The Expanse is an American science fiction television series developed by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, based on the series of novels of the same name by James S.A. Corey.
The series is set in a future where humanity has colonised the Solar System. It follows a disparate band of antiheroes – United Nations Security Council member Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), police detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane), ship’s officer James Holden (Steven Strait) and his crew – as they unwittingly unravel and place themselves at the centre of a conspiracy which threatens the system’s fragile state of Cold War.
Alcon Entertainment produces and finances the series. It sold three seasons to Syfy, which cancelled the series in May 2018.
Amazon Prime Video picked up the series for a fourth season, which was released on 12 December 2019. On 27 July 2019, Amazon renewed The Expanse for a fifth season.
Hundreds of years in the future, the Solar System has been colonized by humanity. The three largest powers are the United Nations of Earth and Luna, the Martian Congressional Republic on Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), a loose configuration of the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Chrisjen Avasarala, a United Nations executive, works to prevent war between Earth and Mars. Ceres police detective Joe Miller is sent to find a missing young woman, Julie Mao. The space-freighter Canterbury and the Martian Navy flagship Donnager are destroyed by ships built by Jules-Pierre Mao, Julie’s father. James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal and Amos Burton escape in a Martian gunship named the Tachi. They subsequently rename the ship Rocinante which becomes the main setting of the series. The crew of the Rocinante, with Miller’s help, investigates and eventually discovers a biohazard that kills off most of the humans on the asteroid Eros, including Julie.
Martian Marine Bobbie Draper fights an inhuman figure on Ganymede and later becomes a protégé of Avasarala. The crew try to help a father find his daughter and, in the process, encounters and kills a figure akin to the one that Draper fought, now known as a “protomolecule hybrid” developed by Jules-Pierre Mao. A research ship, sent to Venus to investigate the crash of Eros, is stopped dead in the atmosphere and completely disassembled by the protomolecule.
The UN declares war as Earth and Mars send science vessels to investigate what’s happening on Venus.
The desire for a land rush begins after portals to other solar systems with habitable worlds opened up. Refugee ships from the belt and overcrowded Earth are stopped at the gateway. Efforts to terraform Mars begin to wane as ready made habitable worlds are now available. The crew of the Rocinante are sent to investigate the situation on the single alien planet that has been settled by Belter refugees, who have been joined by an officially backed scientific expedition with private military support.
- Thomas Jane as Joe Miller, a Belter detective on Ceres assigned to find Julie Mao (seasons 01-02; special appearances seasons 03-04).
- Steven Strait as James Holden, the Earther executive officer on the Canterbury, later the captain of the Rocinante.
- Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal, the Martian pilot of the Canterbury, later the pilot of the Rocinante.
- Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata, a Belter engineer of the Canterbury, later the engineer of the Rocinante.
- Wes Chatham as Amos Burton, an Earther mechanic of the Canterbury, later the mechanic of the Rocinante.
- Paulo Costanzo as Shed Garvey, the Canterbury’s medical technician (season 01).
- Florence Faivre as Julie Mao (alias Lionel Polanski), the missing daughter of business tycoon Jules-Pierre Mao (seasons 01-02; special appearance season 03).
- Shawn Doyle as Sadavir Errinwright, UN Undersecretary of Executive Administration (seasons 01-03).
- Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala, UN Deputy Undersecretary of Executive Administration.
- Frankie Adams as Bobbie Draper, an MMC (Martian Marine Corps) gunnery sergeant (seasons 02-present).
- Cara Gee as Camina Drummer, Tycho Station’s Belter head of security, later captain of the OPAS Behemoth/Medina Station (season 04-present; recurring seasons 0-03).
- Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Melpomene Mao (alias Melba Alzbeta Koh), Jules-Pierre Mao’s elder daughter who initially seeks revenge against Holden, posing as a Savage Industries electrician aboard the UNN Thomas Prince (season 05; recurring seasons 03-04).
- Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros, a Belter faction leader (season 05; recurring season 04).
- Jasai Chase Owens as Filip Inaros, Marco and Naomi’s son (season 05; guest season 04).
- Recurring (Introduced in season 01):
- Chad L. Coleman as Fred Lucius Johnson, “the Butcher of Anderson Station”, a UNN colonel-turned-leader of the OPA on Tycho Station (seasons 01-present).
- Andrew Rotilio as Diogo Harari, a young Belter from Ceres in the OPA (seasons 01-03).
- Martin Roach as Michael Souther, former UNN fleet admiral, demoted to admiral and placed in command of the UNN Agatha King and the UN’s Jupiter fleet (seasons 01-03).
- François Chau as Jules-Pierre Mao, the owner of Mao-Kwikowski Mercantile and Julie’s father (seasons 01-03).
- Athena Karkanis as Tavi Muss, Miller’s former partner at Star Helix Security (season 01).
- Jared Harris as Anderson Dawes, the OPA’s Ceres liaison (seasons 01-02).
- Jay Hernandez as Dmitri Havelock, Miller’s Earther partner at Star Helix Security (season 01).
- Lola Glaudini as Shaddid, captain of Star Helix Security’s Ceres detachment (season 01).
- Kevin Hanchard as Semi, a Cererian detective on Eros, and an old friend of Miller’s (season 01).
- Daniel Kash as Antony Dresden, Protogen’s head of biological research (seasons 01-02).
- Brian George (seasons 01-02) and Michael Benyaer (season 04) as Arjun Avasarala, Avasarala’s husband
- Greg Bryk as K. Lopez, an MMC lieutenant assigned to the MCRN Donnager (season 01).
- Elias Toufexis as Kenzo Gabriel, a Davila Aerospatiale spy on Tycho Station who infiltrates the Rocinante (season 01).
- Jean Yoon as Theresa Yao, captain of the MCRN Donnager (season 01).
- Recurring (Introduced in season 02):
- Nick E. Tarabay as Cotyar Ghazi, a security professional working for Avasarala (seasons 02-03).
- Terry Chen as Praxideke “Prax” Meng, a botanist from Ganymede (seasons 02-03).
- Leah Jung as Mei Meng, Prax’s daughter (seasons 02-03).
- Ted Atherton as Lawrence Strickland, a pediatrician secretly working for Protogen (seasons 02-03).
- Jonathan Whittaker as Esteban Sorrento-Gillis, former UN Secretary General (seasons 02-03).
- Byron Mann as Augusto Nguyễn, a UNN admiral, later fleet admiral (seasons 02-03).
- Mpho Koaho as Richard Travis, an Earth-born MMC private assigned to the MCRN Scirocco (season 02).
- Carlos Gonzalez-Vio as Paolo Cortázar, a Protogen scientist (season 02).
- Peter Outerbridge as Martens, a MCRN captain and chaplain assigned to the MCRN Scirocco (season 02).
- Sarah Allen as T. Hillman, a MMC private assigned to the MCRN Scirocco (season 02).
- Dewshane Williams as L. Sa’id, a MMC corporal assigned to the MCRN Scirocco (season 02).
- Conrad Pla as Janus, a UNMC colonel assigned to the UNS Arboghast (season 02).
- Ted Whittall as Michael Iturbi, a UN scientist assigned to the UNS Arboghast (season 02).
- Hugh Dillon as Sutton, a MCRN lieutenant assigned to the MCRN Scirocco (season 02).
- Jeff Seymour as Pyotr Korshunov, the former MCR Minister of Defense (season 02).
- Rachael Crawford as J. Peñano, a MCRN admiral (season 02).
- Recurring (Introduced in season 03):
- David Strathairn as Klaes Ashford, a Belter pirate-turned-executive officer of the OPAS Behemoth (seasons 03-04).
- Elizabeth Mitchell as Anna Volovodov, a Methodist pastor (season .3).
- Brock Johnson as Grigori, a former acquaintance of Ashford’s aboard the OPAS Behemoth (season 03).
- Chris Owens as Kolvoord, a science officer aboard the UNN Thomas Prince (season .3).
- Genelle Williams as Tilly Fagan, a socialite aboard the UNN Thomas Prince who befriends Anna (season 03).
- Anna Hopkins as Monica Stuart, an Earther journalist filming a documentary on the Rocinante (season 03).
- Jaeden Noel as Katoa Merton, Mei’s friend (season 03).
- Raven Dauda as Nono Volovodov, Anna’s wife (season 03).
- Brandon McGibbon as Elio “Cohen” Casti, Monica’s technical crewman and camera operator (season 03).
- Ari Millen as Stanni Kulp, a Savage Industries electrician assigned to the UNN Thomas Prince (season 03).
- Paulino Nunes as Hank Cortez, a priest aboard the UNN Thomas Prince (season 03).
- Sabryn Rock as Riko Oshi, a MMC private assigned to the MCRN Xuesen (season 03).
- Hamed Dar as Jed Trepp, a MMC private assigned to the MCRN Xuesen (season 03).
- Atticus Mitchell as Sinopoli, a MCRN ensign who served aboard the MCRN Kittur Chennamma (season 03).
- Natalie Lisinska as Shaffer, a lieutenant aboard the UNN Agatha King who is loyal to Souther (season 03).
- Morgan Kelly as Mancuso, a lieutenant aboard the UNN Agatha King who is loyal to Souther (season 03).
- John Kapelos as Ren Hazuki, a Savage Industries electrician assigned to the UNN Thomas Prince (season 03).
- Yanna McIntosh as Chandra Lucas, captain of the MCRN Askia, later captain of the MCRN Xuesen (season 03).
- Recurring (Introduced in season 04):
- Burn Gorman as Adolphus Murtry, chief of security for Royal Charter Energy (RCE) aboard the Edward Israel (season 04).
- Lyndie Greenwood as Elvi Okoye, a biologist working for the RCE (season 04).
- Rosa Gilmore as Lucia Mazur, a Belter refugee (season 04).
- Jess Salgueiro as Chandra Wei, corporate security officer (season 04).
- Lily Gao as Nancy Gao, the Secretary-General of the United Nations proceeding her election victory against Chrisjen Avasarala. (season 04-present).
- Paul Schulze as Esai Martin, a corrupt police officer on Mars (season .4).
James S.A. Corey
James S.A. Corey is the pen name used by collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, authors of the science fiction series The Expanse. The first and last name are taken from Abraham’s and Franck’s middle names, respectively, and S.A. are the initials of Abraham’s daughter. The name is also meant to emulate many of the space opera writers of the 1970s.
The Expanse Book Series
- Main Series:
- Leviathan Wakes (15 June 2011).
- Caliban’s War (26 June 2012).
- Abaddon’s Gate (04 June 2013).
- Cibola Burn (05 June 2014).
- Nemesis Games (02 June 2015).
- Babylon’s Ashes (06 December 2016).
- Persepolis Rising (05 December 2017).
- Tiamat’s Wrath (26 March 2019).
- Leviathan Falls (to be released 2021).
- Related works
- The Butcher of Anderson Station (The Expanse short story) (2011).
- Gods of Risk (The Expanse novella) (2012).
- Drive (The Expanse short story) (2012).
- The Churn (The Expanse novella) (2014).
- The Vital Abyss (The Expanse novella) (2015).
- Strange Dogs (The Expanse novella) (2017).
- The Last Flight of the Cassandra (The Expanse short story) (2019).
- Auberon (The Expanse novella) (2019).
The Expanse is based on the novel series of the same name by James S. A. Corey, a pen name of the authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also serve as writers and producers for the show. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes (2011), was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. On 11 April 2014, Syfy announced a straight-to-series commitment to a television adaptation of the book series, and ordered the production of 10 one-hour-long episodes for the first season. On that date Syfy President Dave Howe commented: “The Expanse is epic in scale and scope and promises to be Syfy’s most ambitious series to date”.
Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby wrote the pilot, directed by Terry McDonough, and serve as writers and showrunners alongside Naren Shankar. Produced by Alcon Television and The Sean Daniel Company, principal photography started on 29 October 2014, in Toronto. The pilot episode was screened at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2015.
In May 2015, before the first season aired, writing commenced for a second season, which was ordered in December 2015. The second season of The Expanse premiered on 01 February 2017.
On 16 March 2017, The Expanse was renewed by Syfy for a 13-episode third season to air in 2018. Filming for the third season began on 12 July 2017.
Four digital comics based on the books and tying into the television series have been published by ComiXology. The first focuses on the origin of James Holden and was released 01 February 2017. The next three, highlighting the origins of other characters are: Naomi Nagata, released 19 April 2017; Alex Kamal, released 24 May 2017; and Amos Burton, released 12 July 2017.
The show’s title sequence was animated and directed by Australian studio Breeder and its VFX team.
Cancellation and Renewal
On 11 May 2018, Syfy did not purchase the rights for future seasons because of restrictive distribution arrangements, and announced it was cancelled. Alcon looked for other channels to distribute future seasons.
Fans protested the cancellation, gathering over 100,000 signatures for an online petition. They lobbied Amazon Studios and Netflix to greenlight the fourth season and a crowdfunding campaign paid for an airplane to fly a “#SaveTheExpanse” banner around Amazon Studios. Celebrities including Wil Wheaton, George R.R. Martin, Patton Oswalt and Andreas Mogensen supported the campaign.
On 26 May, at the International Space Development Conference, Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon picked the series up for additional seasons. Production on the fourth season began in October 2018 and debuted on Amazon Prime Video on 12 December 2019. On 27 July 2019, Amazon renewed The Expanse for a fifth season.
The show’s soundtrack was composed by Clinton Shorter. The first season’s soundtrack dubbed The Expanse Season 1 – The Original Television Soundtrack, consisting of nineteen tracks, was released by Lakeshore Records, on 20 May 2016, via iTunes, and on 26 May 2016, via Amazon.
Genre and Themes
The series has been described as a space opera by critics. Emily VanDerWerff of Vox describes the first season of the series to be a “blend of science fiction and noir-infused detective drama, with a backdrop of political intrigue”. Vice has referred to the series as a “sci fi noir mystery-thriller” and as hard science fiction. Prior to the series premiere, Mark Fergus spoke of the series’ western themes: “Everywhere is kind of back to the frontier rules so it gives us all that stuff back that we lost. Cellular technology. You can get a little more western about it.” The fourth season, according to the writers, also has “space western vibes”.
In the US, seasons 01 to 03 of The Expanse were broadcast by Syfy and streamed on Prime Video. In Canada, these seasons aired on Space and streamed on Crave. In New Zealand, these seasons aired on Sky. In all other countries where Netflix is available, seasons 01 and 02 were streamed until 30 September 2018. On 08 February 2019, Prime Video took over exclusive distribution of the first three seasons worldwide in preparation for premiering of the fourth season later in 2019.
The Expanse Series
- Series 01 (2015-2016).
- Series 02 (2017).
- Series 03 (2018).
- Series 04 (2019).
- Series 05 (In development).
Production & Filming Details
- Developed By: Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby.
- Producer(s): Naren Shankar, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Sean Daniel, Jason F. Brown, Sharon Hall, Broderick Johnson, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Dan Nowak, Lynn Raynor, Jason Ning, Robin Veith, Ben Cook, Ben Roberts, Manny Danelon, Alan Di Fiore, Lewin Webb, Robert Munroe, and Steven Strait.
- Music: Clinton Shorter.
Cinematography: Jeremy Benning, Michael Galbraith, and Ray Dumas.
- Production: Penguin in a Parka, SeanDanielCo (2015-2018), Alcon Entertainment, Just So (2019-present), Hivemind (2019-present), and Amazon Studios (2019–present).
- Distributor(s): Legendary Television Distribution.
- Original Network: Syfy (2015-2018) and Prime Video (2019-Present).
- Release Date: 14 December 2015 to Present.
- Running Time: 42-53 minutes (per episode).
- Rating: TV-14/15.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.