Of all the projects on Syfy’s suddenly ambitious development slate, the one I’m most looking forward to — and most dreading they might fuck up — is The Expanse, based on the stellar book series by James S.A. Corey. The first installment, 2011’s Leviathan Wakes, instantly became one of my favorite science fiction stories of all time, and the series pretty much has it all: action, mystery, interstellar politics, humor, and a richly detailed vision of a future where mankind has spread throughout the solar system, but not yet conquered the stars. Thankfully the first trailer for The Expanse hit yesterday, and it looks great. But if you haven’t read the books yet, it’s also hard to get a full sense of who’s who and what’s going on. Well, GFR has your back: we’ve pulled a ton of screencaps and will walk you through the world of The Expanse below. First off, here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet.
The story of Leviathan Wakes kicks off with the destruction of the ice freighter Canterbury, and the mystery of who destroyed that ship, and why, forms one half of the narrative. See, not everybody goes down with the ship, and the survivors, led by Jim Holden, set out to track down and expose the people responsible. I’m betting the image above is of the doomed vessel.
One of the nice details that gives the world of The Expanse a sense of verisimilitude is “the juice,” a chemical cocktail designed to keep pilots awake, functional, and relatively undamaged during high-g maneuvering, such as in battle. It’s hard to be sure since we’re seeing him from the side, but this looks to be Steven Strait as Holden.
Next we meet The Expanse’s other main protagonist, Miller, played with casting perfection by Thomas Jane. He’s a cop on Ceres, and his investigation into a missing woman named Julie Mao forms the other narrative arc that propels the story of Leviathan Wakes, and eventually puts him on a collision course with Holden’s band.
If you’re gonna make a space show, you gotta work in some zero-g shenanigans. I think this is Florence Faivre as Julie Mao. In the book we don’t see much of her, but she is integral to the story in ways I won’t spoil here.
And some gorgeous CGI exteriors. I love that the show isn’t afraid of color. Too much science fiction gets mired in grays, whites, and browns.
The Expanse has attracted some hugely talented actors, one of them being Shohreh Aghdashloo, probably best known for her roles in 24 and films such as The House of Sand and Fog. She plays Chrisjen Avasarala, U.N. Deputy Undersecretary of Executive Administration. Avasarala doesn’t show up in the books until the second installment, Caliban’s War, but apparently the show will be throwing her in the mix from the get-go. Her character will definitely help provide a view of the big picture, of a solar system on the edge of devastating interplanetary war. That viewpoint will serve as handy counterpoint to the more “ground level” experiences of Holden, Miller, and the rest.
The show has an impressive pedigree behind the scenes as well. Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby both wrote the pilot and will serve as the series’ showrunners alongside Naren Shankar. Fergus and Ostby earned an Academy Award nomination for their work on Children of Men. Of course, they also co-wrote Cowboys & Aliens, but hey, they can’t all be winners. Shankar is a TV vet, having written for all three of the Star Trek TV spinoffs, Farscape, and the ’90s incarnation of The Outer Limits. More recently, he was an executive producer on the much-mourned Almost Human.
Speaking of amazing casting, Mad Men’s Jared Harris as Anderson Dawes, the Ceres liaison to the OPA. That’s short for “Outer Planets Alliance,” a labor union come political organization or terrorist network, depending on who you ask (Earth and Mars aren’t big fans).
And here we have what I believe is our first look at the Rocinante, the fast-attack frigate Holden and his crew hijack during one of the many instances when bad people are trying to kill them. Again, I love the use of color.
It’s the Rocinante crew! From left, I believe we’ve got Paulo Costanzo as med tech Shed, Dominique Tipper as engineer Naomi Nagata, Wes Chatham as mechanic and all-around badass Amos, Cas Anvar as pilot Alex, and Strait as Holden.
And last but not least, another of The Expanse’s casting coups — Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks as the executive officer of the ill-fated Canterbury.
The Expanse will hit Syfy sometime in 2015. You can check out some more assorted screen caps below.