What would happen if during the Space Race, at the height of the Cold War, the US decided to send a massive space exploration that would take a hundred years to reach the next star system to colonize and continue not only humanity but the American way? But what would happen if 51 years in there was a murder on the ship?
From that question somebody took a great concept and decided to bludgeon it to death with bad writing, poor pacing, and atrocious acting. Welcome to Ascension, the space flight mission designed to last 100 years until they reach their destination meaning that a multi-generational crew would be necessitated with a complex social structure to maintain the longevity required.
SPOILERS though, the ship known as Ascension never made it out of the stratosphere, instead cemented miles under the ground in a government facility. The flight was not an exploration, but an experiment to see the said effects on long-term multi-generational space flight. Every action of the crew monitored and studied by scientist on just the other side of the hull.
You would think for a mini series that is six episodes, averaging around 40 minutes each, that this could be a slow burn that might be made into mid-series twist. That is where you would be wrong.
We are with the crew for maybe a few minutes before we are sent to the perspective of Earth where we follow a guy whose dad it turns out developed the Ascension program. An academic who is interested in his dad’s work visits the dad who is now close to his death, delusional and pumped with medication.
Will we ever see the academic again? Nope.
Will we ever see the dad again and use him for the typical trope of a man on the verge of death hinting at secrets through his ramblings? Nope.
From this interaction though it turns out this guy actually took over his father’s program and it was actually successfully launched and covered up. The catch is that it was never “launched” in the sense of leaving space but rather a sociological experiment on the impact of deep space multi-generational flight like I mentioned earlier.
This should be the twist right? A lot of other media has played this twist of setting up a world with strict rules only to realize this world is bigger than expected. One the most prominent and closest to this probably being M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.
But Ascension cannot contain itself and ruins the surprise almost immediately. Even if the show did a slow burn poorly, it would have been miles better than just giving up the goods immediately.
This presents the major problem I have with the series, there are now two story lines that do not matter because both are taking up too much time and not doing anything. The show acts like it is withholding information while spoon feeding the same information to you as well.
Obviously director no tie guy is bad and despite him touting the fact that he does not know how the escalating malfunctions are happening on the ship, it is clear he is doing it. Yet, we need this investigative character that comes in to assess the way Ascension is being run to report back up the chain of command in the government. At the same time though she is also tasked with solving the murder from the outside(?). How does that make sense.
Her arch ends with her biting a few bullets because she was trying to help one of the people on board the ship escape, but a conspiracy theorist lady she met to help was actually a government agent. Why not use the academic character from episode 1? Would that not be a better twist?
I do not remember a single character name throughout this whole series and I just watched it all less than 24 hours ago. That is how unmemorable the entire group of characters are, none of them having any deep emotions.
This show has a great concept, in fact I was super interested the first few minutes. Inside the ship the scenes take on a glossy shiny look, like a clean bright future straight out of Star Trek. But obviously there are weird signs everywhere; fashion is out of date, social interactions seem old fashioned at best, and the politics is very authoritarian. Most of this is looking into more deeply than anybody making the show did.
Although this was a Syfy show, there could have been decent concepts explored here. You put a bunch of people in a tin can for 50 years with pre-1964 ideas about everything. How would that develop, how would some things stay the same?
The closest we ever really get to that is the idea of a lower class vs upper class that is almost untouched. We meet some lower deck crew but never really see them or the world they inhabit. Class warfare or the possibility of Communist is not even touched. Imagine the idea that a mini Cold War developed inside of the ship itself, that some Soviet spies had infiltrated the project and were planning to overthrow it.
Instead we wrestle with a boogie man that is not there. A group that scrawls “No Future” on the wall for some vague existential event that every crew member goes through. We could’ve explored the classic moral and philosophical dilemmas of the haves vs the have nots in the style of Snowpiercer, but we just get a two dudes being dudes saying we gotta tighten up security every time a bad thing happens.
I would write more, but this show just rustles my jimmies me the more I write or read about it. It got cancelled so it never got more than its six show shot. The final twist that is withheld until episode 4 is that this whole thing was to develop a “star child” some kind of metahuman that can do every super power imaginable just because a few people had children when they thought they were in space(?). This happens and the final thing is that one of the main characters is actually transported to an alien world because of her powers…. Ok I guess….
I wanted to like this show, but I don’t. If you don’t have anything to watch and like bad shows then here is a few hours to go watch that…. I guess….