Worlds beyond and within our own: Ascension, Dominion, The Expanse + The Anomaly

Stuck in Customs via photopin cc
Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

 

We’re going back to the stars people!

And where we are staying earthbound, the heavens are coming to us, although if the storyline of Dominion is any guide, we’d probably much rather it hadn’t.

The good news is that epic, adventurous sci-fi narratives, which seemed to go out vogue particularly on syfy which lost its way about the same time it forgot how to spell sci-fi, are back in a big way with something like 18 shows going into production at the moment.

It’s a bright, new exciting era and I have gathered together three shows that are attracting lots of buzz – even if one of them is good in spite of itself (Dominion again) – plus one token movie because frankly I could.

Enjoy and get ready for blast off! (Or blast down if that’s a thing, which to be fair, it probably isn’t).

 

ASCENSION

 

x-ray delta one via photopin cc
x-ray delta one via photopin cc

 

SNAPSHOT
In 1963, President Kennedy and the U.S. government launched a covert space mission sending hundreds of men, women and children on a century-long voyage aboard the starship “Ascension” to populate a new world, assuring the survival of the human race. (synopsis via Variety)

I love the sound of Ascension.

Embedded within a timeline of true events, it’s an imaginative take on the idea that there was far more going on within the American program back in the 1960s than just preparing for a series of manned missions to the moon.

The premise, which is a bold and exciting one, wholly appropriate for a series which marks syfy’s long-awaited return to “quality, scripted space opera”, centres on the idea that President Kennedy and NASA were focused on far grander ideas like giving humanity a vital back up should the worst ever happen to the Earth, something which looked quite likely in the days of the Cold War, especially followed the tense events of the Bay of Pigs crisis in 1962.

And so they sent a starship off across the space on a hundred journey to seed another planet with humanity’s DNA and civilisation, a grand experiment to spread our presence far into a galaxy we are even now just barely getting a grasp on.

Billed as the dramatic lovechild of Battlestar Galactica and Downton Abbey, a promising shorthand if ever there was one, chinks start to appear in the facade of this shiny idealistic venture when 50 years into the journey, and nearing the point of no return, a woman is found murdered on the ship.

It sets in train a series of event that, if not dealt with appropriately, could imperil this ambitious mission to ensure humanity’s future as tensions between various members of the team lead many to question the true nature of the mission, as Bill McGoldrick, the Executive VP Original Scripted Programming, made clear at syfy’s upfront presentations back in March:

“No, I almost said Downton Abbey in space. There’s an upstairs/downstairs aspect to it. You gotta think, kinda, Titanic. In the show they call it ‘above deck’ and ‘below deck’… The below deck people are convinced that they shouldn’t go any further, that they need to turn the ship around. They don’t trust the authority because they’ve been so subjugated. They’re thinking, ‘We don’t know if they’re ever going to find this place, we don’t know if the right people are in charge, let’s turn around and go home.’ And when we enter the show, you see a lot of that.”

It all adds up to much drama far out in the deep reaches of our galaxy and all the buzz suggests it will be the triumphant return to drama in space that many hoped syfy would re-embrace one day.

Ascension is set to premiere in November 2014.

 

 

DOMINION

 

(image via Sci Fi Now)
(image via Sci Fi Now)

 

SNAPSHOT
Dominion is an epic supernatural drama set in the near future. Specifically, 25 years after “The Extinction War,” when an army of lower angels, assembled by the archangel Gabriel, waged war against mankind. The archangel Michael, turning against his own kind, chose to side with humanity. Rising out of the ashes of this long battle are newly fortified cities which protect human survivors. At the center of the series is the city of Vega, a glistening empire that has formed from the ruins of what was once Las Vegas. (official synopsis via syfy)

I have to be honest.

I am no fan, no fan at all, of the Z-grade movie that was Legion (2010), a movie that told the story of God’s thwarted campaign to wipe out mankind in an apocalyptic frenzy – the Bibilical basis for this was tenuous at best but when has this ever stopped anyone from having some post modern fun with it? – and which is the basis for the new TV series Dominion.

Indeed, all my worst fears about how schlocky this would be seemed to be confirmed by every report I read about it.

That was until I came this a piece on by Rob Owen, writing at Community Voices Post-Gazette, who says that even though the “premise and plot of Syfy’s Dominion are laughable” that “the show’s cast of acting veterans manage to sell the silliness, except perhaps when the angel characters have giant wings that erupt from their backs.”

He goes on to say that while “Dominion will never be confused with sophisticated TV … in its pilot episode, the only episode made available for review, it’s surprisingly more entertaining and a better yarn than plenty of other Syfy efforts.”

He makes the point that the show is positioned to be about far more than simply angels at war with one another, with aspects of the new society that developed post-Legion, such as the religious and political giving the narrative plenty of compelling, if B-grade drama inclined, places to go.

I am not sure that is enough to convince me to take on the show as a longer term viewing commitment but I will at least give the pilot a go and see if my reticence was justified or not.

Dominion premieres on syfy on 19 June, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE EXPANSE

 

(image via Engadget)
(image via Engadget)

 

SNAPSHOT
Set 200 years in the future, the 10-episode thriller follows the case of a missing young woman who brings a hardened detective and a rogue ship captain together in a race across the solar system to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history. (synopsis via Variety)

I am a great fan of galaxy-spanning space operas.

My bookshelves heave under the weight of mind-blowingly imaginative tales by the likes of Peter F. Hamilton, and Kevin J. Anderson to name but two of the talented writers at work in the genre.

While I have not had the pleasure of reading James S. A Corey’s work – the author’s name is a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, both of whom will be producers on the show syfy is producing based on their books – it looks to have every possible narrative ingredient you could want for a series that has been billed by syfy’s president Dave Howe as the network’s “most ambitious series to date.”

With comparisons to everything from Stars Wars to Firefly and Game of Thrones under its belt already, it marks another plank in syfy’s apparently sincere attempt to return to its storytelling roots, and hopefully leave the endless reality shows etc far behind it.

No word yet on a premiere date although the series has gone straight to order so here’s hoping for sooner rather than later.

 

THE ANOMALY

 

(image via Impawards)
(image via Impawards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Traumatized ex-soldier Ryan Reeve (Noel Clarke) wakes up in the back of a van, alongside a kidnapped boy. Ryan helps him escape but when he finds a mask in his pocket he comes to an appalling realization…. But there’s no time to act — after nine minutes and forty seven seconds of consciousness it all goes black. What does this have to do with Ryan’s past as a patient at the experimental Medical Unit? Ryan has a lot of questions, and very little time to find any answers. (synopsis via Teaser Trailer)

And you thought you had tough deadlines at work!

Ryan Reeve, a man who doesn’t even know why he’s in the back of a van, much less why a frightened kidnapped boy is in there with him, has just 9 minutes and 47 seconds to react to, and deal with the situation before he loses consciousness.

It kind of makes your “I need this tomorrow!” projects from your boss look like a relative walk in the park now doesn’t it?

Noel Clarke, who both directs and acts in the movie would likely know a thing or two about tight deadlines after his multiple roles working on The Anomaly,  looks superb as a man desperately trying to work out what is going on and do something about it before the clock ticks down.

It all adds up to an edge-of-your-seat viewing experience, a visceral adrenaline rush that you can truly appreciate in the clip that follows the trailer (below).

The Anomaly opens in UK on 4 July 2014; no worldwide screening dates available at this time.

 

 

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