When the sci-fi show Helix was first announced, potential fans wondered if it would be as good as the other one produced by Ronald D. Moore, Battlestar Galactica. And while we now know that no, no it isn’t, after seeing Helix again on DVD or Blu-ray, it’s clear that this freaky medical drama is worth checking out. Well, at least once.
In Helix, doctors from the Center For Disease Control are asked to investigate a possible viral outbreak at a medical research facility in the Arctic. But when they arrive, they discover that the people running the place are hiding things, and not just about the virus.
While this sounds like an interesting idea for a show, over the course of Helix’s thirteen episodes, the conspiracy gets so convoluted, the characters get so unlikable, and the backstabbing gets so outlandish that by the time it ended, I was ready for it to be over. It also dragged a bit. This show really should’ve just been ten episodes, not thirteen.
And yet, I didn’t stop watching it. Partially because it didn’t really get ludicrously bad until it was close to the end anyway — which is why I won’t be watching the second season of Helix when it airs — partially because even then I had to see how bad this train would wreck, but also partially because there were glimmers of something interesting beneath all the nonsense. Which is why I can’t recommend buying Helix: Season 1 on DVD or Blu-ray, I will say it’s worth checking out.
That said, if you enjoyed Helix: Season 1 more than I did, you’ll like this DVD as well. Besides presenting all thirteen episodes as they should’ve been shown on TV — without all the stupid pop-up ads for other SyFy shows — the Helix: Season 1 DVD (and Blu-ray) comes with a wealth of fan-friendly extras.
For starters, Helix: Season 1 has a running commentary on two of the episodes, with star Billy Campbell and creator/co-executive producer Cameron Porsandeh on the first one, “Pilot,” and Campbell and producer Steven Maeda on the last one, “Dans L’Ombre.” Both of which are informative, as well as rather engaging, in large part because this never gets film school-ishly detailed, but also because both were recorded with the two pairs of men in the same room at the same time, and they seem to genuinely like each other.
Helix: Season 1 also comes with thirteen deleted scenes, though at only around ten minutes total, they don’t add a whole lot. Somewhat more interesting are the outtakes, which show the cast and crew screwing up for three-and-a-half-minutes. As is often the case with gag reels, this one isn’t anything you’ll want to watch more than once, but the one time is rather fun.
Lastly, both the Helix: Season 1 DVD and Blu-ray have four featurettes. In “Ronald D. Moore: The Outlier Of Science Fiction,” they take a seven-minute-long look at the person on whose name this show was sold to the public. But while this is a bit of a stroke-fest, it also shows how Moore helped shepherd this show.
Then there’s “The Art Of Isolation,” which spends nearly six minutes discussing the isolated setting of Helix and its implication on the story, as well as the ten-minute-long, self-explanatory “Dissecting The Characters.” Both of which are informative, and thus interesting, but not terribly revelatory.
But the best of these is “The Future Of Disease,” a five-minute-long look at the disease and why the science in the science fiction show had to be plausible. Especially since, as you learn from this featurette, the show was inspired in part by a real-life medical problem suffered by Porsandeh.
In addition, the Blu-ray gets two more making-of featurettes: “Writing The Tension” and “Fabricating The Plague.” Though since Sony only sent me the DVD (no complaints, no judgments), I cannot comment on how good or bad they might be.
While most of the extras on the Helix: Season 1 DVD (and by extension, the Blu-ray) are worth checking out, I can’t help but think they could’ve been presented better. First off, I would’ve put all of the featurettes on the last disc, instead of spread out over all three, since you’ll probably want to watch them after you’ve watched all of the episodes.
I also, as I always do, wish the deleted scenes were placed alongside the episodes in which they were excised from, as well as given some context and optional commentary talking about why they were cut. That said, I did appreciate that, on the Helix: Season 1 DVD, they separated the deleted scenes so that the ones from the episodes on disc one, for instance, were on disc one, and so on. Which isn’t perfect, but it is better than lumping them all together.
Though speaking of the different discs, I didn’t like how the three discs were just stacked one on top of the other, just begging to be scratched.
In the end, while Helix isn’t a show I’d watch more than once, if you like it more than I did, the Helix: Season 1 DVD (and, presumably, Blu-ray) do a good job of presenting this sci-fi — yeah, sci-fi — show as it was meant to be seen.