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‘Expanse’ review: Syfy series in 23rd century outer space

Wes Chatham is space mechanic Amos Burton in

Wes Chatham is space mechanic Amos Burton in "The Expanse." Photo Credit: Syfy / Jason Bell

THE SERIES “Expanse”

WHEN | WHERE Two-part premiere Monday and Tuesday at 10 p.m. on Syfy (then Tuesdays at 10 p.m.).

GRADE B-

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Terrorism. Dwindling resources. Corporate greed. Power conspiracies. People caught in the middle, just trying to survive.

And weightless sex in space!

Take a deep breath — “The Expanse” wants to cover it all. The futuristic book series credited to James S.A. Corey now hits the tube as a sprawling space opera that launches across two nights to try delineating its tale. Think of it as a hand, maybe, with action churning atop each finger. Settings unfurl on the fly — literally, hurtling among 23rd century Earth and its colonized moon, militarized breakaway Mars, and the working-class Belters who mine the asteroids around our solar system’s far planets. The textured start of “The Expanse” manages to touch upon:

A cynical dude (Steven Strait, “Magic City”) just trying to get through the day with his “rustbucket” freighter-ship cohorts. A grizzled detective (Thomas Jane, “Hung”) patrolling the Belt, while downing a few himself. A conniving United Nations chief (Shohreh Aghdashloo, “24”), busy on Earth torturing perceived enemies. And a lost-in-space heiress (Florence Faivre) who may lie at the palm of our hand-o’-plot(s).

But the fingers haven’t come together yet this week, when we’re tasked to traverse a murk of futuristic bigotry, “company” collusion, misfit camaraderie, space-place subways and walks on the weightless side.

MY SAY Lots of lists there, eh? Characters. Characteristics. Conundrums. Best start a checklist. Writers-showrunners Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (“Children of Men”) plunge us deep into this dark environment, illumination yet to come. Great production values make the grunge palpable. Just not distinguishable. Names? Places? Core story motivation? Gonna get to that.

So you’d best want to explore “The Expanse,” which is no given, even for those who’ve been awaiting another “Battlestar Galactica.” That sneakily ambitious saga (2003-09) pushed the Syfy bar so high, it’s probably unfair to hold such elevated expectations. But “Galactica” smartly unfolded its tale from an urgent impetus, investing in human drama before unleashing cerebral complexity. “Expanse” is so expansive, it’s hard to pin down — well, anything.

BOTTOM LINE Looks great. But what’s going on?

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