The Three-Body Problem: Chinese Version
January 17, 2023 5:55 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

This is for discussion of the Chinese adaptation of Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem (FanFare Books discussion here). It is available on Tencent/WeTV, Tencent's YouTube channel, and Viki, under the title Three-Body. Trailer. MyDramaList. A nanomaterials expert sees a mysterious countdown superimposed in his field of vision and finds himself under military investigation. To unravel the mystery, he enters the VR game "Three-Body" developed by a secret organization ETO and discovers the truth behind the deaths of dozens of scientists and a tragedy from the days of the Cultural Revolution.
posted by needled (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
30 episodes?!??! Cheezapalooza, Tencent. Any idea if it will continue to be free after a subscriber only premiere period, or is it all just a push to "Join" to their Youtube channel? At least they aren't dragging it out for half a year, looks like it should be done by Feb 14th, if you trust thetvdb.
posted by Kyol at 7:14 AM on January 17, 2023

Anyway, since I rustled them up:

Tencent's Three-Body Playlist on YouTube
Tencent's streaming service
posted by Kyol at 7:23 AM on January 17, 2023 [6 favorites]

“Three Body Problem Show Review (Some Book + Show Spoilers!)”—Quinn's Ideas, 17 January 2023
posted by ob1quixote at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2023

In my experience Tencent (and other Chinese streaming providers such as iQIYI) are pretty arbitrary as to what content is free indefinitely or free for a limited time. For example, after all episodes are released as free after a subscriber-only period, they may only be available free for a month, before say the first 6 episodes are free and you'll need a subscription to access the rest of the episodes. OTOH they run enough promotions so you could snag a one-month subscription for as low as $0.99 if you catch them at the right time.

They'll also arbitrarily adjust the release schedule, so being done by Feb. 14 could be optimistic.
posted by needled at 12:37 PM on January 18, 2023

Getting back to the show, I've watched 4 episodes so far, and as somebody who hasn't read the books yet, I've found it very unfriendly to non-book readers. From my experience watching c-dramas, it's also likely I'll need to watch more episodes before I get into the flow of the show.
posted by needled at 6:29 AM on January 19, 2023

I definitely think this show is for people who enjoyed the books. Just as a for-instance: Nothing at all is explained about who the woman at the radar station is and what she is doing in the first couple of episodes even though it's shown on the screen quite a bit.

So far I'm enjoying it. I envisioned Shi Qiang as more avuncular than abrasive, but other than that I don't have any complaints.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:04 AM on January 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

We're at episode 11 now. This TV adaptation is a lot better than I'd expected! My partner, who is not a sci-fi fan and has not read the books, is really enjoying it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:55 AM on January 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

They have, of course, left out one of the main motivating scenes from the book for Ye Wenjie, but even with that scene I never really understood her motivation for her actions at the Red Coast.

After episode 18 I think I finally understand. She hates these people so much. They act like this second chance is a precious thing without ever really taking on board how cruelly she was treated. How completely morally bankrupt the entire system is. "I hope to call you Comrade Ye?" No wonder she does what she does.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:29 AM on February 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

I hasten to add, I only now understand the character's motivation because of the fine performance by Ziwen Wang as Young Ye Wenjie. I've never seen someone act only with their eyes, but she did it in the scene I'm talking about and that's how I figured it out.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:36 AM on February 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

The cultural revolution/ Red Coast time is by far my favorite part of this. It was my favorite in the book also. Agreed that Ziwen Wang is amazing. In our darkest moments, the desire to burn down the world is so relatable, and here she is with the power to do it! I especially like how she didn’t hesitate at all with her response to the “bu…yao…hui…da” first message. She just pulled the trigger.

Also interesting that the aesthetics of the modern day sequences look very cold and 90’s to me, with low lights and lots of blue in the palette. The Red Coast base has warm colors and somehow makes a concrete military bunker sort of cozy in comparison to Wang Miao’s sterile office.

And they did the zither part! When Netflix adapts this as a movie, they’re going to leave all the nerdy sci-fi ideas on the cutting room floor, but they’ll spend millions on the special effects to do the zither scene.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:35 AM on February 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

Finally finished these - I wish we were able to do them episode by episode because I had so many Thoughts in the middle, but the last three episodes were fantastic. Loved how they executed the zither scene, and the bug monologue was epic - I left wanting more, which is just how you want a series to end. Doing it after 30 episodes is a coup.

My biggest quibbles, other than the cheese factor every time a child was on screen (and I'm glad I don't know Chinese because I suspect knowing what the kids are saying makes their scenes even worse) are how they took so much care to tell Ye Wenjie's story, but only got two actresses to play her. At one point we saw her "old" (and once even described as "very old") self talking about meeting with Evans 19 years before, and we see her on the ship as her younger counterpart, still in braids. They could at least have sprung for some makeup and a wig? And I agree with ob1quixote about the missing scene(s)- I'm guessing that Chinese censors wouldn't allow them to show any government officials committing violence, but the brutality against her father and herself made her decision in the book make a lot more sense. I'm not 100% sure I buy it here.

I'm so unclear why they had an Australian guy playing the American leader, and the American guy playing the European one. It cracked me up, but surely someone must have said something?

This was definitely a lot of fun. I've been rereading to see all the things they changed that I haven't remembered, and it's made me enjoy the book more than I did the first time. I'm interested to see what Netflix does, but I'm glad I saw this first.
posted by Mchelly at 11:13 AM on March 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

I had the notion this week, watching the last few episodes, that I was really going to miss the little guitar lick they play over the Tencent ad at the beginning of these videos.

I'm a little peeved that they took what seemed like three whole episodes to show Yi Wenjie pushing a button, but with three episodes remaining, we haven't seen the Trisolarians yet. I want to see The Thing happen because that was the moment I stopped reading and wrote to a friend that this was the most imaginative book I had read in ages.

It does seem like we will get The Dark Forest, along with a Da Shi spin off. Although I imagine advertisers won't be lining up to put ads with cute kids eating blueberry smoothies prepared by adorable squirrels on a show with what happens in The Dark Forest happening.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:54 PM on March 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

I haven’t been watching on Tencent - I saw them via Viki/Rakuten (which didn’t have any ads) if anyone needs another source.
posted by Mchelly at 1:27 PM on March 1, 2023

I couldn't wait out the weekend, so they clipped me for $4 on YouTube to see the last two.

I was a little disappointed in the way they just had to make it out that the victims of Operation Guzheng were all bad guys. Also the English dialog in that whole episode made me think of how the Chinese in Firefly must have sounded to Chinese speakers.

I got my shot of The Thing but it was a little disappointing. Even with Wang Miao hanging a lantern on the higher dimensions later, it just didn't have the same impact as the realization of the Trisolarians witnessing The Thing in the book.

Still and all, I liked this series and am glad to have seen this version of the story.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:41 PM on March 6, 2023 [3 favorites]

We're around episode 18 now and enjoying it.
We're a good audience. I've read the novel a few times, plus the sequels, while it's new to my wife. She's following it closely, appreciating how it explains ideas and anchors them on good characters going through arcs.
I admire how extensively faithful it is to the novel. Feels like the most assiduous adaptation of a novel in tv that I've ever seen.
posted by doctornemo at 7:57 PM on March 10

I watched it all. The time-wasting gets kind of soul-crushing.

OTOH I just saw the first episode of the Netflix show and it feels hilariously fast and abbreviated.

A friend told me that the Chinese novel was serialized, and so they put the Cultural Revolution stuff in the middle where it would be safer from censors, but the English language book is in the author's preferred order. Not sure if true.
posted by fleacircus at 7:33 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]

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