Syfy has been through a renaissance this year as it shifted its focus on delivering more scripted science-fiction shows that reflected its moniker. With the success of new scripted series 12 Monkeys, Dark Matter, and Killjoys, the network aims to revive the era of science fiction on television that Battlestar Galactica once brought. With tonight’s new programming, Syfy has ushered in the Golden Age of science fiction on television.
Monday night Syfy kicks off one of their most ambitious nights in the network’s history with two big new shows, The Expanse and Childhood’s End – the former based off of the first book, Leviathan Wakes, in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, while the latter serves as a three-night miniseries event adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel.
The Expanse propels us forward into the 23rd century where humanity finds itself spread across the solar system. An opening text-scroll quickly fills in the audience on the current political climate that humanity faces – The Earth and Moon are controlled by the U.N., Mars is under independent military control, and the “Belters” who live in colonies around the asteroid belt, serve as the work force to mine the asteroids for the two planets. Water and air are precious commodities, which lead to high tensions as Belters are enforced with water rations and poor air quality, while those on planets appear to be living in luxury in comparison.
The premiere follows three plot threads. In the far reaches of space we’re introduced to a group of miners employed by corporations to collect ice, but are met with a mysterious distress signal. On Ceres, we meet a detective, played by Thomas Jane, who is tasked to hunt down the missing daughter of a prominent family, while on Earth we are introduced to a politician who will do whatever it takes to avoid war.
The first four episodes of The Expanse bring about an engaging, interconnected space opera that hasn’t been seen on television since the departure of Battlestar Galactica. I found myself immersed in the world and characters from the get-go. It’s clear Syfy took no shortcuts with The Expanse when it comes to budget because the world looks beautiful. Featuring one of the most diverse casts on television, The Expanse is one of the biggest must-watch series of the year.
Childhood’s End’s premiere finds Earth visited by an alien race, led by an alien known as Karellen – voiced by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones). The Overlords, as they are quickly named, are here to end war and bring upon the Golden Age of mankind. Of course there are many out there that fail to trust Karellen and question his motives. The mysterious alien chooses an American farmer, Ricky Stormgren, to serve as an intermediary between humanity and the Overlords.
Ricky, whose life completely transforms with his selection, is transported to an empty hotel room which serves as his meeting with the voice of Karellen. The alien refuses to reveal himself since he claims his image will cause great distress. It is in the final moments of the premiere when Karellen does reveal himself to humanity, but saying any more would be a massive spoiler.
The series does a fantastic job tackling humanities initial reaction to the Overlords, the acceptance and resistance of being controlled, the crisis of religious faith, and the potential of human evolution. Like The Expanse, Childhood’s End’s diverse cast of characters is a refreshing sight to see on television.
The adaptation of Clarke’s book undergoes a few minor changes in its conversion to television. The jumps in years aren’t as wide range as they were in the book in order for Syfy to use the same cast of characters. There are some name alterations, but overall the series stays faithful to Clarke’s original vision.
Night Two of Childhood’s End, while not as exciting as the first night, lays the groundwork for a solid finale to the miniseries. Days after watching the final part, I still ponder back to some of the points that series brought up. And honestly, what more could you ask from great thought-provoking science fiction other than to be able to reflect upon what you’ve consumed.
Childhood’s End premieres December 14, 15, and 16 on Syfy at 8 PM.
The Expanse premieres December 14 with the second episode premiering on December 15 at 10 PM.