The SyFy television series The Ark happened. I stayed away from it until I was able to be rested and give it the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t want to be biased by fatigue or just off the high of watching something I might have deemed “good sci-fi”.
First, there was happiness.
A new science fiction light was dawning and after the Expanse ending, near-future space stories had the potential to woo me again. I thought the Ark might have some of that heart and story the Expanse made popular – serial space adventure.
In that light, I waited until this morning to watch the Ark. It was a sadness-generating event.
It was a mix of Space 1999’s (a television show which existed long before most modern science fiction watchers have any history of – a show whose premise was a mysterious accident drove the Moon away from the Earth into deep space…) Yeah, couple the “mysterious accident” and lackluster sets, along with the standard but long abused sci-fi tropes of “leaderless crew” plus “ratchet-space hooptie” along with the “precocious teens save the world” with a sprinkling of “angry crew with murderous secrets” on “the last best hope for humanity” space ark and you have the Ark.
After the sadness came frustration.
In an era where scientists and engineers with actual knowledge about what good design of a spacecraft should be, with said consultants waving signs to help new shows create viable scientifically-accurate creations, the designers of this show could have built a near-future space-craft design which doesn’t fail in every meaningful way of being such a craft. I enjoy the exteriors and the flyby’s and all of the other beautiful effort made to showcase the exterior of the ship BUT there were so many things wrong with the ship which you might only know if you have any interest in space ships, extrasolar arks, or naval ship design.
For example and let’s start with the elephant in the room:
• WHO PUTS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEMBERS OF THE CREW IN ONE SECTION OF THE SHIP? Convenient for the plot but unrealistic for the crew of a space exploration vehicle, since if the goal is to provide maximum redundancy, that specialized personnel should be scattered among the crew to reduce the possibility of the command crew being wiped out in a single event.
• I love the fact they knew part of such a generation ship should have rotating sections to provide pseudo-gravity. But that gravity should be confined to the spinning regions of the ship.
• Speaking of cryostasis: People went from four years of cryo-stasis to instantly aware, aware and mobile after seconds of being awake. Most medical wonks will tell you that won’t be possible without significant advances in medical technology. The spacesuit/compression suits appear to be capable of moving a person wearing them. No explanation is made except for the fact the doctor reminds us the people wouldn’t be able to move without them until they rehabilitate.
• As anyone who has been in ANY naval service can tell you, compartmentalization, the breaking up of a ship’s hull to reduce sections lost to depressurization (or hull failure due to damage) is a standard design feature in anything which floats on the ocean. It will also be a standard aboard large spaceships for the same reason. The first bay where all of the crew wakes from cyro-stasis has NO compartmentalization which means one hull breach in that section of the ship and they ALL die.
• Hydroponic LED grow lights shouldn’t take an incredible amount of energy to power. If putting on your plant lights is going to destabilize your life support…
There are more important problems to be solved.
All of this took me out of the show because they are glaring errors which just shouldn’t have been a consideration for problems on a starship supposedly traveling to another star. Crew: twice-vetted. Imposters should be next to impossible. Everyone on that ship should know everyone else. This feels like the crew was picked by lottery and they were shot into space on a one way trip into the unknown.
Yes, the Ark. I get it. This ship just doesn’t feel like what I imagine a well-oiled machine to the stars ought to. There just don’t seem to be enough redundancies to allow for them to resolve issues before they become crises.
Hire some damn consultants.
The Ark: a show without science or engineering consultation. The ship’s design is too implausible to survive. and is narratively powered solely by worn out, poorly managed, #SyFy tropes. My professional opinion is this show #WillGetWorse before it potentially gets better.
There were actors and writers and probably other relevant things which a REVIEW might cover. This was not a review. This was a condemnation of the lack of effort on the part of the producers of this show which was an egregious oversight on their part. If you find yourself annoyed when a show pretends science doesn’t exist, even as it attempts to highlight said science, it doesn’t deserve a review. It deserves a drubbing about the head and shoulders.
My friend suggest giving it five episodes before I put the Ark out of the airlock. To that wisdom, I shall give it five episodes which I think it will be lucky to get, if this first one was any indication of quality. Maybe next time, I will care enough to talk about the actors who at this point were perfectly annoying and disposable.
Next week, we will see if their faster-than-light travel uses a technology to brace them against the stresses caused by such travel. I don’t hold any hope for it to improve. This is supposed to be a space ark, not Noah’s Ark.
I am, however, available for science consultation for a modest fee…
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.