Why Trisolarans became San-Ti in Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’
(Credits: Netflix)


Why Trisolarans became San-Ti in Netflix's '3 Body Problem'

Penned by Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem was originally written in Chinese. Once the trilogy gained immense popularity, Ken Liu translated it into English in 2014. The next year, it won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the first novel by an Asian writer to do so.

In the translated versions, the aliens are called the Trisolarans—people from the planet with three suns. They originate from a planet orbiting the star system known as Alpha Centauri, approximately 4.37 light-years away from Earth. It consists of three stars: Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri. 

However, the decision to call them San Ti in the series is not really that unusual, even though it is shortened for effect. In the original books, the aliens were called the San Ti Ren, which translates to “Three-body people”.

Co-showrunners Alexander Woo, D.B. Weiss, and David Benioff shed light on this alteration in an interview with Vulture. Benioff highlighted that the term San Ti sounded more ominous than Trisolaran. “Honestly, [San-Ti] sounded better to us…Trisolaran sounded goofy. There was something nicely ominous about San-Ti.” 

Woo further explained that this choice provided a closer alignment with the source material, “The original Chinese is ‘San Ti Ren,’ so that was in some ways even closer to the original.”

Weiss also pointed out that it simply did not translate well on screen. Weiss noted that having the cast say Trisolaran “over and over again… it didn’t sound quite as good as we wanted it to.” Plus, there was the potential dubbing disaster the term Trisolaran could lead to on set because of its tongue-twisty nature.

In essence, the decision to rename the Trisolarans to San Ti in the Netflix adaptation, 3 Body Problem, was done as much for practical purposes as aesthetic ones.

You can stream 3 Body Problem on Netflix and catch the trailer here: