(Helix is a new program that debuted January 10, 2014 on the Syfy Channel. The following Review does not reflect the opinions of Amazing Stories but is merely one reviewer’s take on the show)
The commercials sure made it look cool. A scifi thriller set in one of my favorite places, Antarctica (never been there, I just think it’s cool).
Alas, the two hours my children and I spent on the Pilot episode were anything but cool. In fact, we laughed our butts off, and not in a good way. No, we gave HELIX the full MST3K treatment it so richly deserved (not that even Dr. Forrester would make someone sit through it, though). In fact, the show was so terrible, I had to pause it and begin making a list of its wretchedness.
The first few minutes of the show were all X-Filey and Fringey. A remote lab. Highly-diseased people. Black Goo pouring out of them. A mysterious Japanese businessman. An infected person who didn’t want to drink his water. It had so many directions it could have gone. Down was not the one I expected, but down is where it most assuredly went.
At this point, I was going to launch into a long-winded nitpick of this specrapular piece of TV, but instead, I’ll give those of you actually interested in what HELIX is a summary:
Remote Antarctic Base with Secret Research. Something goes Wrong. People are infected/mutated. There is Mysterious Black Goo. Heroes are recruited. Heroes fly to Antarctica and investigate. There is talking. There is drama. Mysteries are hinted at in preparation for a full season. There is corporate-military shenanigans/conspiracy. A hero gets infected. Nothing really happens.
There, I just saved you two hours of your life. Read a book or something.
Now, if you want the nitpicks, continue reading.
Nitpick #1: Filler Instead of Action
It starts with the cheesy main character giving a lecture to CDC people. He’s telling new recruits about to start their new jobs as CDC investigators how awful the job could be. I imagine this was to establish how knowledgeable the character was for us idiots at home. Totally unnecessary. Sending anyone to Antarctica is all the credit they need. A contrived speech in what was probably the offices of the Syfy channel disguised as the CDC was just boring filler. This trend continued throughout the show as the cast does more talking than Jean-Luc Picard in the middle of a Borg Invasion.
Nitpick #2: Contrived/Inaccurate Establishing Shots
This show takes place in Antarctica so of course there’s the CGI-helicopter-over-the-ice shot. A must-have for any Antarctica movie, to establish to the viewer how remote and inhospitable the continent is. You know, in case they were literally born yesterday, have been living in a cave or attended public school and don’t know what Antarctica is (don’t laugh, my teenage daughter has classmates who’d never heard of it).
The remote base happens to be very green. No burning fossil fuels like everyone else in Antarctica–it might hurt the penguins. Instead, the base has wind turbine generators and solar panels. In one shot, the wind turbines were actually turned into the wind. Most shots they were perpendicular to the direction the wind was blowing. Not a very efficient way of generating power. Not to mention Antarctica has some fierce winds that would probably be too much for the turbines. The Solar Panels are even better, arranged in a pretty circle, all looking to a central point straight up. Given that Antarctica is at the southern pole, panels not pointed north would be pretty ineffective, even with months-long days.
Nitpick#3: The Coldest Place on Earth Isn’t Very
When our Heroes do arrive, they are greeted by Mysterious Corporate Japanese Guy. Everyone stands outside, talking, their parkas unzipped, with hoods down and the off-camera wind machines blowing styrofoam around fiercely. Nobody’s breath can be seen. I suppose it was Antarctic summer, on the coast (despite that long CGI helo shot that implied we were deep inside the continent). I’ve read that in the summer (December to February) temps can be in the upper 40s and 50s (Fahrenheit) in Antarctica. On the coast.
Nitpick #4: Chip Me!
Everyone in the base has an RFID chip in their hand, so they can wave at doors and open them. (Foreshadowing: Somebody is gonna get a hand cut off). Anyways, I have to wonder then, if everyone has a RFID, why are there keypads? Who is going to need a combination to get in if everyone is required to have an RFID? And where did they buy these capactive touch keypads? They seem to work remarkably well even when you are wearing rubber gloves. (Try that with your smart phone or tablet).
(SAFETY TIP: Never surgically attach something someone else might want to your person. It doesn’t take a surgeon to remove it if they really, really want it.)
Nitpick #5: Geographically Misplaced Fauna
The absolute greatest nitpick of all has to be the shock prod scene. Picture it, Hero #1 (the Lecturer) and friends are looking for an infected person who escaped confinement. He might be in a room, so they hesitate in the hallway unsure what to do and Security Guy whips out a collapsible stun gun–not the cool kind that shoots darts, but the cattle prod kind. Of course, he is compelled to explain what his expanding baton is, despite the electrical sound effect and CGI spark at its end. He also adds “We use them on polar bears.”
I assume by “we” he means himself and Al Gore–when they’re out on the ice, frolicking with the penguins. I mean, you can’t let those damned Polar Bears eat our little Antarctic birdies now can you? Don’t even ask the Polar Bears what they are doing at the wrong pole. Just whip out that stun baton, ZZZap them and make them drop their Coca Colas. That will learn them.
(Safety Tip: Please do not ever attempt to use a stun gun on a Polar Bear. With their thick fur and immense size, they will mostly likely eat you then use your baton to pick out the pieces of moron that get lodged between their teeth)
Nitpick #6: Cliched Education
With so many other cliches finding work at Syfy, it was inevitable Education Cliche would show up. Hero-Lecturer’s young sidekick/secretary/love interest has to give the obligatory angry comeback to someone commenting on how young she looks. She hotly retorts that she is 26, that she went to MIT, blah, blah, blah. Okay, first, when she is 36, she will kiss people on the mouth for telling her she looks so young. Secondly, isn’t it odd that the prodigies in movies always seem to have gone to MIT, or Stanford, or Harvard etc, graduated at the top of their class, etc.? This tells me that if you want to actually survive a monster, alien invasion, zombie uprising, or Syfy Channel TV Series, you need to stop being an overachiever now and go to your local community college. It’s a lot safer in the long run.
Nitpick #7: Husky Voice(TM)
Like a certain character’s sporadic Southern Accent, many of the actors in Helix use the tried-and-true method of injecting Drama and Mystery into a shitty script: Husky Voice(TM). It was like a Demi Moore Fan Convention for many scenes. I had to turn my sound up and briefly wondered if maybe everyone got sick filming in the cold and had sore throats. Then I remembered this was Syfy and was probably filmed in July at the peak of summer, on the hottest green screen studios in Romania.
Nitpick #8 (and our final Nitpick): Antarctic Camouflage
Hey, I like the game Portal as much as the next guy, but these people are in Antarctica. The last color anyone should be wearing is white. Yet the biohazard suits that most movies have as yellow, red or even Olive Drab Green are very clearly white (upholstery vinyl, I think). I’m surprised the women weren’t wearing Go-Go boots with them. Even the base is white–the helicopter pilots must love that.
(Safety Tip: Real Antarctic Explorers wear red for a reason: so they can be rescued if everything goes pear-shaped)
Portal, I mean, Helix, is a pitiful, lame show, that is filled with cliches and hints of a greater mystery that never delivers. If you like people walking around, whispering to one another at the furthest corner of the Earth, ready to battle polar bears, and actual science and environmental conditions mean nothing to you, by all means give Helix a chance. Or you could watch reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies. Uncle Jed had a far better experience with Black Goo, and his laugh-filled show was only a half-hour long. It’s probably on Netflix.
Car/Snowmobile Chases: 0
Hot Chicks Parading around in Skimpy Underwear: 0
Geographically Misplaced Polar Bears: Implied
Laughably Inadequate, Non-lethal Weapons for Dealing with Aforementioned Polar Bears: Check
Mysterious Black Goo: Check
Skeletons with the flesh melted off, but somehow still held together: Check
Cake: The Cake is a lie.