Ascension – Part 1

Ascension is a much hyped up Canadian/American television miniseries on Syfy that debuted on 15th of December. It is an original science fiction mystery drama that takes place in an alternate present aboard a generation ship, and will consist of six one-hour episodes. The show is created by Philip Levens and Adrian A. Cruz. The pilot was written, and executive produced by showerunner Philip Levens. Among the show’s large ensemble cast are Bryan van Holt, Tricia Helfer, Brandon P. Bell, Andrea Roth, Ryan Robbins, Gil Bellows, Tiffany Lonsdale, Jacqueline Byers & P.J. Boudousqué.

The show sets up an alternate version of reality in which, in 1963, President Kennedy and the U.S. government, fearing the Cold War will become hot and lead to the destruction of the Earth, decided to launch a covert space mission. They sent 350 voluntary men, women and children into space on a century-long voyage aboard the USS Ascension, a massive, self-sustaining, nuclear-powered, skyscraper-sized, “generation starship”. Their mission is to colonize Proxima Centauri, assuring the survival of the human race. The first episode is set 51 years after the launch, so in 2014, and the focus is the murder of a young beautiful woman named Lorelei- the first ever on board Ascension. The body, found by Lorelei’ younger sister Christa who goes into shock, turns up on the ship’s “beach” and Executive Officer Aaron Gault is asked by Captain Denninger to investigate. He questions Stokes a man working in the lower decks and who gave her the bottle of rare Bordeaux that she was drinking just before she was killed. Gault’s girlfriend Emily is Lorelei’s sister and is also married to the Security Officer Duke Vanderhaus. Emily tells Gault that Lorelei was dating James Toback, who worked on the lower decks.

Chief Science Officer Bryce is treating Christa while Nora, her daughter and part-time nurse, also has a crush on Toback. Knowing that he lacks the experience in solving murders Gault visits his sister Ophelia (Rachael Crawford), the ship’s librarian, who says that there aren’t books about solving murders, but there are some great film noirs with detectives in them. She also mentions that Lorelei checked out a video card from Year 31 but only returned its case. Year 31 was also when a massive fire killed a lot of people and which left some people like Gault and especially Ophelia, with scars. Dr. Burns reveals that, at around puberty, which Ophelia was experiencing, everyone must realize their limited future, pre-destined by the ship itself. As Gault searches the lower decks, he finds a book of Rilke poetry that someone has been using as a notebook to stage an insurrection. Toback and Nora go skinny dipping at the beach to find Lorelei’s video card. However, a radiation storm approaches, forcing most everyone to protect themselves. Someone steals Dr. Burns’ seahorse necklace from her bedroom, as Christa watches. When the storm passes, Stokes’ headquarters is raided and the gun is found.

As this is happening we see that on earth Harris Enzmann visits his father, who has suffered a stroke. While at the hospital, Harris learns of a visitor, an academic who asks about the Ascension project, seemingly knowing too much already. Harris, who says he works for the government investigating contracts, states that the program doesn’t exist. Later on however, we find out that Harris not only knows about the program but took over overseeing the project from his father and addresses concerns that the director (of the CIA? played by Wendy Crewson) has. On Ascension Stokes is taken to the brig. Christa gives Gault a compass that Lorelei had kept from “her boyfriend”. After the funeral for Lorelei, Stokes’ cell door is mysteriously opened, and he escapes to retrieve a gun and take Nora hostage. As Gault confronts Denninger with the compass, he is shocked to learn that Denninger had an affair with Lorelei. Stokes enters, a fight ensues, and he tries to shoot Gault, but the gun has no bullets. He gets sucked out the airlock, only to land on a pad and is drugged and taken away by some men. Apparently is actually kept in a large building, a simulation of space surrounding it to make it look like – to the people inside it – that they are traveling in space and are being watched & monitored by a secret organization with only a small group of people knowing the truth!

Good twist at the end which intrigued me. The production is beautiful & stunning in places and the look & feel of the sets, costumes & technology looks like the people pf Ascension are stuck in an alternate universe post 1963, slightly advanced but lacking the major changes that the rest of humanity has gone through. There is also mention of the “crisis” which is a kind of depression that young people go through when they struggle to accept the fact that their life was predetermined for them before they were gone and they won’t live to reach their destination. Also there is the segregation of the lower decks where the poor live & work while the richer folks live in the top sections. Most of the people in Ascension seem to be white with just a couple of people of colour seen. Good beginning although the cast seems to be the weaker link.

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