Monday, December 14, 2015

"The Expanse", based on Corey's novels, presents the nasty politics of a colonized (and militarized) Solar System (SyFy)

The SyFy Channel is suddenly pretty active with two biggies this week, to go against Christmas movies, only a few days before the big Star Wars event opens.  It’s going to provide some competition for media viewer’s time, with some significant sci-fi literature explored.

I’ll talk about “The Expanse” first. Developed by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey, what’s interesting is not the somewhat hokey plot of the story 200 years from now, but the presentation of what’s happened to our civilization.

Earth has been badly damaged by global warming, but lots of people and descendants have colonized much of the rest of the Solar System.  Mars has been terraformed, but has an authoritarian culture, with politics like China.  The asteroid belt is mined for water and minerals and is also colonized, with cities in the very low-gravity environments of a few of them.  Ceres has a casino, and a curious network of subways drilled into the whole dwarf planet, as well as an artificial living space that slightly resembles Rama from Arthur C. Clarke’s novel ("Rendezvous with Rama", which Morgan Freeman has been trying to produce as a film).  The series is less specific about the possibilities of exploring places like Europa and Titan.

SyFy had streamed the Pilot, but aired the it tonight at 10 PM EST.  It is called “Dulcinea”, and supposes that Julie Mao (Florence Favrie), daughter of a wealthy Earth family in New York City, has disappeared from a cargo spaceship.  On Ceres, Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) will be tasked to find her.

Some other stuff happens, like an arm amputation, but limbs can be regrown.  There is some near zero-gravity sex.  One problem is that on Ceres, gravity would be very low but not zero, so it’s hard to explain how people would adopt to living there.  You can build centrifuges to live in, which provide “gravity” as long as you are in contact with the surface, but not a “field” that mass does (so anything that lifts you all the ground is a problem).  On Mars, with 40% of Earth’s gravity, it’s not so bad.  Maybe Star Trek’s idea of a gravity plate (made of neutron-star stuff) could somehow be done.  Ask Taylor Wilson (my BooK review today – it’s getting all too imagine rock-star young scientists like Taylor, and Jack Andraka (“Nano-Man” as a comic book character on Twitter as well as Stanford student) appearing in sci-fi movies acting in roles, or maybe as themselves).

Toward the end of the episode, Miller and party find Mao’s ship to be abandoned.  Somehow that reminds me of other sci-fi movies, even the Alien series.  You’re seeing complex political plotting, but within the confines of one solar system rather than across the galaxy (like in Star Wars and Star Trek).  Mao’s abduction is supposed to hold the clue to the fate of mankind (rather like Ridley Scott’s idea for “Prometheus”, maybe).

The series will have 10 one-hour episodes through early February.

SyFy offers a video summarizing the worlds of 2315.

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