Posted on

Review of Netflix Sci-fi Series 3 Body Problem

3 Body Problem (Image from Space.com)

The new Netflix science fiction series Three Body Problem is engaging in its story telling and visually with CGI as it plays out over eight episodes.   The show is an adaptation of Liu Cixin’s three-book series of the same name and maybe a fourth by Baoshu, who wraps up the events of the previous books.  (Baoshu got Cixin’s permission and blessing to write the fourth book.) 

The series opens with the news of the mysterious deaths of esteemed scientists around the world and the interruption or halt of work at hydron collider facilities.  At one facility, Saul Durand stares at screens filled with scientific equations that should have worked but didn’t.  His boss, Vera Ye, thinks Saul can crack this problem, but Saul is not so sure.  However, he is not going to quit his job and never see this office again.  Deep down he does want to figure things out and save his career.   What Saul does not realize is that Vera is going to speed the process up.  She goes into the heart of the collider and jumps into the deep water to her death.  

The shock of Vera’s suicide causes Saul to reach out to their mutual friends from their years at Oxford to come together.  They do so, and they include nano-tech pioneer Auggie Salazar, snack king Jack Rooney, mathematician and scientist Jin Cheng and teacher Will Downing.  Together they reminisce, cry, and comfort one another.  Then their delicate world blows up.   During a visit to a bar, Auggie looks down at her phone, sees a weird electrical event, and immediately sees a digital count-down clock.  She freaks out and leans on Jin, who is with her in the bar, and then on Saul in a different setting.  The three of them try to figure out the mystery of their friend’s death and get rid of the digital clock haunting Auggie.

Auggie figures out the meaning behind the clock.   The clock is ticking down the time until her death unless she gives up her nano-tech work. Auggie wants to live without question, but it is equally horrible to see her hard work and career end for good.  Another clue surfaces after Jin visits Vera’s mother’s home and is given a futuristic headset to take with her. When she puts it on, Jin is pulled into a game that feels and looks like the real world except its from a far away era.  Jin sees it is connected to both Vera’s death and what is happening to Auggie and to the dead scientists. Who made this game, and why could it lead to humankind’s possible destruction?  The story behind it begins with Vera’s mother, Ye Wenjie, and her long ago decision to continue contact with alien life.  

The day after I watched the eighth episode, I looked up the four books I mentioned at the start of this post, and read their jackets.  Immediately, I knew, Three Body Problem should have been given the epic treatment.  I am talking about the likes of Lord of the Rings and connecting to the show writers of this series; Games of Thrones, where am epic story gets told over several years.  However, movie, streamers, and television companies are very finicky about going this route when they buy a book series and decide to adapt it to their chosen media.  If they do go ahead with it, it is usually with a worldwide popular series previously adapted, or a new property so flaming hot and popular – the epic treatment is the only option.

Based on what I read on the jackets, there could be some awesome plots and story telling to come.  My only concern is condensing the story lines and speeding up plot development to tell this epic story in three to four seasons when it deserves twice as much to tell it properly.  

Review of Netflix Sci-Fi Series Three Body Problem
Ruminate Central