Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Helix: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
"Helix," Sony Pictures Television’s intense sci-fi series, debuts on Blu-ray and DVD July 1 when Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases Helix: The Complete First Season. The freshman season of this gripping thriller introduces audiences to a team of scientists who embark on a dark, Arctic expedition to research a viral outbreak with terrifying effects. While there, they find themselves exposed to grave dangers, with the fate of all humanity hinging on their survival. Executive produced by Ronald D. Moore (TV’s “Battlestar Galactica”), Steven Maeda (TV’s “Lost,” “CSI: Miami,” “The X-Files”), who also serves as showrunner, and Lynda Obst (Contact), HELIX was created by co-executive producer Cameron Porsandeh and stars an ensemble cast, including Billy Campbell (TV’s “The Killing”), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine), Kyra Zagorsky (TV’s “Motive”), Mark Ghanimé (TV’s “The Hunters”), Jordan Hayes (House at the End of the Street), Cat Lemieux (White House Down), Meegwun Fairbrother (Breakout) and Neil Napier (White House Down).

Show (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been contacted by a remote research facility due to a fatal outbreak of an unknown disease. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) and his ex-wife Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky) bring a small team to the facility where Alan’s brother Peter (Neil Napier) is on staff and has been infected. An Army representative named Sergio Balleseros (Mark Ghanime) is assigned to the case as well. Dr. Hatake (Hirouki Sanada) runs the facility and has tried, and failed to quarantine and contain Peter.

An unknown disease is killing some of the staff and turning others into zombie-like creatures. The infected become very sick and eventually violent as they try to catch and spew sludge in the faces of the uninfected. Almost everyone’s motives seem questionable at times and it seems as though there is a larger conspiracy brewing. The more the CDC doctors dig for information, the more questions they raise. They are trying to contain the sick, cure the disease and determine who created it. As if working on a high stress team with your ex-wife wasn’t hard enough, add to that the fact that she had a relationship with your infected brother and you’ve got quite a situation.

Once again, I find myself ready to watch a show I’ve never heard of. More often than not, that doesn’t work out in my favor. The title sure doesn’t give much away. I looked it up and a helix is defined as an object having a three-dimensional shape like that of a wire wound uniformly in a single layer around a cylinder or cone, as in a corkscrew or spiral staircase. I assume that means the show will be about science…with a twist.

For a show I’d never heard of I have to admit Helix quickly grabbed my attention. By the end of season one it gets pretty complicated. At times it seems to be heading the way of your typical zombie film and then starts adding more X-Files-like elements. Dr. Hatake has many secrets to hide and plays the sinister facility administrator well. I’m not a fan of Billy Campbell but he is believable as the CDC scientist.

The show is a bit over packed with details and back story and I can only assume they weren’t sure they’d have a second season to explain. I would have preferred a show that was solely about the mystery virus but I guess it wouldn’t be a Syfy Channel show without a little craziness. I did like the show and I’m interested to see what happens in season two. I definitely won’t re-watch the show often. I’ll probably need to re-watch it once right before season two.
Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Helix: The Complete First Season is presented on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition. There is nothing spectacular or particularly remarkable about the show. The white snow, white labs and black blood don’t offer much visual excitement. Both flesh tones and black levels are accurate. Close ups offer the expected detail in clothing and skin imperfections. Overall this is a very good, but not great video presentation.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Helix: The Complete First Season offers a well balanced DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. The show uses elevator music to make everything seem just a little more out of place. Gusting winds and snow provide good environmental detail. The dialogue is clear and intelligible throughout. As with the video presentation, nothing strikes me as extraordinary but the lack of wow factor didn’t bother me with this show.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
Each disc contains a selection of special features worth watching if you enjoyed the show. I’m rarely a fan of deleted scenes, but he special features also contain a good mix of commentary, science and even outtakes.

The following special features are found on the Blu-ray discs:

Disc One: 
  • Audio Commentary for Pilot – featuring Actor Billy Campbell and Creator Cameron Porsandeh.
  • Deleted Scenes – Five deleted scenes.
  • Ronald D. Moore: The Outlier of Science Fiction – An approximately seven minute feature with discussion from Moore, show Creator, Executive Producers, Director and Actor Billy Campbell.
  • The Future of Disease – A look at creating a plausible disease for the show and the scientific elements and moral implications of such a crisis.
Disc Two:
  • Deleted Scenes – Two deleted scenes lasting just over a minute total.
  • Writing the Tension – A look at building the tension related to the environment, characters and life threatening situations. While focused on the writing, this feature also looks at the music’s role in building suspense.
  • The Art of Isolation – A featurette focused on the remote location and the related elements that drive the story.
  • Outtakes – Over three minutes of outtakes and bloopers.
Disc Three:
  • Audio Commentary: Commentary featuring Actor Billy Campbell and Executive Producer Steven Maeda.
  • Deleted Scenes – Six deleted scenes from disc three episodes.
  • Dissecting the Characters – A look at casting and character development in a ten minute featurette.
  • Fabricating the Plague – The visual effects and makeup associated with the virus.
  • Previews
  • Ultraviolet copy is also included in the Blu- ray set
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Helix is a pretty good mix of medical drama, detective show and sci-fi/horror. It’s got a lot going on for just one season but I’m interested to see where the next season will go. Aside from Billy Campbell, most of the actors are unknown to me but they hold their own. It’s worth watching but not the kind of show you skip an episode and figure out where you are. Most of what is going on makes no logical sense so you have to watch the entirety of the episodes (so don't fall asleep and just move on to the next episode). The special features are brief and worth the time. I recommend giving this one a chance without too many expectations.

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