Many things to like about Syfy's new Friday night series
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Zombies are all the rage.
They're everywhere - from "Zombieland" to "Resident Evil" to "The Walking Dead" to "World War Z."
We won't hold it against you, then, if your first thought in seeing promos for Syfy's "Helix" was, "Oh, another zombie show."
The show, in fact, is not another zombie show. Nor is it typical Syfy fare, for that matter. It's not a deliciously B-movie, like, say, "Mega Python vs. Gatoroid" or "Sharknado." It's not brooding like "Being Human," or whimsical like "Eureka."
It is, to the Syfy Network's credit, smart, somber, twisted and imaginative.
Set in a tight, dark Arctic lab, hundreds of miles off the grid, Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) and his Centers For Disease Control special pathogens team investigate an outbreak unlike anything they've ever seen. Inside the base, they encounter Alan's brother, Peter, who is infected. At first, it appears Peter is dying, but, in reality, he appears to be spreading the disease.
"It's a very black and white situation," Campbell said. "We come, there's an outbreak, there's - and we have to contain it. And then things start getting confusing because we're being misdirected by, you know, Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada), and there are all these sort of variables."
Alan, his lead assistant, Dr. Sarah Jordan (Jordan Hayes), and his ex-wife, Dr. Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky) - a CDC senior scientist who had a fling with Peter - quickly realize they are dealing with something they never imagined.
Something worse than zombies.
"We're really trying to not make it a zombie show," showrunner Steve Maeda explained. "I would say the main difference about our vectors, as we call them, is that they are not kind of mindless, sort of, eating machines. And that's something that you'll see in later episodes. They're very scary, and they're human, and they look horrible. But our team will discover (ways) into and around the virus. And also what we're going to find out about the vectors is that they're incredibly smart, and so they retain a lot of their intelligence, if not their humanity, which I think makes them very different from zombies."
The vectors provide "Helix" with plenty of suspense, as they try and assimilate those inside the lab Borg-style.
And, yet, that's not the 13-episode series' scariest element.
"I think, also, since the show is based in real science, there're real life epidemic scares out there throughout history where there are these huge viruses that have wiped out huge populations, and so we're dealing with something that the CDC hasn't seen before, but it comes from a virus," Zagorsky said. "And so that's something that's based in reality. And then you put the science fiction on that, and it's a really interesting combination. I think that's another thing that makes it unique."
"I mean that's one of the greatest things about this show, is that it's dealing with something that is very real," Hayes said. "And throughout history we've seen, you know, huge epidemics wipe out hundreds of millions of people. And although now, thankfully, we have the invention of antibiotics and we can treat things much better, you know, it's still very real, and it's still very scary, and can possibly wipe out, you know, thousands of people.
"I think it goes to, like, sort of our most primal fears - you know, the thing which you cannot see that will come in the night and kill you from the inside out. And I can't imagine much of anything creepier than that," Campbell added.
Except, maybe, for elevator music cleverly woven into the first two episodes' most cringe-worthy moments. That small touch, coupled with what the actors described and the showrunner's vision, has made "Helix" the latest in a long line of great, Friday night must-see science fiction series.
"Helix" airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Syfy.
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