After the acclaimed run and controversial ending of Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica, showrunner Ronald D. Moore followed things up with several TV projects that didn’t meet with much luck. The BSG prequel series Caprica only last one season, and Moore’s Virtuality TV movie and 17th Precinct pilots were pretty much non-starters. Some four years after BSG wrapped up, however, Moore is returning to the airwaves with gusto, shepherding not one, but two new series: the time-travel historical romance series Outlander for Starz, and the sci-fi thriller Helix for Syfy. The latter is set to premiere sometime in 2014, and now a new set of images from the show reveal we’re in for high levels of goop, not to mention some serious X-Files flashbacks.
The new pictures were premiered by THR, and while they don’t reveal any new secrets about the mysterious show, they do show us a bit more of two well-established elements of Helix: people in biohazard suits and some sort of nasty, presumably deadly black ooze. The show follows a group of CDC scientists working at a secret base in the Arctic, investigating the threat of a global outbreak. Unfortunately, they find something much worse lurking beneath the ice.
Comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing are a given, but the black liquid that apparently plays a major role in the show is also very reminiscent of a similar substance from The X-Files. In fact, the black oil is so iconically associated with Chris Carter’s series that I have to wonder if it isn’t going to be a bit distracting while trying to get into Helix. Hopefully it’ll have its own unique story to keep us hooked, but right now Helix is looking a little too much like the paranoid sci-fi equivalent of a cover band.
Thankfully, I’ve got more confidence in Moore than that. Whether you liked the way Battlestar Galactica ended or not, it was a consistently top-notch show over the years, and Moore is a genre veteran stretching all the way back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. His comments about Helix from this past summer provide a few more details that suggest that, all deja vu aside, Syfy’s new series will indeed be its own — ahem — thing:
[The laboratory isn’t] owned or controlled by any one particular nation. It’s sort of a group of people who cobbled money together through mysterious sources and have been up there for quite some time doing medical research. Something happens at the base and a virus breaks out. They go under quarantine and they call the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to send a team to help them contain it. When [the team gets] there, they discover there’s a lot more going on than anticipated and they start realizing the research that has been going on has enormous potential to help humanity or to destroy humanity. Each episode is just one day at the base so the tension keeps ramping up and ramping up until we get to the end of the season.
It’ll be interesting to see if the virus — presumably the black ick that’s all over the place in these pictures is related to it — is something man-made, something they discovered frozen in the ice, or some combination of the two. The “potential to help or destroy humanity” bit is also intriguing. I’ll be curious to see what this virus is capable of, aside from making people look like they need to load up the car and move to Beverly.
The show is headlined by Billy Campbell, formerly The Rocketeer and more recently of AMC’s best-forgotten The Killing. He’s playing Dr. Alan Farragut, a Centers for Disease Control pathologist coming out of a wrecked marriage. He’ll be working alongside Dr. Hiroshi Hataki (Hiroyuki Sanada), the head of the top-secret research facility where this all goes down. Kyra Zagorsky will play Farragut’s estranged wife and Mark Ghanime will play Major Sergio Balleseros, a U.S. military liaison to the CDC. And if the military is liaising where black-oil viruses are concerned, that can’t be good news.
We’ll bring you more about Helix when we know it.