No Dreck

by wjw on April 21, 2018

THE EXPANSE -- Season:2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata, Wes Chatham as Amos Burton, Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal, Steven Strait as Earther James Holden -- (Photo by: Kurt Iswarienko/Syfy)

Some days you get lucky, and you turn on the TV and find something you’ve absolutely always wanted to see.

This happened to me on Wednesday, when I watched the second episode of Season Three of The Expanse.

The episode was written by James S.A. Corey themselves, and the climax featured a space battle between Rocinante and a Terran warship.  Which was great, because in The Expanse we have real physics.

When was the last time a series set in space had real physics?  Maybe never.

Here’s how it would play in the average space TV show.

“Increase power to the shields by 45%!  Fire dreckion beam!”  Then the camera gets shaky and the bridge crew throw themselves left and right as near misses explode around them.  And then dreckion saves the day, because the whole show is basically made of dreck.

So what happened in this episode was that Rocinante was maneuvering frantically, and the two crew who weren’t on the bridge were strapped down in another compartment, and then a locker in that compartment burst open and released the ship’s supply of power tools.   So every time Roci maneuvered, the tools changed direction and hurled themselves across the compartment.  Some of the tools were heavy, and some were sharp, and the two guys in that compartment were strapped into couches and couldn’t get out of the way.

Perhaps in this scenario there might be something like a little  suspense, no?

A flying tool then cuts the air supply to one of the two guys, so the other has to unstrap and make his way across the room to help his shipmate.  Now he’s subjected to the same gee forces as the power tools, and if he doesn’t hang on he’ll go flying around the room, too, and even if he does succeed in hanging on the compartment is still full of nasty objects hurling themselves around like a swarm of oversized killer bees.

Great scene.  Killer scene.  And it was a scene I’d always wanted to see, without knowing it.

What followed was that Rocinante survived because of a tactic taken straight from The Sundering.  (Which I am fine with, by the way.  If you’re going to steal, steal from the very best.)

Now I’ve got to figure out a way to steal the power tool scene and get it in the next Praxis book.  Because that would be awesome.

Michael grosberg April 22, 2018 at 3:24 am

tHat was an awesome battle scene.
And what about those gimballed seats on the Razorback? didn’t you have the exact same setup in the Praxis novels?

Urban April 22, 2018 at 9:07 am

_Planetes_ has real physics and as a minor plot point sort of realistic travel time to Jupiter and back, 7 years even with the tandem mirror drive.

_Men Into Space_ has basically real physics, apart from 1959 production things like space suits on the Moon not being pressurized.

wjw April 22, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Yes, characters in the Praxis books use the gimbaled seats, but I don’t think I invented them. I think I stole the idea from NASA.

wjw April 22, 2018 at 2:03 pm

I had wondered about Men Into Space, but I saw it when I was a kid and my memories don’t extend to how realistic the physics might be.

Ralf T. Dog April 23, 2018 at 1:09 am

Space ships have pipes. Pipes can break. broken pipes can even have water in them. Water and space ship controls don’t mix.

It might be fun to have a battle where not only are you dodging shots taken by the bad guy, you are trying to maneuver to keep water from sloshing into all kinds of critical stuff. The confusion on the part of the enemy commander as to why you are dodging in such a strange way might even be a bit funny.

IronOre April 23, 2018 at 10:14 am

I was thinking that maneuver looked familiar. My one problem with the scene was that the seats the two guys in the back were in weren’t gimballed like the people in the command centers were. Seems to me that would have deleterious effects on them.

wjw April 23, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Ehhh, the guys in the back were just passengers. If they stroked out, it wouldn’t affect the ship’s combat readiness. The bridge crew were the important ones.

Ralf, another aspect of the broken pipe hazard is that the water sloshing around would shift the ship’s center of gravity from moment to moment, which would not only make the maneuvering erratic but could result in the ship’s tearing itself to bits.

Josh April 24, 2018 at 9:36 am

Were there ever any noises about making the Praxis books into a series? I always thought they’d be perfect for an HBO or Netflix scenario (space opera in general always seemed like it’d be great for TV to me). Cheers!

IronOre April 24, 2018 at 9:44 am

I was thinking more along the lines of the passengers suddenly having the weight of their head and body shifting wildly during the fight, instead of being pressed into the padding of the chair. That can’t be good for the neck at all. Maybe if they strapped the helmet to the chair it wouldn’t matter as much…

wjw April 24, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Josh, I totally agree with you, but once I or my works cross the border into LA, we become invisible.

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