Warning: this blog post contains many a spoiler for the mini-series Ascension; also, if you have not seen this show yet, the content of this post probably will not make much sense.
Last week, my partner and I happened upon the 2014 science fiction mini-series Ascension. On its face, this show is about a multi-generational interstellar ark on its way to Alpha Centauri. The product of a secret military project fuelled by the fear of a nuclear holocaust (Cuban Missile Crisis, etc.), it was launched in 1963. We join the crew near the journey’s midway point. The 51st anniversary of the launch is rocked by an on-board murder, the very first during the spaceship’s epic journey.
But there is more to Ascension than initially meets the eye. As we learn at the end of episode two, Ascension never left Earth. Rather, the ship serves as a colossal cage within which government researchers are conducting a multi-generational experiment on humans – all of whom believe themselves to actually be in space. We learn that Ascension is a psychological experiment studying the long-term effects of multi-generational space travel, but in the last two episodes of the show we realise that we have been fooled again. Yes, the ship is a large-scale science experiment, but it does not focus on human psychology. Rather, it attempts to stimulate cladogenesis, here the generation of a species of super-humans with telekinetic powers.
We liked the general idea behind the show, but thought it fell apart around its midway point at the latest, and the superpower angle with which the show ended felt ham-fisted at best.