It’s hard to believe sometimes that it’s been more than a decade since Syfy showed us “Battlestar Galactica” for the first time.
Yet, here it was, December 2003, when Ronald D. Moore showed us that the space opera could not only be cool again, but that it will keep us talking for years and years.
Back then, “Battlestar” was just a miniseries, too. Yes, Syfy — then known as the SciFi Channel — was hoping to move forward with a series. But at that particular moment, when Tricia Helfer walked down the corridor of that space station for the first time, no one had any clue that “Battlestar” would continue to be the cable channel’s critical flagship, even five years after its cancellation.
And now we’re following Helfer again. And this time she’s taking on a character even more fascinating than Number Six. She is one of the stars of “Ascension,” the December 2014 miniseries for Syfy that the cable channel once again hopes will be its next great series.
If the first night of three is any indication? Then I believe it’s safe to say that lightning has struck again.
During the most recent Syfy Digital Press Tour in Orlando, Florida, we had a chance to bowl with the cast of “Ascension.” At the time, I had no idea what the show was — I am semi-retired from the site right now as I work on screenplays I would eventually like to produce — but I was excited about finally meeting Helfer, who may be a beautiful woman, but who also proved time and time again she deserves not just one, but at least three Emmys sitting on her mantle.
Our bowling partner that night was Brandon Bell, an accomplished character actor who was coming into this show as Oren Gault, the second-in-command of a generational spaceship on a 100-year voyage — that began in the 1960s.
I had to stop and think about that for a second. This is a spaceship, that has not been on Earth in more than half a century, in which a crew not only never saw the sun or the beach first hand but didn’t even know the president who sent them — John F. Kennedy — was assassinated a short time later.
We know how Earth has evolved over the last 50 years, but what about a small group of people on a spaceship? What would their 2014 be like?
“Ascension” explores that, and then some. It comes with a stellar cast that includes Helfer (you immediately forget about Number Six within two minutes of seeing her), Bell, as well as Brian Van Holt, Al Sapienza, Ryan Robbins (who shared that first “Battlestar” scene with Helfer so many years ago) and Andrea Roth.
In fact, this is my favorite type of cast — the ensemble — which worked extremely well with “Battlestar” as well as “Stargate: Universe.”
Yet, as interesting as the concept sounded, I didn’t want to get drawn into “Ascension.” Even when the press screener arrived several weeks ago, I wouldn’t put it into the DVD player. So many times, Syfy has teased us with the next “Battlestar,” and so many times, I was disappointed. There was no way I was going to fall for it again. especially with something created by a man — Adrian Cruz — who had no major screen credits to his name.
Nuh-uh, Syfy. You’re not going to fool me again.
Yet, I was the fool. “Ascension” hit me like an interstellar rocket ship at full-speed, and now I want more. More. More. More. More.
Cruz put together a brilliant concept and made it work on screen. It has a touch of “Mad Men,” a dash of “CSI” and a pinch of “Battlestar.” And it’s made me excited about watching television again.
Even when I started recognizing the breadcrumbs of a twist, I refused to believe it. There’s no way they would go in that direction, no matter how fun and exciting that would be. It’s too bold, even of Syfy. But when they did it, I was cheering out loud. And you will be too.
“Ascension” airs Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’m sure Syfy will rerun the first part ahead of that. So if you decided to skip out on “Ascension,” you better turn that boat around. Cancel your plans, because “Ascension” is about to take over the world.
“Ascension” is on 9 p.m. ET through Dec. 17 on Syfy.