Based on: Leviathan Wakes (the first novel of The Expanse series) and The Butcher of Anderson Station (short story)
Important characters: James Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), Alex Kamal (Cas Anwar), Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane), Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), Sadavir Errenwright (Shawn Doyle), Shed Garvey (Paulo Costanzo), Juliette Andromeda Mao (Florence Faivre), Anderson Dawes (Jared Harris), Fred Johnson (Chad Coleman)
“We made it all this way, so far into the darkness. Why couldn’t we have brought more light?”
-Executive Officer on the Cantebury (Jonathan Banks)
She finds herself trapped in the hold of the spaceship, floating in zero gravity for days. Thirst and hunger have begun to take their toll, and finally, when the sounds of her captors outside have disappeared, she finds the courage and strength to break down the door.
The ship is deserted, but something is alive in the darkness. A blue-glowing, slimy substance has taken over the ship, with a life of its own. She heads towards the ship’s reactor, where she finds a nightmare feeding on the ship’s energy and life.
Julie is Missing
Far away from the nightmare in the deserted ship, the ice hauler Canterbury is plying the asteroid rings and the outer planets for ice to bring back to the various stations and colonies in the Belt. There it will be transformed into water, so necessary for life to exist out here in the darkness so far away from Earth and Mars. Ice haulers like the Canterbury are lifelines to the people living in this hostile environment.
When the Cantebury picks up a distress signal, they must choose whether to ignore the signal or delay their return to the asteroid habitat on Ceres with their cargo of valuable ice. After some discussion, the Cantebury sends out a smaller shuttle to investigate. The crew consists of the Earth-born Executive Officer James Holden, the Martian pilot Alex Kamal, Earth-born technician and security expert Amos Burton, the Belter mechanic Naomi Nagata and the Earth-born medic Shed Garvey.
After heading away from the Canterbury, the small crew finds an abandoned and damaged ship, the Scopuli, hidden among some asteroids. There is a huge hole in the side of the hull, and no sign is seen of the crew. But on the bridge, the crew finds a piece of technology seemingly originating from the Martian military.
At that moment, signals are detected – unknown ships on approach. They launch torpedoes as Holden and the others scramble to get off the derelict ship. But to their surprise, they are not the target. The torpedoes launched from the unknown stealth ships hurl past them towards the defenseless Canterbury. As the ice hauler is destroyed with all hands lost, Holden, Amos, Nagata, Kamal, and Garvey escape in the small, ill-equipped shuttle.
Remember the Cant
After escaping the destruction of the Canterbury, Holden, now the leader of the surviving crew, tries to decide what to do next. They live for now, but the shuttle was damaged in the attack that destroyed the ice hauler and limited supplies. With tensions among the small crew of survivors flaring, Holden sends out a statement to nearby colonies, blaming Mars for the attack that destroyed the Canterbury.
Meanwhile, on the asteroid colony Ceres, Belter-born detective Joe Miller of the local security bureau does his daily shakedowns and interrogations. When Holden’s statement that Mars was behind the destruction of the Canterbury and its precious ice reaches the media, the already tense atmosphere on Ceres turns violent, with rioters shouting “Remember the Cant!” while blaming Earth and Mars for their misfortune. But as Miller begins his investigations, he is put on another task, off the books: to find a missing heiress to a wealthy Earther business tycoon: Juliette Andromeda Mao.
Miller’s search for the missing girl soon turns into an obsession. And as he digs deeper, a mystery unfolds around him. Julie is more than she seems, and Miller starts an investigation that will take him far away from Ceres, his job and his friends.
Meanwhile, on Earth
As the drama unfolds in the Belt, the UN Deputy Undersecretary, Chrisjen Avasarala, works to prevent the outbreak of war. Avasarala knows well enough that the expanse is a powder keg, waiting for a single spark to set it off. That spark might just be the broadcast from Holden, prompting Avasarala to find out who this upstart really is and hopefully prevent a war between Earth and Mars.
But life in the UN halls of power is full of political machinations and backstabbing, a life Avasarala is very much a part of, where she is both the betrayer and the betrayed. Her search for answers is met with opposition from people who might just find war to be in their own interest.
Death of the Donnager
Back in the Belt, Holden and his small crew have managed to repair their small shuttle and have sent out a distress signal. But to their chagrin, their saviors from their predicament is the massive Martian battleship MCRN The Donnager. And the Martians are not too pleased for being blamed for the destruction of the Canterbury.
Captured by the Martians, Holden and his crew are imprisoned and interrogated. But before the Martians can decide what to do with their prisoners, ships are detected on approach towards the Donnager – the same ships that destroyed the Canterbury. However, the Martian captain is confident in her ship’s firepower, and as the mysterious stealth ships attack, they are picked off one by one. But some manage to get past the Donnager’s barrage of torpedoes and railgun fire. In the following close-quarters battle against the stealth ships, a stray point defense cannon round tears through the Donnager’s brig, taking Shed Garvey’s head with it, killing him instantly.
Soon enemy boarders are swarming through the Donnager’s corridors, overwhelming the Martian crew. Holden, Naomi, Amos, and Alex escape towards the Donnager’s hangar bay to escape in a smaller gunship, the Tachi. Along with a surviving Martian officer carrying important data on the attacking stealth ships, they blast their way out of the hangar bay just before the Martian captain initiates the self-destruct sequence that destroys the massive battleship.
A Safe Harbour?
On the run again, Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos, and the dying Martian officer head to Tycho Station in the Belt. Its well-connected chief, Fred Johnson, is aware of their predicament and suggests renaming their new gunship to avoid attracting further attention. The Tachi is renamed to Rocinante. Arriving at Tycho Station, where a massive generation ship, the Nauvoo, is being built, the crew is greeted by Fred Johnson. Holden and the others quickly get the impression that Johnson has other motives, but they agree to do a mission to investigate a derelict stealth ship called the Anubis.
Arriving at the location of the Anubis, Holden and the others find no sign of the crew of the stealth ship. The only sign is that a shuttle is missing, which they track to the asteroid colony, Eros. They also find a strange crystalline substance growing around the ship’s power sources and the reactor. They decide to destroy the ship and follow the shuttle to Eros, hoping that answers can be found there.
The Leviathan Wakes
Holden, Naomi, Amos and Alex head to Eros to investigate. Here they meet the disheveled Joe Miller, who has obsessively tracked Julie Mao to a dingy hotel. After a firefight with assassins sent to stop them from discovering her fate, they enter Julie’s trashed room only to find her dead in the shower with strange, crystalline growths covering her body. Realizing that her cause of death might be due to some infection, they exit the hotel and head for the docks to leave the station.
At that moment, an emergency alarm sounds at the station, and a lockdown is in effect – no one can leave. A private security force starts to innoculate the civilians of Eros and herd them into shelters for their protection – or so they say. As the whole station becomes their petri dish, civilians are injected with the substance found on Julie Mao and exposed to radiation to weaponize what becomes known as the “Protomolecule” – an intelligent alien organism from another part of the galaxy.
While searching for a way off Eros, Holden and Miller accidentally get exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. They, along with Naomi, Amos and Alex, now have to escape, fighting the private security goons and avoiding the Protomolecule that takes over everything it touches – repurposing the station, and all life within it, into something… else.
And just in the nick of time, they reach the Rocinante, where life-saving treatment awaits Holen and Miller. The crew blasts off, away from the Eros and the dangers now lurking there.
Here ends the first season of The Expanse. The recap for the other seasons will be published later, but I hope I have piqued your interest to check the show out for yourself.
And if you haven’t watched The Expanse yet, I highly recommend it. All six seasons are available on Prime Video now.