Ascension: Review: Episode 1

AscensionSeriesIntertitleA curious student asks about an old government space project – one that is all too real to those who have been aboard the ship for anything up to 51 years, as they learn that they have a murderer among them…

Doctor Who fans may get a little bit of déjà vu about the set-up of this new epic miniseries, made by Syfy in the States, although, rest assured there are no murderous plants with dodgy visages, or an Englishman in a multi-coloured jacket with a past history with the captain. Like Terror of the Vervoids, Ascension looks in part to Agatha Christie for its inspiration, with its apparently sealed environment, and all sorts of secrets hiding beneath the surface.

For those aboard the Ascension, there’s been no real progress since the ship left Earth in the 1960s – the conceit being that Project Orion really was put into operation. That means that TV screens are tiny, there’s been no punk movement, and everyone seems to be basing their behaviour on Peyton Place – the girls who are too good to be true, the barriers that exist between the lower classes (literally in this case) and their “superiors”, and – although this card hasn’t been played that much so far – the racial segregation that still heavily affected American everyday life in that decade.

[Spoilers follow] Although finding the murderer is important to the characters, it’s what happens at the end that changes how you view everything that’s come before – if, that is, you haven’t worked out what’s happening by about two-thirds of the way through the episode. It sends the whole series into conspiracy theory territory as well as threatening to make it a Capricorn One type of story… which frankly is a shame. There’s enough intrigue to make you come back for a second dose – but probably in part to see how many of the clichés they can avoid.

Verdict: Not yet living up to its epic billing, Ascension is so far a bit of a damp squib. 6/10

Paul Simpson

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