The Expanse cast and crew were at Comic-Con to discuss their show in front of a room packed with fans of Syfy's smart, thrilling adaptation of James S.A. Corey's book series -- set hundreds of years in the future, when humanity is dangerously close to war. Image: Syfy
That's the two-second summary, but there was a lot more to The Expanse than that during season one, and season two promises to dig into even more layers, including a closer look at Martian culture thanks to a key new character -- a Martian Marine, Bobbie Draper, played by Frankie Adams. And good news: If you need to catch up (or just want to revisit via binge) on season one before the show returns for season two in January, it will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime starting in December.
Thomas Jane plays "Belter" police detective Miller -- which means he hails from neither Earth nor Mars, but the asteroid belt. His character is undergoing a physical recovery after the events of last season, but he's also at a mental crossroads.
"Miller's a guy who knows how to take care of himself. He's a survivor. He learned how to manipulate the system to work for him, and fuck everybody else," Jane said in the press room following the panel. "[Season one's] case of the missing girl -- this rich girl who has everything in the world, and throws all of that away to fight for people that she doesn't even know -- who is this person? Why the hell would she do that?" Jane said. "This sort of sets Miller off, because this is the opposite of his world view. That fascinates him, and it also ends up changing who he is, fundamentally, forever. Right now, he's struggling in that middle place of nothing really works the way it used to."
Executive producer Mark Fergus said the Corey books -- actually written by collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck -- created a world so unique, it had to be made into a TV show. "We read the books, and we fell in love with a world where we could rediscover science fiction. [The books] created a version of sci-fi that we had never really seen before. We're telling a story about people struggling forward, and that's where the story is -- we're in that growth period where humanity is breaking the tether of Earth and trying to expand out, and it's really hard."
Executive producer Naren Shankar agreed. "We've said this many times: We like to make space a character in the show. The hardships of it, it's a hostile environment, life doesn't exist in it, and life probably shouldn't exist in it. We re-emphasise that quite often. I think it's one of the unique features of the show. When I was on Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that I loved, you couldn't get away from the fact that the ship looked like a floating hotel. [On The Expanse], our environment is tin cans in space. They do not look comfortable, and they are harsh and uninviting because they need to be strong. That's part of the design of the show, and we're not changing that."
Technology also plays a specifically unspecific role on the show. "We've seen the show where technology leads to utopia. We've seen the show where technology rises up and eats us and destroys everything. We've never seen the show where technology is in the background, where it belongs," Fergus said. "It is a tool, and we wanted it to be a part of a real world. It's not as interesting as the people we're [focusing] on."
Shankar offered a few clues about season two by contrasting it to season one. "Season one was a lot of mystery and shadow play. It was conspiracies about who was behind what, what are they hiding, who's involved? We answered a lot of those questions at the end of season one, and what that enables us to do in season two is really play the story in forward momentum. Season two is largely about understanding this protomolecule [infection]: what it's doing, the direction it wants to move in, and why people are after it."
Paraphrasing The Expanse authors, Fergus summed it up: "Season one was 'What's going on?' and this season is 'What's gonna happen next?' Now we know the pieces, we know the players. We set up season one so that we could do that in season two; now we can drill in on all those promises that we made to the audience in season one."
Here's a quick trailer giving more hints about season two, which will air on Syfy in January 2017.
And as a fun extra for the fans -- which include panel host Adam Savage, who called it his favourite show -- the panel screened this in-joke-filled video breaking down the top nine job requirements for the cast of The Expanse ("Did you just say 'donkey balls'?").