The Expanse: IFF   Show Only 
April 18, 2018 10:12 PM - Season 3, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Everything moves at high speed.

On board the Razorback, Bobbi and Avasarala play a very fast game of cat-and-mouse with a UNN escort ship, subjecting the UN Deputy Under-Secretary to punishing high G; the fate of Cotyar remains unknown. On a hidden Io research base, Praxideke's daughter is shown alive, the subject of experiments to produce a second generation protomolecule hybrid with the approval of Jules-Pierre Mao. The UN Secretary-General brings in an old friend with a complicated past to help compose a speech. Picking up Bobbi's desperate distress call, the Contorta pulls off a series of complex manoeuvres to rescue the racing pinnace, at the cost of declaring war on the UNN.

Books-included Season 3 thread
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bobbie: That's the hammerlock.
Avasarala: Speak politician.
♥♥♥
posted by myotahapea at 5:39 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or has Steven Strait toned down the growliness this season? I like it!
posted by jason_steakums at 5:43 PM on April 19, 2018


Yeah, I think this is supposed to be him having given up the white whale and focusing on his crew and smaller things.

Wes Chatham still gives good Amos.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:19 PM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


This episode was so stressful. Eep.

I love Pastor Anna. And I thought they really nailed the moment when Bobblehead says to the others around the table "She's always been like this." I was thrown back into a sense memory of every time somebody has talked about me to others as if I wasn't right there. Can't wait to see what she does in future episodes.

Prax now owes Amos for saving his life twice, at least.

Team Bobbiesarala forever. <3
posted by Lexica at 7:47 PM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wonderful episode. I half expected Mao to appropriate Mei as a replacement for his missing daughter.

Also I'm pretty sure the pods that the children were in are re-purposed car rooftop carriers like those from Yakima or Thule.
posted by exogenous at 9:53 AM on April 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


"They got those at REI!" my husband exclaimed when we got a good look at one.
posted by Lexica at 10:08 AM on April 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


See also Qui-Gon Jin using a women's razor as a walkie-talkie, or the ice cream maker being carried around in Star Trek
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Team Bobbiesarala forever. <3

Right? All I want is to watch those two fight crime for like ten seasons.
posted by mordax at 3:29 PM on April 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Wow, this is the first episode that I really just didn't buy. Way too many coincidences for the roci rescuing the razorback. And the UN has drifted back to talking like modern Americans about modern American problems without Avasarala around.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:23 PM on April 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


the one thing i couldn't place was that at the end of last season, the Roci was leaving Ganymede, which is a moon of Jupiter, and now they were on their way to Io, one of the other moons. The Guanshiyin, where the secret meeting took place and blown up in the previous episode, was somewhere near Earth. Now, we know space is big, so I found it unlikely that at that distance, the Roci was the first (and only) Martian ship to respond to the Razorback's message. There were multiple mentions of how the war is going with status of the fleets around Jupiter, so there were definitely Martian ships other than the Roci between Mars and Jupiter that would've head that message.

Other than that minor quibble though, I really enjoyed this episode.
posted by numaner at 9:37 PM on April 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


My favorite scene was the lethal power tools of doom. Such a beautiful visual treatment of the danger of inertia and space. People helplessly strapped in while deadly objects go flying around at random angles.

Pastor Anna was fantastic. I liked the actress Elizabeth Mitchell from Lost and V. The setup of her character at the protest outside the UN was brilliant, they establish who she is and what she does in 60 seconds flat. She's like the kind and godly version of Avasarala, making her way in the universe with intelligence and empathy.

The coincidence of the Rocinante and the Razorback is absolutely ridiculous. A big part of The Expanse is the realistic space physics, all the emphasis on orbital mechanics and distances and inertia. For the Roci to just bump into the Razorback in the middle of space, and even more coincidentally for Avasarala and Bobbi to be on board the ship that belonged to the protovirus avatar. No way. But, well, The Expanse did all start as role playing game sessions. I imagine the gamemaster here was just desperate to get his friends all around the same table and gaming together in a single story.
posted by Nelson at 8:06 AM on April 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


In Episode 1, Errinwright says to the S-G that Avasarala was on a ship meeting with JP Mao and that ship was "running dark in the Belt." That means they're at least beyond the orbit of Mars, and their transponder is off.

Mao is possibly the most hunted criminal in the solar system. All his Protogen research stations like Io and Thoth and Ganymede are way out in the Belt where space is fucking huge and it's easy to hide.

The last place Mao was going to be was anywhere near Earth. That's why he showed up at Io. Because he was already hiding out in the Belt.

Every time The Expanse goes to a commercial break & comes back, you have to ask yourself
Could several weeks of uneventful, un dramatic, boring travel time burning at .75 G just have been skipped over, and we're now jumping forward to the action?
The reason they don't make the travel time explicit because if they do, some insufferable geek will start pulling star charts and doing math to check their work, and Unknowable Things Dancing in the Night help the authors if they were sloppy.

Everybody hates that person. Better to leave it unspecific. But yeah, space is HUGE and we miss WEEKS AND WEEKS of the crew just sitting around playing handball and catching up on correspondence courses
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


Re: the Yakima/Thule stasis pods, I find the comment from the S3E1 thread to be a bit ironic in hindsight:
It would be a little offputting I think to recognize a piece of clothing in the show as exactly a garment you have seen in real life.
Observant REI-goers will notice that the lamps attached to the Roci crew's pressure suit chest straps are repurposed Black Diamond headlamps. I have a very visually similar version (it has several nifty modes, including a pair of night-vision preserving red LEDs, which are great for reading at night without keeping your SO up).

For some reason, this and the Yakima pods took me out of the diagesis much more than other things like the Space Mouse being used as Alex's input device for the Roci (hey, it's a thing! used the way a thing would really be used!) Not ragging on the show too hard, they manage to do a lot very well (the Razorback set!), but some times the budget does show.

Related nitpick: Alex "rigs the ship for silent running" by turning off some of their radios, and a bunch of ambient lighting turn red. Dramatic, but, really?
posted by Alterscape at 12:34 AM on April 22, 2018


space is HUGE and we miss WEEKS AND WEEKS…

Huge it is indeed, but the one thing everyone keeps overlooking—and to be fair, the books don't dwell on the implications nearly enough, leaving the reader to work out the details—is the Epstein drive. Which is a bit of shame, as the consequences of such an engine are simply mind boggling.

Nothing conveys just how inefficient all our explorations of the solar system have so far been than to compare what a constant 1G acceleration gets you versus our coasting method now used. To wit: 15 days to Pluto. Yes DAYS. Now time will vary a bit due to orbital mechanics—where we are in relation to each other in our orbits—but a quick search shows figures of about a day and a half to Mars, and about 4 days or so to Jupiter. The Epstein drive would mean the trip from Earth to Jupiter would take about the same number of days as the QE2 did to cross the Atlantic from London to New York. And those trips to the moon in the 70s that took 3 days? They'd take more like 3 hours.

The payoff of constant acceleration is HUGE on a solar system level. If we could crack the problem of a constant acceleration engine, even one only producing 1/10th of a gee…mankind would instantly become a spacefaring civilization.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 12:42 AM on April 22, 2018 [14 favorites]


It would be a little offputting I think to recognize a piece of clothing in the show as exactly a garment you have seen in real life.

I recall having this feeling in S2, in the episode when Prax gets to Tycho, and the doctor he speaks to about his spaced crewmates is wearing a white jacket with stitch-patterning ubiquitous to all Lululemon yogawear.
posted by myotahapea at 9:29 AM on April 22, 2018


the detonators Diogo was setting w Pampa Matteo in S1 are really mini camping lights.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:06 AM on April 22, 2018


So in conclusion, The Expanse is REI In Space? Good to know!

(I kid because I care. This show gets so many things right, and the things I disagree with are interesting to discuss!)
posted by Alterscape at 2:50 PM on April 22, 2018


Huge it is indeed, but the one thing everyone keeps overlooking—and to be fair, the books don't dwell on the implications nearly enough, leaving the reader to work out the details—is the Epstein drive. Which is a bit of shame, as the consequences of such an engine are simply mind boggling.

That's an understatement. The drive is a perfect example of an author not understanding the consequences of a posited technology.

For a start, given the performance figures, spacecraft weaponry should be redundant. Just flip around, turn on the drive for a tenth of a second, and you've nuked everything in a cone stretching tens of thousands of miles behind you. You also incidentally, should have reduced your craft to a molten blob of metal, but hey, there's been only one SF film that even makes a nod to heat radiators.

And that's leaving aside that a rocket with the drive in it is effectively a weapon of mass destruction. No need for a battles between fleets of warships warfare should be more similar to the Cold War after ballistic missiles were developed.

But the drive is a magical, radiation-free device where the spacecraft don't even require reaction mass tankage, and why do they call this a hard science fiction series again?
posted by happyroach at 1:46 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


For a start, given the performance figures, spacecraft weaponry should be redundant. Just flip around, turn on the drive for a tenth of a second, and you've nuked everything in a cone stretching tens of thousands of miles behind you.

How so? The drive works by allowing ships to remain under thrust the entire time through one of the few bits of handwavium in the series. It's not about massively overclocking the drive, it's about continuing to thrust until the midpoint flip-and-burn.

But the drive is a magical, radiation-free device where the spacecraft don't even require reaction mass tankage, and why do they call this a hard science fiction series again?

There was literally a line in this episode where Naomi expresses concern that if they do the trip to Io they'll run out of reaction mass and wind up on the drift.
posted by Lexica at 2:54 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


When asked how the Epstein Drive worked, Ty Franck replied “efficiently”
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:46 PM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


But the drive is a magical, radiation-free device where the spacecraft don't even require reaction mass tankage, and why do they call this a hard science fiction series again?


That's a little snotty. The Epstein Drive is their one major handwave, and the series wouldn't exist without it.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:45 PM on April 23, 2018


why do they call this a hard science fiction series again?

By that standard, I'm pretty sure no hard science fiction series has ever aired, and that none ever will. To the extent that people call it that, they do so because it's broadly similar to other works that are commonly and erroneously lumped into hard sf, like Known Space.

Besides, we already know that the protomolecule has some sort of ansible capability, putting us well out of hard SF.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Actually everyone is calling The Expanse a badass space opera.
posted by polymodus at 11:17 PM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


How so? The drive works by allowing ships to remain under thrust the entire time through one of the few bits of handwavium in the series. It's not about massively overclocking the drive, it's about continuing to thrust until the midpoint flip-and-burn.

Well, it's a torchship. Which means it's both high efficiency AND high thrust. Its hard to describe just how much energy a 1G continuous drive uses but the rocket equations are pretty firm on what this would entail, irrespective of the type of engine. For say, a 1000 ton ship at 1 gs, that's about a terawatt of power. By comparison, IIRC, Earth's entire power use is rated at 15 Terawatts. All that has to be directed away from the ship in what SF authors usually call "ravening beans of radiation".


The Epstein Drive is their one major handwave, and the series wouldn't exist without it.

That and the Grey Goo nanotech, and the *SPOILER*.

I dispute that a high performance drive is really necessary. Even something along the lines of a. 01 continuous drive would get you much of the same plot. Just not the dramatic scenes of people being hurt by high-g maneuvers. And those drives would still be pretty extreme.

But really, it's not so much the existence of the drive that bugs me, but the failure to take into account the consequences of the technology. With that driving e, a lot of the setting should look very different. And again, if it hadn't been sold to me as "So realistic! Such hard SF!" I wouldn't be annoyed. I pretty much shrug off the technology weirdness in Firefly after all- there's so many other things to be annoyed with about that show.


By that standard, I'm pretty sure no hard science fiction series has ever aired, and that none ever will.

Orphan Black, and Westworld so far seem to meet the definition of hard SF. Nothing obviously magical there (bearing in mind I've only seen 1season of both). The anime Planetess and Rocket Girls are both rigidly hard SF, and excellent series. But well, they don't involve rockets blasting around and space war, so I guess they don't count as SF.
posted by happyroach at 11:21 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


And again, if it hadn't been sold to me as "So realistic! Such hard SF!" I wouldn't be annoyed.

You should always understand anyone saying that as saying that the show is making vague nods towards newtonian physics instead of flying around like WW2 combat aircraft and as a comparison to Star Wars. And honestly, being annoyed at a show because it isn't what you thought someone meant by what they said about it seems out of place; better to be annoyed at the person who told you fibs. Likewise, managing your own likelihood of annoyance by just asking about what should have been a difficult-to-accept claim is really a pretty trivial task.

But yes, I should have said "space-oriented sf" and am willing to change to "exceedingly few," though I expect that if I start watching Planetes again I would be able to point out significant errors, like (say) being able to do significant inclination changes far too easily.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:54 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yis I laughed at the roof rack, but everyone already knows Lululemon = spacewear.
I loved the “If you’re hitting on me I have neither the inclination or the juju whatever, I’m not able for thiiiis” part, and speaking of which, the only thing I love more than Elizabeth Mitchell is lesbian Elizabeth Mitchell, so hurrah for me. Seriously, has any other straight actor played queer so much?
posted by Iteki at 5:41 AM on April 24, 2018


Space combat in the expanse. I''ve come to really disdain the space battles in Star Wars based on WWII dogfighting (and now, B-52 bombing runs).

The Expanse get so much right that complaining about "it's not perfect hard sci-fi" seems petty. Precious few want ""pure" hard sci-fi because that stuff turns out kinda boring. I want "believable" rather than perfect because the characters and the story are more important than the engineering. The space travel is there to make an interesting setting for character development and plot.

This is why the ambiguous travel times are a good thing; it allows the creators to wave the big hand of "whatever" and move on to more important things.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I just remembered that Elizabeth Mitchell was Rachel Matheson in Revolution! I miss that show.
posted by numaner at 8:18 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


The one thing that really annoyed me was just how large the show Razorback is. Otherwise, whatever. They've already given us reasonable rules for how the Epstein drive works, which does require reaction mass. (They use water for that, as stated in S1)

The weirder bit is just how easy it is (and this is true in both the books and the show) to get off a planet and into deep space. That's where I have trouble suspending my disbelief.
posted by wierdo at 11:47 AM on April 25, 2018


The water they use is when they're flying on "teakettle". When the ships maneuvering thrusters give off little puffs, that's the water they're using. They can use water as short distance propulsion, but the Epstein Drive is something different. That's what gets them between planets.

One interesting use of "teakettle" is when the Belter crew spaced the inners in S2. They open the airlock and the atmosphere rushes out, but real physics means that the bodies aren't sucked out. That only happens in bad movies. The people just float in place. The ship uses it's Teakettle thrusters to maneuver itself away from the people, then it closes the airlock.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:02 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes, they use steam for thrusters, but water is also the Epstein Drive's reaction mass. Well, at those temperatures what comes out the back would be molecular hydrogen and oxygen, but the point remains. It's possible they decompose the water with a catalyst so as to have a source of oxygen before using it in the drive, but that isn't stated anywhere in the show or books.

It's one reason so much ice gathering is continuously required. If water were only used for thrusters and life support, they wouldn't need such a massive ice harvesting industry since the vast majority would be recycled. When you're blowing enough out the back to sustain a 6+G constant acceleration for weeks at a time, you're expending quite a lot of it even at the presumably ridiculously high exhaust speed an Epstein Drive generates. (Which it has to for reaction mass tank sizes to work out in any remotely plausible way. Higher exhaust velocity gives a higher specific impulse, and thus more acceleration per unit of reaction mass)
posted by wierdo at 12:47 PM on April 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Related nitpick: Alex "rigs the ship for silent running" by turning off some of their radios, and a bunch of ambient lighting turn red. Dramatic, but, really?

I would presume that’s a signal to the crew. If you want your people on alert, that’s a good reminder.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:31 PM on April 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


some insufferable geek will start pulling star charts

Hey!

Everybody hates that person.

*sob*

No they don't.
posted by zarq at 6:37 AM on May 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


I would presume that’s a signal to the crew. If you want your people on alert, that’s a good reminder.

Also IIRC an earlier episode had the ship lighting change color on its own as it recognized another ship nearby.
posted by exogenous at 7:06 AM on May 22, 2018


also, we love you zarq
posted by exogenous at 7:18 AM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I would presume that’s a signal to the crew. If you want your people on alert, that’s a good reminder.

Also IIRC an earlier episode had the ship lighting change color on its own as it recognized another ship nearby.


Also - and you can fight me on this if you want - it seems that Martians build things to look cool, and red lights for battle are really cool.



Since you asked, Belters built stuff by wiring together whatever pieces of junk they could find, which developed into its own aesthetic, and Earthers just keep upgrading their old hulls because of budget cuts.
posted by Mogur at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


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