A new ‘science fiction thriller’ series about a mysterious virus outbreak premiered on SyFy last night. The hook? Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame, serves as an executive producer. Is the show worth checking out on associations alone?
Let’s bitch it out…
Helix premieres with a 90-minute two-parter where we follow a small team of CDC doctors who travel to an arctic research super-lab to help contain a yet-unknown viral outbreak. The concept isn’t particularly original – it’s essentially the same plot line as The Thing (1982 & 2011), or any ‘outbreak’ offering (The Half-Life franchise, The X-Files ‘Ice’ (1×07) etc). And that’s the problem. The episode drags at a glacial pace as we desperately wait for the one-dimensional characters to hit the plot points that we all know are coming. Here’s the checklist of completely unoriginal characters:
- Heroic CDC doctor, Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) who meanders with puppy-dog eyes trying to figure out what the virus is to save his brother (and the day)
- Creepy head of the Arctic research lab, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada) who clearly knows more than he says when the CDC crew arrives
- Super young, entirely gorgeous and totally unconvincing CDC protégé, Dr. Sarah Jordan (Jordan Hayes) who has an unrequited crush on our hero, Alan
- Ex-wife of Alan, ‘brilliant’ CDC Dr. Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky) whose slightly older than Sarah, but also uncommonly beautiful, and still holds a flame for her ex-hubby (barf)
- No-nonsense comedic relief, Dr. Doreen Boyle (Catherine Lemieux) who is instantly more interesting than the preceding Barbie doctors, but makes the dumbest decisions and is likely one of the first CDC members to die
- Infected Patient Zero, Dr. Peter Farragut (Neil Napier), Alan’s brother, who’s developing super-human, monster-like qualities (aka thinking he’s god) and terrorizing everyone in the compound for yet unknown reasons
There’s more, but why even bother? The whole show feels like re-hash of something we’ve seen countless times before. And that’s when the big question of “WHY?” starts popping up over and over:
- Why doesn’t Hatake just tell the CDC crew what ominous research is being done in the lab so that they can contain the virus and deal with the repercussions after? Instead, we get numerous scenes where the CDC doctors are looking slack-jawed as they slowly piece together what’s really going on as Hatake lurks in the shadowy backgrounds or gives sinister, evasive answers. Meanwhile Peter’s crawling around in the air ducts, infecting/menacing/killing everyone for another five episodes at least
- Why does Dr. Boyle enter a restricted access zone without a hazmat suit, knowing she’s on the look out for infected (likely violent) monkeys?
- Why doesn’t she check in with Alan after she’s discovered said monkeys (and has been attacked by one!)? Why does she then decide to dissect one alone in a dark, restricted lab where no one would have a hope of finding her should anything go awry? (and of course, it does)
- If indeed this is a US government-sanctioned program to develop military super-troops, or a weaponized virus (as the show so blatantly suggests) then why do they only send one military goon, Major Sergio Balleseros (Mark Ghanimé) to clean it up?
- Why are the rest of the doctors, highly educated individuals, so hellbent on being evacuated from the compound knowing they could be infected? Since no one knows what the virus is, why do they want to leave and risk spreading the virus to the general public, possibly wiping out all of humanity?
- Why are the three doctors who are attacked by Peter such jerks in resisting quarantine, again, knowing they could trigger a massive outbreak?
All this to say: Helix is infuriating. It’s filled characters that have idiotic motivations- all in the service of dragging the story out so that we can get a 13-episode version of The Thing. There’s literally nothing original about the show. Perhaps cinephilactic can find something more enjoyable about the show when he returns as your regular reviewer next week.
What did you think viewers? Did you (unlike me) enjoy Helix and think that it was full of intrigue, mystery and thrills? What do you think now that Dr. Walker has been infected by Peter? What’s up with Hatake’s florescent eyes? Will Sarah and Alex get together or will he return to Julia? Do you even care about these things? Sound off in the comments below.
Helix airs at 10pm EST, Fridays on SyFy.