Season Five of The Expanse is a extra refined model of Battlestar Galactica

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for The Expanse season 5 and for the 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot.]

The latest Battlestar Galactica sequence has a repeated mantra: “All this has came about ahead of. All this will likely occur once more.” It’s a connection with the cyclical nature of warfare within the display, the place people constructed the robot Cylons to serve them, just for the Cylons to stand up and just about get rid of humanity. However the similar slogan may additionally consult with the very nature of tv, and creators’ tendency to revisit the similar tales time and again — as they do within the Battlestar Galactica follower The Expanse.

The model of Battlestar Galactica that ran from 2004 to 2009 at the Sci Fi Channel was once a reimagining of the 1978 ABC sequence, protecting the similar elementary plot and lots of the characters, however reframing the tale as an exam of the tradeoff between safety and freedom The usa was once reckoning with within the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist assaults. Six years after Battlestar Galactica’s finale, the Sci-Fi Channel’s new incarnation, Syfy, introduced a non secular successor to the display: The Expanse, an instant-hit house opera adapting a e-book sequence by way of James S.A. Corey (the pen title for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).

The primary Expanse e-book was once revealed in 2011, and when the tv adaptation debuted in 2015, it emulated Battlestar Galactica’s type of laborious science fiction full of exciting house battles, dire threats, political intrigue, and deep non-public dramas. The Expanse couldn’t exist with out the root Battlestar Galactica laid, but it surely’s a much more refined sequence, with Abraham, Franck, and showrunner Naren Shankar proving they’d the transparent, constant plan that Battlestar Galactica promised however by no means delivered.

The best way The Expanse’s writers have constructed on and exceeded Battlestar Galactica was once by no means clearer than within the just lately wrapped season 5, the place a lot of the plot could also be a metaphor for the Sept. 11 assault and The usa’s reaction to it. Right here’s the place the 2 presentations converge, and the way The Expanse’s writers did issues in a different way.

William and Lee Adama face each other grimly across a lighted table in a dark room in Battlestar Galactica

Photograph: Syfy


Battlestar Galactica opens 40 years after a truce between Cylons and humanity was once reached following a bloody warfare. Whilst people have saved making an attempt to be in contact with the Cylons all through the ones a long time, they’ve no touch till the Cylons wreck the gap station supposed to be an emblem of the armistice, then unharness a nuclear holocaust that wipes out the majority of the human race, and sends the survivors fleeing into house.

The dimensions of that attack was once taken without delay from the unique model of the display, however the brand new model’s writers added touches supposed to distinctly recall Sept. 11. A memorial hallway, a space of the spaceship Galactica lined in tokens from the ones killed within the preliminary assaults, unmistakably resembles the impromptu memorials arrange round Flooring 0 after Sept. 11. Giving the Cylons the power to masquerade as people conjures up the unpredictable nature of terrorism, and the paranoia and worry that consequence. Whilst humanity in Battlestar Galactica typically follows a Greek-mythology-based polytheistic faith, the Cylons proportion a monotheistic faith supposed to remind audience of the Taliban’s non secular zealotry.

Maximum of The Expanse’s enhancements on this type of statement come from some great benefits of ancient hindsight. Whilst Battlestar Galactica’s wonder assault comes basically from a misplaced robotic slave race out for vengeance, the similar wonder assault on Earth in The Expanse is perpetrated totally by way of people. Making the perpetrators a part of our species, slightly than killer robots, pushes audience additional towards working out the best way nice powers have all the time been constructed on exploitation, which makes the aggressors’ grievances extra sympathetic. The Cylons had been exploited, however simplest offscreen — humanity left them by myself for 40 years, and introduced an opportunity to speak about ongoing problems, which they by no means accredited. In the meantime, the abuse of the Belt is proven all through The Expanse, with their other folks used for horrific experiments, denied elementary survival sources like air and water, and robbed of any sense of autonomy. Hanging their struggling onscreen makes the tale much less one-sided, and way more emotionally compelling.

The Expanse’s Osama bin Weighted down stand-in Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) is an ascendent chief throughout the Outer Planet Alliance, a gaggle ceaselessly beaten within the Chilly Battle-style warfare between Earth and Mars. With the purple planet serving as a stand-in for the Soviet Union, Mars’ cave in makes Marco’s audacious assault on Earth conceivable by way of giving him get entry to to sources and generation that shall we him flip asteroids into tough stealthed guns he can purpose on the planet. Via tying the assaults to the geopolitical shifts inside human countries, slightly than Battlestar Galactica’s singular betrayal, The Expanse extra carefully mirrors the true reasons of the Sept. 11 assault and its repercussions.

Like Battlestar Galactica, The Expanse conjures up Sept. 11 memorials without delay, with a commemoration extremely paying homage to Tribute in Gentle. However The Expanse’s writers additionally recognize that the largest have an effect on of the assault isn’t the true lack of lifestyles, such a lot because the shattering of a other folks’s phantasm that they’re invulnerable.

And on the finish of season 4, every other OPA chief finding out about Marco’s asteroid tech predicts he’ll use it to solidify his regulate of the asteroid belt, now not even dreaming Marco would have the ambition to strike at Earth. In a funny story that United International locations admiral Felix Delgado (Michael Irby) starts telling early within the season and simplest completes within the penultimate episode, a Martian and Belter each say that consuming the best spirits made by way of their enemy is helping them perceive their enemy higher. The Earther says the most efficient the Belt has to provide is horrible and the one reason why he would order it’s to drink much less. “It was once funnier,” Delgado unfortunately recognizes, as he acknowledges the funny story was once a symptom of the hubris that allowed his planet to be so badly bloodied. Earth isn’t burnt up in The Expanse the best way the United Colonies are in Battlestar Galactica, and the planet’s ongoing skill to be each defender and aggressor units up some tough new conflicts.

Shohreh Aghdashloo, as Chrisjen Avasarala from The Expanse, faces the camera and smiles

Photograph: Amazon Studios


Whilst Battlestar Galactica had 4 seasons to reckon with the political fallout of Sept. 11, The Expanse has thus far simplest faithful a couple of episodes to the response to Marco’s assault. Even so, the writers have already supplied some attention-grabbing examinations of proportional reaction, warfare crimes, and tolerance.

The assault originally of Battlestar Galactica is simply too devastating to make it a correct Sept. 11 metaphor. It successfully turns The usa into the underdog in opposition to the Cylon terrorists, whilst relegating the remainder of human civilization to irrelevance within the warfare. The display is firmly in a post-apocalyptic realm, the place nearly any sacrifice will also be justified within the title of stopping extinction. Likewise, nearly all of Battlestar Galactica primary characters are a part of the United Colonies’ army, which is provably and continuously the usage of its energy to save lots of lives — which makes it tougher to carry them in control of their excesses, whilst they deny their other folks elementary liberties.

As in Battlestar Galactica, the wonder assault in The Expanse leaves maximum of Earth’s elected political leaders useless and places a relative beginner in regulate, any person who can simply be persuaded to practice army leaders’ competitive plans that may kill tens of millions of innocents. Former UN Secretary Common Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) advises a tactical strike on their enemies that may decrease civilian casualties, mentioning that Marco doesn’t constitute all of the Belt. However different army and civilian leaders argue that the assault on civilian objectives on Earth justifies dramatic motion, regardless of the collateral value.

It’s a extra nuanced model of the Battlestar Galactic warfare, with extra gamers and extra conceivable results complicating the tale. In the end, Chrisjen and different cooler heads succeed inside Earth’s govt, whilst some Belters battle in opposition to Marco to make it transparent in addition they don’t toughen the atrocities he’s committing of their title. The season ends on an constructive word, with Chrisjen mentioning {that a} victory in opposition to Marco was once completed by way of a gaggle that contained other folks from Earth, Mars, and the Belt — a triumph of multiculturalism at a time the place the philosophy appeared maximum susceptible.

Marco Inaros throws an arm around Filip Inaros’ neck in The Expanse

Photograph: Amazon Studios


There are a couple of advocates of tolerance, democracy, and inclusion inside Battlestar Galactica, maximum significantly Karl “Helo” Agathon, who has a kid with a Cylon, and disobeys orders he believes are genocidal. However the majority of characters lean strongly towards fascism and theocracy, which brings house the display’s level about how seductive the ones ideologies are, but additionally makes it laborious to search out somebody to cheer for. The Expanse is extra a tale of loveable iconoclasts, a realpolitik story with a gaggle of reliable heroes on the middle of the motion.

A lot of season Five makes a speciality of exploring the backgrounds that made the ones heroes who they’re, and emphasizing the energy in their discovered circle of relatives. Battlestar Galactica was once rightly criticized for a few of its clunkier makes an attempt at fleshing out characters, with plots like having ace pilot Starbuck even be a celeb athlete, or having a number of characters turn into secret Cylons. In The Expanse, the primary solid has all the time been a suite of people that took to house on account of their difficult luggage. Explaining what they’ve left in the back of feels extra herbal, and not more compelled.

One of the most season’s most intricate arcs comes to Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), who had a kid with Marco and is making an attempt to save lots of him from his father. The exam of her previous terrorist actions and the way Marco has weaponized his air of secrecy is a formidable take a look at the have an effect on of emotional abuse and the demanding situations of looking to get away radicalization. Battlestar Galactica attempted to make a few of its Cylons sympathetic, however the Belters are each extra relatable and extra terrifying by way of distinctive feature of being human. The query posed on the finish of this season of The Expanse is whether or not sufficient other folks will have the ability to placing apart suspicion and a thirst for vengeance to stand the demanding situations to return.

Battlestar Galactica ended with a abnormal plot involving the survivors leaving behind their generation to survive Earth with prehistoric people, and a montage of dancing robots supposed to supply a caution that we’re doomed to copy our errors. However the writers of The Expanse appear to have realized from what got here ahead of. They’ve have shyed away from Battlestar Galactica’s missteps, whilst crafting a tighter and extra nuanced geopolitical house opera. Amazon, which picked up The Expanse after Syfy cancelled it, mentioned it’s going to forestall generating the display after season 6. If The Expanse’s writers can stick the touchdown, they can give a type for no matter occurs subsequent within the cycle, and whoever takes up those subject matters and concepts someday.

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