The clip is from the episode airing Wednesday night on Syfy, so consider this a warning of mild spoilers.
Here at Ars, we unashamedly love science fiction. Books, movies, comics – everything. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be very good to earn our affection – which one of us doesn’t have a soft spot for Robot Jox or dark star? Lately there has been a wave of fiction that has taken a closer look at what life would be like if humanity begins to colonize the solar system and beyond: Neal Stephenson’s seveneves and that of Kim Stanley Robinson Aurora for example, as well as the miniseries Ascension Day. But none of these have given us anything as well fleshed out as James SA Corey’s The vastness.
Although it feels lazy to compare the series to Game of Thrones, it’s understandable how that happened. This sprawling, solar system-wide series originally started out as the idea for an MMORPG sometime around the turn of the century, before turning into a series of novels (and novellas) and finally a TV series about Syfy. Adapting a book to the screen can often be a fraught experience for the fan invested in the story. However, it is unusual for Corey – or the two people behind it – nom de plumeDan Abraham and Ty Franck – are deeply entrenched in the show’s writers room.
As a result, the translation from one medium to another felt extremely faithful in tone, even though some of the plot doesn’t happen in the same order it did in print. Stallone’s Judge Dredd this is not!
Season 2 of the vastness is where things started to get really interesting. A shadowy conspiracy led by one of the system’s richest men has been revealed. A bunch of scientists — whose empathy has been surgically removed — have used the Eros space station and its 100,000 inhabitants as guinea pigs for an alien artifact as old as the sun. And as we saw last week, that alien artifact, also known as the protomolecule, appears to be capable of ignoring what we think of as the laws of physics.
But as the sneak peek Syfy shared with us shows, the vastness is about more than technobabble and spacewalks. It’s about people and the bonds they form:
Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos become more than just the crew of the Rocinante, and despite their differences from Miller, they also come to see him as part of the family. And just like in real life, none of them are perfect or even come close. Holden is idealistic, preachy, and often out of his depth. Miller has fallen in love with someone he’s never met, the missing person he had to find. Alex holds impossibly high standards, then grumbles when he doesn’t live up to them. Beneath that charming baby face, Amos has even less empathy than our evil scientists. And Naomi is expected to be the glue that holds the crew together.
The dynamics between the crew is reminiscent of the late, great glowwormalthough there is clearly quite a difference in tone between Whedon’s cowboys-in-space and The vastness. But something both series are good at is how they humanize their characters. And it’s that, rather than the rigor of the science or the beauty of the special effects, that keeps us coming back week after week.
The next episode of the vastness runs tonight on Syfy, and you can check out our next podcast about the show next Friday.