December 17, 2014

Ascension goes straight down

I managed to catch the premiere of SyFy's latest offering, Ascension, on Monday evening.

The premise: Back in the early 1960s, the US secretly built and launched an Orion starship -- that's right, starship -- to Proxima Centauri. Those in power were worried about the heating up of the Cold War, and as such wanted a segment of humanity, however small, to survive in case all-out nuclear war came about.

We begin about half-way into the Ascension's 100-year journey. And there's been the first murder on-board since launch, fifty-one years ago.

It is true that we actually had the technology to build and use Orion back in the early 60s. The first question upon glimpsing the interior of Ascension is ... really?

THE BAD:

The ship looks too clean and neat. Granted, the producers do a fairly admirable job using technology from the early 60s (television screens, buttons, gauges, print-outs, etc.) but then again other aspects of the ship's tech look way ahead of their time.

In a recent Entertainment Weekly review of the first episode, a critic wrote that the sociological/cultural aspects of the pre-Civil Rights 60s were still intact. I doubt we were watching the same episode, frankly. First, one of the main characters is a black male (he's the ship's XO) whose main job in the episode is tracing down what happened the night of the murder. It seems to me there would be quite a bit more ... resentment among the mainly white passengers when a "presumptuous" black man demands answers from them. Such wasn't evident at all. In addition, another fairly prominent character was the ship's librarian, a black woman. Further, the ship's doctor is a woman, and the EW writer says that sexism was very prevalent on the ship. The doctor alone isn't proof against that; I just didn't see anything to indicate it was much worse than it is today. So, for an early-60s era cultural snapshot, this is pretty darn progressive. Of course, being out in space for a half century could have certainly brought about their own sense of cultural and racial enlightenment; however, I'm just taking issue with the EW writer's seeming lack of knowledge.

How would the US pull such a project off? A trillion dollars ... back in 1963? How much would that equate to in current dollars? It's huge! And how would our competing powers -- the USSR, mainly -- miss such a launch? An Orion ship of this size is massive, and is powered by continuous nuclear explosions. Even given 1960s technology, it's highly unlikely the Russians would have missed that.

How is gravity seemingly so normal onboard the ship? There's no evidence of anything rotating (one of the feasible means of generating "artificial" gravity) so the only imaginable way to produce the close-to-normal gravity evident on the ship is by continuous acceleration. But bumping up to a continuous one gee takes quite a bit of time, and even so -- a continuous one gee acceleration would enable a shop to travel 10 light-years in 100 years' time; Proxima Centauri is only four light-years away. Thus, we can assume that Ascension is not accelerating at one gee. So ... how in the hell is everyone moving around the ship so normally?

Why do we need the gratuitous sex? I'm not saying people wouldn't be engaged in this sort of stuff, but why does a Syfy show like this need to have fairly graphic sex and bare butt shots?

THE GOOD:

The premise. It's terrific. If they made it much more realistic then I'd probably be on board. Of course, none of this addresses the big "shock" at the end of the premiere which, if you want the spoiler, check out the EW link above.

Which makes this even more silly ...

Posted by Hube at December 17, 2014 02:38 PM | TrackBack

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