Helix:  Looks Like A Really Fast Car…Shame About The 4-Flat Tires

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Series Review:  Helix

My Rating:  1 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (to get through this turkey I needed WAY more than a 6-pack!). I will be accepting donations to help me get through the suffering that is sitting through the first 13-episodes of this disaster.

Genre:  Sci-Fi/Thriller

Runtime:  13-episodes 40-45 mins each

Directed by:  Various

Creator:  Cameron Porsandeh

Stars:  Billy Campbell, Kyra Zagorsky, Jordan Hayes, Hiroyuki Sanada, Neil Napier

HelixSyfy So I caught a commercial/trailer for this series more than a year or so ago and filed it away in my brain.  As time went by it hovered in my memory until it merged in my mind with the commercials for The Strain (which I still need to watch) and Fringe (which I have watched most of but still need to watch the last season+).  Being busy with work, life, and naps I’d all but forgotten about Helix.  I haven’t watched Syfy since they killed Stargate: Universe so I never caught the series when it was first run.  Then, a couple weeks ago, Helix popped up on my Netflix radar and the memory of this promising series resolved from the fog.  I added it to the queue and prepared for a marathon.  I primed the couch and stocked the larder ready for a Saturday morning start for the planned day-long session.  Unfortunately my plan was derailed when I found Helix to be…not so very good.  If I’m going to spend a whole day sitting on my butt watching the TV, instead of doing the dozen or so more productive things, the program needs to be pretty good.  Not great.  Just pretty good.  And Helix definitely does not as “pretty good.”

I managed to make it through the first season but it took me far longer than I had originally planned.  I simply seemed to find things to do instead of watch Helix like…wash my car in the rain, reorganize the glassware in the kitchen cabinet according to height, and count the servings and calories in my emergency ration stash so I know exactly what’s in inventory for when that alien invasion occurs (which I assume is soon).

As is my normal practice I will not include any spoilers in this review though I can tell you that one of the main-ish characters in the first several episodes doesn’t make it half-way through the first season and THANK GOD for that!  If you watch Helix you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say the acting of the clichéd bandanna wearing, rock music enthusiast, straight-talking scientist Doreen character is simply terrible.  Terrible.  Terrible.  The acting is bad.  The reasoning her experienced and supposedly intelligent character uses is simply awful and really detracts from the story.  Just about every second her character is on the screen time is better spent taking out the trash or checking your work email on the iPad (yes both of those are similar tasks).

The main character of Dr. Alan Farragut, played by Billy Campbell, is not so very good by itself but thanks to the terrible Doreen character your ire is not focused entirely on him.  Why he feels the need to talk in a husky/whiny voice (tough to pull that off at the same time) for the entirety of the first season is beyond me.  I need to also mention that Campbell is 30-years older than the character played by Jordan Hayes.  I won’t go any further on the subject but it is worth noting.  If you watch the show you’ll understand.  Thankfully there are moments of mystery that work to pull you into a slowly developing story.  From time-to-time Dr. Hatake, played by Sanada – perhaps most recognized as the swordmaster in The Last Samurai – pops in and drops a little morsel of mystery like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs.  Now if only those bread crumbs led somewhere interesting.  There was so much promise in this show in the beginning but it just kinda continues on without really getting all that interesting.  There’s some side story going on regarding stolen children I think.  I should know but I found my attention often waning throughout this turkey.  Oh, one last glaring issue with Helix.  The team led by Campbell that is trying to do…whatever it is that they’re trying to do…is part of the CDC.  Is that organization really so inept that a group of their most senior scientists runs off to cure a big bad bug and when the home office doesn’t hear from them for a long time there’s no response?  Just one of the many, many plot holes in the show.

I’ll probably watch the second season when it’s on Netflix but I won’t seek it out.  When it shows up on the recommendations list I’ll add it to the queue but not before.  I’m not going to search it out.  I do have to mention that there was one thing I enjoyed about the show.  The hokey elevator music that plays during the title crawl is out of place and yet it’s oddly catchy.

Now can I recommend you spend a weekend watching this?  Sure…but only after you’ve expended all other entertainment options, completed all chores, and reorganized your hope chest.  Note: as I wrote this review I’ve steadily deducted points from the rating.  I’m going to stop here out of concern I’ll soon be into negative numbers which isn’t fair to the two or three people that worked hard to bring you Helix.



P.S.  75K+ words into Sigma Draconis and more than a third of the way through the 2nd edition of The Bellerophon: Ambush which I hope to republish soon.  I’m excited about both projects and the many, many project yet to come.  SD is going to be cool but very different than my first book.

11 thoughts on “Helix:  Looks Like A Really Fast Car…Shame About The 4-Flat Tires

    adamlaredo said:
    December 21, 2014 at 5:19 am

    What you hear is me applauding. You’re being far too kind in your review of Helix. What I find most appalling about the show is the lack of anything resembling actual scientific behavior by what are supposed to be top researchers in areas such as virology, microbiology, etc. All of the scientists are working with pathogens that, if unleashed, could destroy all human life on the planet. So these are very intelligent, heady people used to working in pressure situations. Yet every time something goes wrong on Helix, every single scientist’s first action is to attempt to break quarantine. Huh? Sci Fi took a great premise and a great setting and turned it into one ginormous turd. Good review.

      J.W. Kurtz responded:
      December 21, 2014 at 7:50 am

      Thanks. Your comments is right on. That 2 out of 6 rating feels awfully high. I am much too kind.

      Much like the scientists in the film Prometheus, the actions of the best and the brightest in the Helix universe were completely illogical, dangerous, irresponsible, and near continuously erratic. If the CDC or any level 4 lab ran as portrayed in Helix we would be extinct by now. Thanks for reading! J.W.

    Tyler Beddard said:
    December 23, 2014 at 12:31 am

    In all honesty I made it to episode 6 before I’m impressed you made it that far into Helix. I forgot that show existed until I saw the commercials for season 2. Which also looks as equally as “entertaining” as the first.

    Since your notably behind, The Strain is definitely worth the watch. I enjoyed the new approach it gives to blood suckers.

    Also go to the syfy webpage and watch the three episode showing of Ascension. (It’s a new tack on space travel in modern times)

      J.W. Kurtz responded:
      December 23, 2014 at 12:36 am

      Thanks for the rec on The Strain and Ascension. I’ll move those up on my list. I try not to watch shows until they have lasted a couple years so my heart doesn’t get broken (see Stargate: Universe). I broke that rule with Helix. Wish I hadn’t. The world would be a better place if it was cancelled.

    J.W. Kurtz responded:
    December 24, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Updated review…couldn’t sleep at night giving it a 2 craft beer rating. I feel better now.

    sharonlyn said:
    January 19, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I couldn’t agree more and you have a new follower! 🙂

    sharonlyn said:
    January 19, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    (But I still haven’t forgiven SyFy for changing their spelling from Sci-Fi. Grates on my nerves terribly I must admit.)

      J.W. Kurtz responded:
      January 19, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      Me too! Just adds to the long list of silliness that those who run that channel are responsible for.

        sharonlyn said:
        January 20, 2015 at 6:05 pm


    Robin Thomas said:
    January 28, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you for this review! You have saved me a huge amount of time. I watched the first episode and couldn’t sit all the way through. It was too painful. But I kept seeing the trailers and kept thinking maybe I’d been too hasty in my judgement. So I’ve been planning to go back. Now I know I don’t need to. I used to work in a virology lab and it was just too much to bear seeing these characters make a mess of all things scientific :-).

    I’ve been rewatching ‘Heroes’ and I think that’s a much better way to avoid doing the other things I should be doing :-). Thanks for the Ascension and The Strain recommendation, Tyler. I’ll give those a try.

      J.W. Kurtz responded:
      January 28, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Happy to help! Yes, if you’ve worked in a lab this would drive you absolutely nuts.

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