Ascension: It’s Awkward

Short post this week, and probably next week–I’ve got a big presentation coming up, and am concentrating on finishing up some experiments for that.

Borrowed from forbes.com

Genre: Sci-fi

Synopsis: Due to fears that the Cold War could degenerate into a devastating conflict, the US launched a secret space mission in 1963, with volunteers sent up to space for a hundred years aboard the USS Ascension. Present day, the current generation is halfway into their journey, looking to spend the next 50 years (or the rest of their life) in space. Until a murder occurs–and having a killer aboard a closed, inescapable ship poses a huge threat.

Series: 6 episodes.

I’ve Watched: Episode 1.

Verdict: Awkward.

Borrowed from dmcdn.net

Syfy is back in the sci-fi game and the results are…well, I wasn’t expecting them to equal Battlestar Galactica, or anything. And that’s good, because they didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with the general outline of the story, but once we get to the actual details–dialogue, characterization, progression of logic–there’s just no life in it.

The show starts with a woman taking off her clothes. This is followed by an awkward romantic set-up, in a thankfully short scene. And then there’s forced kissing, all within the first ten minutes.

Then the plot goes to Earth. Harris is the son of the man responsible for the program, and his father is now in a mental hospital. We get awkward exposition of the Ascension’s backstory through Harris and a phd researcher who gets into the hospital (somehow) to try to see his dad. Seriously, their interaction goes from hostile to cordial out of nowhere. The actual content is fine, but the dialogue and staging just can’t sell the scene.

Back on the spaceship, a body is found. XO Aaron Gault walks in and hears the medical professional declare it was an accident. Despite having no experience with these kinds of things whatsoever, he posits that it’s likely murder. And is promptly assigned to the case. Yep. Awkward.

Then Aaron tries to question the family of the deceased, in a clunky scene which pretty much only succeeds in demonstrating his incompetence. Followed by a scene with a medical professional who tells him about the victim’s psychological evaluations–a conversation clearly meant to bring up more exposition, that both characters already knew about yet for some reason discussed anyway. As You Knows tend to be awkward, practically by definition.

I could go on, but to be honest, nearly every scene is awkward. It never quite makes sense that it’s happening the way it’s happening. It always seems a little too staged, not organic enough. It’s not so much that the ideas for the scenes themselves are a problem, it’s the execution. It’s the details that don’t quite fall in place.

There are some genuinely interesting plot points here, but the way those ideas are presented is lackluster. The characters are lackluster. So it’s a shame, because there are some intriguing concepts–and if the presentation wasn’t constantly breaking immersion or if I cared about the characters, I’d really want to know how they play out.

So far, Syfy’s attempt to go back to serious shows–whatever their definition of that might be–isn’t working for me. Neither Ascension or 12 Monkeys is impressing me, and a good chunk of that is a lack of expertise. The scientists in 12 Monkeys don’t even know their own fields, and the investigator in Ascension has no idea what he’s doing. The latter situation is better than the former, but the way it’s played out on screen makes it not work.

Let’s hope the next space-operas and “serious” shows Syfy puts out are executed better.

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2 Responses to Ascension: It’s Awkward

  1. Looking at the synopsis- how on earth does a story manage to screw a plot that amazing up? That is an amazing storyline and presents some great opportunities for horror and tension (and even deliberate awkwardness, if they wanted to show the difficulties of dealing with people in an enclosed space). But it sounds constricted by the limitations of the actors and the writing.

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