Thanks to the Battlestar Galactica reboot and his previous involvement with the rebirth of Star Trek in the 1990s, producer Ronald D. Moore is a bit of a legend in sci-fi TV circles, so it’s not surprising his presence behind-the-scenes as a producer was trumpeted strongly when Helix made its TV debut. However while it’s a decent series, it’s unlikely to be considered amongst his best.
Center For Disease Control doctor Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) and a few of his colleagues get an unusual assignment when they’re sent to a large Arctic scientific outpost to investigate what appears to be a viral outbreak. However the symptoms are strange and Alan soon starts to realise that peculiar things have been going on, with the station’s head, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada), using the station’s remote situation to do unusual research far from the prying eyes of civilisation.
As the symptoms get worse and some people turn into what are essentially vampire-zombies, factions begin to develop, secrets emerge and nobody is sure who they can trust – and there’s little chance of escape after outside communications are cut off. As Alan tries to figure out what is going on and thing get ever more peculiar, it starts to seem as if the outbreak is related to the station being involved in research revolving around something that’s been kept top secret.
Helix is definitely a bit of a love it or hate it proposition – and it’s actually tough to tell which group you’ll be in even after watching the first few episodes. The reason for that is that this is a show that likes to keep evolving, so where you start out is far from where you end up.
Initially the show comes across as if it’s going to be a relatively straightforward thriller about trying to deal with a bizarre disease outbreak in a remote, difficult location, based on relatively hard (if slightly speculative) science. However as the episodes go by an increasingly sci-fi mythology starts to build – and it may even have you wondering if there’s a meta-message as many of these elements seem to be inspired by things that have happened in other shows (it doesn’t come across as totally unoriginal though).
This is likely to annoy some people, who thought they were getting one thing but are suddenly thrust into a show that far more ‘science fiction’ that they thought it was going to be. And as some of its twists involve some fairly big suspensions of disbelief, it’s bound to turn off some people entirely.
It helps that on DVD you can binge-watch, as seeing the episodes in succession allows it to unfold in a way that may not 100% work, but at least doesn’t mean you’ve invested a month into something only for it to turn into something completely different to what you’d hoped. By the end of the first disc you should have a good feel for whether this is a show you’ll be prepared to go with, although even then there are plenty of things in the ensuing episodes that take things further and into more unexpected places than you’d ever have expected.
Even those prepared to go along with the twists may have a few issues with some of the later plot turns, as well as a rather bad piece of casting with a character who should have been rather cool but just comes across as silly. Thankfully though there’s still enough to keep those who’ve gotten that far hooked in for Season 2.
Overall Verdict: While the unexpected twists may turn some people off as it goes from a science base into pure science fiction, but if you stick with it, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac