Outer space has always been a popular playground for programs on the Syfy Channel, from reruns of “Star Trek” to the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica.” Dave Howe, president of the cable channel, promises Syfy’s latest endeavor, “The Expanse,” will be Syfy’s “most ambitious series to date.”
The 10-part series, set to launch Monday, Dec. 14, is based on on the New York Times best-selling book series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (under the pen name James S. A. Corey). The setting is 200 years in the future when mankind has colonized the solar system.
A hardened detective (Thomas Jane) and a rogue ship’s captain (Steven Strait) cross paths with what starts out as the case of a missing young woman. That changes quickly and turns into a race across the solar system to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.
All of this unfolds two centuries into the future, but Jane’s character has all the trappings of a 1940s film noir detective. It was that contrast that attracted Jane to the role.
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“I do go where I find the material that turns me on. And it doesn’t really matter, especially now, where that material comes from. So whether it’s television or you know, we shoot it all on the same cameras,” Jane says. “I’m here because great writing turns me on. And this show has exceptional writing.”
The world that Abraham and Franck have created locates humanity in three different places culturally, ethnically and biologically. There’s the original planet of Earth, the independent state of Mars and a collection of asteroid stations known as the Belt.
There’s a tremendous amount of feedback between the writers and the actors as we talk about the characters and talk about the character arcs. It’s a dynamic process.
Naren Shankar, “The Expanse” executive producer
Humans have progressed in technology but not in ideology. For instance, the Martians are able to terraform the planet, but three distinctly different colonies are still mired in racism.
Executive producer Naren Shankar explains it is the same fight to reach for the stars that causes so many problems among the different groups.
“One of the themes we have at the heart of the show is this sense that that same quality that enables human beings to conquer space, to do great, great things – those are the same qualities that cause us to fight and cause us to wage war,” Shankar says. “I think of it as humanity at another one of those points where it’s a powder keg just waiting for a spark to happen, and then lots of bad things will happen after that.”
The show is structured differently than most sci-fi offerings set in outer space. Generally, those productions exist in a world where people are scooting around the galaxies the way most people drive to work.
“The Expanse” looks at the period between humans first looking to the stars and finally getting there. Executive producer Mark Fergus describes it as the series look at the scaffolding built to reach the stars.
All of these elements will be examined in the 10-episode miniseries. If the ratings are high enough to warrant more episodes, there will be no shortage of material. Franck and Abraham, who have written five books in the series, are part of the writing staff for the series.
That’s been a big plus for the series creators.
“It’s unique to have the book authors in the room as part of the writing staff developing the adaptation. We’ll get to points in the story where, like, ‘God, if only we had something here that reveals a little of the culture on Ceres,’ and Ty or Dan will go, ‘Well, how about using this?’ And it’s like that’s from book six or something that hasn’t been written yet,” Shankar says. “And then that comes into the storytelling, which is really, really wonderful.
“It exposes the richness and the depth of the universe that these guys have actually built.”
Helping bring that universe to life are Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Steven Strait, Wes Chatham and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
- 10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, Syfy