The so­lar sys­tem’s ter­ri­to­ries are tee­ter­ing on war

SFX - - Viewscreen -

UK Broad­cast TBC

US Broad­cast Syfy, fin­ished

Episodes Re­viewed 1.01- 1.10

Let’s not beat around the bush: The Ex­panse is the new Bat­tlestar Galac­tica. That’s the kind of snappy sound­bite that journos and PR peo­ple love but such com­par­isons are usu­ally su­per­fi­cial. In this case, how­ever, the sim­i­lar­i­ties are strik­ing. Both shows are from the US Syfy chan­nel. Both shows trans­pose cur­rent political is­sues into a sci­ence fic­tion arena. Both shows have a strong religious theme. Both shows have an ap­peal way be­yond Syfy’s usual au­di­ence.

This is the point in the crit­i­cal nar­ra­tive when the “How­ever…” should ap­pear. The Ex­panse, surely, can­not match the mag­nif­i­cence of that ear­lier show?

Well, no, it doesn’t. Not yet at least. But, cru­cially, it also doesn’t fall far short, and there’s ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that fu­ture sea­sons could raise the bar.

Be­sides, The Ex­panse is no mere Bat­tlestar wannabe. It’s also a prod­uct of more re­cent TV drama trends for mul­ti­ple par­al­lel strand sto­ry­telling à la Game Of Thrones. Set in a fu­ture where man has colonised the so­lar sys­tem, the show high­lights the ten­sions be­tween three main ter­ri­to­ries: Earth ( which is a bit sci- fi House Of Cards- y), Mars ( which we haven’t seen much of in sea­son one but seems a bit Star­ship Troop­ers- y) and the Belt ( where it’s all a bit Blade Run­ner- y). There’s mu­tual mis­trust and an­i­mos­ity. War is one tiny in­cit­ing in­ci­dent away.

One cen­tral mys­tery fo­cused on an aban­doned ship con­nects three dis­parate char­ac­ters; a hauler, a griz­zled cop and politi­cian. The way their var­i­ous plot­lines con­verge later in the sea­son forms the ba­sis of this mul­ti­lay­ered show.

It’s cer­tainly an am­bi­tious, glossy look­ing se­ries, with some im­pec­ca­ble world- build­ing and top- notch per­for­mances. The ef­fects are ex­cel­lent, the at­ten­tion to de­tail brings this fu­ture to life and the var­i­ous mys­ter­ies and pol­i­tick­ing keep things com­pelling.

Oc­ca­sion­ally the sto­ry­telling be­comes bogged down in in­for­ma­tion over­load and some sec­ondary char­ac­ters seem to have been gen­er­ated by rolling dice, but mostly The Ex­panse de­liv­ers an ac­tion- packed and thought­pro­vok­ing first sea­son. Dave Golder

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