all – out war across the solar system.
The show places a large emphasis on scientific accuracy, which translates to space combat scenes unlike anything you’ll have seen from other space operas. Without artificial gravity, lasers, or shields ship crews need to use magnetic boots to not float around and risk being spaced as bullets rip through their ship’s armour. Battles can start and end in the outer solar system before other characters even know they happened due to the vast distances involved. People born on different worlds can struggle to adapt to the gravity of others. The show is helped by a great cast including the likes of Shohreh Aghdashloo as the UN secretary general or Steven Strait as Holden who all take their role seriously and play it straight.
The cast is arguably a great example of diversity done right on the small screen and only helps The Expanse feel like a more believable version of the future. Most characters occupy a moral grey area, willing to do questionable things for what they believe is right and you may even find yourself thinking they have a point in what is definitely a more mature sci – fi series than most out there right now. The show also has some of the best world building you will see on TV. Every few episodes we are introduced to a new part of the solar system and the culture that has evolved there. The belters also have their own unique language evolved from an amalgamation of our own. While the CGI of the first two seasons, which were produced by Netflix, may not meet today’s standards it’s still passable and the show is now equipped with a substantial special effects budget, since Amazon acquired the series which is now concluding its fifth season. It’s no exaggeration—The Expanse really is on par with Game of Thrones at its best moments.