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What Is Netflix’s 3 Body Problem Based On?

What Is Netflix's 3 Body Problem Based On?


  • 3 Body Problem, a sci-fi drama on Netflix, explores Earth’s past, present, and future in the face of an alien invasion threat.
  • Adapted from Liu Cixin’s novel trilogy, the show delves into humanity’s response to first contact with Trisolarans in space.
  • Show creators plan to follow the trilogy in potential future seasons, staying faithful to Cixin’s award-winning sci-fi saga.

Released on Netflix on March 21, 2024, 3 Body Problem is a popular sci-fi TV drama that instantly shot to the top of the most-watched charts. Created by Games of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the ambitious eight-part sci-fi series is viewed through the lens of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s as humans make first contact with a distant alien civilization located among a rare stellar system of three orbital stars.

With the threat of an alien invasion looming, the series chronicles Earth’s past, present, and future as citizens around the globe prepare for a takeover. Some citizens plan to assist the endangered alien race while others prepare to resist the invasion, creating a dramatic narrative for hardcore science fiction fans to enjoy. However, as the second TV adaptation of 3 Body Problem behind the 2023 Chinese version, it’s easy to be confused about the story’s origin. To help clarify, it’s time to analyze the literary source material behind Netflix’s 3 Body Problem.

3 Body Problem

3 Body Problem

Release Date
March 21, 2024

Saamer Usmani with Shailene Woodley , Marlo Kelly , Jess Hong , Jovan Adepo , Rosalind Chao

Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Liu Cixin

3 Body Problem is a popular Netflix sci-fi show adapted from the first novel in Liu Cixin’s science fiction trilogy, Remembrance of Earth’s Past. The story takes place during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. When astrophysicist Ye Wenjie is forced to work for the oppressive Red Guard to damage satellites using radio waves, she learns that the real plan is to make first contact with an alien civilization called the Trisolarans. As contact is made and an alien invasion soon threatens the human population, the series charts the past, present, and future consequences of Earth.

According to Cixin, he was inspired to write the story after witnessing the launch of China’s first satellite, Dong Fang Hong 1, in 1970. Mystified by the expanse of outer space and the limitless possibilities above, Cixin began reading science fiction novels a few years later and was inspired by such works as Silent Spring and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Cixin’s original story was first serialized in the popular Chinese publication Science Fiction World in 2006. The novel was first published in Chinese in 2008, with the trilogy also referred to as The Three-Body Problem or Three-Body. In 2014, the first book in the trilogy was published in English for the first time and won a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. The Three-BodyProblem is followed by The Dark Forest and Death’s End in the trilogy, although Season 1 of the Netflix alien invasion adaptation primarily encompasses the first novel only. Elements from the second and third novels are explored, but are being saved for later seasons should the series be renewed.

What Does The 3 Body Problem Mean?

The title, 3 Body Problem, refers to a physical process found in orbital mechanics. Exemplified best by the relationship between the Earth, Moon, and Sun, the Three Body Problem involves calculating the trajectories and velocities of three identical masses orbiting around one center object. While the concept can be confusing, it’s important to note that the title wasn’t conjured out of thin air, but based on a real astrophysical dilemma that has puzzled scientists for generations.


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In the Netflix adaptation, the 3 Body Problem becomes an existential threat that must be solved and confronted by a group of international scientists led by Ye Wenjie. A race of aliens known as Trisolarans (three sun-like stars) inhabit part of the solar system marked by the 3 Body Problem. However, it’s worth noting that several characters in the novel have been slightly changed in the TV series to give the drama a more international flare.

For example, Jin Cheng (Jess Hong) is based on the character Cheng Xin, Saul Durand (Jovan Adepo) is based on Luo Ji, Augustina “Auggie” Salazar (Eiza Gonzalez) is based on Wang Mao, and Will Downing (Alex Sharp) is based on Yun Tiaming. While the original Chinese characters in the novel have been given international adjustments in the TV show, the casting aligns with Cixin’s belief that humanity must be treated as one unified whole to succeed in the future (via Finance People).

Will 3 Body Problem Be Renewed for Season 2?

Although Netflix has yet to renew Season 2 of 3 Body Problem, showrunners David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo have already begun writing scripts for a second season and beyond. According to Collider, the plan is to continue following Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past novel trilogy through Season 4 of the sci-fi book-to-TV adaptation. If Netflix supports the plan, Season 2 will closely follow the second novel, The Dark Forest, and Seasons 3 and 4 will primarily focus on the third novel, Earth’s End.


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According to Woo in the interview:

“For Season 2, we’ve got better than a rough idea. We’re much farther along with that plan than rough idea stages. From there on out it becomes, you know, the farther away things get the hazier your view of them is. But there, in the third book, there’s so many amazing landmarks, in terms of scenes and situations and events that we can see pretty clearly, that we know, we’re not completely sure how our characters are gonna get to that place, but we know they gotta get to that place. Because that place and that place and that place are the reason we pick these books up and wanted to adapt them in the first place.”

Benioff went on to tease the final page of Cixin’s book trilogy as a necessary end-point to finish the story, telling Collider, “The last page of Cixin Liu’s epic was maybe the best final image we’d encountered in a sci-fi saga like this. It’s just incredibly moving and mind-blowing.”

Whether Benioff’s glowing endorsement will lead to an increase in viewership and subsequent series renewal by Netflix is yet to be seen. Regardless, it’s clear that the creators of 3 Body Problem plan on honoring Liu Cixin’s award-winning sci-fi trilogy as faithfully as possible from beginning to end. Stream on Netflix.

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