Expanse, The - Season One (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 8-Nov-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series Deleted Scenes-”Dulcinea” Deleted Scenes (2:13)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 425:52
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jeff Woolnough
Terry McDonough
Studio
Distributor
ViaVision Starring Thomas Jane
Steven Strait
Dominique Tipper
Cas Anvar
Wes Chatham
Shohreh Aghashloo
Jared Harris
Chad L Colemen
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Clinton Shorter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Expanse is a Syfy channel original series based on the bestselling novels of James S A Corey (the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). There are currently seven novels; The Expanse: Season 1 is based on the first of the novels Leviathan Wakes with some characters added from the second novel Caliban’s War.

     Two hundred years into the future humans have colonised our solar system, but although technology has advanced the adversarial aspect of human nature has not. Three factions are in opposition: Earth is controlled by the UN, Mars by an independent, and advanced, military power, the third faction is the “Belters”, humans who live and work on the Asteroid Belt from which Earth and Mars draw resources. Ceres Station, a rock in the Asteroid Belt, is a UN Protectorate, with Earth mandating the amount of air and water imported as a way of controlling the Belter population, but water riots are occurring in the streets and the OPA, a sort of trade union organisation headed by Dawes (Jared Harris) that opponents consider has links to terrorism, is agitating for Belters’ rights. As the series starts, Earth, Mars and the Belt are on the brink of war.

     The Expanse uses three story strands that interconnect as the episodes progress. The first concerns Joe Miller (Thomas Jane), a member of the private security firm that polices Ceres Station. Miller is an old fashioned “gumshoe”, complete with hat and trench coat, who gets a new assignment: locate a missing girl named Julie Mao (Florence Faivre), the daughter of a wealthy and important industrialist on Earth. The second is set in deep space where the freighter Canterbury diverts from its course to investigate a distress signal from the drifting freighter Scopuli; five members of the Canterbury’s crew, James Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) and Shed Garvey (Paulo Costanzo) take a shuttle from the Canterbury and board the Scopuli. The Scopuli is abandoned; there is no one, and no bodies, on the ship and the group quickly realise that the distress signal was a trap set using Martian technology. Then, suddenly, a ship with advanced stealth technology appears and destroys the Canterbury, leaving the five crew members stranded in their small shuttle. The third strand is set on Earth; UN Deputy Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghashloo) interrogates a Belter and OPA member who has been caught carrying advanced military technology and fears that Mars and the Belters may be about to form an alliance and attack Earth.

     The three storylines continue to be intercut. In space the shuttle with the five remaining Canterbury crew members is captured by a Martian battlecruiser, the Donnager, whose captain denies that Mars had anything to do with the destruction of the Canterbury. On Ceres Holden discovers that Julie Mao and an OPA crew had left Ceres on board the Scopuli, the craft the Canterbury had found drifting and abandoned. On Earth, Avasarala has come to the conclusion that Mars did not attack the Canterbury, a conclusion which seems confirmed when mysterious stealth ships attack and destroy the Donnager. Someone seems intent on starting a war; but who?

     Holden and the survivors of the Canterbury, less Garvey, escape in a Martian Gunship when the Donnager is destroyed. They later rename it the Rocinante, and reluctantly make their way to Tycho Station in the Belt where Frederick Johnson (Chad L Coleman), an OPA member, is building a massive ship for the Mormons. As Season 1 nears its conclusion, the story strands of Holden and Miller mesh when both arrive on Eros Station in the Belt where the fate of Julie Mao is revealed. But rather than ending Miller’s search, the stakes escalate when a biological weapon is tested on Eros that has the potential to destroy humanity.

     The Expanse is cracking television, part film noir mystery, part space adventure, part sci-fi thriller. This is not the clean, well preserved space of Star Wars; the ships are more like Alien, Ceres Station is a combination of Blade Runner and the Mars of the original Total Recall with crowded humanity, dark streets and alleyways. For a TV series, the sets are impressive and the spaceships and environments are generally convincing except for some CGI backgrounds extending the sets. The action sequences in space are chaotic and exciting, with an impressive audio track that delivers engines roaring, ship metal groaning, the impact of debris on the outside of the hull, blasters and explosions. And while Steven Strait is a rather charisma-light hero, Dominique Tipper is strong and watchable, Cas Anvar interesting and Thomas Jane, dishevelled, dogged and somewhat humourless, an excellent gumshoe.

     The Expanse is a blend of genres that at times feels a bit clunky, but tight scripting, exciting action, a noir look, good production values and good acting means that series is always intriguing as the plot strands come together.

     The Expanse: Season 1 consists of 10 episodes which aired in the US between December 2015 and February 2016. Obviously this is the first season; the series is now up to three seasons and 36 episodes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Expanse is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original broadcast ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG 4 AVC code.

     This series looks anything but cheap; sets, whether on the ground on Ceres or on space craft, are extensive and detailed, the visual effects good except for a few extensions of sets. This is a gritty series which is reflected in the colour scheme. In the colour palate grey, dark blue, steel and chrome dominate; space is a monochrome area, Ceres dull and decrepit, the Earth considerably brighter and with some green. Blacks and shadow detail are very good, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent except for occasional glare.

     I noticed no marks or artefacts.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English DTS HD-MA 5.1.

     This is a loud, enveloping audio track. Sometimes dialogue was unclear, when the subs helped. The surrounds and rears are always in use; in the ships the groan of metal or the hum of generators, on the ground the tread of footsteps, voices and music. The action sequences are excellent, blasters and explosions are all around the sound stage and elsewhere there is the roar of engines, including panning effects, and the ping and thump of impacts on the outside of a ship’s hull. The sub-woofer added rumble to the space craft engines, explosions and impacts.

     The original score by Clinton Shorter was dramatic, supporting the visuals well.

     I did not notice any lip synchronization issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

”Dulcinea” Deleted Scenes (2:13)

     The only extra is three short deleted scenes from the first episode.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Our Blu-ray of The Expanse is identical to the US release, except that the US version comes with a digital download code.

Summary

     The Expanse is cracking television, blending genres, a thought provoking script and excellent production values. The action is loud and enveloping, the mystery and characters interesting. With the fate of humanity at stake, the ending of Season 1 leaves one wanting more!

     The video and audio are very good. A few deleted scenes are the only extras, but there is nothing more available elsewhere.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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