30 Day Challenge Day Nineteen: What series is underrated?

If you’re interested in participating in the Geek Out Challenge, read this post here! Each day I will be posting a question for that day for the next 30 days. Follow along each day with your own post or feel free to wait until the entire challenge has been released and take it on when you like! Be sure to link back to the master post at the end or link back to each post for each day.

Day Nineteen: What series is underrated?

A question that’s probably a little trickier to answer when you stop to consider the context. Removing any hubris or notions of self importance, you do like to consider yourself to be a person of good taste and judgement, and by implication the programs and series you enjoy are of equal quality and measure. So it’s somewhat difficult to take a series of any form you enjoy or recommend and not be astonished it hasn’t gained a wider, critical audience or greater traction in the cultural zeitgeist. In part, I would contend that is somewhat down to streaming and the shift on how we consume series especially small screen shows which are now released in their entirety across a wide breadth of platforms and providers.

To binge watch a series a decade ago would involve buying a DVD boxset, today, streaming through Netflix or if you are really lucky and live in the States, Disney+. It’s perhaps a quaint notion to discuss and talk about a single episode with colleagues at work or your friends and peers when you can so easily watch the series in its entirety. How we consume media has changed, so how we talk and discuss specific shows or series has also adapted and word of mouth is no longer as viable a promotional tool as perhaps it once was.

I came across The Expanse as a recommended title on Netflix when it held the distribution rights for the series before its purchase and development through Amazon. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I held a certain wariness as I had only picked up on vague rumours and review with its debut in the UK on the syfy channel which in truth hasn’t produced content of any great quality in a number of years but I was intrigued. And thankfully so, I’ve long held a penchant for more grounded science fiction, whilst aspects of the series are of the supernatural and fantastical, it is based in space afterall, there is a grounded aspect to the production which stands out to the approach of the recent Star Trek productions. One of my highlights from the series to date was an episode in the third season which dealt principally with the consequences of inertia in space flight.

Without going into detail of the episode, in Star Trek as a contrast, this had never really been discussed or depicted in any great details, for the simple fact should the technology fail then accelerating to the speeds of the Enterprise would render the crew a thin paste on the bulkhead walls. The nearest equivalence I can describe would be the early series of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica which dealt with similar issues of survival and the hostilities of transit through space. I enjoy the optimism of Star Trek, the notion humanity gets it right in the end and changes its view of the world beyond on these beautiful smooth cruisers it nice, its reassuring. But you do imagine space to be a dangerous and challenging place in of itself, Battlestar got that aspect spot on. And so did The Expanse.

It’s difficult to go into to great a detail on the series without going into spoilers and given its a narrative rich show I wouldn’t do that quite simply because I really enjoyed the twists and turns that occured. Loosely, its an interconnected science fiction show with narrative told from various perspective, Game of Thrones in space for want of a better description. In the earlier seasons it does perhaps look and feel a little made for TV using a similar approach to Sharpe wherein these grandiose threats and challenges would be discussed and alluded to but for the most part the perspective of the show would focus on the little people caught up in the events not directly challenging or changing them. As the series grew in popularity and I would presume viewing figures increased in return so the production values clearly increased between seasons. Following a serialised structure it helps as the more tightly focused drama is allowed to spread its wing and reveal more of the overarching plot as the series progresses.

So a lot of great things to recommend, from a production standpoint alone it starts with a bang and remains a consistently well produced series. Certainly you could notice some of the tricks employed to ensure it remains a financially viable product for the network, but the scope and ambition is clearly there, helped largely by the fact much of the lore and genesis of the universe of The Expanse was mapped out and shaped by the shows creator and author of the books before it begun production. This helps, it allows the producers to add small nuanced detail without resorting to lazy or repeated short cuts and technologies. I really enjoyed the episode around the dangers of inertia as it played against expected typical tropes and technologies as an audience of shows of this nature would come to expect and wasn’t something we had seen before. Given its growing popularity and transition to Amazon taking ownership of its production there is a bright future. And whilst admittedly a very small sampling, I remain the only one of my peers to actually watch the series. An even smaller proportion who is even aware of it. A popular show, one that has the potential to grow massively in the near future, just one that is perhaps underrated in contrast to similar heavily serialised shows like Game of Thrones.

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