Category: 3 Body Problem

Mar 25, 2024

TV Thoughts – 3 Body Problem

It’s been about 2 years since I read The Three-Body Problem and its sequel The Dark Forest, which are the first two novels of the trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Liu Cixin. I started on the last novel, Death’s End, but didn’t get much past the first 70 pages or so. I loved The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest for their ideas, philosophical questions and hard science that are explored, but in a way the books were a lot harder read as far as the characters and writing style went compared to Western scifi and crime novels I’ve read. I thought the writing was, dry? maybe is the word, and I had trouble keeping track of the characters – which partly stemmed from the fact that I’m not familiar with and used to Chinese names so I had to keep checking back “is this the person who was in the first book/a bit in a chapter 20 chapters ago? or someone new?”. I mostly remembered the characters but not fully their names. Combined with the dry writing style and lots of hard science explanations, by the time I was starting the last novel, I found I couldn’t take it in anymore. I didn’t have plans to read the last novel but now that I’ve seen the tv series, its re-kindled my interest and I’m going to try again. Maybe a break was all I needed! I read the English translations.

Now, about 3 Body Problem the tv series…. I don’t know if I liked it or not! To me it lacks all that made the novels special and interesting: the philosophical questions, doing science, and because I had already read two of the books its based on, also the new ideas! I think I would have liked it a lot had I not read the books, but the series itself has made some questionable choice I’m baffled about…

– suddenly 60 years of proven and re-proven science stops working or gives out gibberish as result and our main characters’ reactions are completely off! They have a casual conversation about it in a cafe, with all the intensity and wonder belonging to something like a grocery run – which is to say none at all!
– all in all, all through the series, all the characters emotional reactions seem off to me. Always too little and too small, considering what’s happening and why. They’re scientists – shouldn’t they be driven, passionate about their work and curious? None of that came through. I don’t remember the character being “whatever” in the books!
– one character was completely superfluous to the story – a teacher who had pancreatic cancer. He was just floating there, a member of the four main characters group, doing nothing and having no effect on anything. In addition, he was annoyingly  whiny and self-pitying, so not even fun to watch. Some reviews say that he is the emotional center and anchor of the season, but that completely and totally failed to work for me.
– another character was also just there until the last episode, making sarcastic remarks and supporting the useless cancer character. I think he was written in too early, and the writers didn’t know what to do with him. Would’ve been tighter if he’d been written in only a little before he was chosen as a Wallfacer.
– where’s all the science the books are full of?! All the advances and discoveries made are presented as the end result – not a single time is the work on the concept shown. People just walk in and present a ready solution.
– so much focus on personal relationships! Where the science ?!?
– I’m disappointed that it was so westernized and many of the main plot lines took place in London/England etc. In the book, there were more Chinese and other international locations instead of the London or other staples of Western fiction.
– Happy to see Rosalind Chao! I haven’t seen her as a regular after TNG/DS9 so it was good to see her again 😀
– almost all of the BIG. MOMENT. moments of the book, were just regular moments here. I remember in the book, as an example, the moment you realize that there aren’t two suns in the game, but three suns and that that means there cannot be prediction of stable and chaos eras, and that eventually the three suns will destroy the planet and civilazation dies permanently and what a civilization might do to avoid that fate. That was a HUGE. MOMENT. in the book for me! Here, in the tv series it passed with barely a shrug.
– same thing with the countdown some scientists saw – it was a huge thing in the book; a fairly small, unimportant thing in the tv show and not at all treated with the attention it should have been.
– also, as a whole the whole series was a kind of speed run, without stopping to breathe and think about what is going on – a small handful of scenes even switched to the next scene too quickly – but at the same time, there wasn’t much to think about because the philosophical and scientific ideas and concepts from the books are missing.
– I think the game was the best done part of the show – it evoked the feeling of the novels the most, and posed actual scientific questions and showed characters trying to solve them.
– I didn’t find most of the characters that likable – some of the actors did a good job, but they are actors who always do a good job. The only character I genuinely liked was the one played by the actor who played Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones, and he died quickly. Another one I liked was the detective played by Benedict Wong who played Kublai Khan in Marco Polo.
– Auggie, one of the characters who had the most screen time, was played by a very pretty but very boring actress who seems to have only one expression and tone of voice.
– I found the 1960/70s parts the most compelling, in addition to the game portions.
– probably the biggest plus for me as far as the series go, is that it got me interested in reading the trilogy’s last novel!

So like I said, my over-all feeling is that I would have liked this tv series much better if I hadn’t read the books. Now there are just too many aspects missing which made to books work for me. That said – new scifi! I’m still going to watch season 2 if there is one!