The Three-Body Problem: what you need to know about Netflix’s new sci-fi series

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It seems Game Of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have traded white walkers for… well, for aliens. 

Let’s face facts: The Three-Body Problem is the sort of book series that positively demands to be adapted for film or TV. Indeed, Liu Cixin’s sci-fi trilogy has a bevy of awards to its name, not to mention some pretty famous fans: think Barack Obama and George R. R. Martin, to name just two.

It makes sense, then, that Netflix has decided to give the people what they want in the form of a series adaptation. And they’ve hired David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (aka the creators of HBO’s Game of Thrones) to spearhead the project, too.

“Liu Cixin’s trilogy is the most ambitious science-fiction series we’ve read, taking readers on a journey from the 1960s until the end of time, from life on our pale blue dot to the distant fringes of the universe,” said Benioff and Weiss in an official statement.

“We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world.”

The Three Body Problem at Netflix
The Three-Body Problem is being adapted into a new Netflix series.

So, what’s the plot of The Three-Body Problem?

As per Variety, the new Netflix series will cover all three books in the trilogy: The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End.

The plot is relatively complex, making it tricky to boil down into a brief synopsis. However, it’s worth knowing that it is set in an alternate history in which Earth is anticipating an invasion from the nearest solar system, which consists of three sun-like stars orbiting one another in an unstable “three-body problem” (hence the title).

Split across several timelines, and with many characters to keep on top of, it’s astrophysicist Ye Wenjie who soon proves herself to be a key player in The Three-Body Problem’s plot.

Why? Well, because she’s been left so disillusioned by China’s Cultural Revolution that she tries to make the first contact with aliens so that she can actively encourage them to invade her planet. Go figure.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss attend 2020 Netflix SAG After Party at Sunset Tower on January 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Netflix)
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss attend 2020 Netflix SAG After Party in January 2020.

What are people saying about The Three-Body Problem?

While some fans of The Three-Body Problem have expressed doubt over how faithful an English-language adaptation will be to the original text, it’s worth noting that Cixin will be working with Benioff and Weiss throughout the series.

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting The Three-Body Problem for television audiences,” said Liu Cixin in the Netflix statement.

“I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole.”

Peter Friedlander, Netflix’s vice president of original drama series, added: “Although it may seem like a familiar premise – the story of humanity’s first contact with an alien civilisation – Chinese author Liu Cixin’s ability to interweave science with fiction made his vision of the future and extra-terrestrial contact feel more realistic than any other science fiction I’ve read.

“At the same time, I was also drawn in by the story of all of humanity vulnerable to the same external threat and how this both unifies and divides humans. Since my earliest days at Netflix working on series like Black Mirror and Sense8, I’ve sought out stories and POVs that are singular. 

“This story felt singular, special – and eminently relatable.”

Production has yet to begin on The Three-Body Problem: indeed, all of the major roles have yet to be cast. 

With that in mind, then, it’s unlikely we will see the series on our screens before late 2021 at the very earliest. But hey, at least we have some good telly to look forward to, eh?

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Images: Getty/Netflix

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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