The Expanse is sci-fi's peak TV and its cancellation is a damn tragedy

SyFy's The Expanse needs to be saved. Hello, streaming services?

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
Expertise Mobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social Media Credentials
  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
3 min read

The Expanse is the best show on TV that you aren't watching. 


I vividly remember watching the first episode of SyFy's The Expanse. My toddler had finally adapted to a sleep schedule that gave me a few precious moments of spare time, and I remembered some of the early glowing reviews. I opened the SyFy app on my iPad  -- I was still terrified the television would wake up my son and abruptly cut short my sweet, sweet respite -- and loaded the first episode. I settled into a comfy chair, prepared to be blown away. 

Then I promptly fell asleep. 

Sure, it was probably baby-related, but it's widely known The Expanse gets off to a really, really slow start. The series begins with multiple, unrelated story lines in far-flung locations from a space station by an astroid belt, a mining ship and Earth. It takes a few episodes to build out the vast, complicated world of the show. 

That's likely why SyFy won't renew The Expanse after its current third season, which was earlier reported by Deadline.

"The Expanse transported us across the solar system for three brilliant seasons of television," said Chris McCumber, president of  entertainment networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, which owns SyFy. "Everyone at SyFy is a massive fan of the series, and this was an incredibly difficult decision."

That's a shame because, make no mistake, it absolutely qualifies as a series that lives up to this peak TV era we're enjoying. The Sopranos hit the mafia genre, Mad Men gave us a dose of '60s era nostalgia, Game of Thrones fills the fantasy bucket, and Westworld serves the mystery/intellectual/soft sci-fi area. Like all of those, The Expanse is special, balancing prestige television drama with hardcore space sci-fi epic that makes it the successor to the Battlestar Galactica remake and Star Trek.

See SVCC 2018 cosplay: Avengers, Star Wars and Game of Thrones

See all photos

Like these other, denser shows, The Expanse takes a while to get going. But once you start to get comfortable with the different story lines, the show is straight-up addictive. And remember how everyone freaked when different characters in Game of Thrones started meeting up or reuniting with each other after several years? That happens at the beginning of The Expanse's second season and the results are just as satisfying.

Then there are fantastic veteran actors like Thomas Jane, Chad Coleman and Shohreh Aghdashloo, who smartly breathe life into a wide variety of colorful, well-rounded characters. The writers smartly juggle the myriad of players, making you care about pretty much everyone on the show. 

The real tragedy is this premature end comes as the show has really hit its stride. It's five episodes into its third season and the stakes -- both personal and system wide -- couldn't be higher. There's also the underlying alien "proto molecule" (just go with it) storyline that is just starting to ramp up. It's unclear how the rest of the season could play out, but fans could be left with a lot of cliffhangers that are unaddressed. 

There were certainly some issues with how it was made available. I caught the entire first season on Amazon Prime, but there was a long wait for the second season to become available. For a while, only select later episodes of the second season were available on SyFy's own site, but I didn't want to watch them out of order. 

Deadline also reported the creators of the show, Alcon Television Group, intend to shop it around. A spokesman for Alcon couldn't immediately be reached for comment. 

For any streaming service looking for an injection of credibility and rabid -- although apparently, not large enough -- fan base -- it appears The Expanse is up for grabs. 

I took a second stab at The Expanse a few months later, and now, it's one of the few shows I will drop everything for and watch live (or at least the next day). See? Hopefully, another network or streaming service will give it a second look too. 

'Hello, humans': Google's Duplex could make Assistant the most lifelike AI yet.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.