Reviews | Written by Ed Fortune 05/01/2021



Let’s be honest, if you’re a fan of hard science fiction and you haven’t seen The Expanse yet then we can only assume that you literally been living on Mars for the last few years.  The show itself has had something of a choppy history; it was originally cancelled by SyFY, only to rescued by Amazon who gave a much bigger budget.

The Expanse is a sci-fi drama set in a solar-system where mankind has colonised the solar system. Mars is independent, Earth is over-populated and under-resourced and The Belters, those who make a living mining the Solar System’s resources are squeezed in the middle, reliant on both powers for their very survival. Season 5 sees the show step-up from the slow-burn ‘cold-war in space’ thriller of the previous episodes and catch its breath a little.

Last season was crammed with special effects and spectacle and though the first few episodes of Season 5 aren’t quite as visually striking, the story makes up this quite brilliantly.  The political problems of humanity haven’t gone away and violence is coming. This time the majority of the story focuses on the crew of The Rocinante, but of course they’re all in different locations as the season begins. Reeling from the events of the last season, the crew are now broadly accepted as heroes of a sort and they’ve all gone their separate ways.

This means that we get thuggish but charming Amos on Earth and learn not only more about Amos’s origins, but also a lot more about how Earth has changed recently. Similarly, Alex and Bobbie’s story begins on Mars. What happens to a society that worships the frontier spirit when a new frontier has opened, and how does that square with Alex and Bobbie’s love of their home world?

With the politics of the solar system so very different now than where we began, much of the action focuses on The Belt, from the perspectives of Holden,  Drummer and Naomi. This means we get the perspective of an outsider, an native Belter and a Belter exile. Naomi particularly gets the toughest storyline as things are clearly not right with the Belt.

As the stakes get higher and higher, the viewer simply becomes more and more engaged. Strip away the sci-fi trappings of the show and we have tense thriller, packed with action and intrigue. Adding the cold, unforgiving darkness of space just makes the whole thing more tense throughout. This is the sort of sci-fi where people frequently die in the vacuum  of space. The Expanse reminds us that life is fragile and power is fleeting, yet at the same time celebrates the ingenuity of mankind. Proper sci-fi drama done brilliantly well.

The Expanse has travelled very far from its humble origins as a campaign for the classic sci-fi game Traveller that subsequently became a best-selling novel series.  All the trappings can be found for those inclined to look;  deep but understated characters,  action with consequences and believable futuristic technology.  The Expanse will be a show that other sci-fi shows are compared to for decades to come.  If you’ve not started watching it yet, now is the time to start. (But do start from Season One).

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