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People slept on Syfy’s The Expanse, and now it’s canceled

Syfy does a hard burn away, but streaming services may show up for salvage rights

Actor Frankie Adams as Martian Marine Bobby Draper leads her squad on a training exercise in full power armor. Syfy
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The Expanse, a spacefaring drama that first premiered in 2015, is being set adrift. Syfy has declined to renew the series, the network confirmed to Deadline last night. That means the show’s third season, which is airing now, may be its last — and that’s a damn shame.

I agree with our friends at The Verge that The Expanse is the best space opera since Battlestar Galactica. We read the tea leaves when we called it “the best show on TV that no one is watching.” With luck, another network will pick up the show and give it the runway it needs to finish out its epic story.

The Expanse is based on a series of novels by James S.A. Corey, a pseudonym for authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. In its version of the future, humanity has been strung out across the solar system for so long that it has broken into different tribes, separated by incredible distances, but also different physiologies and political systems. There are the crass politicians at the United Nations on Earth, the Spartan-like soldiers of Mars and the Belters, who eke out a hardscrabble existence in the asteroid belt.

A space opera of that scope and scale would have been a hard sell just a few years ago, but the mainstream success of HBO’s Game of Thrones and Westworld opened the doors for Syfy to make an attempt at returning to its heyday of high-concept drama. Shows like The Magicians, 12 Monkeys and Krypton will go on, but The Expanse was something special.

Like the original Star Trek, The Expanse gives us a version of humanity’s future where everyone is included. The show features such amazing actors that I imagine it’s hard to give them all the screen time that they each deserve. From Dominique Tipper’s nuanced role as the engineer of the good ship Rocinante, to Wes Chatham’s deliciously uncomfortable intensity at all times, to Shohreh Aghdashloo’s routine and smoky expletives, the cast deserves another season or two together.

And maybe they’ll get it.

Alcon Television Group, which fully finances and produces the program, told Deadline that it plans to shop the show around to other buyers. The company owns all the costumes and all the sets, and still retains the rights to the original story. All it needs is a new home.

Honestly, The Expanse feels like a good fit for a streaming service. Science-fiction fans showed up in droves for The Cloverfield Paradox and Lost in Space, two of the most abysmal efforts that Netflix has yet released into the wild. Picking up the final few seasons of The Expanse might even things out.

The last episode of The Expanse’s third season is scheduled to air in July on Syfy, but hopefully it won’t be the last one ever made. I’m still upset about Firefly. Hell, I’m still angry about Journeyman. I can’t bear the thought of another excellent science fiction show getting put out to pasture.

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