Ascension: Night Three
December 23, 2014 12:59 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from Cape Kennedy aboard a colony ship. Six hundred peeps set sail that day for a ten-decade tour. A ten-decade tour!

It's the longest of long cons. The best and brightest (obvs. not) and their descendents were fooled into thinking they were on their way to another planet. In reality, it's a Truman Show-esque piece of theatre; a sound stage, if you will. They're fifty years into a long-term genetic experiment to breed Tomorrow People. It's Syfy; don't overthink it--the writers certainly didn't.

The point of this show is to sell soap, allow some actors to pay rent (really Tricia Helfer?), and rival Cinemax for T&A shots.

How was there only one murder in fifty years when people get into a fist-fight at the slightest provocation?
Your best and brightest didn't question artificial gravity?
Why is everything brand-new, shiny, and clean?
How do you replace broken down equipment and machinery?
The "honey-trap" woman was obvious a mile away.
The kidnapped children didn't know they were kidnapped? Or was that tidbit and the entire spiel by the honeypot a lie?
Where is the sewage going?
Has no one ever had to do a spacewalk? Ever?
The inside man has been there his entire life? Why?
Wouldn't it be easier to throw your daughter out an airlock than kill her?
This was about 4 hours too long.
Initial Grade: D-

I will give the show the benefit of the doubt and say that the writers were giving a nod to the theory that we're a simulation created by highly advanced beings.
Interim Grade: D+

Astonishingly, Gault (the lone black guy who wasn't a random extra) didn't die but was teleported to another planet.
Final Grade: C+ (and a cookie)
posted by Ik ben afgesneden (19 comments total)
Man, I have as many questions as you do, Ik ben afgesneden, but I was also severely disappointed that so many good theories and premises got wasted on such a shitty show.

If a show has so many random, seemingly gratuitous nude butts that even I say "too many butts!" halfway through, then it's seriously too many butts.

And as a fan of Syfy's Z Nation, my standards weren't even that high! Props for Tricia Helfer taking her "actressing" game up to full-on "okay, maybe she's really acting" levels, at least.

That's probably the nicest thing I can say, other than zero percent lolracists/space-racism in a show that hammered home the lead investigator's homosexuality like they were wielding Mjölnir itself.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:59 PM on December 23, 2014

Noticed the extended trailer a few weeks ago during an insomniac click binge, it telegraphed everything but the genetic experiment.
posted by sammyo at 2:30 PM on December 23, 2014

The gravity thing actually had me convinced (for a brief shining moment) that they were doing hard sci-fi. During that big reveal shot of the ship at the beginning of the first episode, the pull of gravity is implied to be opposite of the direction of the ship. So I figured they were under constant acceleration of 1G for the first half of their journey, and we would get to see a dramatic moment at the midpoint of their journey when they went weightless, turned 180 degrees, and began decelerating for the second half.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Instead what we got was a premise that could have possibly carried a 45 minute episode of The Outer Limits stretched and bloated to fill 6 hours of "we can do sexposition just as well as Game of Thrones, and with the midcentury style of Madmen!"

No, Syfy, you can't.
posted by Uncle Ira at 3:16 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I figured they were under constant acceleration of 1G for the first half of their journey, and we would get to see a dramatic moment at the midpoint of their journey when they went weightless, turned 180 degrees, and began decelerating for the second half.

Uncle Ira, you made me spit beer!

Syfy: our name is a clue we don't know what we're doing much less understand the concept of hard science fiction.

I know I shouldn't, but: how do you have such a sharply divided class system on a spaceship? Pig farmers? People who work the boilers? Prostitutes?!
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 4:10 PM on December 23, 2014

Best description of this show from a friend: It's like every type of show in one!

Boy I hated this thing.
posted by Catblack at 5:08 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I liked that it only takes 50 years to breed a kwisatz haderach. The bene genesserit were such dipshits.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 PM on December 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Just thinking out the logistics of this is very lulzy. I only saw (most) of Night Three so far because it was on at the gym, but I can only assume the first round of "settlers" was in on the joke and just didn't tell their kids or something? But seriously, how do you pull off for 50 years that you're NOT flying a ship? Where do you stash a ship that big? WHAT ABOUT THE NUCLEAR REACTOR?!?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:45 PM on December 23, 2014

Ugh, please tell me Syfy isn't going to try to turn this into a regular series. I don't see how it would be sustainable, what with the blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, selective breeding, etc. When Mad Men showed such issues it was to provide valid historical context. On this show it just seemed to be a lazy way to try to be "daring".

The Twilight Zone and the The Outer Limits covered this stuff back in the actual 1960s. I don't think Syfy improved much on the premise even with a bigger budget, CGI, fancy sets, and production in "living color".

Astonishingly, Gault (the lone black guy who wasn't a random extra) didn't die but was teleported to another planet.

I'm having a hard time seeing how that was better than just killing him. Does the little girl have the ability to teleport him back? At least in Interstellar the lone woman had supplies and shelter. Gault had nothing but the clothes on his back.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:31 PM on December 23, 2014

I had so much hope for this. The premise was great, and the way the society inside Ascension held onto that mid-century patina was pretty fun. Oh the other hand, I think it would have been far more effective had the story been constructed to not reveal the truth about the project to the audience until the third night. But, that would have made for a completely different story, I guess. Still, it would have been greatly effective if they could have strung the audience along for more than a half-hour (if that long) into the first night.

It became pretty obvious as night three wore on, and no logical end seemed possible in the remaining time that, either this was going to be the most slap-dash tying-up of loose ends in the history of tv, or this was all a great big set-up for a series. This kind of took some of the wind out of my sails as it became obvious it was going to be the latter.

The on-board society splitting between the upper decks "elites" and the lower deck "labor" seemed a tad too obvious, in a "been there, done that" sort of way.

The sub-plot of political in-fighting between council members and the captain was also pretty much taken straight from the Big Book of Script Writing. As was the Big Menacing Corporation™ swooping-in to take control of the project.

What truly ruined the show for me, though, was the graphic, brutal, and unnecessary killing of Ms. Krueger toward the end of night three. It was just too, too gratuitously violent in a show that, to its benefit, more or less avoided such overtly violent, bloody displays. It's a scene that pretty much tipped the scales for me heavily into the negative. It ruined the show for me, frankly.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 AM on December 24, 2014

Oh, and, just a question...Did I miss it, or was it ever explained what, exactly, was going to happen to the crew of Ascension once they "arrived" at their destination? Or, were they ever going to "arrive" anywhere? Was the plan to make it so they simply kept traveling in-perpetuity?

People kept saying they were half-way through their "flight", so I assume there would have been some plan as to how to handle their eventual non-arrival-arrival.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:12 AM on December 24, 2014

There's also the small problem that (playing with relativistic travel calculators) if the people on board believe they've been accelerating at 1g for what seems to them to be 50 years, they should think they're about a billion light-years away, about a billion years in the future, and traveling so close to C as makes no difference. And that they've converted more or less the entire observable universe into propellant. And that the view from the front of the ship should just be an unsurvivable blast of hard radiation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, ROU, the writers have got you covered! Never doubt.

The passengers have radiation alarms for when they're passing through a radiation field (for an indeterminate length of time, natch). Everyone climbs into queen-sized beds, close the glass doors surrounding said beds, put on oxygen masks, and go to sleep. (Whereupon their shitty jewelry gets stolen for no apparent reason--but that's a whole other stupid plot point.)
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 9:13 AM on December 24, 2014

If they had spent 50 internal years at 1g and so were traveling at c minus epsilon, they wouldn't just be passing through a radiation field. Their whole lives would be a continual bath of deadly radiation. The view out the front windows would just be a black void with lethal radiation streaming from the point dead ahead, where all the stars in the universe had been compressed into a single apparent point and blueshifted into gamma rays or worse.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:47 AM on December 24, 2014

Sleeping pods. With oxygen masks. Large beds. Glass-fronted doors. Don't forget, this ship carries the descendants of the best and brightest. It's all good.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 9:51 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ugh, I wish this had been up yesterday, I could have used my morning to watching something good. It started out promising, it was a step up from recent SyFy fare, but quickly went downhill. They should have stuck with Murder in Space or Capricorn One Part 2, and left out Carrie in Space. And forget making a series out it, either premise is ok for a movie of the week, maybe a two nighters, but not a series.

Even so, I went along until they decided to chop it off seemingly in mid-scene at the end. Seriously? That was how they chose to end 5 some-odd hours of TV? I don't mind leaving the XO alone on a distant planet, though they could have punched up the scene.
posted by beowulf573 at 12:11 PM on December 24, 2014

I couldn't keep from snickering every time they called people "upper deckers".
posted by Small Dollar at 11:52 AM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm late to the party here but I just finally caught up on episode 3.

There's a lot that's hard to swallow in Ascension - for me there were just too many changes of clothing! Why did they take so much cloth?

But I liked how each off he three episodes was a different twist. Ep 1, they're not in space! Ep 2, it's actually a breeding experiment to get kids with crazy psionic powers! Ep 3, and it worked!!!

I think the period piece elements could have been done much better, but this was SyFy and not Downton Abbey. It was enjoyable scoff fluff overall.
posted by GuyZero at 6:55 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm way late to the party, but I just finished the final episode. I'm actually mad at myself for not turning the damn thing off after that first lingerie swim scene. And it wasn't bad enough that the introduction to the show hit me over the head with the male gaze hammer, but then it pummeled me a second time with the exact same scene later that episode. I have no one to blame but myself.
posted by MsVader at 3:51 PM on July 9, 2015

Honestly, I didn't think it was that bad. I mean, sure, there were flaws, but I was actually enjoying how tremendously fucked up their society was. It reminded me of the original Disney plans for that planned community where everyone signed away their civil rights. I was raised on the "fake starship" trope (and I was also reminded of Hugh Howey's Silo series), and enjoyed seeing all the little details and figuring out how the Observors were controlling what was going on.

I chuckled at the names (two scientists named Alfred Bester and Fritz Leiber? An assassin named Medici?).
posted by Mogur at 8:09 PM on July 5, 2018

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