Ascension Night Three review

Ascension had a smattering of inspired moments along with a hefty helping of unfulfilled potential.

I have no problem with open-ended conclusions to science fiction shows; in fact, I prefer endings that allow the viewer to speculate about what really happened. However, there’s a big difference between a cliffhanger and a lack of resolution. Unfortunately, Ascension left a few too many questions unanswered and dangled plenty of head-scratching details that defy explanation.

An interesting highlight of the ship’s culture is the introduction of Ostara, in reality a neopagan fertility festival at the start of spring, which on the ship provides the means to enforce strict population control for sustainability of resources. The ceremony of naming which couples the computer selected to have children provides a backdrop for the relationship between the captain and his wife; the conflict between Gault and the security chief, Duke Vanderhaus; and the strength of Viondra’s influence – a highlight of the series. However, I can’t help but notice that the only three deaths were those that happened unnaturally and recently. Soooo… where are all the old people?

It’s weird quirks like this which distract me and creep in to spoil my enjoyment of the compelling premise which holds this show aloft. Another: what is the nature of this “punctuated evolution” (a term which is grossly misused in this context) that it would cause Christa to exhibit not one but a myriad of powers which seem less like a cultivated genetic mutation and more like magic. Is she psychic? Where does the electricity come in? Can we pick one power and stick with it?

The manifestation of Christa’s power comes out full force at such a strange moment, too: when Duke Vanderhaus confronts Aaron Gault about the affair with his wife. Is this indiscretion worthy of the Carrie-like destruction Christa rains down upon her shipmates and Project Ascension itself? Perhaps it was merely a preamble to the later, more understandable incident when Christa was directly threatened by the TC Group goon, Medici.

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Except who could have predicted the sudden departure of Gault (and Medici?) to… um, to… another planet? Did Christa do that? Add teleportation to her list of powers! Or did the thing in the water do it? And what is that thing anyway? Like I said, mysteries and suspense are one thing; complete confusion is another. I’m somewhere in between.

I also couldn’t decide if Director Warren from the TC Group was a passionate devotee of the original Dr. Enzmann who rightfully deposed the obsessive son of Ascension’s founder or a short-sighted usurper who didn’t understand the true nature and admirable results of the grand experiment. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Harris’ efficient dispatching of his enemy immensely regardless of her intentions, good or bad.

I can’t say the same for the brutal end visited upon Krueger at the hands of the conspiracy blogger (I knew she was too normal to be a nutjob!) And what will become of Stokes, who became a delightful babe in the woods in this final episode, marveling over cars, plastic, and the moon? My favorite line of his happens in the liquor aisle of the convenience store: “It’s all right here!” Oh, the things we take for granted!

That’s one of many moments that make the concept behind Ascension so perfect, just poorly executed. It’s not exactly an opportunity lost; there were plenty of high moments, including the indoor rain, the mysterious television transmissions, and the brilliant entrapment of Councilman Rose. But if Ascension gets picked up as a full series (and it likely will), improvements will need to be made to stoke the embers of my enthusiasm back to the full flame it enjoyed when I thought this was a space opera.

What do you think? Did Ascension blow you away or underwhelm you? I’d love to read your comments below.

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3 out of 5