The Expanse season 6 used aliens for a political message eventually


[Ed. note: This article contains major spoilers for The Expanse books and the end of the TV show.]

The American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn first invented the term “paradigm shift” in his 1962 book The structure of scientific revolutions to describe the point at which scientists are confronted with a phenomenon that proves that their previous understanding of how the universe worked was deficient. While Kuhn described transitions as the transition from Newtonian mechanics to quantum mechanics, the concept became a useful way of talking about other major changes in the way humans viewed the world, from the first images of Earth from space that set in motion the environmental movement, to way COVID -19 changed how people view teleworking.

The best science fiction is not about predicting the future, but about commenting on the present and The enlargement ultimately reflected on all the ways humanity has handled recent paradigm shifts. Throughout the series ‘six seasons spread across Syfy and Amazon, the origins, abilities and motifs of the series’ aliens remained quite cryptic.

But Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who wrote the series of science fiction novels on which the show is based under the pen name James SA Corey, seemed to be most interested in how humans handled the discovery of extraterrestrial technology. These aliens were never really characters so much as an external pressure that pushed the series’ various characters and political factions to adapt quickly.

Plots involving the protomolecule, a kind of self-supporting probe sent to the Earth’s solar system by a long-extinct alien civilization, were often felt at odds with the highly recognizable human stories that the authors of The enlargement was otherwise telling. Viewers who initially tuned in to the tales of the well-meaning and tough crew of Rocinante, or sci-fi noir from detective Josephus Miller investigating a disappearance that turns out to be the core of a conspiracy, could understandably have been confused , as efforts increased to include an asteroid that is gaining sensation and is on its way to a collision course towards Earth.

That gap was perhaps never as sharp as in the series ‘sixth and final season, which ends on Friday, when most of the aliens’ weirdness took place in a completely different solar system than the main action, on a colony on Mars called Laconia. Given the shortened length of last season, and the fact that the intermissions at Laconia yielded only a small return in addition to creating a theoretical spinoff, it’s easy to feel that the time spent there replaced several moments of sweet binding on Rocinante or tense matches between the United Nations Fleet and the Belts Free Navy. Instead, precious screen time was dedicated to worrying about how some dog-like aliens were able to revive humans.

The crew of Rocinante sit at a table and have dinner together in a still image from last season of The Expanse

Photo: Amazon Studios

Still the shine of The enlargement was about to place almost the entire agency in the hands of its human characters. The creators of the protomolecule had the rather benevolent desire to explore the galaxy and share it with other life forms, but their work became the center of numerous overly recognizable conflicts.

The protomolecule kills or transforms most people who come in contact with it, but it has no real evil. In fact, the vast majority of the damage it causes is directly orchestrated by people seeking to understand and arm it. In Season 1, ruthless tycoon Jules-Pierre Mao conspired to kill hundreds of thousands of Belters as part of an experiment designed to unleash the power of the protomolecule, working with Mars to create human-protomolecule hybrids for use as super-soldiers.

And then the protomolecule launched a new arms race, in which various factions planned to ensure that they were not left behind (or at the mercy of the protomolecule). Rocinante’s crew member Naomi Nagata secretly gave a sample to Belter leader Fred Johnson, only to get it into the hands of Marcos Inaros after his loyalists murdered Johnson. Inaros, in turn, sold it to the rogue Mars Admiral Winston Duarte in exchange for the technology Inaros used to attack Earth.

While its origins may be extraordinary, the paradigm shift of the protomolecule has more in common with the early days of nuclear physics than more conventional first-contact histories. As the series progressed, the authors effectively reused human history after the Cold War with the protomolecule that served as the primary catalyst for change. Individual leaders certainly had a great influence on how the people they represented reacted to the overly interesting times they lived in. But the primary conflict always boiled down to how well a faction could respond to radical changes in that world order, they were used for.

Mars Navy Bobbie Draper represented a successful, albeit turbulent, adaptation to time. She was betrayed by her own people, the only survivor of an attack by a protomolecule-human hybrid, and ended up jumping off to the UN to uncover the conspiracy. She was cleared of treason but then got into trouble again when the first ring appeared and she tried to spread the situation there but her own soldiers did not obey her order to go down.


Photo: Syfy / Alcon Entertainment

Mars, which built its civilization on the noble victims of a terraforming project that would benefit future generations, almost collapsed when the ring gates gave its citizens the chance to immediately live freely under blue skies. Bobbie struggled to find a new purpose, first resorting to criminal activity, but then chose another path after seeing the damage her actions caused. She became a symbol of cooperation between old enemies when she allied herself with UN Secretary-General Chrisjen Avasarala and even helped pressure Avasarala to reconsider her previously monstrous treatment of the Belters.

Duarte expresses many of the same emotions that Bobby went through in a monologue that serves as one of the most powerful moments in season 6. He mourns the dream he and his people lost while sharing his ambitions of Laconia as a new force in the galaxy. “I needed something to make it more than just death,” he said. “I had to make it a victim.”

In the end, his position of power helps to circumvent much of the awkwardness Bobbie experienced: While everyone The enlargement‘s protagonists are focused on stopping Inaros, the Belter leader is just being used by Duarte as a distraction, so he’s unhindered in his efforts to learn more about the ring builders’ technology and use it to make himself the self-proclaimed protector of it. recently expanded galaxy. The breakthrough he achieved is only hinted at in the finale, but in the books, Duarte makes Laconia a new empire.

The distance between what is happening on Laconia and the fight against the free fleet may seem great, but the two plots are closely linked. Duarte is a symptom of the collapse of Mars, which Earth originally saw as a victory, their longtime rivals demoralized and fragmented, and he is empowered by the desperate Belters who use violence to get the interiors to take them seriously. The fact that almost everyone in the show is unaware of what’s going on at Laconia underscores one of the defining themes of the show: humanity is horrible at predicting the next threat because we have such a hard time looking beyond our current paradigms .

The crew of Rocinante looks at the orbit of an asteroid in a still image from the show

Photo: Amazon Studios

SHOREH AGHDASHLOO in a still image from season 6 of The Expanse

Photo: Shane Mahood / Amazon Studios

Keon Alexander (Marco Inaros) is standing by a railing in a blue room in The Expanse

Photo: Amazon Studios

The few people who can see what is on the horizon have to struggle to make themselves heard, and often the entrenched interests struggle. Holden has a unique connection to the protomolecule, which made it possible to communicate with him through a manifestation of his dead friend Miller. He understands its incredible power and always pushes humanity to work together to deal with the danger it poses, and he constantly appeals to the more morally ambiguous people around him who are better.

That connection allowed him to understand that something was angering humanity that was crossing the galaxy. In season 6, that force took action by destroying ships. Like the Ring Builders, the new threat is not something people can talk to. It’s more akin to climate change, a terrible side effect of the rapid expansion of human progress that can only really be fought through collective action – the kind of cooperation Holden calls for throughout the series, which irritates the forces that are, even if he achieves credibility by repeatedly saving the world.

The enlargement could have spent more time giving its rich characters the dispatch they deserved, and exploring the ways in which the ring gates and scientific advances with the protomolecule changed the world. Still, last season stayed close to its core themes by showing that dramatic change is inevitable, but humanity should face new innovations and crises collaboratively to make the best possible decisions. The authors ended the show with an optimistic tone, with the creation of a new board for Ringrejser, which was formed with the help of Holden and all the factions that started the series in each other’s throats. The Transport Association not only allows for safe exploration of the galaxy, but finally places the eternally oppressed inhabitants of the Asteroid Belt on the same level as the inhabitants of Earth and Mars. A new threat comes from the other side of the ring, but the crew of Rocinante once again saved the day and gained status as legends, not only within the series’ universe, but within the science fiction cannon.

Independence Day, Guards, and Star Trek imagined that first contact with aliens — whether violent or peaceful — would cause humanity to put aside our differences and work toward something greater than ourselves. Abraham and Franck had a less simplistic view, but one that still feels radically optimistic at a time when fractionality seems more pronounced than ever. With a crew representing humans from Earth, Mars and the Belt, who have repeatedly saved humanity by acting as a voice of reason, Rocinante could feel as utopian as the USS Enterprise.

The future of The enlargement is very recognizable in a world where space exploration is dominated by billionaires who imagine that Earth will ultimately be a place people can just visit on vacation. If we go to the stars en masse, we will probably bring with us all the worst aspects of capitalism and nationalism. The enlargement. But if we’m lucky, we’ll also listen to the show’s message by occasionally pausing to question our assumptions about the way the world works and see if we can actually build something better.

The enlargement now streams on Amazon Prime Video.

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