A young woman is murdered, shot aboard a spaceship were no weapons of any kind are allowed. How is was possible and who did it are just two questions posed in Ascension, debuting Monday on CBC.
A co-production between Syfy and CBC, the six-parter is a unique blend of retro science fiction meshed with the classic locked door whodunnit. Viewers are quickly brought up-to-date with the premise of the series, a century-long space mission to find a new world for the human race. Launched over 50 years ago by President John F. Kennedy at the height of Cold War tensions, Ascension the series (it’s also the name of the ship) catches up with the grandchildren of those who first stepped onto the vehicle and launched into space.
Among those aboard are Captain William Denninger (Brian Holt, Cougar Town), Dr. Juliet Bryce (Andrea Roth, Rescue Me), chief steward Viondra Denninger (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactica) and Harris Enzmann (Gil Bellows, Ally McBeal), the son of the man who created the Ascension project.
“When I got this script, it was original and substantive in a way that I felt would not only be a great idea to launch a show but sustain itself for a very long time,” Bellows says. “I love the character that I get to play.” That character, Harris, is driven to continue the work his father started on Ascension at whatever cost; at one point, Harris uses the word “god” to describe what he’s doing.
The investigation into the death of Lorelai (Amanda Thomson, Totally Amp’d), found dead on the ship’s fake beach, is met with confusion. Guns aren’t allowed on board, so where did it come from? And how did the killer enter the beach area and elude being captured on any of the security cameras trained on that part of the ship? It doesn’t take long for several suspects to come under the scrutiny of Denninger and his officers. Those characters are as colourful as the setting they’re placed in; because Ascension was launched in 1963 all of the clothing, furniture and other stylings have remained unchanged and serve as a visual contrast to the washed-out greys and blues that make up Harris’ earthly storyline.
A major plot point early on in the mini-series raises a ton of questions, and Bellows couldn’t be happier a show like Ascension is willing to go in a bold storytelling direction, especially on a network like CBC.
“Quality is important, originality is important and provocative ideas are important to share,” he says. “Not everything needs to be folksy and appropriate.”
Ascension airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.