Welcome to the Ascension, a space craft designed in the ’60s to be the salvation of all mankind by sending it and a boatload of pilgrims to explore another galaxy! Or is it?
The first episode of the epic trilogy miniseries doled out mysteries by the gleeful morsel. Though the episode appeared to have no official title, it may as well have been “Who killed Lorelei?,” as that was the question that everything else seemed to spiral around. We open with the psychological evaluation of Lorelei being played on what appears to be an incredibly old-fashioned television set. Why, we wonder, does she say in the word association test, that the ship Ascension makes her think of a trap?
Off we jet to the preparations for the annual celebration of Launch Day, as is custom on the Ascension, where we meet Viondra Denninger, wife to Captain Denninger, who is very like another strong villainess, Claire Underwood from House of Cards. As the show progresses and we see just how ruthless Viondra is, it’s clear why they chose Syfy alum Tricia Helfer of modern Battlestar Galactica’s Number Six fame for the role. And somewhere during this year’s Launch Day party, Lorelei turns up dead on the fake beach. What could it mean?
This brings us to the next question: what is the Ascension itself? It is a glorious ship sent out with a crew of a few hundred, off into space to find Proxima and colonize a whole new planet. With me so far? Because the journey takes a very long time, this means the original crew won’t make it, but their grandchildren might. This realization, that every crew member seems to go through when they reach early teens or thereabouts, is the psychological break they refer to as the “crisis.” The thought that they’ll never know home, never know Earth or walk on land or go to a real beach, hits some people harder than others. And then there’s class prejudice on the ship too. Inevitably, there is an upper-decks class and a lower-decks class, and tensions run deep between the two.
One way to avoid these prejudices, in theory, is to join the military who seems to be outside if not above such things, but in practice, it’s actually much harder. There are mobs of disgruntled belowdeckers, want-to-unionize types who take care of the butchering and care of animals and all the not-fun things so the abovedecks types don’t have to get their hands dirty. The teenage above-deck girls aren’t supposed to go for the bad boy belowdeckers, so of course they do and it turns out in the course of the investigation that well-bred Lorelei indeed had a belowdecks boyfriend that few knew about.
But then there’s this odd aside, with a rambling man in a hospital and his son visiting him, only to himself get a visit from a purported academic with an interest in a top military secret known as Project Ascension. As as far as we the audience know, the ship did indeed launch back in the ’60s and has been out there space the last fifty years or so. We follow the son, Harris Enzmann, whose father was one of the brains behind the original Project Ascension idea, to a secret military facility where he has all sorts of nefarious conversations about the ship and we the audience are left with even more questions. What does Harris have to do with all this?
Well, we’re moving on. The girl who found Lorelei dead, Christa, has started acting funny and seeing things, supposedly impossible things, like a person she calls a “glowber” (I think that’s what she said), who can survive outside the oxygen masks and move about freely when a radiation storm hits the ship. And things are odd indeed when the ion radiation storm hits the ship, because while the crew battens down the hatches in oxygen masks and fixes suspiciously broken shields, other oddities are happening on the ship and there is nary an explanation in sight. There are many references to a fire that claimed the life of Lorelei’s father on the very first Launch Day, and what truths a hidden recording of that day might uncover.
Yet when the storm is over and it sure looks like the rabble-rousing below-decker boss has been professionally framed for the crime of killing Lorelei, and it’s that decided he will be spaced for his trouble, something very strange happens instead. The man is, indeed, sucked out an airlock and he’s falling in space, falling and spinning and hey, wait. In space, he’d have been quite dead by now …
Aa always, I don’t want to give away the ending. The question of what happened to butcher boss and how it relates to Harris and further insights to who killed Lorelei are promised in the preview of the next episode of Ascension, which premieres on SyFy tonight, Tuesday, December 16, 2014, at 9:00 p.m. PST/EST. What do you think, readers? Dig it or bury it? Who do you think killed Lorlei? And what do you think is going on with Harris Enzmann and the secret facility? Sound off in comments below!