Ascension – A Trashy Soap Opera in Outer Space

Ascension on Netflix has sex, murders, betrayals and partial nudity – all on a fantastic spaceship traveling to a new planet. For pure escapist fun, Ascension is great. It begins with the murder of a beautiful Stewardess (yes- this futuristic spaceship has plenty of Stewardesses parading around in skimpy outfits). The search for her murderer undercovers secrets withing secrets that threaten to destroy the entire mission of the Ascension. But don’t feel too badly for the murdered woman. She does get to come back in later episodes as a ghost.

Jessica Sipos & Tricia Helfer on "Ascension"
Jessica Sipos & Tricia Helfer on “Ascension”

The plot of Ascension is that President Kennedy launched a secret mission to send 600 people into space to colonize a distant planet. The flight would take so long that only the descendants of the original crew would live long enough to reach the new world. It is now more than 50 years later and the Ascension is in deep space and none of the people living on it have ever been to Earth.

Brad Carter & Jacqueline Byers in "ascension"
Brad Carter & Jacqueline Byers in “ascension”

With not much to do on the ship except to wait for it to reach a new planet, the 600 people on board seem to spend most of their time having casual affairs, plotting to improve their social positions and drinking as much alcohol as possible.

Like all good Soap Operas, Ascension is never played for laughs. The spaceship has all the infighting, backstabbing and social posturing that would exist in a small town. There is a strict social order with Captain William Denniger (played by Brian Van Holt) at the very top. His beautiful wife Viondra (Tricia Helfer) loves being at the top of the pyramid and is willing to do anything to stay there.

Jessica Helfer & Brian Van Holt on "Ascension
Jessica Helfer & Brian Van Holt on “Ascension

However, Viondra has also made sure to hedge her bets. She is having an affair with Councilman Rose (Al Sapienza) who has a political faction that wants a new Captain. Viondra has made sure that no matter who wins, she will remain the Alpha Female.

The bottom of the social order is populated by the people in the “lower decks”. They grow the food, maintain the machinery and basically do all the real work on the spaceship. They are getting tired of their lot in life and there is talk of a revolution.

Brad Carter gives a powerful performance as a stockyard manager from the lower decks. He is crude, dirty and violent, but also much more intelligent than people give him credit for. Of course, he is the number one suspect when the murder happens. He is also the one who finds out about the real secret of Ascension. (That secret is revealed partway into the series and it is so startling that we will not spoil it here).

Jacqueline Byers is Nora, a teenager who is trying to cope with the reality that her entire world consists of only 600 people, and will never expand.

Ascension was originally on the Sci-Fy Channel and is now on Netflix. Since Sci-Fy is basic cable, they were not allowed to show nudity. But Ascension also wanted to show as much flesh as possible to titillate the Sci-Fy geeks.

That’s why the spaceship has an artificial beach and pool set up to look like a lagoon. This is supposed to make the crew feel like they are on Earth. Of course, the real reason is for Ascension to show beautiful women in skimpy bikinis as often as possible. For a show that takes place in space, an incredible number of the scenes happen on the beach. Ascension does show a few bare bottoms, and side views of almost nudity, which was the most basic cable would allow.

Ascension is pure mindless entertainment and you may enjoy the Guilty Pleasure of binge watching the entire season on weekend. They never did make a second season, but Season One of Ascension does end with a bang that makes it worth watching.

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