Warning - this review will contains spoilers for the Ascension mini-series.
I'm presently enjoying The Expanse and Killjoys series on the Syfy channel, which is the first sign of the old (note the spelling) Sci-Fi channel quality coming back for me. I'm not done with either season, though, so I thought I would take time to discuss one of the failed efforts of the network. Specifically, the Ascension mini-series.
The premise is interesting but has the problem of trying to tackle too much in too many different directions. Basically, John F. Kennedy created a space program which sent a generation ship up which contained the best and brightest of America. This ship won't reach its destination before all but the grandchildren of the original explorers are dead.
|The Ascension is a cool ship. Too bad it's a prop.|
It could be a really engrossing storyline if they explored a alternate timeline where the US of A achieved the kind of technological progress necessary to send an Orion-drive starship into space without making much social progress. Would it be worth it if America sacrificed so many of its improvements in certain areas if it meant we could reach the stars? Would it not be worse to leave our planet and carry things we have moved beyond in our current timeline? These are the kind of questions that series could have answered.
Except, none of those questions are relevant because it's all a big hoax on the Ascension's crew.
|The show frequently used fanservice in hopes of attracting viewers. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.|
I can't help but think the miniseries would have been picked up if they'd decided to stick with just the generation ship angle and not overload the audience with subplots. Shocking as it may seem, even with all the above plot twists, I still haven't covered everything. There's also a psychic breeding program, kidnapping scientists as well as children to work together on the ship, and a conspiracy to shut down the program which will result in everyone being killed.
That is a lot of stuff to digest.
|A large portion of the plots took place on an artificial beach by a pool. I kid you not.|
It is a conflict with absolutely no stakes whatsoever because Denniger is a cheating slimeball only slightly better than Councilman Rose. The fact it doesn't matter who leads because it's all a movie-set only underscores the problems with the Ascension's "secret." What's sad is this is actually more entertaining than most of the other soap opera plots like who is having an affair with who.
The best plots deal with things like what it's like to have your marriage predetermined to maximize genetic diversity, how to deal with the fact there's no freedom in a society where everyone has to pull their weight, and the class divisions which emerged on a ship which actually needs everyone because human beings are innately averse to equality. Prostitution is a glamorized profession on the ship because, bluntly, everyone needs sex to stave off boredom and Viondra controls it. The conflict between the upper and lower decks is one the former ignore while the latter seethe could have gone in multiple directions.
|The X-Files part could have been its own program.|
I suspect I wouldn't have liked the show nearly as much as I did if not for the fact the actors are taking the material extremely seriously. Tricia Helfer, in particular, tries to carry the show by herself through sheer will and it's a shame she wasn't the star. I think she could have made a formidable captain, Lady MacBeth, or whatever she wanted to be. Even characters which might have been stock were endearing like the lovable teenagers in a forbidden romance.
|I really liked the sets. The reality-meets-Sixties science-fiction vision of the future was cool.|