Philosopher Samuel Coleridge said the suspension of disbelief comes only through an emotional truth within a fictional work. Pigs may fly, clouds may speak, and a DNA-changing virus may spread through lip-locking zombies as long as there’s something for the viewer to latch onto-something that allows them to ignore the impossibility of the plot and identify with the characters. Something that makes it real.
The Syfy channel’s latest dramatic thriller “Helix” has these traits, but the problem lies with the delivery.
Airing on Fridays at 10 p.m., “Helix” is based at an isolated research facility specializing in nonregulated experimentation out in the deep Arctic. When a report of a contamination occurs and three doctors are infected, Alan Farragut and his team of hyper-educated scientists are helicoptered in to prevent the spread of the virus. It seems simple enough.
However, one of the doctors who has been infected is actually Alan’s brother, Peter. And Peter’s had an affair with Alan’s ex-wife, Dr. Julia Walker, who is currently working under Alan with the Centers for Disease Control. Of course, when the team arrives they begin to understand that information has been withheld from them. There is gore and blood. There is a suspenseful score. There is even an insult-spewing veterinarian with a Southern accent.
All the ingredients for a hardboiled zombie-thriller are there. Yet, the show lacks actors who can convince the viewers that all of this is actually happening-that they aren’t just spitting back the lines from writer Cameron Porsandeh, but that it’s happening to them.
The exchanges between ex-lovers Alan (Billy Campbell) and Julia (Kyra Zagorsky) are intriguing, but almost all of the emotion is delivered by the minor-tunes in the background, just as the moments of suspense are fueled by the dissonant thumps of a synth.
The most convincing performance comes from the infected Peter (played by Neil Napier), with his wide, black eyes and dark purple veins running up his neck.
However, the visual elements might make it worth it to tune in. There’s an especially gripping closeup of the remains of one of the infected doctors in a body bag, a slew of frozen primates and a pair of holographic eyes, among others. However, the cast will have to step it up a notch to complete the suspension of disbelief.
Benjamin Rader can be reached at email@example.com.