War is on for Earth, Mars and the asteroid belt in Season 3 of "The Expanse," starting tonight (April 11) at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT on the TV channel Syfy.
Space.com caught up with series showrunner and executive producer Naren Shankar as well as Ty Franck, co-author of the "Expanse" book series, to learn what to expect this season as the crew of the ship Rocinante continue their adventures.
"We have been spinning a lot of different plot threads over the last two years, and, in many ways, especially the first half of the season, it's a culmination of all of those things," Shankar said. "There's going to be a lot of resolutions, there's going to be a lot of answers, there's going to be a lot more questions raised in the process." ["The Expanse" Authors Talk Space's Epic Size and Crazy Sci-Fi Tech]
"I think in a lot of ways this season is the culmination of what I would describe as really the first act of [a] novel, as a series," he added. "This is kind of like the end of the first chapter and the beginning of the second chapter of the show."
The war that was looming in Season 2 will start in earnest, and the characters will continue to see the deadly consequences of infighting and being unable to work together The show will continue showing a darker side to civilization, and the real consequences and challenges of space travel, but with lighter moments.
"We've always been a show that combines gritty realism with moments of humor — I think you have to have both," Franck said. "I don't know that the show is darker, but it certainly keeps that gritty sense of realism and the horrors of war and the horrors of some of the events that are going on in the world. We don't shy away from those, we don't tiptoe around them, but at the same time … it also has moments of humor, moments of joy to lighten it."
"Naren may disagree because he hates joy," Franck joked.
The duo were together at a bar when Space.com called because they were laying down the preliminary story for Season 4. These story-planning meetups started before Season 1, they said, with Franck, his co-author Daniel Abraham, Shankar and executive producers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby holing up in a rented house in Beverly Hills to hammer out the season's details. Starting from the end of Season 2, Fergus and Ostby took a step back, but Shankar, Franck and Abraham have continued to meet early on to determine the shape of each season.
"If you have a good plan, and you put the time into doing that, that actually does hold together," Shankar said. "It's a good way to start the year, and then we bring the rest of the staff in, and then we can always start digging into the nitty-gritty of each of the stories and planning it out episode by episode as we go."
For Season 3, they're excited to add the fan-favorite character Anna, played by Elizabeth Mitchell, and do more with Drummer, played by Cara Gee. With the latter, the "Expanse" writing team folded several book characters into her and brought her into the story earlier to give "a uniquely Belter perspective on the situation," Shankar said. "I think people are going to love seeing how she develops in Season 3." [Don't Ask Why Cats Populate this 'Expanse' Recap Video — Just Enjoy]
Viewers can also look forward to central but isolated characters' finally meeting — a tactic the TV show has used before. "I think it's one of the fun things of this show is that we have far-flung storylines, things that are happening in different places that affect each other but don't necessarily touch, and then when you actually touch the characters together it's tremendously satisfying," Shankar said. "We kept Miller and Holden apart for eight episodes in Season 1 before they even crossed; there's a lot of pent-up desire from the audience's perspective. I think you're going to see that again."
Franck said he was excited for some great moments this season with the Martian marine Bobbie, played by Frankie Adams, who was introduced in Season 2, and dramatic situations with the crew of the Rocinante, as well.
Nearing the end of the season, some new science will make an appearance — Franck alluded to Einstein-Rosen bridges, for instance — and the show begins its "next act," as the duo called it, adapting some of the stranger stuff fans may remember from the books.
"It starts with Daniel and I writing something that cannot be adapted, and then Naren going, 'Hey, this thing that can't be adapted, what if we adapted that?' and coming up with a clever way to do it that keeps the spirit of the unadaptable original, and it's still makeable for television," Franck said.
And as for that ending?
"At the end of the season we have some amazing, sci-fi, big-concept moments that happen that I don't think we've seen on TV before that bring everybody together into a single, singular moment in our future of human history," Franck said.
"A singular moment!" Shankar interjected. "That's a good way to describe it, Ty."