I finally got around to watching the first season of The Expanse, a sci-fi show about a future where humanity has colonized the solar system. Earth is ruled by the UN, Mars is a military state, and the asteroid belt on Ceres provides key resources to both.
The show’s core setup attempts to explore the role of select individuals in a political setting that mirrors the Cold War that followed the second World War. The show deepens these parallels by making the most exploited set of people, those on Ceres, speak a language similar to African languages. The UN, though multi-cultural, seems to be an authoritarian rule, and Mars, by virtue of being a military state, has the qualities of a communist Russia.
I would be lying if I said that this setup did not excite me or that I didn’t very quickly fall in love with the world they were creating. It is a dark world, no doubt, but it has space for heroes and that is gripping. These heroes feel real as they are diverse, with unique motivations, and characteristics. They are not all cut from the same cloth, nor are any of them simply perfect, they are complex beings and that leads them down complex albeit believable paths.
I am resisting the urge to watch the next season as it does seem promising but I need to focus on other work for now. But shows like these make me smile because they make good use of the effect a good story can have.
There is nothing wrong with a popcorn flick, I love them and indulge in them a fair bit. And yet, it is when a writer chooses to mirror the world back at me and make me question my perspectives, biases and beliefs that I feel most engaged. The Expanse manages to do all that and I hope that I can write stories like these someday.