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Viewers can’t get enough galactic sci-fi, as the enduring popularity of the Star Wars franchise attests. The television industry’s efforts to capitalize on this demand have produced seemingly more space-themed shows than chunks of rock in the asteroid belt.
Many armchair space captains (and critics) have discovered The Expanse as habitable extraterrestrial entertainment. Of shows set in space, crowd-driven Ranker.com rates The Expanse as the 10th best of all time, just one slot behind Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian. They’re the only two of the Top 10 currently in production.
The Expanse (some seasons rated TV-MA), based on novels by James S.A. Corey (the pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, also two of the show’s writers) is beginning its fifth season and currently streaming on Amazon Prime after beginning its run on the Syfy network. The first four seasons offer several reasons to continue the voyage: movie-worthy sets and special effects, a satisfying balance of interplanetary intrigue and individual dramas, and a crew of interesting characters. But viewers will need to keep their deflector shields up for incoming expletives and occasional scenes with sexual content.
In the 23rd century, humans have colonized the solar system. Earth and its moon (Luna) form the United Nations, and Mars is an independent military power. The inner planets depend on resources from the asteroid belt, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Competing for air and water, Earth, Mars, and the Belt stand on the brink of war—at least in the show’s first season. It’s unlikely the human race figures out peace by the fifth.
“Wrecking things is what Earthers do best,” admits Jim Holden (Steven Strait), a former UN navy officer, born of eight genetic parents.
Much of the first season’s action takes place on Ceres, the largest rock (actually a dwarf planet) in the asteroid belt. There, native Belters, recognizable by their thin bone structure, work the docks in slavelike conditions. Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) is a wearied, Earth-born police detective stationed on Ceres. His interest in quelling protesters’ riots takes a back seat to his search for a missing heiress.
Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is a high-ranking UN official. She investigates the destruction of a space freighter, owned by the missing woman’s father, that was hauling a large supply of ice from Saturn’s rings to Ceres. The ice was to be melted into much-needed water. Is Mars trying to provoke war? Are Outer Planetary Alliance terrorists responsible? Shields up, captain’s chair reclined, I’m ready to find out.