Getting the Stakes Right

Everything Else, Fiction Comments (0)

Nothing draws me out of a story like poorly done characters. It doesn’t matter how much technical gee whiz you put into the plot or how big your special effects budget, I don’t put up with stories that don’t have genuine feeling people in them, which is why I find The Expanse to be the best new science fiction series on television since Babylon 5. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and binge watch the first ten episodes free on Amazon Prime before the next season starts on February 1 on SyFy.

I am notoriously skeptical about television, which most often I find to be weak tea and boring. I usually wait until a series ends before I commit to watching it on Netflix or Amazon Prime. The Expanse has two things that give me enough hope to invest up front.

First, The Expanse is based upon a book series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who write under the name James S. A. Corey. That means one thing for the series: it’s got an ending. That is the number one prerequisite for good storytelling in any medium, including and especially television. To illustrate my point let me just list of a few shows, starting with Twin Peaks, X Files, Lost, and who could forget Battle Star Galactica. So what was the deal with Starbuck? I guess we’ll never know. Even better, Abraham and Franck are also producing the television series, so you can trust that their vision will be the guiding force behind the show.

That being said, science fiction is a notoriously bad genre for characters no matter the storytelling medium. So often the technical “gee whiz” or the coming destruction of humanity somehow cause story teller’s to populate their world’s with bland, unmotivated, and unchanging people. It’s even worse in scifi political thrillers like the expanse.

But that is what makes the expanse so great. Every character has a specific and personal reason for their behavior and that makes them all believable and worthwhile. From the character motivated by being forced to mercifully kill his own sister, to the character who grew up in a brothel, everyone, and I mean everyone, has a story behind their choices.  That makes The Expanse worth watching because even when the overall plot is about a potential war between Earth and Mars, the stories told are always deeply personal.

I have to tip my hat to Abraham and Franck for making sure that each of these motivations shows up on the screen, often as the sole point driving a scene. It’s such a refreshing thing. Keep up the good work. I’m hooked.

» Everything Else, Fiction » Getting the Stakes Right
On January 17, 2017

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