I am in love, and I don’t say that lightly. TV had disappointed me so many times, I had stopped messing with her. I was heartbroken. Into this empty, non-episodic life, came a weekend when I was allergic to everything, leaving me pumped full of DayQuil (I’m a mom, I still have to function), stuck on the couch surrounded by tissue boxes and unfulfilled plans. This was the weekend I binged the entire first season of The Expanse (currently available for free on Amazon Streaming and showing season 2 on SyFy). This was the weekend I met the crew of the Rocinate — accidental ship captain James Holden (Steven Strait), engineer and tech genius Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), pilot Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), and bruiser Amos Burton (Wes Chatham). I’m hooked, y’all. Binge-drunk in love.
These guys are no Firefly, but they are a crew, and a fascinatingly tight one at that. They form one-third of the plot threads of the show, with Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), the sharp-tongued United Nations politician who’s trying to start, or maybe stop, a war, holding down her third mostly by herself with her clothes (because GOOD BAST ALMIGHTY ARE HER CLOTHES GORGEOUS). The third thread is that of failing spacestation cop Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane). He’s looking for a lost rich girl, and getting in way over his head in the process.
What got me was the crew of the Rocinante — a crew that had been flying together for a while on the ice freighter Canterbury, but doesn’t actually know that much about each other. A crew that includes the fantastic character of Naomi Nagata as the only woman. Anytime you have one female character in a huddle of male ones, I think that woman deserves credit for an extraordinary level of patience. But when that character is interesting — complicated, unashamed about her sex and her sexiness, unrepentant about her choices, unreliant on any of the male characters for purpose — then I’m all in. It is the character of Naomi Nagata that drew me in.
So as any love-struck woman would, I want to give Nagata a few awards. I want her to know I appreciate her, that I know she’s out there fighting the good fight. And that maybe, in a few years, she’ll be ready for the coveted Top 5 Dead or Alive spot in my heart.
**Spoilers for The Expanse season 1 follow.
This is your only warning.**
The Ellen Ripley Award for Knowing When to Run from a Rampaging Xenomorph
The big bad secret of The Expanse season 1 involves an “extra-solar entity” that’s been found on Phoebe (a moon of Saturn) and purposely nurtured by some terribly misguided scientists (perhaps even evil scientists, depending on your perspective). These evil scientists (now you know my perspective) unleash the entity, called the Protomolecule, onto space station Eros, give it a dose of hard radiation, then retreat to watch as it consumes every human on the rock…tens of thousands of Belters. The crew of the Rocinate is there, chasing revenge for the death of their friends on the Canterbury. This sets up Naomi and team to try to GTFO of Eros when the Protomolecule starts…doing whatever it does.
Following in the footsteps of the immortal Ellen Ripley (May You Follow Her Lead and Nuke the Site from Orbit), Naomi is the only one with the smarts and skills to lead the team out, using the old builder tunnels that are under/behind the station, cored directly into the rock.
As they run, they collect a few locals who are still well enough to run, along with the obligatory small child. Thus Naomi follows even more closely in the steps of Ripley — not only running through tunnels from a brain-eating monster, but also dragging a child along. This is perhaps the best metaphor for motherhood ever.
The Sarah Connor Award for Fighting The Man to the Literal End of Time (or in this case, Space)
Where there are evil scientists, there is an evil mastermind. Naomi’s got some experience with the naive, idealistic life:
The Zoe Washbourne Award for Putting up with Two White Guys Who Really Don’t Deserve You
Through the magic of the churn, Naomi is the moral compass of both Amos and Jim. This is about the shittiest job in the solar system, mostly due to how different they are. Amos is immediate, violent, instinctive. Jim…well, I bet he has to do some deep soul searching just to put milk in his coffee (but think of the cows!). Yet, she still manages to keep them both going in the same direction.
Even if sometimes, Amos has to flex his muscle.
Really, we know we Black women are going to space. Some of us have already been. We know we’ll be running that shit when we get there. They haven’t stopped the Black woman yet, and they’re not going to. It is about time media showed us a real future, one where we are represented and respected. We are the future, good and bad, and The Expanse gives us a new sci-fi peek, with Naomi Nagata driving that ship. Straight to my heart. I’m so glad I found The Expanse and will be watching religiously now into Season 3.