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Review of 'The Ark' 1.1-1.3

Why I'm Enjoying It

By Paul LevinsonPublished about a year ago 4 min read
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So, The Ark debuted on the Syfy Channel three weeks ago to a typical chorus of baying critics who carped that the disaster in deep space movie was itself a disaster, and the series was as "imbecilic" as NBC's time travel series La Brea. I did stop watching La Brea in the second season because it wasn't going anywhere. But at this point I have higher expectations for The Ark.

The set-up is excellent. It's a hundred years in the future, and a human crew in cryogenic sleep, a year away from their destination in deep space, is rudely awakened by an accident that likely isn't an accident. The event kills all the top brass. But fortunately a few people in the middle ranks survive, and are able to take charge of the ship and all those who are still alive and kicking. The travelers have to deal with problems ranging from how to ration the food -- everyone was supposed to wake up much closer to the intended planet, but fortunately there are many fewer mouths to feed -- to locating a murderer being onboard.

Unsurprisingly, the acting is passable not great, but that's ok, it's still very early in the story and there's time for people to grow into their roles. And I liked the ambience. It felt comfortable, realistic, and even refreshing at times. I also liked the timing and the placement of the story. A hundred years from now is further enough in the future to be different from our time, but close enough to be recognizable. And a year away from the ship's destination feels right for a story beginning to unfold over a 12-episode season.

***

Here's what I think, after watching the second episode of The Ark: I know a lot of the character interactions are close to sophomoric. But there's still really something I like about this series. Actually, at least two or even three things, and they're important.

1. There's a freshness about this series. Although the acting is sometimes not the greatest (but see #3 below), the ambience is realistic. Maybe that's because the situation is real -- an interstellar cryogenic voyage disrupted before the destination is reached, putting everyone in imminent danger. Maybe it's because I don't think I've seen any of the actors before, so they seem like real people. But I find myself believing what I'm seeing on the screen.

2. The imminent dangers may be all or mostly created by either some person or group attempting to sabotage the mission, or the incompetence of some of the crew. Both of those sources of peril are also realistic, as well as being fun to watch.

3. And some of the acting is very good. I'm thinking of Garnet (Christie Burke), thrust into the leadership, now reluctantly but effectively in charge. Also, Brice (Richard Fleeshman) and even Medford (Ryan Adams) are putting in strong, i.e., believable, performances.

So count me in as a fan. I'm glad The Ark is up on the air. The third and final season of Star Trek: Picard just debuted on Paramount Plus this past Thursday. I'll of course be watching and reviewing that too. I don't expect The Ark to be anywhere near Picard. But, hey, it's a good series so far.

***

And The Ark keeps getter better and better with every episode.

The main event in episode 1.3 is what to do about the next-to-no water left on the ship, usurped by an even more deadly danger, an asteroid hurtling towards the ship, which will reach and demolish the ship in hours. The resolution of this dilemma upon dilemma is one sweet piece of science fiction: Alicia sees the asteroid has a tail, which means it's a comet not an asteroid, which means it's made of water. Which means that, if The Ark can fly a shuttle near the comet and match its speed -- increasing its speed is not so hard, given that the The Ark is in deep space with no atmospheric resistance -- The Ark can siphon off some of the comet's water, and refill The Ark's nearly empty tank.

Which it does, after some defiantly heroic maneuvers by Brice. So, Coleridge's "water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink," is surmounted and countermanded by the ingenuity of the crew, now working mostly together.

But, of course, this is not the end of this fine episode. Before the credits roll, we learn that Garnet has a violent streak. We already know that she's not averse to using physical force to get her orders obeyed. But now we learn that she can slit someone's neck if she sees herself in any physical danger.

The overall message: not everyone is what they seem to be on this crew. The people who survived the catastrophe are not only survivors, but have histories that we don't know about. A welcome element in a new series.

first starship to Proxima Centauri --with just enough fuel to get there

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About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan, translated into 15 languages. Best-known short story: The Chronology Protection Case; Prof, Fordham Univ.

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