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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Helix 1.1-1.3: Zombies with Biology

I saw the first three episodes of Helix last - the first two on SyFy's premiere of the series, the third on Syfy's On Demand (a nice move by Syfy, much appreciated) - and thought it was pretty good.

The series comes highly recommended.  Although Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore isn't the showrunner, he's an executive producer and one of the writers for Helix, in which I thought I even heard one "frackin'" euphemism.  Billy Campbell, who was superb in The Killing, plays the lead scientist from the CDC who comes to the arctic base to investigate the viral outbreak.  Hiroyuki Sanada, who put in a couple of good appearances on Lost, is the lead scientist at the base who knows more than he reveals.

And what about the story?  Well, it's another zombie tale, which, due to the enormous and deserved success of The Walking Dead, is animating all kinds of popular culture including movies with World War Z and even speculative reality TV with Zombie Earth on NatGeo.  Helix, however, differs from all of these in starting at very beginning of the plague, and, at this point, looking as if it will stay there, at least for a while.  There is also excellent genetic and epidemiological science in this series.

And the science, I think, is what will lift and carry the series.  Much of the plot turns on how quickly the scientists can figure out what's really going on, which entails not only getting people who know to tell the truth, but also getting a handle on what's causing the symptoms.  Identifying who has been infected but is not yet showing symptoms is the first step, and there are lots of pitfalls on the road from that to developing a vaccine.

Indeed, the best plot twists so far involve the accidents and wrong turns in the science, which makes Helix a candidate for something we don't see much of on television:  good biological science fiction. This may makes Helix more a potentially worthy successor to Fringe than Battlestar Galactica or The Walking Dead.

Like biological science fiction? Try The Silk Code


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