Thursday, 24 May 2018

"Ascension" [2014]

This mini-series starts out somewhat like "Twin Peaks" [1990] on a generation ship in space: a revered dead girl, with a dark secret and mystical overtones.

There's problematic child acting and an exploitation of Cylon lady's apparently nudity contract. But it was the sheer unbelievably of the setting which almost stopped me at the first episode. (But I was bored and struggling for Netflix inspiration.)

To imagine that a 600 soul ship, complete with farm animals, was launched into deep space concurrently with the first moon missions is orders of magnitude more ridiculous than conspiracy theories denying the landings.

Putting that much mass into orbit would take hundreds of Elon's BFRs (so still decades away), before you even figure out a means of propulsion that has apparently given them 1g acceleration 'gravity' for 50 years... (We're no where near even theoretical solution for that, to this day.)

But there's a twist, come episode 2 that turns all that on it's head, and makes the show even dumber...
[Spoilers below.]

Turns out that they aren't in space after all, just in a massive, super-secret government bunker, underground. A kind of distastefully long running version of UK Channel 4's "Space Cadets" show [2005] that pranked nine contestants into believing they'd been to space despite never leaving the ground.

Except that Ascension would entertain the notion of somehow having put 600 of the nation's very brightest in a hole with none of them being any the wiser. Let alone maintaining an artificial star field for them that could stand up to expert telescope scrutiny.

Not only that, but it casually throws in notion that having concentrated all these super-brainiacs in one place could somehow unleash an orgy of invention: MRI machines and compact, handheld computers. But the actual cast of characters is comprised of naval officers, farm hands, sex workers, and one librarian. Pretty clearly demonstrating the impossibility of it's own premises...

Historically, any populations that have become isolated from wider culture (e.g. disappearance of land bridges) have quite quickly regressed in terms of technology use (and social standards). For the simple reason, illustrated, that there are too few people to support sufficient skill specialisation (and time allocation) for the wide variety of niche expertise needed. Even before considering the uneven distribution of material resources.

Ascension should have quickly become a Bioshock-like nightmare, except without the fantastical science. I suppose we do see it headed that way, with sex used as the ultimate currency, bombings and unrest kicking in, etc.

The mini-series comes to an abrupt conclusion that raises more questions than it answers, as if it were a show cancelled mid-season. Apparently, the main intent of this (ridiculous) project was to breed a super-human. And they succeeded, with a 2nd generation child (!) who's magically become psychic, can summon huge balls of electricity and seemingly teleports a crew member (accidentally) to another (habitable) world.... Aha.

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