Ascension is a science fiction drama about a generation ship of the same name. Launched in 1962, the Ascension’s mission is to travel to the planet Proxima in the Alpha Centauri system. However, on the 51st anniversary of its launch, there is a murder on board that rocks the ship and threatens to expose the secrets behind the ship’s true purpose. Ascension aired in late 2014 as a six-part miniseries from Syfy in America and on the CBC in Canada.
There is much to like and dislike about the show, but what stays with me is the management of resources on a generation ship. I believe some questions could have been better answered, at least in terms of the science.
For starters, everyone’s clothes are clean and tailored and well-maintained. I understand how they are well-tailored. One scene references a character making her own clothes, so there is (I assume) one person in each unit who makes clothes for everyone else. By unit I mean a family unit: one father one mother and maybe one or two children. But where is the material coming from? That same scene references clothing getting recycled. Are the threads unraveled to be used again for another shirt? And if the same shirts are used over the course of fifty years, why are they so clean and thick?
On a related thread, how is the ship developing its own medicine? Yearly vaccinations are custom-made on the spot for each individual on board, but the materials to make those come from where? Is there over a hundred years’ supply of ibuprofen on board for over six hundred people? What about when they land? How are they going to manage medicine when they land?
As a ship flying through space (ahem), there should at least be a couple shuttles designated for going out and exploring/mining. I know if I were captain of a generation ship, I would stop by the rings of Saturn to pick up a couple giant chunks of ice as a backup water supply. And then there are precious metals all over the place that can help make new materials such as wires and display screens and computer chips.
Without giving too much away, there is a reason this is not a thing that would happen, but I think it should have at least been brought up.
From my Twitter: “There is almost always a psychic, they are almost always a child, and they are almost always a girl.” This is a trope that I wish to study further. Why are tele-abilities often considered the next step in human evolution? Why can’t it be less dense bone structure? Why can’t the next generation of humans be a torso and arms with no legs? Like whales but in microgravity space? Moreover, what does it say that this person who develops these powers first is always a prepubescent girl? There is something about evolution in there, but further contemplation on this subject is best for a post on its own.
Finally, I think there should have been more people who were off the wall in a benign-to-the-crew-but-makes-the-audience-tense way. Being in close quarters all your life would mess with your psyche, I should think. Or is that only because I have the privilege of knowing I can meet a new person every day for the rest of my life and the thought of seeing only a select population until the end of my existence would make ME crazy? Food for thought.
I would recommend Ascension to any fan of science fiction television looking for a distraction. The premise is engaging enough to make you stay, the characters are all right, and I really like how the show treats the sexuality of its female characters. Which reminds me, STI/STD prevention. Is that even a worry on this ship? I would be wary of the stewardesses if it is.