Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ascension: Night 2

-A clue from Lorelei Wright-
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to this mission to which we're bound. One people under God for the hope and future of humanity."

We continue with the murder mystery/space drama/sci-fi-based concept that is Ascension with Ascension, Night 2, the second of two parts.

The story centers on a Twin Peaks-styled Who Killed Laura Palmer?-like mystery to lure characters out of their fictional universe. Only the story is theoretically space-based minus the overly eccentric trappings of David Lynch's storytelling. In this case the young woman killed was Lorelei Wright. Who Killed Lorelei Wright?

Ascension Night 1 revealed this was a 100 year journey at the 51st year mark. Ascension was also in fact a great social experiment inside of a top secret government facility.

All of the inhabitants aboard the vessel were chosen, like Dr. Juliet Bryce, and have lived aboard the ship for fifty-one years under the illusion they are not in Kansas anymore but rather outer space.

Earth is a great distance from their current position and point in space as they make their way to Alpha Centauri. All of it is entirely the work of fiction a la The Truman Show (1998).

It's an intriguing experiment on human behavior and of the sociological and psychological impact. In many ways time has stood still on the vessel. People exist each with their respective roles to the end of the collective. Like North Koreans or a secluded tribe in the Amazon, what they know is all they have been provided. What they are aware of is their unique reality.

Will the sociological experiment be compromised or revealed?

Only a young child named Christa Valis knows Globus is watching. She has untapped abilities and she sees things others cannot. Is this a product of adaptation? Is it merely a gift?

Scoring work is provided by Canadian Trevor Morris and while it may not reach the soaring heights of Joel Goldsmith's still unreleased and remarkable Stargate Universe (2009-2011) compositions it does elevate the quality of Ascension and enhances a number of stirring moments elevating the dramatic tone. Sadly, it is yet another score, along with Stargate Universe, Dark Matter (2015-present) and The Expanse (2015-present) that are simply unavailable to the consumer.

More is learned of an event called the inferno incident, an accident pertaining to a cobalt generator.

This secret project is directed by Harris Enzmann, the son of Abraham Enzmann who initiated the project in the 1960s. Enzmann plans to keep the illusion going under the direction of a Director Katherine Warren. As Enzmann notes Ascension was "designed to test the long-term viability of inner generational space flight."

Building upon the unraveling of the illusion and the murder an explosion occurs in the Terra Lab. With messages on the wall like No Future, who is behind these terrible events?

Director Katherine Warren has hired an outside investigator in Samantha Krueger.

A character named John Stokes was essentially "spaced" (blown out an airlock, into reality and out of the experiment) at the end of Night 1, but here exits the experiment into a lockdown complete with psychotic break.

Aboard the Ascension more time is spent at the fake, artificial beach for a number of characters. Lorelei's body was found at the beach.

But this synthetic reality, as a result of these events, is becoming more and more difficult to contain. The illusion is beginning to exhibit cracks. Executive Officer (XO) Aaron Gault is getting closer to the truth like Fox Mulder. Like Mulder he is a dogged pursuer of truth and justice. Born in the lower decks Gault has become a true professional.

Sex, lies and videotape are literally happening aboard the microcosm of life that is the Ascension. Politics internal and external to the experiment swirl as lives are manipulated accordingly. Passive class warfare and more is also in the offering and on display in this space Titanic.

Ultimately, Ascension Night 2 doesn't leave quite the intriguing mark as Night 1. The concept of children with special powers bubbles to the forefront by the end of Night 2. We're also left to question how far are governments will go utilizing people as mere guinea pigs, but I'm on the fence to recommend Ascension at this point. The verdict is still out. There are a great many characters and the sci-fi portion of the story doesn't deliver the kind of catnip that immerses a sci-fi fan into Dark Matter or that established fans adored in series like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Universe. But this is a different animal. This is much more a story of ideas. It's indeed a very different space illusion, but the science fiction components are very much in place. Tricia Helfer, while terrific, the drama in play isn't quite as compelling as the best sci-fi has to offer.

Though production is generally top notch we'll discover if Ascension concludes its conceptual journey on a high note with Night 3 or if this is but a marginal exercise in science fiction within the generation ship subgenre that never quite reaches its full potential or destination like the Ascension. Time will tell and the folks aboard the Ascension have plenty.

Writer: Philip Levens/ Adrian A. Cruz.
Director: Vincenzo Natali (Splice)/ Rob Lieberman (The X-Files).

Up Next: Night 3.

Ascension Night 1 here.
Ascension Night 3 here.

It does have its moments.

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