Do you wonder at all what it would be like to live your entire life on a spaceship? That’s one of the unanswered questions posed by Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster “Interstellar.” SyFy’s new mini-series, “Ascension” may be the unintentional answer.
The three-night mini-series event chronicles the crew of an intergalactic spaceship — Ascension — which launched in 1963, just at the head of the Civil Rights movement. When the series begins it is 50 years later and the crew is at the halfway mark of a mission to find new life amongst the stars. However, a murder onboard puts the entire project in jeopardy and begins to unravel the ship’s carefully maintained order.
Every person onboard Ascension when the show begins was born on the ship, meaning they have no cultural reference of Earth past the early 1960s. Without civil rights, or Vietnam, “Ascension” becomes less about the space exploration and more about how a culture develops without these historical turning points.
Brandon Bell plays Officer Oren Gault — the man put in charge of investigating the murder on a ship that has never known crime more serious than drunken bar fights — and must figure out how to solve the mystery without damaging the ship’s social structure.
“They missed Malcolm X. They missed the Women’s Rights movement and Civil Rights – but they still have their own conflicts and cultural turmoil as well,” Bell explains to Zap2it. “I don’t know if [society] is supposed to be exempt from that or if it’s even possible.”
Despite avoiding these major conflicts on Earth, other forms of prejudice form on the ship. Instead of dividing along racial lines, the ship is divided into upper and lower decks — with the labor force residing in the lower half of the ship while the officers and “high class” crew members live in the upper decks.
It’s not impossible to go from the lower to upper decks. Gault does it based on his aptitude tests and ambition, but once one crosses into high society it is frowned upon to continue socialization with the lower deck members. The classism involved becomes a major point of contention when its revealed that the murder victim, Lorelei Wright, had a lower deck boyfriend.
Gault being one of the few people on the ship familiar with both worlds is what makes him the best person to lead the investigation.
“Ascension is really divided by class and exploring the duality of Gault’s experiences was really cool — having been born on the lower deck to currently being in the upper deck crest of the crew of Ascension was really interesting,” explains Bell. “But at the end of the day he is going to investigate and become a detective.”
While Gault’s detective research is limited to the classic literature brought on board when the ship launched 50 years prior, Bell dug into a few classic detective shows for his own research.
“I used to watch shows like ‘Columbo’ and all the ‘Law & Order’s with my parents, so those definitely came in handy,” jokes Bell jokes. “It was really interesting to see how Gault becomes a detective though since they have never dealt with anything like this before. He’s really green.”
Find out how the mystery unravels when “Ascension” premieres at Monday, Dec. 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on SyFy.