[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
A long time ago, in a land not far away (hee), Syfy (then Sci-Fi) was well-known for its December event programming. The gold standard for me on that will always be 2002’s 20-hourÂ mini-series Taken. For a lot of people, it was the Battlestar Galactica reboot miniseries that preceded the relaunch of a traditional series. Last year. Syfy dipped a toe in with Ascension (which had a mega unresolved cliffhanger). This year, they’re throwing down a gauntlet with two events–The Expanse, which is ten hours overÂ nine weeks, and Childhood’s End, which is six hours over three nights. They both kick off Monday night. First up, let’s introduce you to The Expanse. We’ll cover the second series separately.
Here’s what you need to know: The Expanse is set two hundred years in the future, after mankind has colonized the solar system. A hardened detective (Thomas Jane) and a rogue shipâ€™s captain played by Magic City‘s Steven Strait come together for what starts as the case of a missing young woman and evolves into a race across the solar system that will expose the greatest conspiracy in human history. Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) portrays Chrisjen Avasarala, a powerful member of a political family dynasty.
Also look forÂ Dominique Tipper (Vampire Academy), Cas Anvar (Olympus), Wes Chatham (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Â Florence Faivre (The Following), Being Human‘s Kristen Hager, Bitten‘s Greg Bryk, Orphan Black‘s Kevin Hanchard, Covert Affairs‘ Rossif Sutherland and Shawn Doyle (maybe–heÂ mentioned the show in our interviewÂ last year but isn’t in the credit list anymore…),Â Paulo Costanzo (Royal Pains), Jane Moffatt (Alphas), and Jay Hernandez (Suicide Squad) to recur throughout the season.
TV Goodness had the chance to chat with Anvar, who plays Alex Kamal, at the Television Critics Association event last summer. Here’s what he had to say about the role, and the series.
[When] we start the series, Earth and Mars and the Belters, those are the colonies in the Asteroid Belt, are starting to grumble. Thereâ€™s a lot of tension in there. The Belters [who] live in the Asteroid Belt [are] the most discontented group because they [are] the working class of the solar system. They are the blue collar. They are the people who are out there mining. They donâ€™t have a planet. They donâ€™t ever have gravity. They donâ€™t get atmosphere. They donâ€™t get sunlight. They are lucky if they ever get out of their spacesuits.
They spend their entire life in low-gravity or zero gravity so their bones and their bodies donâ€™t even grow properly. Theyâ€™re long and skinny, and their muscles canâ€™t even survive on Earth. Theyâ€™re too weak, their bones is too brittle because gravity is a major part of forming a strong, healthy body. So…theyâ€™re disenfranchised.
[Mars] has become this powerful force. Their technology has gone very high. They become an incredible military presence because…their mission was to populate Mars, terraform it, turn it into another habitable planet with an atmosphere and with water. [They] had to focus all of their minds onto one objective, and they all became this unified mindset force so they were [a] very disciplined, organized, selfless kind of population that have become incredibly powerful, and [my character] Alex is a Martian so he comes from that background.
Mars is…like the United States in the sense that they broke away from the main planet, and then they became a powerful super-power unto themselves, and then they wanted to secede and have their independence, and Earth wasnâ€™t really keen on letting them go but it did. Itâ€™s kind of like America and Britain.
Earth has become one country in this universe governed by the United Nations, and our wonderful Chrisjen Avasarala…the undersecretary of the United Nations [and] one of the highest-ranking people there. Sheâ€™s basically our female lead that handles all of the Earth storyline.
Thomas Jane [plays] an old-school film noir kind of gumshoe detective, and heâ€™s on a quest to locate this missing girl. This quest soon becomes kind of a fanatical passion for him because we slowly start to learn that this missing young woman is the…hub of this conspiracy that has seemingly developing trying to start some sort of war, and nobody really knows what it is. So heâ€™s trying to find her.
Iâ€™m on a crew on an ice hauler…the future version of the most dangerous catch or an oil rig worker. [We are]Â a bunch of damaged people who want to make a lot of money and donâ€™t have any families…any lives…just want to go and work their assess off and forget about the world.
We haul ice from the Asteroid Belt to the planets back and forth making money, and weâ€™re an independent contractor, and everyone on that ship has some sort of secret, some sort of mystery, some sort of thing theyâ€™re running from and hiding from and thatâ€™s why theyâ€™re there. So we get caught up in this conspiracy when this war is starting, and we get blamed for it, and then we end up running for our lives, and thatâ€™s how the whole show starts is with these three separate storylines that end up converging as the series goes on, and when they get closer and closer to see all of us coming together, thatâ€™s when the fun really starts.”
The show intentionallyÂ light on the CGI and fantastical elements, and leans toward a more practical representation of technology. Anwar explains:
There is no fantastic kind of conceit in the show. We donâ€™t have artificial gravity. We donâ€™t have fast inter-light travel. It is really what it would be like for Earth to start the trip to colonize space, just like…the whole Mars One mission thatâ€™s happening. [There’s no] beaming up. No beaming up, no laser beams. You canâ€™t even shoot guns because itâ€™s like shooting a gun in a submarine. Youâ€™re in an airtight container that is solid steel that is pressurized. Any missile you fire A, is going to ricochet and possibly kill you, and B, if youâ€™re in zero-gravity and you fire something, the recoil from that is going to send you shooting into the wall. So thereâ€™s all sorts of scientific logistics [to consider]. Itâ€™s a very, very realistic show. Itâ€™s very-high tech.
The Expanse begins Monday at 10/9c on Syfy. The first hour,Â “Dulcinea,” sets up all the characters and then unleashes a gotcha that frames the rest of the series. You can watch it online and on VOD now. Episode two airs Tuesday night at 10/9c, and then the series falls into its normal Tuesday timeslot of 10/9c for the remaining eight episodes.
Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect, plus the pilot:
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