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New This Week
A disappointing new Syfy series, “Helix” generated a bit of excitement when it was first announced -- owing to the fact that one of its producers is Ron Moore, the longtime “Star Trek” writer who masterminded the acclaimed 21st century version of “Battlestar Galactica” on Syfy (when it was still known as SciFi).
But the pilot for “Helix,” which follows a team of scientists at an Arctic research facility who find themselves trying to protect the world from annihilation, was scripted not by Moore but by someone named Cameron Porsandeh, and “Helix” turns out to be a long way from “Galactica” in terms of quality.
(A digression. Note that in 2009 Moore completed an early draft of what evolved into 2011’s “The Thing,” about a team of scientists at an Antarctic research facility who found themselves trying to protect the world from annihilation. End digression.)
The new series will remind some viewers of Michael Crichton’s “The Andromeda Strain.”
Billy Campbell (“The 4400,” “The Killing”) stars as a Center For Disease Control scientist named Alan Farragut, who is summoned to lead an investigative team – a team that includes his hot young protégé and his hot ex-wife – to the snow-shrouded, wheel-shaped Arctic Biosystems facility to deal with some sort of deadly disease outbreak – one that even afflicts Farragut’s scientist brother Peter. By the time Alan arrives, Peter has transformed into a veiny, savage talking animal who soon escapes into the air ducts.
At the same time, the investigating CDC team discovers other things, like hyperactive lab monkeys that aren’t supposed to be there. It all points to conspiracy and hidden agendas among the facility’s staff. I could be making this sound more interesting than it is.
With Syfy’s similarly disappointing “Defiance” -- originally overseen by Michael Taylor, another major “Galactica” scribe – I lasted three episodes. I doubt I’ll make it that far for this enterprise.
Those expecting characters as interesting as Bill Adama, Laura Roslin, Kara Thrace and Gaius Baltar are advised to circle back on Sunday, when “True Detective” hits HBO.
... if it doesn't match "Battlestar" for ambition or poetry or sparkling dialogue — to judge by the three hours available for review — it's well-made, solidly scary and disturbing all the same.
... There's nothing all that original about "Helix," but it works well enough. The script gets bogged down in soap opera suds from time to time, especially when it involves the love triangle. There are also credibility problems with some of the characters, but again, that's where it's useful not to think too much. …
... It's executive produced by Ron Moore of Syfy's "Battlestar Galactica" reboot but plays more like a somewhat tiresome cross between "The Walking Dead" and "The Thing." … Perhaps in time "Helix" will develop into something more substantial but in its first two hours it sets up a lot of questions without providing answers or a compelling reason for viewers to stick with it.
… with such breath¬taking stupidity on display, “Helix” needs a script doctor, stat. …
... The plot creaks, but for the most part, Helix is sufficiently scary. Unfortunately, outside of Campbell, it's insufficiently cast and performed. …
... If the remote, frigid location vaguely echoes the often-adapted “The Thing,” “Helix,” as the title implies, stays more closely rooted to the science, without completely skimping on the what’s-down-that-corridor thrills. Created by Cameron Porsandeh, it’s a delicate balancing act, but the two-episode premiere (airing with limited commercials) and a subsequent hour – enhanced by Campbell’s stiff-upper-lipped performance, and the clever promo slogan “Play God. Pay the price” – dangle enough DNA strands for a discerning audience to want to see where they might lead. …
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