Tricia Helfer and Brian Van Holt are hurtling through space on a mission to save the human race in the new CBC space drama Ascension, premiering tonight on CBC-TV.

The science fiction thriller centres on the inhabitants of the starship Ascension on its covert U.S. government project to populate a new world. But the whole century-long trek is thrown into question half-way through when a young woman is murdered on board.

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The science fiction thriller centres on the inhabitants of the starship Ascension.

Set in 1963, the miniseries was inspired by U.S. President John F. Kennedy's real-life Cold War Project Orion—a mission he scrapped over fears of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in space.

"The ship has a '60s Mad Men in space vibe," says Helfer, who plays the beautiful and manipulative wife of the ship's heroic captain (played by Cougar Town's Brian Van Holt).

And, like HBO's series on Madison Avenue advertising men, Ascension can be addictive.

"After I read the first three hours, I was incredibly intrigued and I wanted to know what happened," said Helfer from her Los Angeles home. "The next script couldn't come soon enough ...  I feel that the audience will, hopefully, feel the same way I do. It really is a human drama, the study of human psychology."

Canadian-made production
Ascension

The crew of the USS Ascension, from left to right, Al Sapienza as Councilman Rose, Ryan Robbins as Duke Vanderhaus, Tiffany Lonsdale as Emily Vanderhaus, Brandon Paul as Aaron Gault, Tricia Helfer as Viondra Denninger, Brian Van Holt as Cpt. William Denninger, Jacquelien Byers as Nora Bryce, P.J. Boudousque as James Novack, Andrea Roth as Dr. Juliet Bryce. (Diego Uchitel/Syfy)

The Canadian production features a number of other homegrown talents, including Jacqueline Byers (90 Days, Scared Stiff) and Andrea Roth (Rescue Me, Ringer). 

Brandon P. Bell (Hollywood Heights, Mission Impossible III) and Tiffany Lonsdale (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), also star alongside Van Holt and Helfer.

It was shot in Montreal over the summer.

Ascension is created, written and executive produced by Smallville producer Philip Levens. 

Catch Ascension's series premiere tonight, and every Monday, on CBC-TV at 9 (9:30 NT).