Author’s note: This review contains spoilers of all three chapters of the Syfy channel’s Ascension three-day series. Lots and lots of them. My review of Chapter 1 can be found here. My review of Chapter 2, here. It is recommended you read all three reviews in order.
If you feel like Syfy’s miniseries Ascension is a scam, a colossal fraud, a bait-and-switch con game—well, then you are correct, and on many levels too. The Sci-Fi Channel was once a reliable source of quality science fiction, but eventually it morphed into Syfy, full of psychic quacks and other unwatchable rubbish. Ascension seemed to be following this pattern during the three-day run. Whether it can redeem itself is now an open question.
Ascension is a deeply nested, recursive maze of lies and political machinations. The viewer is hoaxed just as the characters in the story are hoaxed: with multiple misdirections—feints within feints within feints, and a few more feints just for fun.
As the convolutions degrade the storyline from mind-blowing to annoying to just boring, enough hot sex and nudity (a well-lit skinny-dipping scene at about minute 34, for example) are tossed in to alter the viewer’s focus and keep one involved, sort of like how a manipulative lover will give you just enough hope to keep your passions burning—or a fisherman might jiggle a baited hook.
In my review of Chapter 1, I noted that Ascension had something for everyone: “a murder mystery, a period piece about the early 60s, a government conspiracy, a crew rumbling toward mutiny, a seemingly psychic tweener, a social commentary that crosses 50 years.”
To that list we can now add an espionage story, a sexual morality play, a prison escape yarn, a death camp opus, an old-style horror flick, Mission: Impossible, Teen Mom, ALF, and The Ghost Whisperer. Additionally, the relational violence between the feminist lesbians leads to one of them killing the other (no real surprise to Men’s Rights Advocates familiar with the overwhelming levels of deadly violence in feminist and lesbian couples).
Chapter 3 opens with an annual shipboard ritual know as “Ostera” (or maybe “Ostara”), a pagan, goddess-centered fertility rite wherein the process of replacing the year’s dead crewmates begins with the announcement of birth authorization—official permission for the lucky selected couples to procreate. Despite four crew deaths, only three couples are chosen because one of the dead (Dwight) was an unauthorized bastard birth and so not worthy of replacement under the ship’s rigid protocols.
The fertility ceremony is marred when a sex tape of the captain and the not-dead-then Lorelei is played on the main display. The captain and his wife face a vote of no confidence and a twisted power struggle now that their wholesome public image is tarnished. Yes, even though everyone is fucking everyone on the ship, there is still a threadbare layer of propriety, much like highly religious societies that force seedier human desires underground.
And to top off the fertility theme of this chapter, we have the “Star Child” from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yes, the aptly named tweener character Crista is “the anomaly,” a Christ-like (or Neo-like) figure of vast divine power, making this a born-in-a-pigs-n-chickens-manger starship Nativity tale as well. Crista can read minds, summon the ghost of her dead sister (who seems to have had some of the same mental powers as well), perform telekinesis (often with massive violence à la Firestarter), vaporize bodies, and even teleport you light-years across the galaxy—or maybe the universe—to a habitable planet only Crista knows about. Of course, you’ll have nothing to survive with on that planet except the clothes on your back and whatever rocks and mud you can find. Perhaps Crista will fashion you a wife from your rib, or something.
The birth of Crista and others like her was the deep goal of the Ascension mission-experiment. A cult-like religious group (of whom we get only a hint) creates a multigenerational breeding program (sort of like if one could recombine the descendants of Jesus from The Da Vinci Code) that is hidden inside a fake sociology experiment inside a faked intergalactic science mission. This is eugenics on nuclear steroids, a breeding of superior humans to produce god-like ultra-beings, of which Crista and the deceased Lorelei are the current pinnacle. In the next generation, will we get a child like Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation?
In the course of Chapter 2, we got to overhear the quasi-religious matriarchal oath of allegiance that the whorish stewardesses took, pledging “body and soul” as “We are the Wife, Mother, and Caregiver to All.” The matriarchy assumes full power in Chapter 3, both on board Ascension and in the Mission Control group that oversees the experiment. During the final crisis, the captain’s wife fights off an attempted sexual assault by a lower-caste man (teach lower deckers not to rape, you idiots) and takes command of the ship’s bridge because all the real men are off doing the dirty work trying to save the dying environmental systems.
Meanwhile, in Mission Control, lifelong mission manager Harris Enzmann (End’s Man?) wore a shirt with nekked babes on it (or something) and is now facing removal and execution by the sinister higher goddess powers, represented by the ruthless Catherine. Harris escapes through a harrowing series of accidents and maneuvers to toss Catherine and her wicked cellphone into the void, much like Gollum and the ring splashing into the lava inside Mount Doom. The King has returned, maybe.
Lesbian investigator Samantha manages to break former crewman Stokes out of Mission Control, but not before Stokes learns of the death of his bastard son. Samantha is wounded, Stokes has no experience in the modern world (“Everything is cocooned in plastic!”), and so they must call on Samantha’s new conspiracy-nut girlfriend to help get Stokes out of the country. They are betrayed by the girlfriend, but Stokes manages to flee on his own, a stranger in a strange land.
Ascension ends with lots of dead bodies and loose ends, enough so that we can expect a regular series to spring up eventually if the Syfy folks get their soap opera act together and feminists don’t object that Ascension lays bare the truth that women dominate the hidden power structures in society. Will they? Many of the names of the Ascension characters (like Gault and Denninger) seem to be patterned after similar names (Galt and Danniger/Danneskjold) in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.