Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cataline Critique: The Expanse

For some reason this one has been blowing up big on facebook.  

No idea why.  But since it's the most popular post this week.


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 a couple of SJWs that were writing some under a pseudonym and bought their franchise.  I admit I haven't read S.A. Corey's books and frankly this series isn't going to have me beating down their door anytime soon.  They are also BFFs with John Scalzi.  Nuff' said.

The Expanse, heavily borrows (without credit) from actual science geeks 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 holocaust.

The match that sets off the powder 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 reverence for Noble Women Activists Who Always Do the Right Thing.  The authors' low socio-sexual status is projected on to the screen without fail every time the subject comes up.

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 killed...at 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 their gay friends and...AND he takes care of their grandchildren.

Again the Coreys' Gamma rank has shown forth like a phoenix. Although they do 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 plot line 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, the Coreys are now heavily cribbing from an old movie from the 1940's called, Laura.

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.

Bottomline: Cataline does not recommend; The Expanse.

*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.


jaericho said...

Ummm yeah about season two....you'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?!

Chris Lutz said...

The SyFy version adds a lot of subplots that aren't in the book. At least with regards to the first book which is all I have read. Nothing is followed on Earth, so that explains why it could be lifted and not change anything.

Holden isn't gamma in the book. He's already XO on the Cant' and he's take charge in the book. The TV show makes him out to be a lot more gamma. Though I do agree the book has him pining for Naomi in a stupid manner.

Same goes with Miller pining after Julie. The reasoning is stretched. The TV show takes a few less liberties with his character but they lost a lot of the subtleties of what makes him tick.

In the book it's really just Holden and Miller. Everyone else is a background character.

I like Amos in the TV show. He's not dumb in the intelligence area but he's damaged in the moral realm. The thing is he knows it.

Overall, I like the TV show although it is more SJW than the book. Even though it is SJW'y, it's more at the fringes than at the core. Yes, Naomi is the brilliant black chick. But, she isn't perfect, isn't good at everything, makes mistakes, and not everyone likes her. So, just because she's smart and black doesn't make her an SJW character.

The book is solid except for the Holden/Naomi Miller/Julie in love parts.

Chris Lutz said...

With regards to SyFy, they seemed to want to try to get back into actually doing SyFy but they keep making the same mistakes.

1. Language and nudity /= sophistication
2. GRRLLL power and SJW'ism. Some shows simply start out that way (Wyonna Earp, Lost Girl, etc) and others quickly collapse into it (Dark Matter).
3. Inability to choose the correct properties. Childhood's End is a boring story and Ascension was a Twilight Zone episode stretched to miniseries length.

Personally, Clarke's stories don't do much for me. His characters aren't human. They're logical meat machines.

I always thought that Heinlein's juveniles could be a good anthology series. Several of them you could actually string together in a loose timeline. Also, I would set it as an alternative universe where technology to the path envisioned by sci-fi writers of the time. Give it a good 50's retro feel. But anyone doing it today would screw it up.

Mr.MantraMan said...

"Mainstream" fiction is so poorly constructed and so boring I am cheering for men of color to slaughter the white gamma malelets and their whale queens.

Thought experiment, a future Hugos ceremony and all the Chris Mankeys and Scalzis are there with their whale queens, the biggest crowd in years, huge, junk food sales at all time highs huge. In bursts some Jihadists with murder and mayhem of the infidels in their hearts (all ordained because heresy or something), so how long would it be for the whale queens to cover up? I'd give it a minute before they covered up and pointed out which tables the malelets were hiding under.

"Defiance" after awhile I assume it was written by a closeted homosexual who really, really wanted to bite the pillow for the blond villian.

owlish said...

"Defiance is an unwatchable soap opera." No wonder I can't watch more than a 2 minute clip without turning it off.

Any positive recommendations? Either current, coming soon, or slightly obscure past?

Chris Lutz said...

I watched one episode of Defiance and tossed it aside. The whole concept that aliens come, terraform earth to their needs, and humans who fight the invasion are somehow evil was enough to turn me off.

Mr. Bee said...

There's been quite a lot of "...a strong and important woman who is In Charge of Things." characters in the last 3 or 4 years in very SJW oppcupied media. It doesn't take much paranoia to believe they knew who was going to be running in 2016 and were making their "in kind" political contributions up front. Which makes Trump's humiliation of her all that more schadenfreudelishic.

Chris Lutz said...

BTW, the link to the Childhood's End post doesn't work.

Cataline Sergius said...

@Chris Lutz

It's fixed but you'll be bored by it.

Very short post.

Chris Lutz said...


Not bored. The Wright passage is good. I forgot about the stupid history viewer.

Cataline Sergius said...


I'll have to give that one a thought or two.

I can recommend Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman. It's on Netflix.

M. Bibliophile said...

I got through two seasons by using it as background nose and tuning in whenever there was space stuff on screen. Characters? So flat and stereotyped as to be so worthless, I couldn't even be bothered to remember their names until season 2 when they started giving Amos some more depth. I still can't remember the pilot's and he was my favorite.

Lots of SJW rot, very tropey in parts, but with excellent attention to detail, good physics, good sets, and a semi-decent story.

Too bad the characters were so awful that I couldn't be bothered to care whether they lived or died, and the whole thing reeked of Scalzi style SF.