The Expanse Season 3 and the Challenges of Adaptation

Den of Geek talked to Naren Shankar about adapting The Expanse series alongside novel writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

While many TV fans and critics have mused on the unique adaptation questions raised when the Game of Thrones TV show passed the books, not as much attention has been giving to The Expanse.

Like Game of Thrones, the authors of the books The Expanse series is based on (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, collectively known as James S.A. Corey) are in the writers room. Like George R.R. Martin, Abraham and Franck are still working their way through The Expanse book series, having just published the seventh book in the series in December 2017. 

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At this past week’s Gallifrey One Doctor Who convention, Den of Geek had a chance to ask The Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar if discussions had in the writers room has influenced how Abraham and Franck view and write their own, ongoing book series.

“It’s kind of unique because, when [Ty and Daniel] started the show, they were in the middle of I guess book four? Or maybe book five? And now they’ve been doing it for a few years and, if you get to that point in the book, you see where it’s kind of matching more of the show.”

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Shankar called the unique creative situation “a feedback loop.”

It feels like a little bit of a shift, and I think it’s kind of unavoidable and inevitable, in a way … They’re thinking of the characters a little differently. They’re thinking of things that maybe we’ve brought up that maybe they didn’t really focus on. And they’re feeding off of each other.

Teasing a particular adaptation element of the upcoming third season of The Expanse, Shankar said that the Ashford character who first appears in the novel Abaddon’s Gate, the third book in the series, will be completely different in the show. “For them to be part of the evolution of that is a really interesting thing,” Shankar mused.

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In some ways, [The Expanse] is kind of a live adaptation. We’re adapting their books and their books are adapting the show. And then we’re adapting the books that are adapting the show. So, hopefully, we’ll get to go all the way to the end. It would be fascinating.

Yes, please let The Expanse TV show adapt all of the books. When one fan asked about Syfy’s perceived reputation for canceling high-quality shows, Shankar lept to the defense of the cable network.

“They’re in a tough business and I think basic cable in general is facing some really tough headwinds,” said Shankar. “They don’t have a subscriber base, which insulates you from having ratings concerns. They don’t have the broad audience of a mainstream broadcast network, which gets ad revenue to pay for their shows. They’re caught right in the middle of that because they still have to sell promotional time, so we gotta get people to watch, but, at the same time, they’re trying to keep up with high-end premium cable like AMC and FX, not to mention Amazon and Netflix and the whole lot of them.”

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Shankar had only positive things to say about the network that airs The Expanse in the U.S.

I think it’s a tough, tough thing, and they’ve been extremely supportive of The Expanse. They’ve been really great partners creatively. They’ve been great to work with. I mean, we have plenty of disagreements, there are times I can’t be easy to deal with, but it’s been a respectful process and, at the end of the day, they’ve let us tell the story the way we want to. 

The Expanse Season 3 will premiere soon. Here’s everything we know about the upcoming season.