When I heard that Ron Moore was putting together another series, I was fairly excited. When I heard that it was a “viral outbreak” show, I was a bit despondent. I had no desire to sit down and watch what looks like – from the trailer I’d seen – a mixture of every crappy outbreak movie I’d ever seen and every bad suspense film to grace the small screen. As it turns out, the premiere for Helix was much more than I had expected.
The story is fairly simple. There’s a mysterious viral research lab in the arctic. An outbreak of some sort of disease happens. The CDC is called in to help them solve their little dilemma. Of course, not everything is what it seems.
The main individual that has been infected is (cliché!) the chief CDC guy’s brother. So it’s up to him to find a way to save said brother. But then the brother escapes and the virus is free to wreck havoc among the people still in the base. As the team attempts to track him down and capture him, he moves through the ventilation system, preying on the other residents of the arctic station and spreading the disease via big, sloppy kisses.
As the team does its research, they discover that the man in charge of the facility, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, is hiding things from them. They also figure out that the brother was working on something that was pretty nuts. The rest of the show follows the team as they attempt to track the brother, contain the infected and figure out what the hell they’re dealing with.
Overall, the show is put together really well. The sets, lighting, pacing, editing and all that technical jazz is spot-on. The story itself is interesting, much more so than your typical viral outbreak piece of rubbish. While it seems at first as if they’re going to take the usual route and have a people vs. disease theme, the show quickly escalates and complicates and the final result is that by the end of the premiere you’re left wondering exactly what the hell is really going on. To further confuse us, the second-to-end scene (which I will not spoiler) adds yet another dimension (aliens??? okay maybe a small spoiler).
As far as the characters go, some are interesting and some are generic. The interesting ones do manage to range outside of the typical stereotypes, however, and make the show feel more fleshed out. Even most of the secondary and background characters feel pretty rich. While the acting isn’t the best, it’s done well enough that combined with the character portrayals you get the feeling that these are real people instead of your typical TV cardboard cut-outs.
The biggest issue I had with Helix was the proliferation of clichés and tropes. The feel of the series is half disaster story and half horror story with a touch of the sci-fi thrown in on top to whet your appetite. Unfortunately, the presence of the love triangle, the “I didn’t hear that noise” cliché and the people running about seemingly unaware of the actual danger (come here, monkey! I don’t think you’ll bite and infect me at all!) cheapens the overall effect just a bit. The only thing I can say about that is that they do manage to recover from each cliché in an interesting manner. While predictable things do happen, they’re usually followed up with either A) intelligent responses or B) unexpected responses. So you get a little of the good and a little of the bad.
The way the series has been set up so far, I’m guessing there’s a lot more beneath the surface. It could turn out to be incredibly interesting in the long run. Of course, I have been known to be wrong before, so they could just end up transforming the show into something purely generic. As is stands now, I’m pretty impressed and eager to see where the show ends up going.