Ascension Night One Review

Ascension - Season 1

I have mixed feelings about last night’s premiere of Ascension, a three night event on Syfy. If you haven’t watched it, stop reading right now because we’re going to dive into the big twist at the end of the episode. Up until the last five minutes of the episode, the audience is led to believe that in the 1960s, the United States sent a ship into space, carrying a group of people who could colonize a new home. This sets up the stuff of science fiction fan dreams. It’s been a long time since we had a legit space-themed show. There certainly hasn’t been anything as good as Battlestar Galactica. Then you get to the end of the episode and find out that the show is something else entirely.

While the inhabitants of Ascension think that they are floating through space, it’s all a sham. The Ascension is safely docked on earth. This created a dilemma for me. Now that we know the ship is not in space, I can’t watch the ship segments and buy into it as a space drama. This is a double-edged sword. The twist is clever, if not a little far-fetched, and certainly had me jumping off the couch in surprise. But I am disappointed because I really wanted a story set in space. Now, anything that happens on the ship, like the radiation storm, isn’t going to have any dramatic impact because you know it’s all engineered.

The loss of the adventure aspect of the story shifts the focus to the murder mystery on the ship. I’m guessing that someone outside the ship had a hand in Lorelei’s murder, probably because she figured out that there was some sort of conspiracy. Maybe she even figured out that the ship actually isn’t floating in space. The story is interesting and had a Twin Peaks feel with the body at the beach. It’s definitely enough to keep me hooked until the end of the miniseries. What concerns me is that I really wanted the show to extend past the miniseries format. With the plot twist and likelihood that the end of the miniseries will solve the murder, where can the show go?

Setting that aside, there was a lot that worked in the show. The fashion and 60s eras details were well done and didn’t feel forced. Sometimes with a period show the audience can be hit over the head with historical references, and this show did a good job of not doing too much of that. Tricia Helfer is fantastic as the captain’s wife, Viondra Denniger. It’s hard to pin down whose side she’s on—is she playing her husband or Councilman Rose? It was surprising to learn that she’s actually a Madame for the young women working for her as “stewardesses.” I enjoyed Andrea Roth as Dr. Bryce and Brian Van Holt as Captain Denniger. I was less impressed with the character Christa Vallis. Again, I don’t want to harsh on a kid, but the performance did not work for me, which is a bummer because it’s a critical role. She seems to be the only one who senses that things are not what they appear to be. If the show continues past the miniseries, I think they may want to recast this character.

Some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, but I have hopes that it will improve. Basically, there is enough here to keep me interested and wanting to know what happens next. I kind of hope the miniseries ends with Ascension actually being shot into space.