Helix: Episodes 1, 2 & 3 - Pilot/Vector/274

There will be spoilers ahead if you haven't seen these episodes

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In arctic international no man's land, a large pharmaceutical corporation has built a base to carry out experiments free of legal interference and pesky jurisdictional oversight. It, of course, has gone terribly wrong and two staff at the facility are dead, decomposed to dark gloopy soup, and a third seems to be going the same way. Despite the geographical neutrality, the Centre for Disease Control is called in at the behest of the US military, and their leader, Dr Farragut discovers that the third man is in fact his brother.

A brother whom he last spoke to when he found him in bed with his ex-wife, Dr Walker (also along for the mission). Helicoptered into the frozen wastes the CDC crew meet the mysterious Dr Hatake and are promised free reign in addressing the possible outbreak and soon are fingering gloopy remains and working out the source and mode of transmission of the virus responsible. Doctors Farragut long enough for the healthy one to diagnose his brother is not long for this world and to prevent his attempts to infect his adoring research assistant. imageWith the "help" of their military liaison, the CDC team uncover lies and deception on the part of their hosts and events take a surprising turn when the dying brother sprouts a new lease of life and superhuman climbing and leaping abilities. On the loose, the brother spreads the infection further and renews acquaintances with his former sister in law at the episode's end in a harrowing shower scene counterpointed by muzak to become near unbearable. Other test subjects are discovered and footage of animals going crazy after being injected with two serums.

We enter episode 3 with new plans needed to isolate the infected from the general population, hysteria and violence amongst the contained and one of the crew infected but hiding the fact. A test for the disease is devised and soon the population of the facility is split into infected and not, with the infected contained on a lower level. Farragut's brother gives himself up and Farragut pressures Hatake to tell him the truth about work at the facility. With the satellite link about to come back on line, Farragut will be asking for troops and admitting his failure at containment, unless the link is sabotaged. Meanwhile in the basement, Dr Walker realises the test they devised doesn't work...

Now this is all rather good. The set-up has a slight flaw if you ask yourself why would the shadowy corporation ask the CDC in when they don't have to and have so much to hide, but once you forget this and the soap opera personal backstory it is rather good. The creation of the research facility is very well realised and the claustrophobia of the containment is laid on thick - including a memorable scene of puking whilst wearing a containment suit and helmet. For a J-Action fan like myself, it's always great to see Hiroyuki Sanada who is a splendid brooding presence and the shadowy intent of government forces adds to the intrigue so far.

There's limitations to budget noticeable in the special effects involving the monkeys and mixed model effects like the exterior of the base and the landing of the helicopter but lets not be too choosy here. Helix has shown a willingness to get very dark and has kept me glued to the screen so far. Three episodes in, the third is available on demand, it's got me hooked and intrigued and I am sure it could do the same for you. Very definitely recommended.image

Helix will be show on Mondays on Channel 5 from the 20th January and presumably on their demand service. You lucky Americans can see it at SyFy's website here and other people might try that media hint plugin...

Overall

8

out of 10

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