The Expanse (TV series)

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The Expanse. TV series, six seasons so far, 2015-2021. Creators: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby. Anthony A. Ianni and Seth Reed, production design. Main writers: Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck,[1] from the novels and stories by "James S.A. Corey," pseudonym for the team of Abraham and Franck.[2] Canada/USA: Alcon Entertainment, Sean Daniel Company (production) / Syfy (2015-2018) (USA), Space (2015-) (Canada). See IMDb for details of distribution.[3]

Summarized on Wikipedia (in part): "Set in a future where humanity has colonized the Solar System, it follows United Nations executive Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), police detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane), and ship's officer James Holden (Steven Strait) and his crew as they unravel a conspiracy that threatens peace in the system and the survival of humanity."[4]

Season 1 (December 2015-February 2016)

Most of the settings are in space, necessarily showing humans inside the "mechanisms" (our term) of various kinds of spacecraft/stations;[5] and among discontented humans a major issue is that on Earth people are free to walk in air, and see large expanses of water. There are also a number of nifty computers, weapons, implants, and other gadgets. Still, note that the science-fictional, futuristic setting is mostly kept as setting and is often of interest precisely for how the future world is normalized and domesticated,[6] with a good deal of visual emphasis on a wide range of living and working spaces, and transportation of the classes and castes of this fairly-near future world (cf. and contrast BLADE RUNNER). In the first several episodes, note the defamiliarizing of two items from our time: a coffee-making machine that delights one of the male leads (Steven Strait's ship's officer), not as mechanism but as a source of coffee, and a gerbil (?) in a wheel, a rodent that turns out to be a small robot and a bearer of data (Episode 5, "Back to the Butcher")[7]. Note the usual polygons in the set design, with octagons in the opening episodes favored over hexagons.[8]
In episode 4, "CQB," note introduction of the LDSS (Latter-Day Saints Ship) Nauvoo, a huge generation (star)ship "being built at the behest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" ("Mormons").[9] The generation-starship is an important motif, or trope, used in such works as R. A. Heinlein's "Universe" and the works cross-referenced there; for list: here.[10] 
At the very end of episode 6, "Rock Bottom," note shot of eye of spy, with camera implant, with the spy and his broadcasting camera developed in episode 7, "Windmills";[11] note for theme of surveillance plus implants and the frequent image in cinema of eyes. Also in Episode 7 note dialog allusion, and visual introduction to the generation starship [12] Nauvoo is what Joseph Smith remaned Commerce, Illinois, when the Mormons developed it;[13] the shot of the ship or associated "figurehead" (our term) is the statue of the "angel Moroni blowing a trumpet" on major LDS buildings.[14][15] Things don't work out, but note for Nauvoo in this stage of its career as the potential container of the seed of the Church going out to Tau Ceti, with an angel associated with the revelation to Joseph Smith — though this gets complicated — combining technology, biology, and theology.[16]


Season 2 (February-April 2017)

Episode 11, 2.1 (1 Feb. 2017), "Safe," has impressive shots of fighting suits and space suits — and the removal of much of a couple of space suits leading to a shot of heterosex seen though the large portal of a spacecraft. In terms of sight and sound, note two major characters in space suits for brief EVA, communicating first by radio and then privately by touching helmets. We get a close shot of the two talking, for communication both blocked by and enabled by the helmets on the suits. These two character — Naomi and Holden — are the ones we see a small bit later in sexual intimacy, possibly making love (their relationship is deepening).[17] Also of interest: a couple shots alerting us to the importance of the action to the characters, and then showing, an arm-wrestling contest between a human and what looks like part of a fighting suit; the human wins and remains alive and healthy, for a brief — happier — moment in the tradition of John Henry vs. "a steam-powered rock drilling machine."[18] For gender and race issues, note John Henry as Black male, and the human here female and mixed race.
Episode 12, 2.2 (1 Feb. 2017: sic[19]), "Doors & Corners": On Thoth[20] Station, scientists (and technicians) are in high-tech chairs in hard-wire head connection to some device that apparently allows them to work in VR, doing things remotely in the physical world (a sort of cybernetic telekinesis); cf. and contrast labor in READY PLAYER ONE (film) and, for a more Modern rather than postmodern version, THX 1138. (See end of annotation for link to discussion of The Expanse and AI/Automation in our time.)
Episode 13, 2.3 (8 Feb. 2017), "Static": The prisoners still alive from the last episode have been altered by a non-invasive process involving magnetism that destroys the center in the human brain that allows empathy, so they "can watch 100,000 people die in agony and not give a shit." // Foreshadowing of possibility of using the Mormon generation-starship Nauvoo as a weapon (to knock the contaminated[21] asteroid Eros[22] into the sun).[23]
Episode 14, 2.4 (15 Feb. 2017), "Godspeed": See for shots of the gigantic generation starship Nauvoo, with small automated tugs moving it into position and then returning to the space station, and the image of the starship itself as a space-going temple of the Mormons (in our time, anyway, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). The Nauvoo has as a figurehead at the bow — stern, apparently, as we see the ship move — a long column topped by a statue of the angel Moroni, with trumpet.[24][25] With the commandeered Nauvoo, note transgressing of a number of usual boundaries, including sacred/profane, religious/technological, "nurturing" spaceship/weapon.
Episode 15, 2.5 (22 Feb. 2017), "Home": Significant shots of former-Detective Miller inside Eros hauling a nuclear bomb through — inside of — what looks increasingly like a luminescent brain firing off neurons (while Eros,[26] an asteroid is turning into a very large rock starting to act like a very fast and highly maneuverable spacecraft, eventually threatening Earth with a mass extinction [dinosaurs mentioned explicitly). So, a human, with bomb, at the center of what looks like a brain, with dead real humans around but in transformation, inside a consciousness — on a military mission of sorts, but also Miller's quest — with allusions to a Knightly quest — for his beloved (at the core of, and apparently permeating and being permeated a small, infected moon named for Love).
Episode 15, 2.6 (1 March 2017), "Paradigm Shift": Trying to figure out how Eros could become, as a practical matter, a spaceship (and potential weapon of truly massive mass destruction). Important Earth leader(s) willing to accept paradigm-shifting premise of alien technology and that Eros "was our first contact with alien life." Note also flashbacks to Solomon Epstein, tinkering engineer who comes up with a superfast drive that "changed everything"; background for line that what happened with Eros "represents 'the greatest technological leap since the Epstein drive."[27] Important line by (dying) Epstein: "That's the wonderful and terrible thing about technology: it changes everything." 

Episode 16, 2.7 "The Seventh Man": Through Episode 22: √

Episode 23, 2.13 (19 April 2017; season finale), "Caliban's[28] War":[29] What the Wikipedia entry calls "The protomolecule monster" and IMDb identifies as "an evolving intelligence infused with the alien protomatter";[30] gets aboard the Rocinante[31][32] and is in the damaged cargo bay. The theme is out of the ALIEN (film) series, with a hint of THE THING,[33] especially in the debate between a scientist (and father), Dr. Praxidike 'Prax' Meng,[34] against James Holden, in a fighting suit and very much into the role of (military) ship's captain: the scientist wants to talk to the monster; the captain to kill it. The "monster" is scrawny and naked, looking a touch more organic than cybernetic, but a cyborg. It removes a device from its chest and throws it into space where it explodes, but Dr. Meng thinks it might be a control mechanism. For the bomb, cf. and definitely contrast P. K. Dick's story, "Impostor." Note also ex-Martian Marine Gunnery Sgt. Roberta 'Bobbie' W. Draper again in a fighting suit and kicking ass (without guns).[35] Note that Dr. Meng uses his knowledge of botany to better lure the alien away from the ship's nuclear power source toward a more immediate charge removed from a nuclear warhead on a torpedo — for an emphatically ALIEN death. Important final dialog between Holden and Naomi[36] on the weaponizing of technology, and final shot of Meng's daughter Mei in a kind of stasis coffin, like that of the cryogenic sleep capsules in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (film): with the potential to be turned into weapons such as the monster-cyborg/"evolving intelligence."    

See at internal link The Expanse as fiction for discussion of AI, automation, and jobs (cf. Player Piano and works cross-listed there).


RDE, Initial Compiler, 17May20f.; finishing 14Sep23