'The Expanse' EP Naren Shankar on Martian Imagery & the Roci Crew's Connections

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Q&A
Amazon Prime Video

[WARNING: Spoilers for The Expanse Season 4 follow.] 

One of the best things about The Expanse is the deliberateness of it all: Every background detail means something, every plot point is followed through to its end, nearly every conversation resurfaces with newly polished meaning in a later episode or a later season.

Such is the case in Season 4, where many earlier-planted plot threads start to bloom; questions regarding Naomi’s past and her son’s whereabouts are answered, Amos’ backstory gains additional tragic definition, and even Miller’s ponderings about the taste of rain resurface.

We chatted with executive producer Naren Shankar about some of the season’s meaningful details and symbolism, as well as some of the connections the show highlighted in earlier episodes.

In the first episode, we got to see three very different conversations between a member of the Roci crew and a friend somewhere else; Amos (Wes Chatham) and Clarissa Mao, Alex (Cas Anvar) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams) and Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Drummer (Cara Gee). Can you take me through the significance of highlighting those bonds?

Naren Shankar: Amos’ conversation with Clarissa is more important for Season 5. But — you’re indicating and picking up on a really important scene, and it’s this idea of human contact. All of these conversations are moments where the Roci crew are able to have a real-time, face-to-face conversation in a world where those are very precious. Usually you’re only limited to sending somebody a message and getting a message back a while later, depending on where you are in the solar system.

So, Clarissa takes a moment to reach out to Amos. Naomi takes a moment to talk to Drummer when she’s close enough, as they go through the Ring. Bobbie gets a call from Alex, because he’s afraid of the protomolecule. It’s a way of reinforcing those connections as the Roci leaves them behind, and you’re going away from those support structures into terra incognito. You’re going to the edge of the world, and that’s the voyage that they’re on. We thought that was a nice motif.

I loved how in many of Bobbie’s scenes, there’s a screen or another “symbol of Mars” between her and the people she was working with. I enjoyed that imagery.

Thank you! The idea for Mars was kind of like they were everywhere, right? It was like a benign authoritarian society, where surveillance is happening very transparently in the background, but there’s all these advertisements — “be a good Martian!” “Make a contribution!” You know? [laughs] So those are all around her, and the idea was for her to have that constant societal reinforcement of what that is as she feels Mars is turning its back on her.

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This is a pretty big season for Naomi. When did you decide that this season was going to have a heavier focus on her character and her backstory?

You know, it wasn’t conscious that way. We didn’t suddenly say, “this is going to be Naomi’s season.” But the storylines ended up having some powerfully strong moments that were focused on her, and this is the first time in the show’s history where the Roci crew starts out as a cohesive group that feel a great deal of affection for each other. It’s a warmer beginning. These people are acknowledging that they’re a group, and that’s what I love about the dedication plaque that Amos bolts to the Roci — you have no idea how long we slaved over the specific language of that plaque. It says, “An independent ship, owned and operated by these four crew members.” That is their home. And they are an independent unit, an independent family in a world of tribalism. That’s a meaningful thing.

The Expanse, Season 4, Streaming Now, Amazon Prime Video