In 1963, the United States government sent a colony of American citizens on a hundred-year mission to reach the depths of space. The crew of the USS Ascension.generation ship was supposed to be comprised of the best and brightest of us, but class divides eventually started to strain the society among the stars. Now, 51 years into their mission, the first murder has been committed on that ship. As the clock winds down, reaching the point where they can no longer return to Earth, the fate of all of Ascension's colonists hangs in the balance. Or does it?
Welcome to Syfy's Ascension.
"Night One" is an interesting start, but definitely more lukewarm than I thought it would be. The central mystery of Ascension centers on who killed Lorelei Wright (Amanda Thomson), a girl who yearned for Earth, was very curious about Ascension's past history, and had a thing for beach party flicks. Assigned to the case is Oren Gault (Brandon P. Bell), one of the officers on Ascension who's secretly sleeping with Lorelei's married sister and digging in places he shouldn't be poking his head into. Much like Hot Fuzz, nobody on the ship, even Captain William Denniger (Brian Van Holt), wants to admit that this is exactly a murder. The “slipped and hit her head” theory has been thrown about quite a bit at this point.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Harris Enzmann (Gil Bellows) has found himself pestered by a nosy journalist who's uncovered the secret history of the Ascension and has properly identified Harris' father, Abraham, as one of the project's architects. Of course, Harris dismisses this possibility to the journalist, but is later revealed as the current overseer of the Ascension. How is that possible? Considering '60s technology was so limited, they couldn't have possibly reached back to Earth that far out in the galaxy. Surprise, surprise, Ascension never left Earth! It's nothing more than a psychological experiment that's somehow lasted for 51 Truman Show-esque years. Strangely enough, one of the youngest passengers on the ship might already know this.
Christa Valis (Ellie O’Brien), a young child and friend of Lorelei's, has visions that tell her that the ship should be going in the opposite direction than the one it's currently heading in. Furthermore, she believes in a mysterious presence called The Globus – a cryptic force that sees all and knows all. Perhaps that was the man that was clad in a radiation suit, going through her family's quarters during the radiation storm that brings the action to a climax towards the end of the first night.
We end the show with a showdown between Gault and Stokes (Brad Carter), the king of the below-decks worker class. After a hostage situation ends with Gault flying out of the airlock, we learn the strange truth of Ascension, and the innocent seeming Harris has become a creeper with a God complex. Where that complex is going to take us in the next two nights, nobody knows.
Ascension has an interesting premise, but by time I got to the end of this first installment, I had given the show the nickname of Battlestar MadMen-ica. If you take Mad Men’s style, Battlestar’s conflict in an enclosed spacefaring ship, and throw in some Game of Thrones power plays/affairs, you've got Ascension coming out as a TV-14 substitute. It's intriguing enough to see what happens after the big reveal breaks to the crew, but if you're looking for the second coming of Battlestar Galactica, you might be disappointed. Though you can take some small comfort in Tricia Helfer being as complicated and beautiful on this show as she was on her previous voyage.
Thanks for reading our rundown on "Night One" of Ascension! Come back tomorrow, when we'll approach the point of no return, and wonder why.