There is nothing like finding a sci-fi show acclaimed enough to receive Certified Fresh status. Helix‘s freshman season, which premiered earlier this year, is one of those shows. Here’s what you need to know before you binge. But don’t get sick binging, because the Center for Disease Control is going to be too busy in the Arctic dealing with this other deadly thing you’ll soon know about!
What’s the premise? Scientists for the CDC deploy to the Arctic to investigate an unexplained disease that could mean the potential destruction of mankind, but the secrets awaiting them reveal a whole other type of horror.
What’s it like? The SyFy network has been the source of multiple iconic sci-fi series. But what separates Helix from the rest is an increased immersion of horror into the sci-fi genre (You got your horror in my sci-fi! You got your sci-fi in my horror!). Much of Helix can be compared to The Walking Dead, but set against an icy and isolated (ice-olated?) backdrop. It certainly is a dark series, regardless of how much bright, icy snow is on the ground. Helix is also a suspenseful mystery. Who are the bad guys? And why are they contributing to the terror?
Where can I see it? The entire first season will air on SyFy on Friday, Nov. 28 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but if you miss that, it can also be viewed on Amazon Instant Video, Vudu and iTunes. Episodes nine through 13 can also be streamed on Yidio, SyFy.com, and Hulu. Select episodes are available on DirecTV. It’s also available on DVD and Blu-Ray/Digital.
How long will it take? All 13 episodes can metastasize through you in less than a day, without treatment (or many smoke breaks, but the doc says smoking’s bad, so stop it). Each episode is under 50 minutes long, so you can easily catch up on the contagion before season two begins.
What do the critics think? The first season of Helix is Certified Fresh at 81 percent. Brian Lowry of Variety called it “a delicate balancing act, but the premiere dangles enough DNA strands for a discerning audience to want to see where they might lead” and CinemaBlend’s Kelly West said, “If Helix continues to build on the momentum set in its first few hours, we’re in for a truly suspenseful and thrilling ride.” On the other end of the spectrum, Mark A. Perigard of the Boston Herald did not care for the writing: “With such breathtaking stupidity on display, Helix needs a script doctor, stat.” Several of the critics, like Maureen Ryan of the Huffington Post and David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle, suggest that the show is nothing new or original, but it knows what it is and it does it well.
Why should I watch this? Horror/sci-fi fans can be very loyal to their genre. But they should not be the only ones watching Helix. It’s a suspenseful, plot-driven mystery that overlaps to entice fans of various categories (crime, mystery, character-driven drama). The almost-but-not-quite-campy portrayals of Jeri Ryan’s Constance Sutton and Hiroyuki Sanada’s Dr. Hiroshi Hatake are creepily haunting, teasing their audience with cryptic deliveries in a guessing game of who is responsible for which calamitous events and why. We see through the eyes of the likable Billy Campbell as Dr. Alan Farragut, providing a vessel through which we experience the action. But it’s Catherine Lemieux’s Dr. Doreen Boyle who steals the focus early on in the season, allowing us a few laughs as we start out on this thrill ride. The remote, ice-olated locale might as well be in outer-space, with its eerie disparateness another reason to engage sci-fi fans.
What’s my next step? The classic films Alien and Aliens are sure to raise some hairs on the back of the neck. If fun, schlocky sci-fi/horror is your game, be sure to see Event Horizon, Lifepod, and the Friday the 13th sequel that takes Jason into space, Jason X. If films about contagious diseases threatening mankind appeal to you, watch 2011’s Contagion. For more SyFy-brand thrills, check out the network’s other intense, high-quality show, Defiance (see the Defiance Weekly Binge here). Other similarly geared programs are The Strain and, of course, The Walking Dead. Sci-fi/Jeri Ryan fans may want to watch the Star Trek: Voyager series as well. The TV show Resurrection is a creepy one about people returning from the dead only to become infected by an unknown illness, and Constantine is a new horror series based on the Hellblazer comics about a demon-hunter trying to save the world. Halle Berry in Extant is another suspenseful sci-fi trip.
Are you ready to watch Helix? Tell us why!