DEEP IMPACT
SFX|Holiday Special 2020
THE EARTH IS BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE IN THE EXPANSE SEASON FIVE. WE VISIT THE TORONTO SET AND TALK TO SHOWRUNNER NAREN SHANKAR TO SEE WHAT’S IN STORE FOR HUMANITY
BRYAN CAIRNS

THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO BE destroyed… and nobody even has an inkling of its imminent doom.

The Expanse’s fourth season ended with Holden (Steven Strait) and company completing their mission beyond the Rings, on the planet Ilus. After all the mayhem and social unease, the crew of The Rocinante deserve a breather, but the show’s latest antagonist, Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), has other plans. Employing stolen Martian technology, he’s launched several cloaked asteroids towards Earth. And anybody familiar with movies like Armageddon or Deep Impact knows that such a collision will wreak major havoc, on a global scale.

“It takes rocks a while to cover that distance,” showrunner Naren Shankar tells SFX. “The events early on in season five occur under a shadow of mounting dread. The dread is really from the audience’s perspective, because they know what’s coming. At the end of season four, nobody knows that those rocks are out there. Nobody knows what Marco is doing. Nobody knows what has happened. Take that idea and run with it. Now, how that comes to fruition, or not – the consequences of it – is all the material of season five.”

Shankar calls this year the series’ most “personal and epic season”. Based on the fifth instalment in the Expanse books series, Nemesis Games, the show picks up with the calm before the storm. When the show returns, humans are journeying through the Ring gates in search of a new place to settle. In the meantime, the core four characters – Holden, Amos (Wes Chatham), Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Alex (Cas Anvar) – have split up to confront some of their own private baggage.

“It’s something the show has done consistently over the years,” Shankar says. “It has this unique balance of the high-epic, grand geopolitical storyline. But it’s always refracted through very personal, boots-on-the-ground individual characters. This season, that balance just seemed to hit a beautiful, sweet spot.

“Part of it is because we are paying off and illuminating things that have been in the narrative since almost the beginning, but also diving into the characters and revealing things about them that people have been really curious about,” he continues. “That balance, against the actual events of this season… It’s actually my favourite book of the series.”

It’s November 2019, and SFX is visiting the Toronto set of The Expanse. Today’s sequence – which is more dialogue-heavy than action-orientated – unfolds in an office on the moon. Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who previously lost the race to be elected SecretaryGeneral to Nancy Gao (Lily Gao) – displays a softer, more maternal side during a video chat with her daughter. The man behind the camera yelling “Cut!” and “Reset!” and doling out praise to the actors is none other than cast member Thomas Jane, who portrays Joe Miller. This episode, “Mother,” marks his directorial debut on the space drama.

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