Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pilot Review: Ascension

Ascension (Syfy)
Premiered December 15 at 9pm

It won’t take much more than the news of Tricia Helfer starring in a new show on Syfy to get me excited for a project, but of course I’m bound to be disappointed. The “Battlestar Galactica” star hasn’t had much luck finding a reliable project since her show ended (though I did enjoy her stint on “Burn Notice”), and now she’s back to her home network on what could be considered a miniseries but, like all such formats these days, may well be brought back for a second round. She’s not actually the lead on this show, an honor which arguably goes to Brian Van Holt, also a star of one of my favorite sci-fi shows, “Threshold,” which didn’t live long. The concept behind this series is excellent: that there was a scientific mission sent into space in the 1960s headed for a new planet which might be able to sustain life on a hundred-year mission. The inconsistencies are great and grievous, unfortunately, namely that fashion has somehow kept up with the times enough that people appear to be dressed in a current style but they still watch old movies and have to go to the library to figure out how to solve crimes. The communication with Earth is also a question, since obviously the lines are open enough for them to realize that they’re headed nowhere and that the Earth may not actually be in need of saving. The twist at the end of the first installment is a big one that throws it all into question, since they’re not actually in space but instead part of some massive century-long experiment. I suppose that seems more feasible than real space travel, but it’s still a lot to believe. Predictably, the show falls prey to the trappings of any thriller, favoring sex-ridden subplots and intrigue over compelling futuristic scientific developments. I would have liked to enjoy this show, but this didn’t even wet my appetite for a second viewing.

How will it work as a series? Since it’s designed as an “event series” airing over just three nights, the idea is that it may be a closed loop. I’m not going to tune in for the rest of it, so I don’t know where it will go, but it’s probable that it’s headed towards an explosive conclusion that could lead to a second season but also serve to wrap it up, filled mainly with melodrama and betrayal rather than solid sci-fi.
How long will it last? That’s the question. I haven’t agreed much with Syfy recently on what it does and doesn’t want, but I think that limited series being picked up is the hot thing right now, so Syfy might well want to bring this back for another round. I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s a possibility.


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