March 13, 2014 2:05pm PT by Michael O'Connell
Syfy Returns to Event Series, Orders Six-Hour Space Opera (Exclusive)
Syfy is getting back into the miniseries business. The genre-focused cable network has completed a deal for a six-hour event series, in the spirit of Battlestar Galactica, set for a November premiere.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Syfy has given the greenlight to Ascension -- created and written by Philip Levens (Smallville), who will also serve as executive producer and showrunner. Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television are co-financing and distributing the project, produced in Montreal, Quebec, by Sea To Sky Studios in association with Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions
Part Battlestar and part Downton Abbey, Ascension takes place on a century-long space shuttle journey, where hundreds of men, women and children left Earth behind at the start of the Cold War. Nearly 50 years after their covert 1963 mission launched with the intention of colonizing a new world, a young woman is mysteriously murdered, prompting the population to question the nature of the mission as they near the point of no return.
“Syfy is more committed than ever to bringing to life epic event television,” said network president David Howe. “We have a rich history in this arena, from Steven Spielberg’s Taken to the highly acclaimed mini that launched the Battlestar Galactica series, to reimagined takes on classic tales such as Alice and Tin Man. In keeping with that grand tradition, we are delighted to bring this thrilling, provocative and intelligent event to our fans later this year.”
It has been since 2009’s Alice that Syfy aired a miniseries. And like Battlestar before it, Syfy is keeping its options open for Ascension to serve as a jumping-off point for a potential TV series. Howe and new executive vp original content Bill McGoldrick recently spoke with THR about plans for the network, which include a big push back into the miniseries space and a desire to launch a new space opera.
“We want to be the best science-fiction channel that we possibly can, and in some respects, that means going back to the more traditional sci-fi/fantasy that fans often say they feel we’ve exited,” Howe said. “We’re going to occupy that space in a way we haven’t for the past few years.”
“Phil Levens has crafted a bold and surprising spin on the space opera,” said McGoldrick. “We are equally excited to embark on this journey with our partners at UCP, Sea to Sky, Lionsgate, Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions and also with Mark Stern, who shepherded this project while at Syfy.”
Blum and former Syfy originals exec Stern join Levens as EPs along with Sea to Sky Studios' Ivan Fecan, Tim Gamble and Brett Burlock.
Syfy plans to premiere Ascension in November and air it through December.
Levens is repped by Paradigm and Stone and Meyer.