If you have Amazon Prime, you’re in for a treat!

David Straithairn energizes and delights in Abaddon’s Gate, the recently released Season 3 of Amazon Prime’s Sci-Fi series The Expanse.

Straithairn plays Klaes Ashford, a mathematician, spaceship commander, former pirate, and second-in-command of the converted Mormon Eternity Ship Nauvoo,, now the Belter warship Behemoth. Straithairn first appears in Delta-V, Episode 7, Season 3 of The Expanse .

If you’re perplexed by the above paragraph, welcome to some of the best sci-fi writing of the new millennium! The Expanse is based on the eight-volume sci-fi book series The Expanse by “James Corey,” a pen name for two authors who also wrote the television series. The Expanse (Amazon link) is worth the read, especially books 1 and 2.

Season 3 of the television series wraps up Book 2. It then introduces Straithairn’s character Klaes Ashford as Book 3, Abbadon’s Gate, begins. In the book series, Klaes Ashford is introduced immediately in Abaddon’s Gate, Chapter Two: Bull)

Straithairn plays perhaps the most humorous and delightful character we’ve seen him in recently, though others would know better. It’s certainly a wild departure from his great roles as the straight-laced CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen in the 2007 The Bourne Ultimatum, and 2012’s The Bourne Legacy; the solid but deliberately understated Secretary of State William Henry Seward in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012); and his Academy Award nomination as Edward R. Morrow in Good Night and Good Luck.

Strathairn plays Klaes Ashford with spiked hair, a spry, wicked smile, the intelligence of a survivor, and a surprising tenderness that dwarfs the other actors in his scenes. He adapts a unique, indescribable Belter accent that sounds somewhere between South London and Scotland, and everywhere in between. When Straithairn appears, you start asking “Who is this guy? He’s strange! I want to know more!”

Basically, Straithairn saves a struggling series based on the weakest of the first three books of The Expanse series. Abaddon’s Gate, both the book and the Third Season, is not quite as searing as the two books and seasons before it. Straithairn’s Klaes Ashford changes all that. Straithairn comes into a wobbly plot and makes it worth watching.

When you place an Academy Award nominee into a series dominated by young actors still learning their craft, the contrasts are delightful and also obvious. Straithairn plays with an energy and a crafty uncertainty that keeps you a little off-balance, and wanting to know more.

You can’t wait for Klaes Ashford to appear in another scene.

Only two other actors in the series, (Shohreh Aghdashloo as UNN Earther Chrisjen Avasarala, and Elizabeth Mitchell as Minister Anna Volvodov) give performances that are as fresh, interesting, and believable. Straithairn definitely is the the best of the top three actors in the series: IMHO, of course. Reasonable minds can differ, but there’s no denying Dave Strathairn’s freshness and interest in an otherwise struggling third season.

I’d like to include Thomas Jane as detective Joe Miller among the show’s believable stars. But in Season 3 his character is played with just too many detective “cliches” to be believable. That may be because Miller appears in Season 3 as a “not-quite-dead” “protomolecule” who returns as a “ghost” to teach James Holden, the reputed “star” of the series, how to defeat “The Ring.” (You got all that, right?) The “stilted-ness” may be built into the “half-character” Miller, that Jane returns to play.

Obviously, we were thrilled to see Dave Straithairn in The Expanse. Dave is just captivating in this role. You can’t help but see his strength and depth as an actor, and delight in his Falstafian performance.

Did I like The Espanse? Yes. Should you watch the series and read the books? Yes. Should you seek out Dave Straithairn’s performances in Season 3? Yes!

My recommendation – but a mild recommendation only: Don’t just start with David’s appearance in Season 3. Seasons 1 and 2 are worth their weight because of the interesting plots. You may better appreciate Straithairn’s energizing Season 3 after you’ve seen the great stories and OK, not-quite monotonous acting in Seasons 1 and 2.