The Expanse is a sci-fi series that respects space. In the show — and in real life — space is huge, empty, and deadly; it’s a massive gap of nothingness in between tiny pockets of humanity and activity.
It’s a great show, based on a great series of novels. I actually think it’s one of the best sci-fi shows in years. But Foxtel’s Aussie SyFy channel strangely doesn’t seem keen on showing it, so we might not even get to see it in Australia at all.
The Expanse is a science fiction TV show set hundreds of years in the future, in a time where humanity has expanded its reach from Earth to Mars and the solar system’s asteroid belt. Earth is controlled by a global United Nations, and Mars is an independent military junta only tenuously connected to its Terran roots. Both planets depend on the resource-rich Belt, but those Belters are harshly treated in an area of space where air and water are precious commodities.
It’s like Battlestar Galactica in that it’s just as much a show about politics and the machinations of government as it is science and space and the stars. The mix is good — it’s an interesting and gripping show, and beautifully filmed with young and interesting actors that inhabit their roles. There’s just as much science as there is fiction, though — spaceships are thin-hulled balloons of pressurised air, and the people inside are deathly afraid of the inky black space between the planets and space stations.
The Expanse is based on a set of novels by James S.A Corey, a pseudonym for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Both have worked with Game of Thrones‘ George R. R. Martin, and while the show isn’t quite as labyrinthine as GoT in space, it’s similar in that the politics of the world affect the lives of the people that live within it. The five books in their series so far are some of the best and most interesting sci-fi writing that I’ve read in ages.
I wish I could show you a full episode so you’d understand what I was talking about. But I can’t. The best I can do is tease you with a trailer for a show that you’re not able to watch in full. I can’t even show it from a legitimate YouTube channel, because SyFy US is blocked to Australians and SyFy AU refuses to acknowledge the show’s existence.
In the US, The Expanse screened on SyFy. Its first 10-episode season was well received by critics, and four episodes into its run was picked up for a second series. In the absence of shows like Stargate: Universe and Battlestar Galactica, The Expanse is just about the best and most interesting science fiction series on TV right now.
If you have watched the show, you’ll appreciate the long list of excellent companion videos that SyFy US has on YouTube — more world-building, more behind the scenes, more character info than any other sci-fi series that has ever been put to air. SyFy is committed to The Expanse, and as a sci-fi fan that’s so great to see, and as an Australian it’s so frustrating.
Here’s the problem — according to a post on Foxtel’s community support forum, SyFy AU currently has “no plans” to screen The Expanse in Australia, leaving fans of the books (and, potentially, the series) high and dry. You’d expect that SyFy in Australia would have exclusive rights to SyFy US shows, too, so don’t expect to see it popping up on Netflix or Stan any time soon.
I watched the start of the series on US TV when I was in the States for CES 2016, and I absolutely loved it. I’ll freely admit to using a US VPN and watching the first four episodes of the series on the Syfy website again when I was back in Australia — something you can’t do any more, now the show has aired internationally. But to watch the rest of the series, I would have had to resort to piracy and Bit-Torrent to get my fix.
It’s extremely easy to find the entire series in high quality online through the usual illegitimate sources, and it’s a pity that that’s what all the fans of the books and series in Australia will have to resort to if they want to watch The Expanse. This is an argument that we on Gizmodo have made many, many times before, but we’ll continue to say it — timely, complete, honest international distribution of shows like The Expanse is the most important key to fighting piracy that content owners and rights-holders have.
Please, SyFy. Give Australia a chance to see The Expanse. I think you’d find that we’d like it quite a lot. [SyFy]