Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Expanse: Disappointing

     I watched the pilot of The Expanse and gave it benefit of the doubt on an implausibility or two.  Making decent film or video SF is tricky and the line between handwavium and hokum can be pretty thin.

     In the first twenty minutes of episode two, a crucial complication depends on the inner door of the airlock a small spacecraft being routinely left open.  I have trouble with that: it creates an avoidable single point of failure.  It's stupid engineering.  Then we find out the acceleration chairs don't support the astronaut's head and neck, despite the ship being capable of considerable thrust, possibly even as much  as the previous episode showed requiring special medication to endure.  Yet this is not a problem.   And then--

     Then, in a scenario similar to the one at the heart of Robert A. Heinlein's 1948 short story Ordeal In Space, a character goes out on the hull to repair Something Important.  The spacecraft is apparently under some acceleration -- and the character doesn't have a safety line.* While attempting the repair, a wrench slips from his hand and goes flying away.  No safety line on people working on the hull I might grant, especially in an emergency, especially with some of the alternative hardware already shown.  But no lanyard on tools?  No.  Ballistic junk is already enough of a problem in 2015 that when ISS crew is working out on the hull. their tools are on short cables, connected to the worker or the space station.   It's routine when working on the outside of tall structures; it's not uncommon for divers.  An advanced spacefaring civilization would be very cautious about this.

     When your story counts on bad engineering that none of the characters find remarkable, you've lost me.  You don't care enough about suspending the viewer's disbelief to even try to fast-talk your way through it -- because you either didn't notice, or figured no one watching would -- and that ruins it for me.  It's either ignorant or condescending.

     I may watch more of the series; the visuals are pretty good.  But the science -- no, the technology -- isn't.
* Heinlein's did, if I remember correctly. Then, for a logical reason, he has to go farther than it will allow.


Anonymous said...

"But no lanyard on tools? No. Ballistic junk is already enough of a problem in 2015 that when ISS crew is working out on the hull. their tools are on short cables, connected to the worker or the space station."

Not always, as the German astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper found out in November 2008 when she let a toolbag drift away from her during an EVA.

It burned up a year later.

Your basic point was valid tho, it's stuff like that that kills the flow of a story...

D.W. Drang said...

I find that most TV SF today has such a dark tone that it is nearly unwatchable.

Which is weird, since the Battlestar Galactica reboot wasn't exactly all sweetness and light, but I enjoyed it.

Come to think of it, I found myself wondering the other night when The Expanse was on (DVR'd, I think) "Why don't any of these ships or habitats have decent lighting?" Which I suppose, may contribute to the "dark tone."

Plus, another show with pretty much no sympathetic characters. (To me. A matter of taste, I suppose.)

Anonymous said...

Engineering fails are just one aspect. When I watch a show with an episode involving firearms I routinely wind up with bulging eyes/neck veins trying not to scream at the level of revealed ignorance.

Roberta X said...

Yeah, Anon 8:16, firearms on the screen are often just screamingly wrong.

Drang, "dark," I don't mind. I'll even live with "stupid," as long as it is deliberate. It's when the writers and director (and so on) don't know or don't care, and figure it's okay because the viewer doesn't either that annoys me.

Anon 3:21: In fact, the incident supports my point. That toolbag was *supposed* to be secured.

Anonymous said...

Detail Minutia aside the "bad Lighting Might be a result of submarine Movies... sealed Can... bad lighting... As a bubblehead i can readily make that connection... others might Not.The Reality is most of the Time Subs are lit up Like any other industrial space. But the action happens in Reduced Lighting. for TACTICAl reasons... Amatures assume the Boat is allways Dark...

Anonymous said...

My biggest pisser for movies over the last several years is "lack of illumination".
Totally infuriating!
I see fine. You can have 'dim lit area' but when the camera is not showing the action you can hear? WTH just happened? Frigging stupid!
Lost list of idiots doing that- ruins the continuity of their pet project (gnashes teeth:(
Close second is the AWESOME action scenes - with 8 angles of the same incident- COOL- except each plays so damn fast all ya get is a blur, trying to figure out what, where, and who that was- and its happening with teh next shot before you know the last one, adinfinitum... Waste. My. Time. (Michael Bay? JJ? :(
OK- Rant off- Thanks:)