***WARNING*** SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD
The new mini -series that premiered on Monday night at 9pm is yet another step showing that Syfy is still trying to get its SciFi on again. Ascension’s premise is that in during the Cold War at the height of the space race, it’s decided to take humanity’s best and brightest among 600 people and send them into space via the Project Orion initiative proposed under President Kennedy. The mission is to send these 600 people to Proxima Centauri to repopulate and ensure humanity’s survival.
As always, there is more than meets the eye. The show opens up 50 years into the journey with the death of Lorelei (played by Amanda Thomson) a prominent traveler, which initially looks accidental but is later ruled a murder. The question of course is who and why. From there, we start learning about life on this ship as Captain Denninger (Brian Van Holt) does everything he can to keep the murder quiet. He feels that if the rest of the ship knows that someone is killing people, it will cause a panic as USS Ascension has approached the point of no return back to Earth. In charge of the investigation is XO Gault (Brandon P Bell) who has risen above his station as a respected 2nd in command and is warned by his mother about mixing in with those above him. Then of course, there is Viondra Denninger (Tricia Helfer), wife of the captain. She is the Chief Steward who has daughters in strategic marriages to ensure that she and her family stay in positions of power. Of course she is also sleeping around behind her husband’s back. Just in case you needed a scorecard to find out how people are related and who they are sleeping with, Syfy, did provide a handy online scorecard to keep track of the characters.
As hinted to moments ago, there are classes on Ascension. There is a divide between those born on the lower decks (blue class workers) and upper decks (white collar workers). As the show continues on, we find out that somehow everyone has a vested interest in this divide and how it affected Lorelai’s death.
The biggest part of this series is not so much the murder, or the schism among the 600 aboard the ship. It’s also what’s happening back home as people are popping up with clues behind the truth of Ascension and those that know such as Harris Enzmann (Gil Bellows) are trying to keep its secrets hidden.
Part of what bothered me about the show is some of the clues are in plain sight such as, ‘pay attention to the little “psychic girl” Crista (Ellie O’Brien), she knows something is not right.’ Check. And ‘pay attention to the mutineers, they know something isn’t right.’ Check. Not to mention, you mean to tell me that in 50 years, if we are hearing this right, there has been no other serious crime beyond drunken bar brawls? Also, there is the dialogue. Ascension feels like it’s trying too hard to push the sci-fi envelope into BSG territory. It’s not cheesy but it does try too hard for tension without ever really letting it develop naturally.
While the first ½ was slow and the 2nd ½ picks up with some pretty tense moments, it’s the last 5 minutes of the show that may or may not keep audiences coming back for the next episodes. In the last five minutes, we are treated to a twist that has been shouted at you since Crista’s introduction. It’s that moment that will make you decide if you will stick around, provided that you haven’t been distracted by all of the butts and politics beforehand.
From what I have heard, if this mini-series is successful, we may actually see a regular series. From what I have seen so far, I honestly don’t know if I have that kind of commitment to another weekly show. Ascension so far feels like the kind of show that SyFy should take hints from how some UK shows are presented and make them in small manageable portions. This would let people enjoy them in shorter time spans as opposed to trying to force audiences on a steady weekly diet. I am also wondering that now since we know the twist, can the other 2 episodes hold up as well or have we all seen what is needed to be seen? Ascension in all of its hokey loftiness means well but it has 2 more nights for audiences to decide if we want to finish the journey with them.
2.75 out of 5 stars