There aren’t many shows like Prime Video’s excellent sci-fi series The Expanse, which ended in early 2022 after six seasons, a cancellation by Syfy, an un-cancellation by Amazon at the personal behest of Jeff Bezos, an epic ending, and less watercooler attention that it deserved. Starring Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Expanse follows the course of a war between the citizens of Earth, Mars, and the asteroid belt, while mysterious alien technology spreads through the Solar System. With its complex politics, distinctive visual identity, and compelling characters, it’s one of the great sci-fi shows of our time.
Now that The Expanse is over, it’s time to start something new. There are plenty of other shows like The Expanse that can help fill the void. We’ve curated a list of other TV shows that feature great sci-fi storytelling, complex political maneuvering, and bleak moral quandaries. If you like The Expanse, these are the shows you should watch next.
OK, we must acknowledge up front that Prime Video’s billion-dollar epic series isn’t like The Expanse the way the other shows on this list are. It’s a fantasy story, for one. And it’s less morally and politically complex than The Expanse, which, especially when it was on Syfy, probably had a budget comparable to two episodes of The Rings of Power for its whole season. But if you like The Expanse, there’s a specific reason you might also like The Rings of Power: both shows exist because Amazon founder Jeff Bezos personally wanted them for Prime Video, because he personally likes them. So if your taste is anything like one of the world’s richest people — and it might be; do you eat breakfast octopus? – you’ll like both shows. And we can pinpoint the thing Bezos likes about them, and therefore the thing they have in common. They’re both epic, ambitious shows that build enormous, richly detailed worlds. They’re the kind of shows you’d expect a guy who built a world-conquering company in his image to like. -Liam Mathews
If you want to watch some historical fiction but also have an itch for science-fiction, For All Mankind is your one-stop shop. The show posits what would happen if Russia had landed on the moon first, and the great space race never ended as the U.S. and Russia tried to one-up each other for the decades that followed. Full of politics, social issues, and tons of what-ifs for space geeks, For All Mankind is for anyone who wants some grounded science-fiction. It’s a different style than the futuristic The Expanse, but it’s equally intelligent and complex. -Tim Surette
If you love the world-building and politics of The Expanse but want a little more aliens getting their brains blown out, grab a tub of popcorn and throw on Halo. Paramount+’s adaptation of the blockbuster first-person shooter video game doesn’t hit the intellectual heights of The Expanse, but it does wrestle with some light military politics when Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) takes off his helmet and wonders what the heck he’s doing for the UNSC and has that “Are we the baddies?” moment. It has a similar budget and look as The Expanse, but with more CGI bringing the complex Halo universe to life. Sometimes that means a pretty cool looking fight between cybernetic space marines and alien elites, sometimes that means the cartoonish Prophet of Mercy. Fair warning, Halo heads: The show doesn’t use the incredible Halo theme, for whatever boneheaded reason. -Tim Surette
The Expanse is about as hard as hard sci-fi gets: a world full of complicated politics, strange foreign objects with unknown powers, heroes rising to the occasion, and vast expanses of space. Check all those boxes and then some with Apple TV+’s Foundation, based on Isaac Asimov’s famous novels. The series has many themes which resonate with today, including a debate over science versus faith as a mathematician who created a model that predicts the fall of the ruling class is banished to the outer reaches of the universe, even as his predictions begin to come true. Like The Expanse, you might want to take notes about who is who early on as the world is splendidly crafted with a deep history, but it’s a rewarding show for those who pay attention, and it boasts some of the best effects on TV. -Allison Picurro
If you love The Expanse‘s willingness to trust its audience to follow complex stories across different worlds, then this German drama is going to be perfect for you. Set in the small town of Winden, Dark follows four interconnected families caught up in a tangled web of secrets, mysteries, and time travel. This Netflix Original is famous for being one of the most confusing shows to follow, but the meticulously plotted series is well worth the effort it takes to untangle the timelines and family trees.
This J.J. Abrams-produced series is a great pick for when you want something with a deep sci-fi mythology, but isn’t so dense that you have to strain your brain keeping up with all the intricate storytelling. Fringe follows a team of experts — including FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), kooky scientist Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), and Walter’s estranged son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) — as they investigate fringe cases that can’t be explained through normal means (very much like in The X-Files). But this isn’t a straightforward procedural; the Fox drama becomes more serialized as it goes on, exploring the layered mysteries surrounding a parallel universe and the impact these revelations have on the show’s core cast of characters.
Though Vikings is the only show on this list without any sci-fi elements, it has a lot in common with The Expanse. It’s just that instead of exploring the tribalism between dueling factions of people across space in the future, it’s focused on those between dueling factions of people across Europe in medieval times. The History Channel drama is all about exploring new worlds, battles to determine sovereignty, political machinations, and examining how societies need to adapt if they hope to survive through changing times. Sound familiar enough?
Considered one of the greatest sci-fi series of all time, Battlestar Galactica is often the space drama all other space dramas get measured against. Set at a time when the last remnants of humanity are on the run from alien robots, known as Cylons, Battlestar Galactica raises questions about who deserves to survive while also exploring the difficulties of bridging prejudices to secure a better future. And like in The Expanse, the Ronald D. Moore show loves to present its characters with difficult decisions where there’s no easy answer. So if your favorite part of The Expanse is the way it explores issues from all sides and forces our heroes into morally tough spots again and again, let Battlestar Galactica present a whole new set of moral conundrums for you to ponder over.
For those looking for another sci-fi series with a lot of things to say and a willingness to take big narrative risks, Raised by Wolves is here to entertain and befuddle you. The Ridley Scott drama tells the story of a pair of androids tasked with saving humanity by raising children on a virgin world, but when some religious fanatics seek refuge on the planet violent tensions between the two camps takes root. Questions about parenting, religion, and humanity fuel the show’s out-there storytelling that, while not always executed perfectly, is impressive for its ambition alone. It’s also a lot weirder than The Expanse, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
When it comes to delivering shocking twists, Counterpart gives The Expanse a run for its money. This Starz espionage thriller, which was unfortunately canceled after two seasons, follows a low-level government employee (J.K. Simmons) who discovers that a past event split the world into two parallel universes, and that the two worlds are now approaching war against each other. While The Expanse explores war and politics across the galaxy, Counterpart has a tighter focus but delivers just as powerful results. It’s a twisty, smartly plotted series that weaves together the best aspects of sci-fi and spy dramas to create something wholly unique.
Like The Expanse, Orphan Black is propelled by various conspiracies and competing clandestine parties with pointed agendas. But in this show, instead of an ice hauler crew who gets caught in the crosshairs, it’s a group of clones (all played by Tatiana Maslany). This sci-fi thriller is action-packed and features great character work, all while raising important questions about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning and threats to reproductive rights. For anyone who is morbidly fascinated by the way profit and progress for few is prioritized over the common good in The Expanse, they’ll find similar bleakly relatable themes in this BBC America drama.
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