Ascension: Season 1

| October 16, 2015

Someone should tell whoever’s in charge of these things that a show that is cancelled is not retroactively a “mini-series.”  I went into Ascension thinking the three episodes were going to be the entire story and was slightly disappointed to see the third episode end in a cliffhanger.  Not a huge problem, I thought.  I was interested in the series, the characters, the twists and turns, and said cliffhanger, so I figured I’d just try to catch season 2 when it airs and continue the adventures of the Starship Ascension then.  However, a quick Google search will reveal that the show was cancelled and now my questions concerning the end of the series will never ever be answered.  That hurts.

The premise of the series is really interesting.  Basically, in the 1960s, the United States launched a star ship to escape our solar system and find a new, useable planet in the distant cosmos.  Without the capability for faster than light travel, the plan was for the crew to procreate over time and their descendents will then become the settlers of this new world.  The twist is that the whole mission is a fake, and the ship never left Earth.  The people inside are being monitored as an experiment to see how humans might do if we ever did attempt a 100 year trip into outer space to find a new inhabitable planet.  The people on board have no idea, they believe their saving humanity and their lives are important, and it all creates a really interesting dynamic for the audience that I was very invested in.

Within that premise, the series deals with a lot of drama, from murder mysteries, to supernatural elements, to 1960s stylization, to love and sex.  The characters are interesting and well-rounded, the science fiction works well, and the series stands as a chilling metaphor for the idea that life (in the grand scheme of things) doesn’t matter much.

A lot of the cast are at their peak here.  Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) shines as Ascension’s Captain’s (Brain Van Holt; Cougar Town) wife.  She’s basically the Lady Macbeth of the series, always playing puppet master and running an elite team of “stewardesses” to manipulate the male crew members and retrieve valuable information.  It’s made all the more interesting that their lives serve no actual purpose.  The dramatic irony is off the charts.

Gil Bellows (The Shawshank Redemption) is also terrific here, playing the son of the man who first “launched” Ascension and started the experiment.  Having grown up obsessed with the people on the ship and being almost addicted to watching their every move, Bellows’ character has a lot going on.  The most interesting thing to me is that he’s in love with one of the crew members, a woman he’s never met in person, but that has affected his personal life at least in his choice of wife, who looks a lot like the woman.  There are a lot of little intricate attentions to detail throughout the series that I really appreciated and thought it made the whole series something special.

Unfortunately, Ascension will not be returning for season 2, so I don’t know if you’ll want to skip it all together, but I do think it’s a fun watch and worthy of checking out despite the collection of questions that I’ll never get an answer to.

Available now from Lionsgate.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: TV on DVD

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