Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ascension Does Not Improve; We Stop Watching [SPOILERS]

So the psychological inconsistencies mentioned last time get worse. Much worse. Much dumber. It's just on the cusp of possibility for the show to explain them, but it's too late for me. Disbelief is no longer suspended.

If you've watched even a bit, you know by now that the starship Ascension is a giant 1963-themed version of The Truman Show, with all 600 crew members enduring the ultimate fake-out; instead of two lightyears from Earth, they're living in a giant basement somewhere, monitored, poked and prodded by a second generation of spooky government lab freaks.

All of the reasons offered by the show as to why this project might be a good idea are just nonsense. The first one, that this is a sociological lifeboat experiment, is shot down by the show itself. The next, that it's a way to get a bunch of science together and focused on inventing things, is even dumber, because creative minds work best when they're allowed free range, not restricted. The last, which isn't stated explicitly, is that it's a breeding program for psychic ability, and that's also idiotic. You could achieve that in this country with nothing more threatening than cash incentives and regular checkups for the kids.

So why am I dissecting this? My point is that Ascension is a classic example of Hollywood Ass-Backward Syndrome, or HABS. Classic hard science fiction is extrapolative: It takes an intellectual premise, a "what if," and considers all the implications, generating situations from that premise. What if sleep becomes unnecessary? What if fully-immersive fantasies become widely available, and so effective that it's impossible to tell reality from fantasy? Human nature being what it is, what would happen if a race of true telepaths emerges? [For some provocative answers to those questions, BTW, check out Beggars in Spain, by Nancy Kress, and Two-Handed Engine and The Piper's Son, by Henry Kuttner.] In Hollywood Ass Backward Syndrome, the opposite occurs: The producers come up with a situation they think is cool [They're on a starship! From the '60s! And it's Capricorn One!] and then hire writers to explain it. Because the explanation is ex post facto, it's never completely satisfactory, and the plot holes and inconsistencies keep piling up. Looper. Inception. And now Ascension. 

Next post - or at least relatively soon - a few words about HABS and the Syfy Channel mindset.

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