Our last look at Science Fiction (for now): Ascension—the miniseries. Once again Netflix comes through with programming that we here at JPFmovies would not normally watch. Netflix’s algorithm that provides the viewer with entertainment ideas suggested Ascension so we took a look and were not disappointed. There’s a lot of Battlestar Galactica (2003) in Ascension, beyond the simple fact that they’re both high-production SyFy miniseries set on giant spaceships. And anyone who’s familiar with JPFmovies position on BSG knows this is a good thing. Like BSG, Ascension has a population that is confined to a life in transit—living in a transient space ship as they travel to their destination of a new world. And like in BSG not only is there the gritty reality of living in a world of very limited resources with danger lurking around every corner (in BSG it’s the threat of Clyons and in Ascension it is the rigors of deep space travel). The viewer is also treated to the familiar face of Tricia Helfer, who played the seductive Cylon No. 6 in BSG, here she plays the head “stewardess” showing us her long back every chance she can.
The show starts with the space ship 51 years into its 100-year journey to “Proxima.” Launched in the early 1960’s right out of the “Father Knows Best” period in American social history, the 600-odd people living on the ship missed such society changing events as “the summer of love,” “civil rights” and “The Clash.” Making the population “pure” so to speak and ripe for study. Things get a little more complicated (as any good series would) when we find out that the inter-generational space ship was not actually launched but instead is a huge black-ops structure-experiment simulating a deep space journey. The Ascension program is credited with such scientific advances as “complex polymers” “MRI’s” and some forms of birth control. The program’s director states that “when you take the best and brightest” and isolate them from any outside influences such scientific advances are inevitable. We here at JPFmovies were rather surprised to find out that the Ascension program was not an actual space ship but a simulation experiment still here on earth. Such a premise provided the story with many avenues to go down, including the massive effort and lengths one would have to go through to keep the 600-odd people believing that they were in deep space and not still home on their home planet.
Another similarity to BSG was the cut-throat political scheming and factionalism fighting for control of the ship. In Ascension, sex is the main form of currency which is literally controlled by Tricia Helfer’s character as the head “stewardess” whose underlings are plainly charged with satisfying the desires of the men on the ship. Marriage is determined not by love but a computer applying a mathematic formula to ensure ideal genetic matches i.e. a quasi-eugenics program. And like in BSG, there is also a touch of the mystic through a young girl who represents “punctuated evolution.” She sees the “globus” which is the brand of camera hidden throughout the ship used to monitor every move of Ascension’s population. The evolved girl in the last scene also transports one of the main characters (the ship’s executive officer) to some alien world that unfortunately leaves the viewer hanging in space raising more interesting questions than it answered.
Much to many people’s dismay, Ascension the mini-series was only that, a mini-series lasting 6 episodes played over three nights on the Sci-Fy network. Unusually we here at JPFmovies agree with the many, another season was in order not only to answer the questions left as its end but also because an entirely different and interesting Sci-Fi story could have continued. Ascension is actually a fine science fiction show, and one should catch the series on Netflix. However, be warned that you will need to be a little patient with it.
What does JPFmovies contributor SJ have to say about Ascension? One slang word: “meh.” Different strokes for different folks.