Helix: Pilot and Vector

"This thing doesn't kill. It annihilates."

Helix is the newest offering of Ron Moore, beloved by me because of his reboot of Battlestar Galactica. Helix is about a group of CDC scientists who are called to a base in Antarctica because of a breakout of an unknown virus. The pilot and the second episode (shown right after the pilot) are day 1 and 2 of the breakout/arrival of the CDC team.

This is a mostly well-acted--and certainly well-shot--series, but I think I am the wrong person to review it. If you are a fan of contagion movies or The Thing then I think you would really enjoy this show. Unfortunately I am a fan of neither. Still they came up with some interesting premises about science, mutations and viruses.

The setting for the show is awesome. I was intrigued by the idea that a corporation might set up a base in the Antarctic, fill it with scientists and basically let them do whatever they wanted even if it was outside the boundaries of laws, ethics and morality. There is some hint that there is a more nefarious purpose underlying this work, and I'm sure the story arc will begin to uncover what it is and why a major corporation might fund it. The idea that the science of mutation and mucking about with genes might have dire consequences is sort of old hat, but the idea that a virus might actually create its own vector by changing humans, while also widely used was, I think, nicely done. Peter was certainly one scary, amoral virus vector. I think the tension and horror pieces of the episodes were also well done, but as I'm not keen on them either, their effectiveness wasn't really a treat for me.

There are some interesting characters on the show and the usual knots of relationships. I wasn't surprised when it turned out that Alan and Julia were exes or that his student might also be his (at least) love interest. And it looks like Hiroshi has some kind of connection to Julia, either familial or very creepy. I particularly enjoyed Doreen. You don't see many large women in TV and she is smart and tough. In fact, I did like that there were so many women scientists, even if the men did get all testosterony around them with the whole protection and/or taking them prisoner thing. Of course our army guy Sergio Balleseros is not what he seems. He is also working for the evil corporation. Or perhaps the evil corporation is the army.

I think this show could go in some interesting directions, but it is hard to like a show if you aren't on board with its central premise. I'd love to hear from people who really enjoyed the show. For me, I think I'll be giving it a pass. Maybe I'll catch up on Netflix some day.

Bits and Pieces

I can't decide if the seventies lounge music made the show creepier or just annoyed me.

There are 106 scientists with only 15 support staff?

I felt awful for those poor monkeys. Is it only a percentage of those infected who just want to get out? It didn't seem that Peter was interested in leaving at all.

The speech about the spread of contagion was pretty scary.

Obviously Hiroshi's eyes are meant to signal something. Is he alien? Infected? A super being?


Daniel: "What is that?"
Hiroshi: "Progress."

Doreen: "So you're a glorified plumber."

Dr. Tracey: "You can't make a virus and expect it to follow instructions."


Jenna said...

I thought it was interesting and enjoyable. I'm not a big fan of outbreak movies either, but I don't hate them and this one had good writing, setting and intriguing characters. I fell in love with Doreen almost instantly (about the time she used "frakking" in a sentence) - though I was half-expecting her to die (plus sized women usually die quickly on TV)... So I'm glad they didn't kill her off! :) Other characters were well written too - the Japanese scientist boss (forgot his name) was suitably creepy, and the love triangle seemed interesting enough.
All in all, the pilot had me intrigued, and I can't wait to see where they'll be going with the series. I don't watch many shows, but I'm certaily adding this one to my watchlist!

ChrisB said...

I completely agree with your review, Doc. While I didn't think it was awful, it didn't engage me at all. I thought the secondary characters and some of the dialogue were just dire.

This one is not for me.

Annie said...

I'd been looking forward to this but was very disappointed and don't think it will be one I'll be continuing with, although I may punish myself with one more episode.

What really bothered me was the unprofessional behavior of all these scientists. These are people who must be familiar with quarantine etc so the victims of Alan's attack being quarantined, together in a room when one of their members was clearly showing symptoms of infection is quite ridiculous - no wonder the others were pissed off. It seems incredibly unlikely that such a facility would not have better facilities to deal with an outbreak. That is only one example, the scientists seemed to be consistently stupid throughout.

Also, where was that guy going on the skidoo and why did the military guy bother stabbing him? I don't think he was going to get very far (in an arctic blizzard jacket open, no hat)... don't they have a satellite phone on the facility or was he going somewhere where he could get a signal? Or was he actually supposed to be driving to the nearest settlement?...very silly.

teresa burnikell said...

Channel 5 gave up on it after a few episodes. They moved it to the graveyard shift of midnight and after the break it returns on 5★. It's not that bad, I'm quite enjoying it. I've seen a lot worse.

kikishua said...

It's ok (I just binge-watched whole thing so far) but I'm just so DISAPPOINTED because I was full of hope before I started. There's so much stupidity/unprofessionalism from the characters to move the plot forward, when better writing could have done the trick. I plan to keep watching, but now I'm all "meh", when I wanted to be "squeeeeee".