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An introduction to Syfy's best new show: The Expanse

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It's the best science fiction show since Battlestar Galactica

Syfy/NBC

The Expanse was one of my absolute favorite shows from the last year. Based on the series from James S.A. Corey, the show is one of the best to come out of Syfy since Battlestar Galactica. But for whatever reason, The Expanse hasn’t captured the same mainstream attention as Battlestar.

The show’s second season is currently in production in Toronto, and Entertainment Weekly just unveiled one of the things that I’m most excited for: Martian Recon Marine Bobbie Draper. Her appearance is a clue as to what’s coming up in the coming season this winter. So, what’s all the fuss?

Q: Who is Bobbie Draper?

A: Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper is a member of the Martian Marine Corps, introduced in the second book of the Expanse series, Caliban’s War. When we first meet her, she’s been deployed to the surface of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede to hold some territory against some of Earth’s UN Marines. In the first chapter when we meet her, her soldiers are attacked by... something that they can’t identify and she’s the only survivor of her unit. Bobbie will be portrayed by New Zealand actress and boxer Frankie Adams.

Q: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s rewind. What’s the CliffsNotes on The Expanse.

A: So, The Expanse is based off a series of novels by James S.A. Corey (pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), and debuted on Syfy in December 2015. Two centuries from now, humanity has colonized the Solar System, with major factions springing up between Earth, Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (asteroid belt, Jupiter and Saturn's moons, etc.). A gas hauler named James Holden discovers a wayward ship shortly before his own is destroyed. Meanwhile, a detective on Ceres is searching for a missing woman. Their paths cross as they uncover a system-wide conspiracy that's been orchestrated by persons unseen, and threatens to plunge humanity into interplanetary war.

Q: Okay, so back to Bobbie Draper.

A: We've been introduced to the Martian Marines already in the show, but Bobbie will be the first character to really present their side of the conflict. She's loyal, tough as nails, and very good at her job. As the quasi cold war between Mars and Earth heats up, her unit is sent into action.

Mars is in a tough place: they're aggressive, highly technological, and seen as oppressive by the OPA. In season one, we got to see just how effective their military is, and just what lengths they've gone to keep order.

Q: (Googles) Wait, doesn’t Bobbie appear in the second book of the series, Caliban’s War? Where did the first season leave off?

A: Season one of The Expanse largely adapted the first two-thirds of Leviathan Wakes, while dropping in some new content and including some of the ancillary shorter stories that the authors have written. When we left off at the end of season one, we learned that a major corporation had been experimenting with something called the Protomolocule, and had tested the effects out on a settlement on the asteroid Eros. There’s still a major finale from Leviathan Wakes in store for the second season.

Q: So, what does Bobbie’s presence mean for season two?

Season two isn't necessarily adapting 'Caliban's War'

A: Bobbie actually isn’t the first character from Caliban’s War to be introduced early: Chrisjen Avasarala, a badass United Nations assistant undersecretary of executive administration, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo. She was introduced in season one to provide a bit more context for the larger world. It appears that Bobbie will be put in a much similar role. According to Entertainment Weekly, season two is opening with Bobbie. According to showrunner Naren Shankar, they wanted to get some of the Martian perspective into this world, introducing her and her fellow Marines before they appear in the events on Ganymede.

Broadly, this means that while The Expanse had largely followed the course of the books, the showrunners and writers (the book’s authors are part of the writing staff and is producing the show) aren’t afraid to deviate from the novels where necessary. This worked exceptionally well during the first season, where they tinkered with some of the stories: adding in Avasalara, introducing several additional new characters and scenes, and streamlining the novel's plot to work better for television. Where Game of Thrones roughly adapted a novel a season, The Expanse is moving at a different pace.

Q: Why is Bobbie so badass?

A: Well, she’s a Martian Marine, which means that she’s coming out of the gate a tough character. She’s an exceptionally competent Marine NCO, and from the time we meet her, we see that she’s cool under fire, and keeps her head about her. Think about Brianne of Tarth from Game of Thrones; it feels like the two characters could be friends if they ever met one another.

Plus, check out one of these first pictures:

Rafy/Syfy

Q: Okay, Martian Marines are cool, but what’s so special about the casting here?

A: Bobbie is explicitly described as a non-caucasian character in the first 10 pages of the novel:

Bobbie was not the right shape to fit into one of the standard suits, and the Marines made her jump through a series of flaming hoops every time she requisitioned a new custom one. At a bit over two meters tall, she was only slightly above average height for a Martian male, but thanks in part to her Polynesian ancestry, she weighed in over a hundred kilos at one gee.

Frankie Adams absolutely nails the look of Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Draper

They found it in Frankie Adams.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Power armor. Bobbie’s unit goes out on places like the surface of Ganymede or into space. If the authors roughly keep up with the books to come, we’re going to see some really cool things with Bobbie and her armor. Think Iron Man and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Those first pictures that we’ve seen? The Martian Marines wear some badass armor, and I really hope that we’ll see some cosplayers tackling it for ComicCon.