I’ve heard a little about Helix, Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ron Moore’s new science fiction series. It’s based in the Arctic, where a pathogen of some description escapes into a human population with dire results. It sounds a little like a mix of Threshold and John Carpenter’s seminal The Thing.
So when the Sci-Fi channel released the first 15 minutes, I thought it worth a look.
In short, I was disappointed.
I know I can’t read anything into the story knowing a rough synopsis, having watched a couple of trailers and having seen only a short part of the first episode, so I’ll avoid discussing this aspect of the show. An outbreak of something nasty has been done many, many times before, and will be hence.
What I will discuss is special effects, environment and characters.
First, the special effects: I haven’t seen effects this bad since the last time I watched early Babylon 5. Don’t get me wrong, B5 effects were ground-breaking back in the 1990’s and showrunner J. Michael Straczynski’s decision to go with computer-generated effects was unheard of. Nowadays, they’re ten-a-penny. So in honesty, I hope the effects in the 15 minutes of Helix I saw were stand-ins for the real thing.
Second, environment. The arctic is bloody cold and the station, according to the military, seemed only a few degrees from the pole. So why then do we have a facility that’s at least six levels deep, with lots of dark passages and a great big open area in the middle? For starters, the cost of heating the place would be astronomical and need far more than the half dozen windmills on the outside of the building. Second, you don’t heat void; there’s no point, it’s a waste of energy. It might look pretty and make things look “gee-whiz”, but it’s completely implausible. That the roof looks like it could be all solar cells is useful as a supplemental energy source, though for only half the year as the poles experience 179 days of darkness each year. Building such a facility would be extremely difficult too, given, as stated in the dialogue, “the temperature drops to -70, turns jet-fuel to jelly”.
Finally, the characters. There’s the divorced couple forced to work together, there’s the young, pretty new member of the team with eyes (of some description) for the male leader, one of the divorcees and there’s the cynical older, less attractive woman. There’s also a soldier who appears to be hispanic or native Indian. It all just seems too neat, too pre-arranged with built-in conflict, especially since the ex-wife slept with the brother, who turns-out to be one of the three infected. Of course, this could be a blind, rather like the pilot of Babylon 5 where Londo Mollari was the drunk dejected diplomat and G’Kar the angry schemer. Their stories flipped through the five seasons which made the story all the better.
I’ll give this a real go when it comes out on the 10th of January, and I really hope my initial thoughts are refuted in the 13 episode series. But for now, it just seems to be less than its component parts.