Tencent is now unlocking a new episode of The Three-Body Problem free to stream on YouTube on the same day that episode airs on broadcast television in China, so we're back to reviewing those new episodes on their day of free release so that you can watch it before or after you read our review. We recommend you watch it first, then come back.
So episode seven of The Three-Body Problem jumps right to the present after ending the last episode with a flashback to a watered-down version of Science Grandma's experiences in the Cultural Revolution. There's no mention of that part of history at all in this episode. We're back to Wang Miao (Edward Zhang) talking to Frontiers of Science spokesperson Shen Yu Fei (Li Xiao Ran) about what they're really about. He's no longer scared or intimidated by the countdown numbers still flashing before his eyes. He doesn't know – though it should be as obvious to him as it has been to us – that the Frontiers of Science wants him to stop his work developing the nanoblade. What he does know is they want him to officially join them. Shen points him to an online VR game that the members have been playing. It's the 21st Century, and this is China; everybody plays online video games. Cue a hilarious scene where Shi Qiang (Yu He Wei) puts an expense claim to General Chang to buy two expensive VR goggles and haptic rigs so he and Wang can play the game to continue their investigation.
The Three-Body Problem Really is About The Three-Body Problem
Now it's coming out: the show is called The Three-Body Problem because it literally is about "The Three-Body Problem," a Physics problem originated by Isaac Newton about the gravitational pull of three celestial bodies in space that is close enough to affect each other. The Three-Body Problem VR game is exactly about the Three-Body Problem – it's an online role-playing game where players are the inhabitants of a world afflicted by three suns. The unpredictable orbits of the sun cause extreme shifts in climate that make life barely sustainable as stable eras that support life and civilization give way to chaotic eras of extreme cold or heat. The inhabitants of the world can only survive by drying their bodies through intense and instant dehydration to become sheets of skin to hibernate until the next stable era starts again. Shi Qiang is tricked by some players into dehydrating himself prematurely and getting a "game over," locking him out of the game. It's like veteran players trolling a newbie. Wang Miao is left wandering the planet with a player who takes after one of China's ancient kings, heading for the game's main kingdom and civilization. Just how are you supposed to play the game, and what is it for? And why are so many members of the Frontiers of Science playing it? The game is the key to the mystery.
Now, this is why you know this is fiction: the VR here is so much better than any VR in real life, including whatever junk Meta has been trying to push on us. Oh wait, they're not anymore because nobody's buying them? Who would have thought? Thank God that's over, and we can just go back to playing proper video games. Anyway, back to the show.
Differences from The Three-Body Problem Book
The Three-Body VR game was introduced a lot sooner in Liu Cixin's book, where Wang Miao starts playing it even before he starts getting the countdown numbers in his eyes. The makers of the show probably didn't want the game to overwhelm all the things that were already going on that the viewers needed to know before they brought in the game. The VR game scenes look like the expensive Playstation 5 cutscenes, which is probably the point. They had to motion-capture the actors and then have a CGI FX team create the world of the Three-Body from scratch. Not much actually happens in this episode. Once again, it's mostly setting up what's going to happen next, not ending but stopping just as something is about to happen. This contrasts with Episode Eight where a whole lot of things finally happen.
You can watch this episode of The Three-Body Problem on the YouTube Channel.