Remember when President John F. Kennedy ordered hundreds of people into the cosmos aboard a giant spaceship?
You don’t? Well, don’t worry: Neither does anyone else, and that’s why “fiction” is part of the term “science fiction.”
The premise fuels “Ascension,” a new Syfy miniseries running nightly Monday through Wednesday, Dec 15-17. The duty of the vessel’s passengers, who were facing a nuclear threat along with the rest of America when launched, is to start a new world. Midway through the 100-year trek, a murder aboard their ship named Ascension prompts questions about the true intent of the mission.
Cast as the self-concerned wife of the captain (who’s played by “Cougar Town” alum Brian Van Holt) is Tricia Helfer, no stranger to sci-fi — nor to Syfy — thanks to her run as the Cylon known as Number Six on the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica.” She says creator and executive producer Philip Levens (“Smallville”) explained to her that “Ascension” is “sort of loosely based off of a real project, Project Orion, that was about sending a nuclear-powered ship.
“It’s interesting to have this alternate reality, sort of a Plan B for humanity … and for me, it was all about the characters and the stories of ‘what if?'” Helfer tells Zap2it. “What if these people were in space on this journey? They didn’t know if Earth still existed when my character was born on the ship.”
The future truly is now in “Ascension” if one considers the saga’s roots are in 1963, since 50 years past that would make today the approximate timing of the story.
“Every generation has a very different idea,” notes executive producer Jason Blum (“Paranormal Activity”). “Our idea of what 50 years looks like is very different than, even 10 years ago, what 50 years looked like. A lot of the art design came from the idea of the future in the ’60s, as opposed to trying to create a parallel from that.”
Helfer has played more earthbound roles in recent years, as in ABC’s “Killer Women” and NBC’s “The Firm.” She admits she feels “more comfortable” in the science-fiction realm generally, “but this was a project that definitely drew me in. I wanted to see what happens with these people.”