Monday, January 11, 2016

The Expanse S2 Renewal

"I think movies are getting dumber, actually.
Where it used to be 50/50, now it's three per cent good, 97 per cent stupid."
-Ridley Scott, SciFiNow #54 (p.111) offering what is clearly a scientific poll-
Maybe I am becoming a science fiction snob. I have relatively specific tastes and there is plenty out there that simply isn't making the grade. Of course I'm in arguably good company when my favorite director of cinema in my lifetime, Ridley Scott, offered a similar, honest assessment regarding film today. I couldn't agree more. Though fortunately, television has genuinely supplanted that void with a seemingly limitless run of quality programming. In science fiction, the latest is The Expanse (2015-).

I am over the moon at the official word of a second season renewal for The Expanse. SyFy has delivered a gem yet again, a diamond in the rough of a torrent of Sharknado garbage from that cable channel, and we can only hope the channel remains loyal to it.

I wish I had a dollar for every science fiction fan who declared they were through with SyFy following the cancellation of a quality sci-fi series. Isn't that a bit like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face as the saying goes. Is it necessary to be so self-destructive and ultimately fatalistic in attempting an expression of disdain for a given decision? Anger toward such things is a complete over reaction. Around each corner, new hope.

The Expanse is indeed that new hope. This is a science fiction series by science fiction writers who are also fans for science fiction fanatics and science fiction writers. Are you feeling me here?

Sure it was a real bummer to see Stargate Universe (2009-2011) cut down after just two seasons and at the conclusion of every great science fiction series, expected or not, SyFy gets to hear from its vocal fan base and its detractors. Count me as one unhappy with the end of Defiance, but I immediately picked up my boot straps and was ready for The Expanse. That may seem cold, but there's just no purpose in bemoaning the loss of a TV series or needlessly bomb throwing SyFy with hollow protestations that you are finished, through, ka-put with the channel. Come on. I was as sad as the next fellow when it was all over for Jericho (2006-2008), but I kept my peanuts because I really like peanuts. It's tough to stop the inevitability of network decisions.

So The Expanse is here and you have an opportunity to get behind a quality, epic undertaking fronted by a stellar group of actors including Thomas Jane.

I have very select tastes for science fiction. I know when I really like something and want it to succeed. I also know when I spot something that in no way piques my interest. On occasion I've got it wrong. (Stargate Universe -cough!).

A poll at SciFi Stream really underscores my point. The poll asked what was the best new genre show of 2015? There were twelve options. The Expanse landed my vote with only Dark Matter as the only other real alternative for me. Five properties were of the superhero variety. This is science fiction today. Nearly half of it is superheroes. I would toss them all to the waste bin of history if I could, because I simply refuse to include superheroes in my science fiction polling, despite their super genrific qualifications. Supergirl and Daredevil or The Expanse? Seriously? Please. No contest. Science fiction fans truly need to get on board and behind actual science fiction properties and The Expanse is one of the great ones.

To further illustrate the point of just how important The Expanse is as a science fiction series look no further than its credentials.

The series is based on the writing of James S.A. Corey, the brainchild of Daniel Abraham, student of George R.R. Martin, and Ty Franck.

The series was developed and adapted by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. Both are credited for scriptwriting work on Children Of Men (2006). Pay no attention to Cowboy And Aliens (2011) or Iron Man (2008) also behind that curtain. The point is the experience is there.

Ostby and Fergus serve as show runners alongside Indian American writer/director/producer Naren Shankar. Shankar's work is impressive. Most notably he penned one of the finest scripts in science fiction for Farscape (1999-2003), Season Two in The Way We Weren't. This is one of the most moving, affecting episodes I've seen in sci-fi and definitely throughout all of the Farscape series. He also penned Beware Of Dog and Liars, Guns And Money (Part 2): With Friends Like These both for Season Two.

Along with sci-fi peers Brad Wright (Stargate), Jonathan Glassner (Stargate), David Kemper (Farscape), Tracy Torme (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Fire In The Sky) and others Shankar penned a good number of entries for the reboot of The Outer Limits (1995-2002).

Not enough. Shankar scripted for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) in the form of Babel (S1) and The Quickening (S5) as well as Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001), Season One, Episode 12, Heroes And Demons.

So as The Expanse expands its universe, and hopefully its fan base, know that it is drawing from experience and skill.

The Expanse, just as its title would suggest, should be massive and present science fiction fans with a wonderful opportunity to bring this world-building and mythology to life. As an experience the series is sometimes dark, tight and claustrophobic, an irony given the show's title. The Expanse is not without some areas in need of work, but fleshing out story and characters and putting the pieces together should be part of the visual experience. With five episodes under its Belt(ers) the series continues to shine in the darkness of space with loads of mystery and sci-fi.

Receiving a season two during its first season is a nice start and commitment. Perhaps science fiction fans will show their love and support for some real science fiction and experience where this story takes us. For now it beats the alternative.

While I prefer more detailed episodic breakdowns of my science fiction television here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic I'll just have to settle for a not-so shameless plug until that day arrives.

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