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Syfy's 'Ascension' Lauches a Look at Future Past
December 11, 2014  | By Eric Gould  | 3 comments
 

Jackie Kennedy compared her husband's youthful, ideal reign to Camelot, in an analogy to the Broadway musical the President loved. According to Syfy’s new miniseries Ascension, Kennedy was apparently a hell of a lot more imaginative than we thought. He was so daring, we should believe, that faced with a world doomed by nuclear destruction, he covertly approved a starship powered by those same nukes to fly to a nearby star system and colonize a new world.

Preposterous? Ya think? That doesn’t stop Syfy or the crew of the ark-like Ascension halfway into its one-hundred year voyage in a three-night, six-hour miniseries of the same name this Monday night, December 15 at 9 p.m., ET.

There is a bit of reality here for us to chew on while we are trying to swallow this interstellar Mad Men. Ascension is based on the 1950s top-secret Project Orion that envisioned nuclear powered rockets – if not an interplanetary mission. Kennedy wasn't that audacious. Or was he?...

Forget that the US accomplishment in space up to that time in 1963 was the equivalent of launching a Volkswagen Beetle into orbit. No matter, Kennedy and NASA somehow managed to build a craft the size of a skyscraper, (taller than the Empire State Building, left) replete with bars and a faux beach, and put it on its way to nearby star system Proxima Centauri while keeping the whole thing super secret.

To its credit, Ascension uses your incredulity and the theme of a Kennedy-styled conspiracy theory to its advantage. In the first two-hour episode of the series, Ascension has fun with cobbling together all manner of plot tricks that somewhat gets the idea, er, off the ground.

But it's not all about the hardware. For the most part, Ascension is pretty much a murder mystery first and a space soap, second. After 50 years into its voyage, scheming ingénue Lorelei Wright (Amanda Thomson) is found murdered near the faux beach of the craft. Her secretive paramour, Stokes (Brad Carter) is a rough-around-the-edges “Below Decker” – one of the support crew socially and literally at the bottom of the craft. Stokes and company toil away on the livestock and mechanical systems that keep the privileged part of the crew (all descendants of the original crew that left Earth in the 60s) comfy and well heeled. Higher up the throwback ladder are plenty of ladies in piled-high bouffants and smart Jackie-O cocktail dresses.

An investigation ensues and it's a deep space Murder, She Wrote whodunit to nab the killer among all the Ascension suspects.

Viondra Denniger (Tricia Helfer, right, center – she was Cylon Number Six in Battlestar Galactica), is aboard as a wife of the ship’s captain and leader of a young group of swinging '60s space stewardesses. She’s the best draw here as she butters up and manipulates the men in control on the ship to do her bidding.

If you’re thinking all this sounds like the usual Syfy fare, a step above YA space-opera done in their usual tell-don’t-show style, you’re right. However, nothing here is exactly what it seems and it’s fair to say that Ascension delivers a rocking twist in the first episode, something you might not see coming. If that hits the spot, it will be enough to get you to the second episode of the miniseries.

If not, you’ll probably be happy to scoff about an engine that could contain a nuclear explosion, a starship with nothing retro-looking except for the '60s-shaped black and white TV monitors, and how this scheming band of back-stabbers is going to fare any better for mankind than the civilization they've just fled.

Oh, and how do they keep all those shirts and dresses so perfectly pressed and crisp?

Which deck is the wardrobe department on?
 
 
 
 
 
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3 Comments
 
 
Marian
I tuned out after the first 30 minutes because I was so incensed at the social implications. I tuned back in to parts 2 and 3 because everyone was talking about the "twist". I am still incensed at the 'skiffy" use of SF.
During the first episode, one character exclaims with glee that the ship left Earth before the civil rights era and before women's rights took hold. SyFy had the chance to give us those movements as they progressed in the tight atmosphere of a ship, or they could go with repressed atmosphere where women had few rights and people of color had no rights. They tried to have it both ways. There was a lead Black character who is the lead officer who came up from the lower levels. (mind you, lower levels in a spherical ship). The women are all stewardess, if they are lucky, but they are the secret powers behind the throne. Another lead character was a female pathologist with no explanation of how a woman got that job.
Dec 29, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
kevin
it's politically correct when the usa was politically incorrect...... I don't get it. of course, there was a lot of this miniseries I did not get....... probably won't watch if syfy turns it into a series.
Dec 22, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Keith
You're right about nothing being retro looking. Also, why do people who boarded the "ship"/facility in 1963 have such 2014 attitudes? I mean Gault is having an affair with a white woman and 1963 people's only objection is the cheating aspect and not the interracial aspect?
Dec 18, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
 
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