3 Body Problem: Countdown
March 23, 2024 12:33 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Unsettling events put a group of brilliant friends on edge as a mystery unravels with origins tracing back to China during the Cultural Revolution.

Open to commentary on whether to post this one episode by episode or all at once.
posted by jeoc (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
After failing to get through the first book in this trilogy several years ago, I was surprised to see so much of the first episode take place in the UK with Western actors.

I found the book difficult to understand partially because I don't know much physics and partially because it seemed like I was missing or not understanding a lot of what was going on in the contemporary China scenes. So it is interesting that the choice was made to Westernize many characters and settings.

I'm cautiously optimistic, as the showrunners did a pretty good job with GoT while they still had books to work from. I think the show will have to do a lot of work to make its science concepts understandable to a general audience, so I'll be interested to see how that plays out.
posted by jeoc at 12:49 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]

hmmm I enjoyed the books (they are definitely a challenging read) and am excited about the show. but I kinda feel like the, shall we say, West-washing of the show already, is so right in D&D's wheelhouse.

They took a series of popular, decently written, but somewhat problematic books and turned them into a series where those problematic elements were added to, increased, made more extreme etc., etc., so I have limited trust in them to handle a story well, no matter how strong the source material is. still gonna watch tho!! (hell, I watched all of Lost, this will certainly be better LOL)
posted by supermedusa at 1:33 PM on March 23 [5 favorites]

I don't know the book, and don't care.

The first episode is good enough to have me watch the second.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:11 PM on March 23

1) I was waiting and waiting for at least one of the physicists to say *why* that particle track was so weird, instead of just repeating "It's impossible" over and over. Sure, if we're all looking at a goose wearing a mech-suit, then further notes are unnecessary, but in this case it's a damn particle track. Even a line like "it's putting out ten times the alpha particles that it should be putting out" could have worked

2) *Somebody* is really proud of their "spacey VR helmet" CGI. We keep getting close-ups of the VR headset's mirror finish (with no cameras or workers in the reflection).

3) Love love love Benedict Wong brooding with a cigarette like he's channeling Sam Spade.

4) Haven't read the books, so coming in blind, but enjoying it so far. :)
posted by Mogur at 3:23 PM on March 23 [8 favorites]

Wongers is so good!

I binged it so I’ve lost track of what happens in which episode, alas. But at one point there’s a throwaway joke, “I never thought I’d get bored of seeing naked people,” that suggests to me a touch of personal and artistic development — or at least self-awareness — on behalf of the showrunners 😂

Also, it’s really well-directed for a Netflix show.
posted by sixswitch at 4:43 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]

As soon as the numbers were floating in the air instead of how they’re presented in the book (so eerie) I pretty much tuned out. Ditto the implication that the scientists killed themselves because of the countdown. It’s not just the west-washing, those are changes that actively make it more boring.

(On the plus side, putting Ye’s motivation front-and-center is a positive change relative to the Chinese series — a translation change that the books also made.)

Taking this out of the original context feels so bizarre. They’re going to do really bizarre things with the second book.
posted by supercres at 9:05 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]

So it is interesting that the choice was made to Westernize many characters and settings.

I haven’t watched this yet, so I’m curious. Since this is apparently shifted to the west, do they not even touch the Cultural Revolution stuff that made the first book so interesting?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:57 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

I haven’t watched this yet, so I’m curious. Since this is apparently shifted to the west, do they not even touch the Cultural Revolution stuff that made the first book so interesting?

They very definitely do touch on it heavily. Just based on my recollection of the books and my viewing of the first episode, the stuff that takes place during the cultural revolution seems much truer to the books than the present day stuff.
posted by kbanas at 11:31 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

That scene of Benedict Wong putting a red cross through the picture of the dead scientist really makes me want to go into my office tomorrow, print out pics of 100 older academics and then wait for them to die IRL.

Like the mention of countdown from Wong (ie Prime).

Scriptwriters should have consulted on how UK university teaching works.
posted by biffa at 2:01 PM on March 24 [7 favorites]

On the whole, after 2 episodes I am enjoying this.
posted by biffa at 10:37 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

I sometimes hesitate to recommend this series even though I loved it, because the first book is so so different from the rest of the series (maybe because I mostly only remember the game from the first book).

I’d be down for episode by episode discussion, but should we do books included and not?
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:00 AM on March 26

I’d be down for episode by episode discussion, but should we do books included and not?

Not included, please. I feel like the books are so expansive that they need to be considered separately from this series.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:46 AM on March 26

Count me as someone who has never read the books--too daunting and I'm not really into science fiction--but enjoyed this episode. This show is definitely asking a lot of me in terms of science knowledge, so if it's being dumbed down for general audiences then I guess I am still a dummy! Because it asks me to pay close attention to what's happening in re: impossible changes to physics, I have to make mental notes to look something up later.

I will say that the final scenes of "the universe winking" didn't freak me out until the show reveals everyone can see this, not just two of the characters. I thought about my own reaction if that happened IRL and well, I guess I would learn the meaning of "cosmic horror."

Also: I LOVE Benedict Wong. (Wongers!) He is probably my favourite thing about the MCU. He's also my favourite jaded necromancer on WWDITS.
posted by Kitteh at 9:06 AM on March 26

They are absolutely racing through the plot points! There are things that are unceremoniously revealed in this first episode that are major discoveries midway through the book. I guess there's not going to be a lot of time to chew on mysteries.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:36 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]

Given the expansive scope of the book, the series would have to span dozens of episodes just to get through just the first book, were they to give each plot point full attention.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:55 AM on March 27

I've now watched the first episode of the Tenecent series and the first episode of the Netflix series, and having not read the books I'm finding the Netflix series more engaging. I don't mind that it's presented as more global - an event like this would be global - and I'm relieved that they used a thesaurus when discussing scientific observations suddenly going awry. "Physics is broken! Physics is broken!" got really old.

I imagine that the mom of the deceased physicist being the young woman at the Red Coast is one of those things that is more slowly revealed in the book and Chinese series. Also, the sky blinking definitely doesn't happen right away.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:20 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]

This is great so far (partway into ep.3). I think keeping the past in China but moving the present to Britain (with some Chinese connections) was a good move to engage more viewers. The characters are also a lot better than in the books, though I slogged through book 2 and stopped (planning to get book 3 from the library). Casting is good, especially Sam Gamgee … I mean Samwell Tarly … as Jack.
posted by caviar2d2 at 3:07 PM on March 28

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