A team of scientists are thrust into a potentially life-or-death situation in this thriller, which begins with the group being deployed to the Arctic to secretly investigate what could be a disease outbreak.
Helix, a 2014 TV series is a 13 episode science fiction / horror series that premiered on the SyFY channel. In the wake of film franchises such as Resident Evil, 28 Days Later and TV shows like Walking Dead, “Helix” seemed to have the right combination of interest points. Though astute viewers will quickly make the similarities to 1 film in particular, “The Thing”.
I suppose there is no getting around any release that involves extreme cold remote locations and some element of horror, though I felt the real audience it was marketing to is consumers who have some level of interest in “end of the world viral outbreak themes”. Another theme that has been beaten to death…..but still provides a great foundation for new story lines.
In story the series begins on the arrival of a team from the “Center for Disease Control and Prevention” who travel to the Arctic with the assignment of investigating a viral disease outbreak. The discovery leads to the uncovering of genetic engineering which tends to waver between the idea of bio weaponry and evolving human DNA. This teetering on 2 potentials lays the foundation for alot of the 1st season. A cure is developed which also sets a tone for need and supply and demand. Now take all these factors and add in alot of character misdirection, uncover classified objectives and personal gains. That pretty much sums up the series.
The characters in Helix were all carefully chosen to interact in dynamic ways that fuel the series moving forward. Billy Campbell as Dr. Alan Farragut is clearly a key component to the series staying grounded. Kyra Zagorsky as Dr. Julia Walker is also a key component to the drama and inner dramas that unfold. Jordan Hayes as Dr. Sarah Jordan is the sweet one with an overachiever complex who in some ways reminds me of Elizabeth Henstridge from Agents of SHIELD. It takes about 4-5 episodes to get the rhythm but after that the story starts to unveil its intentions.
Helix has some great things going on, and some legit scary moments. The series for me though felt more like a film that was maybe 12 hours too long. To fill in the gaps the writers added the element of “internal political unrest” and scientific cover up that is stretched out as far as they could stretch it. Key characters are introduced and then killed off which in itself seems to be a new trend on its own (aka Walking Dead, True Blood..etc). In reveal of the behind the scenes, it sounds like the creative team was still trying out directions to take the story in (which means there was some flexibility). Killing off (Catherine Lemieux) Dr. Doreen Boyle was clearly a mistake that I’m sure the series producers wished they could undo.
New viewers will appreciate the efforts made here to keep the viral infections scary and creepy. however there are large gaps that lend themselves more to a lethargic experience which only reinforces my previous comment. At times the action is on full throttle while other times its slow portions tend to drag on a bit too long.
The show was announced as being renewed for a 2nd season which I’m guessing will be the one that kicks the story up a notch. The series is now available in its complete season 1 for bluray viewing. It’s not uncommon for shows like these to slip under the viewing radar which is great reason to pick up its whole season. This series is by no means a “throwaway series”, but it does take some time to get its footing in a way that translates into engagement.
In premise there was alot that felt like I’d see it elsewhere…that notion of the “secret hush hush” experimentation which takes a while to reveal..that old “quarantine the infected and cause unrest” within the unaffected plot line and the familiar sub-zero environment of the Arctic which also forces the issue of isolation. Then there is the characters who jump from trustworthy to shifty to downright evil and back again. It’s all a bit slightly borrowed from film franchises and TV series of past.
In closing, “Helix” is still good TV and great science fiction. It will appeal to certain genre markets, just not all. It’s primary issues will be trying to push the story past looking like a “Thing” or “Resident Evil” clone into an arena that it can call its own.
Check out Helix from the SyFY channel now on bluray for season 1