Here’s what troubles me about Syfy’s upcoming thriller Helix: it looks like a better-than-average Syfy Original movie. I know in my head that this Yahoo! trailer is just giving us an extended look at where the season is going without actually taking us there, but I can’t completely get my brain to believe that it isn’t just a quick version of Ice-Gator vs. CDC-Quake or something like that. I believe it will be better and less generic than it looks, but I also used to believe that Columbus discovered America. Lessons get learned.
Created by Battlestar Galactica‘s Ron D. Moore, who whips out the entire “Ronald” for this trailer, Helix sounds pretty awesome, but in a bubble where it didn’t sound derivative of other things. There’s a huge research facility in Antarctica housing 106 researchers, and CDC scientists led by Billy “Rocketeer” Campbell and Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine) arrive to find that the researchers have discovered something that could possibly change mankind forever. Because the location of the facility is just outside the legal boundaries of any country, there’s no one to turn to when lawlessness is revealed.
I really dig a limited location and character set-up from the beginning, which works better for achieving tension, though I’m sure incidental characters will come and go throughout the season and we’ll keep finding new rooms to enter. The authoritative ramifications are interesting, especially when things go wrong. I hope that angle is explored at length and isn’t just brought up to cause trouble. Killer superflus are a good threat, and even though The Walking Dead bumbled over its own flu storyline, it can be done correctly. I just don’t know how this will last through a 13-episode season. Would I rather just watch Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World and John Carpenter’s The Thing for 10 hours instead? Probably, but I’m still keeping an open mind. Each episode will take place during one day, so I’m intrigued to see how well it’ll be paced, and if we’ll see these characters experience normal days with the shit only hitting the fan at night, right before the episode is over.
With Moore as its creator, Helix may well become something of a cult sensation, though this isn’t usually the type of project that rewards rewatching, unless there’s really strong character work and supercool special effects. Also featuring producers who worked on The X-Files, Lost, and Contact, Helix almost needs to be great to live up to everyone’s credentials.