Here’s Why Peacock's Rival 3 Body Problem Is More Accurate Than Netflix’s

Here’s why there are two versions of The Three-Body Problem on TV.

Originally Published: 
A behind-the-scenes shot of Jess Hong as Jin Cheng in episode 101 of 3 Body Problem.
Ed Miller/Netflix © 2024

The epic story of alien first contact, slow invasion, and virtual reality is coming to TV as an epic streaming series. Yes, Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem has been turned into a compact Netflix series, created by Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with Alexander Woo. On Netflix, the first season of the 3 Body Problem series will consist of eight episodes. But, over on Peacock, you can watch a show called Three-Body which has a staggering 30 episodes.

Confused? Here’s what’s going on: The Peacock Three-Body and the Netflix 3 Body Problem are completely different shows, though both adapt Liu’s groundbreaking novel. Other than the length, Peacock’s version is different for two crucial reasons: It was made in China, and the characters and plot are much more faithful to the novel. Mild book spoilers for The Three-Body Problem ahead.

What is The Three-Body Problem?

Zine Tseng as Ye Wenjie in the Netflix version; 3 Body Problem.


The Three-Body Problem is a science fiction novel, written by Cixin Liu and published in China in 2008. It was translated into English and published in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2014. It is the first of a trilogy that tells a multi-generational story about first contact with aliens called the Trisolorans, who live on a planet that is orbited by three stars. The first novel gradually reveals how the Trisolorans became aware of Earth, who their human collaborators are, and how the impending alien invasion changes the world.

The two sequels, The Dark Forest and Death’s End move forward into the future, depicting in great detail how all of this shakes out over several centuries. But, of the three books in the trilogy, The Three-Body Problem is the most grounded, using aspects of real Chinese history and contemporary life to unfold a compelling, global, mystery.

Why are there two 3 Body shows?

Jin Chen as Ye Wenjie in Three-Body, the 2023 Chinese TV series.


In 2023 Tencent Video released a Chinese adaptation of The Three-Body Problem called Three-Body. This epic series consists of 30 episodes, and, for the most part, faithfully adapts the events of the first novel with only minor changes. This means that almost all the Chinese characters from the book can be found in Three-Body, with the various plot points reproduced in a way that is very similar to actual passages from the book.

The Netflix version — styled as 3 Body Problem — won’t be released until March 21. Unlike the Chinese version, there are several character alterations to the Netflix version, including the creation of several new characters: scientists named Auggie Salazar (Eiza González), Jack Rooney (John Bradley), Jin Cheng (Jess Hong). They’ll be appearing alongside book character Da Shi (Benedict Wong) and arguably, the book’s main character, Ye Wenjie, played by both Zine Tseng and science fiction legend, Rosalind Chao.

Eiza González, Jess Hong, Saamer Usmani, Jovan Adepo, and Alex Sharp in 3 Body Problem. None of their characters can be found in the novel.


In the Chinese Three-Body, the character of Ye Wenjie is also played by two actresses: Jin Chen and Ziwen Wang. In both cases, this is because the book chronicles the life of Ye Wenjie as a young woman in the 1960s and 1970s, and also, an older woman in the relative present. In this sense, both TV versions have a similar approach to the all-important arc of Ye Wenjie. The Chinese version, which just hit Peacock on February 10, 2024, is certainly closer to the text of Cixin Liu.

But is it better? When 3 Body Problem hits Netflix in March, hardcore fans of the book will certainly be tempted to compare both adaptations. One thing is for sure, because of the vastly different casts and starkly different lengths, each show may feel like it has different source material. Which one we’ll rehydrate and hold up as the ideal adaptation remains to be seen, and true to the epic scope of the novels, it may be decades before we really have an honest answer.

Three-Body is currently streaming on Peacock. 3 Body Problem hits Netflix on March 21.

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