Harris Enzmann - Gil Bellows
William Denninger - Brian Van Holt
Viondra Denninger - Tricia Helfer
Aaron Gault - Brandon Bell
Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Fifty-one years after the generation ship Ascension was launched from Earth on a voyage to a new star, one of her crew is found, potentially murdered. Whilst the investigation begins, people back on Earth begin to suspect that a ship was secretly launched to the stars.
ASCENSION is big and bold in concept, small and rather weak in execution. The idea of the generation ship is hardly a new one and there are some nice touches like the water recycling plant being used as a beach and the people who were born after the ship left Earth, but who will die before it reaches its destination suffering from a mental malaise. The incorporation of the fifties' styles into the show are also quite nice, though the idea that a black man and a white woman cannot be involved legally is shelved almost as quickly as it is mentioned.
ASCENSION wants to be sharp science fiction drama, but is built on a murder mystery as old as TV itself, some terrible upper/lower deck class nonsense, some poor dialogue and even worse acting. The idea that a bar and a string of prostitutes can be set up in a commune of 600 people without everyone knowing about it is doesn't work and the juxtaposing of genetic level scientific knowledge with a total lack of anything approaching policing skills is ludicrous. There are 'peace' officers, who clearly police the ship, but nobody has a clue about investigating a murder.
The sets are impressive, there is no doubt about that, though the super slick interior of the command decks contrasts far too much with the lower decks' ramshackle appearance and the more workaday sections of the vessel. There isn't that much in the way of special effects, since this is really about the characters and the, there is no other phrase for it, soap opera storyline that they are caught up in.
But there is a twist. It's supposed to be a huge and shocking one, but it is one that is incredibly obvious and should leave nobody gasping, at least not anyone who has seen THE TRUMAN SHOW or the DOCTOR WHO episode Invasion of the Dinosaurs.Top
Aboard the Ascension, an explosion puts the search for the murderer on a whole new footing. On Earth, An investigator for the overseeing authority learns more about project leader Enzmann's delusions of godhood.
After last week's patchy opening episode, the show takes a complete turn toward soap opera storylines and tired thriller tropes that seem to come from another show altogether. Apart from one little girl who seems to have developed mental powers, there is very little going on here that couldn't be set on a military base anywhere and lose the science fiction element altogether. Power struggles between the captain and the politician who covets his role are spiced up with the women in their lives being prostitutes, but apart from that it could be an episode of DALLAS, and the acting could have come from any soap opera you care to name, except that the actors in the soap opera might not like the comparison. The fact that the political power struggle is of very little interest at all is significant given that it is central to events in this second episode.
Though it plays out at a plodding pace, the story (and, more significantly, the characters) could use more time to be fleshed out better. Gil Bellows, as the project's obsessed leader, is the best of the bunch, his devotion to the project his father started leading him to have an voyeuristic attachment to crew members over his own wife. The new investigator has a unique style that seems to to be investigating the stuff that she should already have full knowledge of (since she's working for the oversight committee that pays for it all) and complaining about not being allowed to see what she needs to see.
There relationships onboard the vessel are both underdone and reheated, borrowed from far too many uninspired dramas to raise any interest. Even the actors seem uninterested in the characters that they are playing.Top
Power struggles both on and off the ship lead to a disaster that could see everyone on board die of suffocation.
It's the final night of ASCENSION and the show finally comes alive, partly because the everyone is double-crossing everyone, nobody is quite who they appear to be and nothing is quite what it seems. It's all still a bunch of nonsense, but at least now it is entertaining nonsense.
The story still has too many strands vying for attention, the most interesting of which is the investigator breaking out the ship's escapee and going on the run to reveal everything via the internet. The fact is that the shadowy group running all this haven't baulked at killing people for the sake of the project to this point (in fact, it seems to be their only solution to any problem), so why is Stokes even still alive. His deranged state make him an obvious threat to the personnel and he would have been taken care of with a needle of something long before the point of this final episode's events.
Gil Bellows gets to lose the smugness that has infused the character of project leader Enzmann to this point, being deposed and taken out to be shot in a corn field. This just means he switches to a new register - desperate - and sticks to that. The acting has been one of the major flaws of the show to date and that continues in this final episode, though the fact that there is so much more going on serves to disguise that fact.
Christa's emergence as the show's FIRESTARTER, a young girl with immensely destructive talents that she cannot hope to control, takes matters to another level, but doesn't jibe with the rest of what's happening. If she is so important and if the rest of the crew don't matter a damn when compared with her, why is only one man sent aboard to get her?
ASCENSION doesn't have a conclusion because it clearly believes that it has done enough to get a second season. If that doesn't prove to be the case, then we won't be mourning its passing.Top
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