We look under the microscope to see what Battlestar Galactica vet Ronald D. Moore’s latest show is made of.
Helix S01E01 Pilot
Starring: Billy Campbell, Neil Napier and Hiroyuki Sanada.
Helix is a new show from SyFy about a team of CDC (Centre for Disease Control) agents who are called to a private medical research facility in an international area of the Arctic. Being in an international area means it can operate without any of those pesky regulations governments are so fond of, you know the ones that stop people playing with the plague, etc.
The request for aid comes via the US Military who run the nearest base to the facility, a mere 220 kilometres away. The team is joined by a military engineer, who is an expert in environmental systems. At first I thought it was a neat way of sliding a gun jockey into the group but it becomes apparent he isn’t that sort of soldier and has entirely different motives for being there.
The CDC rapid response team leader Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell, who the keen eyed may recognise from his role as The Rocketeer or TV series The 4400) demands to know why his team, which is just training in some new staff, is being asked for over the other more experienced teams.
It’s revealed his brother Dr. Peter Farragut (Neil Napier, who coincidentally starred in the 2008 movie Infected) has been infected with a mysterious ailment and another two people have died.
This caused me a bit of nerd niggle as surely his brother being involved would automatically rule him out of direct involvement? (Lets put that down to dramatic licence and move on shall we).
The facility is a huge, mainly underground, complex, with man size ducts and vents, which allow for a nice nod to Die Hard very early on, as well as many dark corners. We meet the head of the facility, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada, seen recently in The Wolverine and 47 Ronin), who promises full cooperation and all that jazz. He is of course hiding something, because there always has to be a conspiracy these days and it becomes clear quite quickly that this one goes well beyond covering his ass after people died on his watch.
After a touching reunion between the brothers, where one makes a valiant attempt to murder the other, it turns out the disease has made him incredibly strong and violent. Ever see a movie called The Thing? There’s been a couple of versions of it and while my favourite version is John Carpenter’s, this one is more reminiscent of the original movie. Here there’s no mansicle to be thawed out, but the virus is allegedly something from before records began.
The infected brother sets out to infect others, escaping his isolation room by tearing a hole in the man sized vents with his bare hands, as all the doors are controlled by R.F.I.D. chips implanted in the hands of the staff, so he goes and gets a hand that gives him free access to the facility. Interestingly these new infected seem obsessed with escaping the place and yet the brother shows no interest in leaving, preferring to stay and keep infecting people.
Essentially this looks like a modern retelling of The Thing with a deep conspiracy attached, there are a couple of neat touches, each episode represents a day, so the feature length pilot is days one and two. There are no flashbacks, though some of the patients do have hallucinations but you can’t be sure if they are fact or fiction. They set up the isolation from the rest of the world and the claustrophobic environment nicely, you might even say subtly.
It’s not the most original concept ever, but it’s well executed, has excellent acting and production values and Jeri Ryan(Yes, 7 of 9 from Voyager) is going to be a recurring character so a bonus nerd point for that.
4 out of 5 Nerds
Helix will have its UK premier on Channel 5 on Monday 20th January at 10pm (subject to change).