A Sunday story in Io9 reported on a panel at ComicCom devoted to an upcoming TV series to air on the SyFy channel this fall called “Ascension.” The premise of the series is that in 1963 a crew of 600 people were placed aboard a spaceship and sent to a planet in another star system. The idea was that the last remnant of humanity would be preserved in the event of a thermonuclear war.
The idea of an early 1960s starship seems to be based on a proposal that was advanced in the late 1950s to build huge spacecraft that were propelled by the explosions of nuclear bombs. Such ships would be able to travel faster and farther than any other spacecraft using less drastic propulsion technology. The project was eventually scrapped, largely due to the problem of setting off nuclear explosions in the atmosphere with the attending fallout and electromagnetic pulse.
Even so the starship in the series will take 100 years to reach the new world. That means generations of people will be born, will live, and die knowing nothing but the ship. This naturally causes some problems as the series opens, 50 years into the voyage, or 2014.
The crew of the ship is said to be ethnically diverse and selected from the best and brightest that 1963 had to offer. But the fact remains that it departed Earth before civil rights, before the feminist movement, and before many of the other cultural upheavals that occurred on the Earth they left behind. How much is the culture on the ship, cut off from Earth, is frozen in time and how much has it evolved in unexpected directions?
Besides the expected interpersonal conflicts that would arise in an enclosed space in the middle of interstellar space, there is the problem of the younger generation, having been born and grown up after the ship left Earth. Will they be as committed to the mission as their parents were? And how do people handle the fact that there are not a lot of choices on the ship, with everything from occupation to the choice of spouses decided for one? In short it looks like “Ascension” has every potential to be intelligent, thought provoking science fiction.