This is Part 4 of our extended retrospective about the #SaveTheExpanse movement. If you missed the beginning, please start from Part 1. A shorter, more concise overview of the campaign is also available here.
Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5
The Final Stretch
We didn’t have much planned for Monday, May 21. The petition had just broken 125,000 signatures, and we were spending our morning preparing to promote the LA Talk live stream with the cast that was set to happen the next day. Little did we know, this day was about to catapult into the stratosphere.
That morning, /u/thegroovologist (Ben S) posted a thread on Reddit suggesting the idea of launching a model of the Rocinante to the edge of space on a weather balloon. Like any reasonable group of people, we decided this was probably a bit too much and doing another stunt just for the hell of it would be unnecessary at this point.
Just kidding. Of course we went for it.
As soon as we got wind of the idea, we quickly set aside everything we were doing and Paul (@ns6400/Fietsventiel) got in touch with Ben to offer to help him organize it. This was a perfect example of why we existed: A fantastic idea such as this could be executed much quicker with campaign infrastructure already in place to handle the logistics and promotion of the event.
“Suddenly I got invited by a Redditor [Paul] to their Discord, which was pretty amazing. I had never used it before. There were all these fans organizing things at a very professional level.” — Ben S (/u/thegroovologist)
Murilo, now officially the community stunt coordinator, worked to set up a new GoFundMe. After the plane banner, he was trusted by the community to handle finances for initiatives like this. Ben reached out to Sent Into Space, a company in the UK that arranges promotional launches for events such as this, while Paul continued to help with logistics. As soon as we had a quote and the page was ready, we shared it on out every platform, not sure what to expect. We didn’t think this was going to get much attention — another stunt might just not have the same impact.
We were wrong.
The Expanse fans casually raised another several thousand dollars before lunchtime. It took a little less than three hours. In the words of Bob Munroe — don’t f**k with Expanse fans.
It was a surreal feeling — the whole process went from “this sounds like a good idea” to “Wow, this is happening” in a matter of hours.
The “Partyballoons” team, as they were now colloquially referred to as for some reason, got to work on arranging the flight with Sent Into Space. Fun fact — their lead engineer is a big fan of the show!
Being from Germany himself, Ben needed to find someone located in the UK who would be willing to contribute their model. Luckily, /u/h0rrain (Ian Carsberg) stepped up to the task.
“h0rrain [Ian] needed to add the hashtag to the base of the model’s stand and glue all the loose parts together. The next morning he shipped the Roci to the company,” Ben continues. “I don’t know how often I checked the online tracking… at least a dozen times.”
It would be a couple of days before the launch, so we’ll come back to this shortly.
In other news that day, an 18-year-old student from Uruguay was paid $36,000 by Google for finding a code exploit in their API. Curiously, the student used a familiar phrase in his explanation of the bug, suggesting he may have been a fan of a certain sci-fi TV series.
Despite all the excitement surrounding the weather balloon fundraiser, the week was just getting started, and there was much left to do.
Tuesday, May 22 was a rollercoaster. That morning, Newsweek and The Inquisitr both reported on our upcoming Rocinante balloon launch, granting us the mainstream media coverage that we hoped to maintain using the stunt. As we continued preparing for the launch, promoting that evening’s live stream, and doing some internal housekeeping, we were caught completely off guard by an unexpected news report.
At precisely 3PM Pacific time, Hollywood Reporter published an article titled “‘The Expanse‘ Revived for Season 4 at Amazon”. The shocking headline of the article turned out to be false — instead, it was a confirmation that Alcon was ‘in talks’ with Amazon about a possible acquisition. Fans reacted in many various ways to this news:
“[I was] excited, but cautious because it wasn’t a done deal.” — Christina Ward
“I was on the trolley home actually, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I texted EVERYONE. I couldn’t believe that all our efforts might have actually worked.” — Shannon Boyle, co-host of The Tightbeam Podcast
Although the article itself and other news outlets clarified the issue, this piece was the first to drop and was shared widely, so it took a good few hours and a lot of damage control to get everyone on the same page again. Misleading headlines aside, this was still extremely positive news and all but confirmed that an acquisition was in sight — such a press release would not be otherwise released, even if the verdict was not yet final.
Either way, the fight wasn’t over yet. We wanted to make sure the fan pressure would not ease until we had our show back. There was still work to do.
Later that evening, several members of the cast and crew appeared on LA Talk Radio to discuss the show. The attendees included Hallie Lambert (a writer on The Expanse), Cara Gee (Camina Drummer), Cas Anvar (Alex Kamal), Wes Chatham (Amos Burton), François Chau (Jules-Pierre Mao), Elias Toufexis (Kenzo/protomolecule monster motion capture), and even Frankie Adams (Bobbie Draper), who called in over the phone. This was the largest ensemble appearance of the cast & crew together since the cancellation, and an exciting show of support for the movement.
For LA Talk, the segment was a big success and drew the most listeners that host Sheena Metal had ever received in one broadcast — in fact, the station’s website briefly crashed as fans logged on to tune in. During the lengthy broadcast, the cast and crew once again spoke about the movement and how much it meant to them. One of our organizers even called in to the show on behalf of the fans and shared why The Expanse is such an inspiring series. Cas Anvar read out another statement from Alcon stating that they were excited and motivated to make things work.
Once again, the incredibly close level of interaction and support that the cast and crew maintained with the fanbase was not only touching, but also a testament to just how truly special the series is — not only to those who watch it, but to those who create and work on it as well.
Meanwhile on Reddit, /u/dm_your_thesis posted a gif to /r/HighQualityGifs, using the subreddit’s irreverent and entertaining style to inform people on how to help save the show. The post gained over 3000 upvotes in a community that was otherwise not related to The Expanse.
The next day, a #SaveTheExpanse cake was sent to Amazon Studios, and /r/TheExpanse was declared the subreddit of the day on the platform. It was an appropriate day to earn the title, as the next episode of the show, “Delta-V”, was to air that night.
In Toronto, the production office of the show gathered on set, for what could have been the last time, to watch the episode together. They shared a heartwarming photo of the entire office posing with a #SaveTheExpanse banner, and Steven Strait, who joined them for the broadcast, gave a short speech commemorating the fans for their efforts. As Strait does not use social media, this was the first public acknowledgement of the campaign by the Rocinante’s captain.
A message from Steven! #TheExpanse #SaveTheExpanse @TheExpanseWR @ExpanseSYFY pic.twitter.com/UWBVRckeKb
— Anna Hopkins (@AnnaBananaHops) May 24, 2018
Once again, fans and the cast & crew pushed for live viewers and tweeted throughout the broadcasts. The continued intensity of the campaign contributed to the episode rising in viewership again, from 609,000 to 625,000. Despite the modest increase, “Delta-V” marked the highest-rated Episode 7 in the series’ history and the highest-rated episode since the Season 3 premiere. Beating the mid-season slump that affects almost every TV show in spectacular fashion, the spike once again reinforced our determination to keep the show above the water. The episode itself was the start of a major new arc in the series, refreshing the plot and hammering the point that the show was just about to get bigger than ever.
“The Sci-Fi TV Genre has been pretty stagnant for a long time — and The Expanse really is the best thing that could have happened to it,” says Daniel from Spacedock, a well known creator who produces the Force Recon video series in collaboration with The Expanse’s production team.
The next day, Sent Into Space launched the model Rocinante. A short while later, the campaign team received an image of the Roci at her highest point and published it online. The iconic image, literally portraying the Rocinante in her ‘natural habitat’, was shared widely online. Once again, we had achieved our goal and pulled off another spectacular stunt, and the timing could not have been better (for our next trick, we were going to plant an Expanse flag on the moon. Luckily that didn’t end up being necessary!).
🚀 The Roci is on a full burn at the edge of space!
Thanks @dagroovologist for organising the Gofundme to #KeepTheRociFlying & @Sent_into_space for helping promote #SaveTheExpanse!@TheExpanseWR @JamesSACorey @AbrahamHanover @Casanvar @weschatham @AnnaBananaHops @narenshankar pic.twitter.com/MXo2ilqEe8
— The Expanse Lives (@TheExpanseLives) May 24, 2018
In the final part of our retrospective, we talk about the night of the historic moment of the renewal, where our team joined the cast & crew of The Expanse in support of the movement.
Go to Part 5
Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5