“This was secretly launched by President Kennedy soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis,” explains Ascension creator Philip Levins (Smallville). “The real Orion Project had begun in the Fifties, but was killed in 1963 when Kennedy saw the mock-up of the Orion spacecraft, because it terrified him. It looked like the Death Star. It was a military project that had been designed to stay in orbit over the Soviet Union and destroy them at a moment’s notice. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy killed the project. But in this fictional narrative, it’s intended to be a life-well for humanity. If we kill everyone on Earth, these people and their descendents will make sure humanity survives.”
The show sees a Sixties-era USA launch 600 people on a century-long voyage aboard the generational starship Ascension to populate a new world, but halfway into their journey, the murder of a young woman causes the ship’s population to question the true nature of their mission.
He adds, “What they find is a 22-short caliber bullet in her skull. It wasn’t powerful enough to exit, which begs the question – who brought a gun? And whoever did knew exactly what they were doing, because the gun wasn’t powerful enough to puncture the bulkheads and destroy the ship, so that is part of the mystery.”
But that, he emphasises, is only one mystery of Ascension, which stars, among others, Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica), Brian Van Holt (Agents Of SHIELD) and Gil Bellows (Falling Skies). “There are mysteries that I can’t tell you about,” Levins closes. “What happens and what will happen on the ship is not what anyone expects.”
Ascension is airing on Sky 1 at 9pm in the UK from 16 January. Keep up with the latest genre TV news in the most recent issue of SciFiNow.