With the world trembling under the threat of nuclear war, and with Kennedy launching a top-secret mission to send some of America's brawniest men and glamorous women off into space, seeking out a new colony for any limping, irradiated shreds of humanity which may be left, you'd think there'd be no need to prop up the story with a murder…

Ascension (Sky1) is set on board Orion, a gargantuan spaceship which secretly left America during the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis. On board are soldiers, doctors and scientists, plus lots of beautiful women in evening gowns and diamonds. They also have swimming pools, ballrooms and bars at their disposal, and are all having a fine old time.

The series opens 50 years after they left Earth, so they still wear the fashions of the American 60s. Think of it as Mad Men in space, if Mad Men was written by shaky scriptwriters, not sure of their subject, because Ascension takes this interesting premise - the cream of the American military venturing into the stars to create a new society - and tacks a murder onto it. The murder of a sexy young woman who was killed whilst bathing nude, of course. So the story of the crusading space ship and the need to form a new world is compressed in this first episode and becomes a standard murder mystery which just happens to be taking place on a space ship.

If that wasn't bad enough, the story whittled itself away further by sometimes taking us back to present-day Earth where a young man is investigating the notion that the US government did indeed launch a secret space mission in the 60s, but everyone laughs at this ridiculous idea, even when he begs us to consider a group of people who wouldn't know about Betty Friedan and The Clash.

So our brave new world has had the life drained from it by a run-of-the-mill murder case and a man on Earth insisting Orion happened but, yes, we already know it did because we're watching it, so where's the dramatic tension there?

This felt like cowardice, as though the programme makers shied away from the mammoth project of creating a new world. Well, if that's the case then leave it to the Hollywood big shots. Otherwise you're just setting up a great idea and then trampling all over it.

Instead of discussing their new civilisation, or how the children born on board would adapt, we saw the military chiefs huddled round tables discussing how a gun (the murder weapon) was smuggled on board their ship.

Watching Ascension is like sitting down to a massive banquet, tucking a napkin into your collar, smacking your chops and thumping your fists on the table, but when the silver lid is lifted from your plate there's nothing on it but a Brussel Sprout. A cold one.