CBC departs from the usual with six-part sci-fi drama ‘Ascension’

by W. Andrew Powell

This fall the CBC will be shaking things up just a little bit with a series that bears little resemblance to what viewers have come to expect of the Canadian broadcaster. Announced last week, CBC will be airing the six-part Canadian-produced science fiction series Ascension, which was commissioned by Syfy in the U.S.

The new series, which began filming in Quebec just last week, will premier in November 2014, and is set in 1963 when the U.S. government has secretly sent a starship–the Ascension–filled with men, women and children, on a century-long mission to bring mankind to a new planet. After 50 years into the trip, at the point-of-no-return, a woman’s murder makes everyone on Ascension wonder whether they know the truth about their mission.

Ascension stars Brian Van Holt as the ship’s captain, William Denninger, alongside Tricia Helfer as his wife, Viondra.

“In addition to Helfer,” the release from the CBC noted, “the cast features a number of Canadian actors including Jacqueline Byers and Andrea Roth. Wendy Crewson, Ryan Robbins and John Ralston are currently set to guest star. Other lead cast members include Brandon P. Bell and Tiffany Lonsdale.”

CBC Television’s Sally Catto, the general manager of programming, said in the statement: “Adding this futuristic drama series will complement our overall schedule nicely and will undoubtedly draw a strong audience with its compelling and unusual plot line.”

Ascension is created and written by Philip Levens, a producer and writer from Smallville, and he will act as executive producer and showrunner.

While there is no certainty as to why the CBC decided to pick up the rights to Ascension in Canada, it seems likely that the successes of Canadian-made series like Orphan Black and Bitten, not to mention Being Human, helped convince the broadcaster that a genre show could help bring in viewers.

Scroll down for the official character descriptions from SyFy, and head over to YouTube for a teaser of the series.

Cast and Character Descriptions:

Tricia Helfer – known and loved by million as Cylon Number Six in Battlestar Galactica- is part of the cast. She will play Viondra Denniger, a beautiful, manipulative and dangerous power broker on the Ascension.

Brian Van Holt – star of Cougar Town and The Bridge – will play William Denninger, captain of the ship and Viondra’s husband. A natural leader, William quickly rose through the ranks after playing a heroic role in a fire early in the spacecraft’s voyage. While his professional life is solid, William’s marriage to Viondra is anything but.

Andrea Roth, star of Rescue Me, will play Juliet Bryce, head doctor of the Ascension. Her relationship with her daughter, Nora (played by Jacqueline Byers) is difficult and strained. Nora, for her part, is a young woman under intense pressure to follow in the family’s footsteps of being a doctor despite her own dreams.

Rounding out the cast are Brandon P. Bell as First Officer Oren Gault, who was born on the lower decks of the ship to maintenance workers and must investigate the aforementioned murder; Tiffany Lonsdale as Chief Astronomer Emily Vanderhaus, the older sister of the murder victim; and PJ Boudousque (Pretty Little Liars) as one of the ship’s maintenance workers.

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