JAN 14, 2022 8:00 AM PST

The Expanse: A Lasting Impact on Science Fiction

First premiering on SyFy on December 14, 2015, the critically acclaimed outer space drama known as The Expanse quickly gained a large fanbase. This following reached full-blown cult status when the show was canceled after Season 3, and loyal fans of the show petitioned Amazon Video to pick it up. This included literally flying an airplane over Amazon HQ with a sign reading, “#Save The Expanse”. Luckily, Amazon heard the call and picked up the show for Season 4, ultimately renewing it for an additional  fifth and sixth season. However, all good things must come to an end, and The Expanse is currently airing its sixth and final season, with the final episode having been released on Amazon Video just a few hours before this publication. The show has yet to be greenlit for a seventh season.

The Expanse takes place hundreds of the years in the future after humanity has successfully colonized the solar system. Having grown up on Star Trek, anytime someone mentions the words “sci-fi,” “space,” and especially “futuristic,” I immediately envision warp drive, teleportation, phasers, photon torpedoes, tractor beams, and all the other fancy shenanigans that I always thought went with futuristic science fiction. Everything within the Star Trek universe is also so clean and perfect, with humanity at peace and happily exploring the galaxy while the show would constantly jab at past “problems” from the 20th century as being long behind us. Quests for money and power and fighting over our petty differences are a thing of the literal past, and I would constantly tell myself, “This is the future, and I can’t wait for it!”

This is where The Expanse really caught my attention, though, as the show conveys a future where we’re still squabbling and fighting amongst ourselves over the aforementioned problems, and this is where I believe we needed this show. There’s also no warp drive, and literally no mention of humanity even trying to expand beyond the confines of our solar system. All of the fancy “futuristic” tech I was long-accustomed to seeing was nowhere to be found. The purpose of The Expanse was to remind us that while space exploration is exciting, it can also be very, very difficult, both politically and technologically.

As travel to space becomes more and more accessible to everyday individuals, most notably with the launch of Inspiration 4 and the recent Blue Origin suborbital flights of Wally Funk, William Shatner, Michael Strahan, and Laura Shepard Churchley, we deserved The Expanse to give us something to strive for in terms of not only what humanity can achieve, but also the problems we can address now so we can possibly avoid the bleak and war-filled future conveyed in this fantastic show. While it conveys a future that mirrors our present in many ways, it also serves as a warning that this is what we could face if we don’t address the problems of today. As The Expanse wraps up its time on the air, this gives us time to reflect, and this reflection can absolutely bring about a positive future for humankind.

Sources: Deadline, Deadline, The Verge, Space.com (1), Space.com (2), CNN, Space.com (3)

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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