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#1 Edited by MonkeyKing1969 (6219 posts) -

I had been seeing a lot about "The Expanse". It was mostly from Syfy itself adverting its own show snd crowing about ist. But, it worked because I decided to check it out - I'm always up for some good science fiction television.

RATING: A Terrible out of a possible Mediocre

The scenes are disjointed with the editing often not telling the story well. The shot reverse shot for seeing what the character is seeing or linking scenes or ideas is often lost. Many of the characters cannot be understood because of mumbling or poor recording. Are they mumbling or art they trying to 'affect' accents? I cannot tell! I might understand if English is not the first language of many of the cast, but all of teh actors have decent acting careers where this was NOT an issue...the scrip, direction of how to speak the dilague, and/or recording of lines was garbage.

As far as characters: None of the characters are well established or which goes back to the editing. Before you can know a character their scene has ended and the story moved off them to someone else. Some of the characters are down right UN-likable, not just angry or possibly conflicted..they are just flip-flop their character traits from scene to scene so you can't get a grip on them. The only character that they just barely made knowable in teh first two episodes as far as who she was, what she did and what she was like was the Navigator, Ade Nygaard (Kristen Hager) who was killed. . A dozen other female characters and NONE of the actresses are as interesting or were given parts/motivations was well as the one they killed.

So “The Expanse,” is based on a series of books by James S.A. Corey. They might be good books, never heard of them. But even if good the tv show appears to tell those stories poorly. It whip-saws through so many character introductions and story elements that it ultimately undercuts telling a coherent story at all. There are storylines about citizens living rough in an asteroid, terrorists, a cop and a missing woman, and political gamesmanship, but they are all crammed into a few hours. The story or each of these elements has very little room to bloom or even make a bit of sense.

The things I liked were:

  • The cast is diverse, with many cultures and races represented on all levels and in most factions.
  • The CG and space ship weightless effects are done well enough.
  • The base story it was trying to tell could have been be okay...so three cheers for TRYING to adapt more science fiction.
  • Scenes in space, an asteroid, Earth and Mars...that is ambitious. (Sadly it was done cheaply and looks like it could all have been accomplished on one sound stage.)

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#2 Posted by Extintor (978 posts) -

I think my experience might be best characterized as a polar opposite to yours.

I've read all the books though, and I know where the story is going which perhaps gives me an extra layer of patience for the build up happening in the tv show that I otherwise wouldn't have?

The early books are scene-setters for an epic narrative that, by my reckoning will likely come to the fore by the end of season 2 of the tv series.

So if people stick with the tv show they should be confident in the knowledge that the source material it is based on is super-strong.

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#3 Posted by azrailx (586 posts) -

too harsh.

books are good, and yes better than the tv show.

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#4 Edited by Humanity (16204 posts) -

I did not particularly enjoy the book (I only read the first one) so I gave this a pass.

EDIT: I guess to expand on that short thought. Much like all these positive rumblings about the TV show, I had heard good things said about the book in the past. Authentic sci-fi and all that. As a big fan of the genre, Dune specifically, I decided to check this more realistic take on modern space-drama out. Boy.. the book is some light reading. Airplane reading is what I would quantify it as more than anything - like a shallow summer blockbuster flick with some nice enough effects and a paper thin plot. Some of the ideas in Leviathan were actually pretty clever but most of the characters were either cliches or simply dull.

So after all that to hear that of all channels SyFy is producing the show was a definite no-watch-list for me.

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#5 Posted by sammo21 (5290 posts) -

I like the books, a whole lot, and I like the show. I hate the stuff that the show has added more than the things it has left out.

That being said I think the Martian power armor is going to look stupid and Bobbie looks far too small.

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#6 Edited by ThatOneDudeNick (1454 posts) -

It's good for a SyFy show, which is a low bar.

I watch it only because I liked the first book (Season 1 covers 4/5 of the first book). I'm finishing the 2nd book now before Season 2 starts. I feel like the show fails to explain a lot of vital things that the book does. I'm not one of those that like to point that "the book is better" to let everyone know I can read, but the issue of a show simply having less time is compounded by the fact that it sometimesdoesn't use its time well. The show glosses over some important connections and relationships. As far as the show goes, the story of the first season is about Holden and Miller. I wouldn't worry too about any of the other characters outside of just knowing their role in Holden's crew. They'll show their place without much effort on your part. The show spends too much time on relatively unimportant characters and too little time on important things. Avasarala (the older Indian lady that works at the UN) isn't even in the first book, but has the best performance of anyone in Season 1. She has a major role in the 2nd book (and presumably season 2). It throws a lot at you in the first couple episodes but it all falls into place. You don't need to understand as soon as it's introduced.

I like the show quite a bit more than you, but if the only difference between our experiences is that I know things that the show fails to explain well (or at all), then it's definitely flawed. I know book people complain when anything is too different, but they could have done better to write a TV version of this story instead of what feels like cutting stuff from the novel to fit into episode format. There were some good cuts, such as the romance between Holden and Naomi that I don't think added much. Too much of both versions lean on stuff happening or working out for the characters by dumb luck (main character would have got shot in the back of the head, but what's this? The gun jammed?! He lives! (not an example from The Expanse, but there's a lot that's close to that), which I feel is lazy writing. I've given up on stories for less.

Outside of wanting to see how things look compared to what was in my head, I don't think I would have tried it. Knowing what's coming helped me get through some of the parts I didn't care for. Also this is the only show or movie I've seen in a couple years, so I don't have anything to compare it to. I like it though.

(edited for clarification. I typed it on my phone initially)

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#7 Edited by NmareBfly (150 posts) -

Some characters, the Belters on Ceres in particular, occasionally speak in a Belter creole language. Other than that I'm not sure about the complaints of mumbling. Watch with subtitles on? I do that anyway but I'm weird.

Sorry you didn't like the show! I think every episode is better than the one before it, for what it's worth. The start is a little shaky but the characters grow as you get to know more about them -- episode three does some good work in that regard. Dunno about the flip-flopping character traits at all, most of them are pretty consistent?

In terms of likeable or interesting characters it's all opinion anyway but I'm pretty surprised that you found the navigator from episode 1 more compelling than Avasarala.

Honestly I say give it another few episodes to grow on you but hey not everyone needs to like everything. I personally think it's the best sci fi show in years, and maybe the only 'hard' sci-fi ever broadcast.

I like the books too but they're deffo light reading when it comes to sci-fi stuff. The characters are better drawn in the show and there's less of an 'RPG party that works together because it's an RPG and that's how it works' air. Avasarala comes in earlier, which helps a lot (she's not in the books until the second one.)

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#8 Edited by NmareBfly (150 posts) -

On changes from the books: For what it's worth, the writers of the books are writes on the show too. They consider the show a second pass where they make changes they would have anyway if they had a better idea of where things would have gone.

Only thing I think is really lost in the transition is that in the books it's much more clear about the physical differences between Belters and Earthers. They make an attempt with the casting in the show to get lots of tall and lanky belters in Ceres but it'd be way too much trouble to get like 100 people with Marfan Syndrome who are also good actors. Naomi should be like a foot taller than Holden, too.

Book 2 / new character casting: I don't think it would be possible to hire a better actress than they did for Bobbie, looks wise. I know nothing about her acting ability so she might fall down there but physically? Uh. Yeah.

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#9 Edited by pyrodactyl (3658 posts) -

I completely disagree. This show is not perfect but it's much better than pretty much all Scifi TV I've seen. The characters are interesting, conflicted and all have their own compelling backstories. It moves in a way very few shows do, especially in the Scifi genre where episodic, disposable shlock is the norm. Shows like Star Trek and Stargate are beloved but they thread water for dozens of hours of screentime in between events that impact the status quo. You get game changing plot developments pretty much every episode in The Expanse.

Sure, some of the technical stuff could use a bit more polish and I bet it would look better with a higher budget but I liked the first season a lot when I binge watched it a few weeks back and I'm excited for season 2.

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#10 Posted by OurSin_360 (4450 posts) -

I stopped watching syfy because every show that isn't battlestar gets cancelled before it ends. After alphas i jumped ship lol

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#11 Edited by Extintor (978 posts) -

There are definite abbreviations and amalgamations going on in the tv series storyboarding but the main themes of the first book (and parts of the second book) are present in season 1.

If there are supposed to be 9 books in the series (plus novellas), it makes sense that the end of act 1 would be around the end of book 3... and I can confirm that something major happens at that point. I'm desperately hoping the tv series will still be running and going strong by the time they get to it (probably around 2020 at this rate) because it is a mind-bendingly awesome sequence and development that is made all the more profound due to the set up that has been taking place in the first three books.

I would have liked to see the first series spread across another half dozen episodes to have allowed the character development slightly more time to breathe. But perhaps more episodes would have been too large a financial risk for a new show?

At least season 2 is getting 13.

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#12 Posted by Arabes (745 posts) -

It looks like I might be in the minority who thinks the books are shit (read the first two on 2 16 hour flights) but enjoy the TV show. It's on par with a Battle Star galactica for me. Their Sci-Fi is well thought out and largely plausible and I love space trucking universes.

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#13 Posted by Sinusoidal (3326 posts) -

@arabes said:

It looks like I might be in the minority who thinks the books are shit (read the first two on 2 16 hour flights) but enjoy the TV show. It's on par with a Battle Star galactica for me. Their Sci-Fi is well thought out and largely plausible and I love space trucking universes.

I also read the first few books and was not particularly impressed. Generic and slow paced. Nothing really happens in the majority of each book, then the final couple chapters are a blur of revelations, and then cliffhanger. Every book. It's a tired formula. It's like the DaVinci Code, but each chapter is a whole novel instead of being three pages long.

I haven't watched the TV show, but I might. I'm more lenient with my sci-fi TV because these days it's take-what-you-can-get. How I long for a decent Star Trek series! Hopefully the new one will be good.

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#14 Edited by Anthony (275 posts) -

I think the first couple episodes are bad. Too many characters and too much stuff happening at the same time. The show immediately throws the viewer into the world with heavy jargon and stuff like "OPA" which I didn't even know what it meant until I searched wikipedia.

I actually only got hooked on episode 4 with the space battle and it's really when the mystery kicks into gear. It's when the characters start to gel and feels like a real crew. The universe of The Expanse is really vast and has a lot of potential for where it can go. I feel it has a lot of relevant themes like class division in society and xenophobia. The annoying accents that you talk about are I agree kind of crappy at first but it becomes charming soon and you start to root for those people.

By the end of season 1 I felt I was watching a show that's up there with the best like Battlestar and Star Trek DS9.

Note: I have not read the books.

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#15 Edited by Anthony (275 posts) -

@sammo21 said:

I like the books, a whole lot, and I like the show. I hate the stuff that the show has added more than the things it has left out.

That being said I think the Martian power armor is going to look stupid and Bobbie looks far too small.

The actress is a 6 foot tall Samoan kickboxer that can also act. I think it's about as good as they can get.

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#16 Edited by sammo21 (5290 posts) -

@anthony: I don't know Frankie Adams' stats but I know that Gwendoline Christie looks way taller. I could probably not care about Adam's stature more if that power armor were even 10% as cool as what was described in the books.

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#17 Posted by Anthony (275 posts) -

Yeah I don't have high hopes for the suits but I doubt we'll get more than an episode or two of battles anyway for budgetary reasons. And since most actors tend to be average height or even shorter like Tom Cruise, I bet someone 6ft tall can easily be made to look even larger with simple camera tricks.

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#18 Posted by Maginnovision (788 posts) -

It's probably fine for syfy but I have not seen anything on syfy that was remotely interesting to me. The budgets don't allow bad actors so they seem to hire people who would be considered "ok" extras. The sets are boring, the stories are lame. They know they don't have to worry about quality, plenty of people are so bored or boring that this stuff is worth spending their time watching.

I'm really sad this was a book first too. From what I've seen, even if the book is better, it's still bad. I have high hopes for every syfy show because I like science fiction but every little thing they do is bad.

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#19 Edited by Anthony (275 posts) -
@maginnovision said:

It's probably fine for syfy but I have not seen anything on syfy that was remotely interesting to me. The budgets don't allow bad actors so they seem to hire people who would be considered "ok" extras. The sets are boring, the stories are lame. They know they don't have to worry about quality, plenty of people are so bored or boring that this stuff is worth spending their time watching.

I'm really sad this was a book first too. From what I've seen, even if the book is better, it's still bad. I have high hopes for every syfy show because I like science fiction but every little thing they do is bad.

Syfy is having a renaissance. The Expanse and Incorporated are getting praise from mainstream press. Bradley Cooper is also executive producing an adaptation of the Hyperion series for Syfy. Syfy is actually outbidding other networks for some of these shows. Adam Savage made a 20 minute video about why he loves The Expanse show so much.

As for actors - The Expanse has Hollywood actors like Thomas Jane (Punisher, Thin Red Line) and Jared Harris (Mad Men, The Crown).

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#20 Posted by creplogle (1 posts) -

Totally agree, this could have been a great show with better directing and casting. The lead character, James Holden is played weakly by Steven Strait. If only SyFy had hired a good director.

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#21 Posted by Sargon (76 posts) -

Some characters, the Belters on Ceres in particular, occasionally speak in a Belter creole language. Other than that I'm not sure about the complaints of mumbling.

It isn't just the Belters. I often watch in bed at night while my wife is sleeping, so I try to keep the volume to a reasonable level and I often have to rewind to understand what someone was saying. Chrisjen especially, that gravelly voice can be really hard to understand. I found myself having very little idea what was happening in the story after 4 or 5 episodes, and I think a lot of that was due to missing important dialogue. Granted that is partially my own fault for how I was watching the show, but it isn't usually an issue for other programs the way it has been for The Expanse. I stuck with the show though and it has really grown on me now that I have been able to make sense of it.