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The Ark Episode 1 Everyone Wanted To Be On This Ship Review And Recap- Smuggled Dirt, Suffocation, And Stowaways

I loved the space dramas from the late nineties and early oughts. There is something simultaneously terrifying and endlessly possible about the expanse of space. The very thing that allows for exploration beyond our wildest imagination can also kill us. Claustrophobia, urgency, and desperation make for great stories. Syfy’s latest space series from Dean Devlin(Stargate and sudsy Leverage) and Jonathan Glassner(Stargate SG-1) is the best of those earlier series but with an updated sensibility that shows tremendous promise. Similar to the excellent sci-fi series of the past, The Ark Episode 1 opens with a bang that informs everything that is to come.

The Ark Episode 1
THE ARK — “Everyone Wanted to Be on This Ship” Episode 101 — Pictured: Tiana Upcheva as Eva Markovic — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

The pilot opens with Lt. Sharon Garner, a gritty Christie Burke waking up from her cryo pod under the worst circumstances. The chamber she is in is falling apart and in danger of collapsing, killing everyone in it. The tense opening sequence quickly establishes some nifty gravity fixes and who is in charge. Sharon acts quickly enough to save almost everyone and evacuate them before things fall apart. She also re-engaged the gravity wheel and established life support. She saves the ship, and the few left alive and on board.

Unfortunately, nearly three-fourths of the crew were lost in the disaster. All that is left of command are three lieutenants. We have already met Lt. Garnett, Lt. Lane(Reece Ritchie), and brash Lt. James Brice(Richard Fleeshman) are all that remains of the commanding officers. All the superior officers were in one of the lost pod chambers. As we later learn, the only exception to this is Susan Ingram, who shouldn’t have been down with the plebians but was. That is just one of many mysteries that unfolds as The Ark Episode 1 plays out.

The small group on board the Ark 1 has a lot of obstacles to overcome right away. They have very little food and even less water. Their water recycling system was lost in the accident that damaged the ship, and most of their food flew off with large sections of the ship. In short order, the young crew must establish a hierarchy and figure it out. Adorable geniuses Angus(Ryan Adams) and Alicia Nevins(Stacey Read) are standouts in this episode that establishes quickly, even though the older, more experienced crew members are missing, there is plenty of brain power left.

The first course of action is to retrofit the recycling system that was meant for the planet upon arrival. While searching for the parts needed to make the adjustments, Angus stops Sharon and shows her the contraband soil he smuggled on board. It might be the answer to their food problems if they sacrifice some of their limited water for cultivation and divert power to the massive grow lights. Unfortunately, not everyone is in agreement on Sharon’s unilateral decision to forge ahead, and rifts develop between the leadership group, which is composed of the most experienced people left in each department. Waste Management and Engineering Specialist Eva Markovik(Tiana Upcheva) is stressed, and a secret relationship worsens things.

Just as Angus gets his makeshift farm set up, the oxygen begins rapidly dropping. The computer system also fails, and they have no way of diagnosing the problem. When oxygen drops below 15%, the ship goes on lockdown, and several people are left with no helmets or oxygen. Sweet Baylor Trent(Miles Barrow) is one of those who has to fend for themselves while they slowly suffocate. Luckily he is a man of many talents, including lock picking, and he gathers the oxygen tanks in the med bay and frees himself.

Before he can get to everyone, Eva is forced to watch as her love passes out and later dies. How this will affect her moving forward remains to be seen, but she will likely struggle with grief and guilt. Unfortunately, the one and only systems expert on board, Jasper Dades(Chris Leask), is MIA. When they find him, he admits to lying about who he is. He actually is Malcolm Perry, an enterprising criminal who used a hacker to fake his way on board.

Luckily fast talking Alicia does know how to restart the computer system. She smartly identifies the Barstow problem, a hazard of using Elliot Barstow’s utilitarian and often flawed code. According to Alicia, the code was cheap and thus used all over, which does not bode well for the ship’s systems moving forward. Nevertheless, she is able to restart the system and run diagnostics. After the problem is pinpointed, they seal the leak, and oxygen is restored to the ship.

Sharon restrains Jasper and interrogates him. She tells him she plans on recommending the death penalty. He responds that he wasn’t the only desperate person to lie about who they are and then mentions a young cadet with an anger management problem named Denise. Sharon visibly cringes, and another mystery is revealed. How many other people have secrets, and who is Denise?

By the end of The Ark Episode 1, Jasper is dead with a slit throat, and cute Alisha is now in charge of Systems. Undoubtedly, his murder will reverberate throughout the rest of the season. I have high hopes for this series; that has all the hallmarks of an addictive sci-fi thriller. The Ark Episode 1 is built to create intrigue. It is mysterious and exciting, introducing characters and set pieces I want to see more of. New episodes are available on SYFY each Wednesday, and make sure you follow us for all our The Ark coverage.

Stray Quarks:

  • Who is Denise? Is she Sharon from another life, or is she someone who Sharon hurt?
  • Why haven’t they received any communication from Earth in four years? Does Earth no longer exist? Are their satellites disabled? Is it possible they ended up farther away than they intended and are outside the range of the satellites?
  • Cat seems a little too selfish to be an invited Ark crewman. Her need for a shower makes me suspicious that she might be another person who snuck aboard.