Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Red Pill Review: The Expanse

I thought I was going to like this show.  I really wanted to get into it and get behind it but I just can't.

SyFy channel has had some problems for a while.  And they pretty much all started the moment they changed their name to SyFy.

SyFy could have made other choices from the Golden Age.  The rights are cheap enough and CGI being what it is now, it's not all that expensive anymore.  Why this one?  

Fifteen years ago, back when I was so busy that I had all of two hours available for TV watching in a week.  Both of those hours belonged Sci Fi Channel.

Now I haven't watched anything on it in years. The PC rot came in hard and fast.  The first victim was the Stargate franchise.  Which was utterly butchered by Stargate Universe, Creative Consultant; John Scalzi.  Gee, I wonder what they fucked up?

 Lost Girl, lost me early on.  The constant poly-lesbian love scenes managed to turn me completely off.  That took doing.

Defiance is an unwatchable soap opera. 

All of it has SJW overtones.

SyFy appears to have completed its expected journey from a vaguely libertarian fringe media outlet to full blown SJW nest.

For a brief moment during the first episode, I was wondering if there had been a change of heart at SyFy.   That this show was a sort of public apology to their long time viewers.  A plea for forgiveness and pledge to do better from now on.

Yeah, not so much.

Mostly it was a recognition, given the success of Gravity and The Martian, that there is now a market for actual hard science, Science Fiction.  So they looked around and found an SJW that was writing some and bought his franchise.  I admit I haven't read S.A. Corey's books and frankly this series isn't going to have me beating down his door anytime soon.  He is also BFFs with John Scalzi...yeah, he's one of those.

The Expanse, heavily borrows (without credit) from actual science geek and Right wingers Larry Niven and Robert Heinlein.

 I will grant that the first episode had me interested.  The setup is that Earth is suffering from the long term effects of  AGW (*fine whateves*) and so needs asteroid belt resources.  It has a one world, globalist government run by the United Nations.  Mars appears to have successfully rebelled, gained it's independence and built a powerful military.  The Martian goal is to terraform Mars.  The Belters are the exploited worker class.  They have changed biologically to the point where they can't return to Earth (hat-tip owed to Larry Niven).   Tensions are high on all sides.  It's a Guns of August situation where "some damn fool thing in the Balkins" could set off a holocausts.

The match that sets off the power keg is provided by an ice miner/freighter named the Canterbury.

The 'Cant' receives an automated distress signal from another nearby ship.  The Cant's skipper (wisely as it turned out) assumed it was bait by pirates and ordered the ship's log scrubbed.

And here is where it begins.  This show has a huge, all encompassing soft spot for Noble Women Activists Who Always Do the Right Thing.  The author's low socio-sexual status comes shining through on this point.

The XO's girlfriend lays a guilt trip on him over abandoning those poor Belters.  The XO secretly calls it in.  So now the Cant has to turn around and investigate.  The XO takes a ships cutter and a small away party of five and investigates.  While they are  away the Cant is attacked by Unknown Forces.  The Cant is destroyed and all aboard her are killed, including the XO's girlfriend.   The XO has gotten everyone her insistence.

Now it's survival story time.  The survivors on the cutter are barely keeping from turning on each other in overblown drama queen fashion.  The two factions are the XO, his Martian pilot against the Black Chick and her big strong white Beta-Orbiter, who tells the XO that he will straight up kill him if she says so.  Beta Orbiter is completely respectful of Black Chick at all times and never hints that he is desperately in love with her for that would be intrusive.

Gammas can't write romance.  They write about, "that of which they know," which is desperate, painful, hopeless longing for The One.  And oh is there ever more of that coming but first...

There are a few other concurrent story lines that they keep switching between with the implied promise that they will all intertwine into a greater narrative as the series progresses.  Of the main two, the first of these takes place on Earth.  A Hindustani and drastically idealized version of Hillary Clinton is the protagonist. And frankly this entire subplot could have been lifted and you would never have noticed that she wasn't there.  She served no purpose.  Maybe that will change in the next season but I will never know because I won't be watching it.  Her story's only apparent purpose was to introduce a diverse, inclusive and utterly superfluous set of SJW friendly characters and show a strong and important woman who is In Charge of Things.  She does have a devoted house husband who hosts dinner parties for her and their gay friends and...AND he takes care of the grand children.

Again Corey's Gamma rank has shown forth like a phoenix. Although he does a much better job of demonstrating that with the our last main character.

 A hard bitten Belter cop with a secret heart of gold. He's corrupt but so are all the cops on Ceres.  His plotline is that he has been hired to hunt down a missing heiress.  As the cop investigates her life he discovers that she is  (*sigh*) A Noble Woman Activist Who Always Does the Right Thing.  And he dutifully falls in love with this girl he has never-ever met and who literally does not know he exists. His case of Oneitis with complications brought on by severe Gamma-mooning drives him to ruin his career and fly to the ends of the Belt to find her.  I think this was meant to be romantic rather than sad but I'm not sure.

Not content with ripping off Niven and Heinlein, Corey is now heavily cribbing from an old movie from the 1940's.

Gene Teirney did good work in her day.
You can see the whole thing on YouTube.
The story is tight.

Was there anything I liked?  Yes, there was quite a bit of hard science as I mentioned.  They do a lot of stuff with acceleration and zero G.  Although the zero G sex was both silly and inaccurate* but I'll let that one slide.  I also liked the detail work. Ceres felt gritty.  The Belter accent and creole dialect felt natural and authentic. A kind of South African glottal with Jamaican singsong overlaying it It gave the story an illusion of depth that really wasn't there.  All of the major characters that at first appeared to be layered and deep turned out to be shallow, stereotypes.  The intricate plot construction turned out to be masking tropes and cliches.  It's supposed to be the other way around although that is a neat trick that you don't see everyday.

It says something about this show that I can't remember a singe character's name.  They made that big an impression.

*The Neutral Buoyancy Tank at Huntsville Alabama has been the scene of numerous highly unauthorized, highly illegal experiments in zero G sex.  Take my word for it. The Expanse got it wrong.  If Corey was a true in-the-know NASA Science Geek, he would have known about it.


jaericho said...

Ummm yeah about season're going to love the new female Martian marine.

Cataline Sergius said...

I'll have to take your word for it as I am not going to see it.

By the end of the first season, I was wondering when the required Pixie-Ninja was going to show up.

Not proper gamma fic, if there is no 90 pound chick beating up 250 pound linebackers.

Kentucky Headhunter said...

I don't think I actually finished the Kindle sample I downloaded. The guy hung up on the genius black woman navigator didn't get me interested and it never got any better that I can recall.

jaericho said...

Good choice on not seeing it, S2 is terrible. The female Martian Marine killed it for me. I powered thru the eps because I wanted to know what happens on Venus (only to find out that'd I'd have to wait for season 3). The writers were going for the we'll-call-her-Gunny-and-she'll-be-insubordinate-but-soooo-awesome-that-the-captain-can't-throw-her-in-the-brig-and- schtick, but her East Asian doe-eyes with thick Aussie accent just made it awkward.

Shimshon said...

I want to like the show myself, but it is totally converged in every way.

S2 also introduced the (((Epstein))) Drive (of course).

The episode where Eros crashed into Venus seemed to slip off the hard science quite severely too. Eros accelerated at around 12g for an hour, two hours? Hard to say. But after just an hour it would be booking it at over 420km/sec (thanks Wolfram Alpha!), and was still able to slow down fast enough to avoid obliterating Venus completely?!