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Syfy (ended 2015)

One of the most fascinating series on TV right now is Syfy's Helix, a science-fiction thriller about a viral outbreak in an Arctic research lab that doesn't seem to follow the regular roles of what we expect from the genre. It is weird. It also happens to be scary and fun, and if you don't mind television that's a little off-kilter and you can ignore some flaws here and there, the show is very addictive. 

In advance of former Star Trek: Voyager star Jeri Ryan's big guest debut in this Friday's episode, "Survivor Zero," I chatted with Helix showrunner Steven Maeda (Lost, Lie to Me, CSI:Miami) about what's ahead, whether there are aliens involved, and how far Helix can go. 


TV.com: Okay, I've been dying to ask you this. What is up with that weird and oh-so-awesome intro music for the opening credits?

Steven Maeda: [Laughs] The intro music is awesome, I just love it. The music came to us as we were cutting the pilot, and we had talked about playing some music that was kind of counter [to the show], but it was when he hit on "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" in the pilot that we said, "Hey you know what? Let's not do main title music that's on-the-nose and is what you'd expect from a show like this. Because we've seen that before, let's try and do something different." Our composer Reinhold Heil came up with this great little bossa nova, and when we heard it we were like, okay that's weird, and then we fell in love with it. Some of my favorite sequences in the show are the ones we set to songs, whether they're ones we just kind of discover or golden oldies.


How did Syfy react to it?

They were supportive, there were a couple people questioning and going, "You sure?" And we were like, "We're sure!" The hardest part is finding the right place to break and place the main title, because it's all over the place where we want to put it. It was a learning process for all of us; the music, how we're telling the story, doing jump-cutting, we're doing a lot of things that aren't terribly conventional. Not just shaking the tree to shake it up, we want you to feel unsettled and watch the show and not know quite what to expect, and the music is part of that.


That music really sets the tone for the show, which I'm having a hard time putting a description to, because it's very dark, but it has a certain quirkiness to it. 

Yeah, there's definitely some dark humor, and it's something we do when we can. But it's a pretty serious show, and we don't want to go too tongue-in-cheek, but we're definitely having fun with it. I think my favorite scenes are when we find a song that is playing counter to the scene, and we're not doing it in every episode, but we are in most of them. It takes you out of the moment, but I think in a good way. It's unsettling, like, "This isn't supposed to be happening this way."


I've always thought of the Arctic Biosystems lab as a main character, and I wondered if the series would be confined to the space with just its core scientists. But last week, you opened things up by setting some action outside the lab and bringing in new characters with that last helicopter shot. How far can you expand the show geographically?

I don't want to give too much away, but we definitely want to take advantage of areas in our proximity up in the Arctic. When you're up there it's very desolate and there's not many places to go, but we're starting to open that up and get into some of the locals, some of the indigenous people who live up there, and also bring some people into the show, as you saw in the last episode. We are opening up the world, and if we get a second season, we'll really open up the world. 


Speaking of new characters, Friday's episode features Jeri Ryan as a guest star. What can you tell us about her character? 

She plays Constance Sutton, and she is one of the corporate minders of Alaria Corporation, who are the main funders of Arctic Biosystems. She's coming in ostensibly to help, but pretty quickly we'll see she has another agenda, and she has a deep, dark background with Hatake and her own way of doing business. 


How many episodes is she sticking around for?

We want to tease that and leave it open, she'll be around for a "number" of episodes.


There's a lot of ambiguity to each character on the show, except for maybe Alan. Will we see a divide between good and bad people, or is everyone operating within various shades of gray?

Definitely shades of gray. I say that unapologetically. When we started, it seemed fairly certain who was on what side of the outbreak and the situation. Then the goal was to take the people you think are bad and humanize them, and take the people you think are good and add some darker shades to them. I think there are few successful shows where you don't have those kind of dynamics. We're really trying to lean heavily into that. You know, if you thought you understood what Hatake was about, by the time you get to the end of the series, you should have a completely different perspective on him, and hopefully every character. 


Based on some of the comments on my episode reviews, some fans aren't really into the "love square" between Alan, Julia, Peter, and Sarah, and I tend to agree. How is that going to play into the bigger story?

One of the things we wanted to do because we're telling the story in 13 days and we're not doing flashbacks, we had to really load people up and get them up to the base with a lot of baggage. And that's what got us into the love triangle, because it's tried-and-true, obviously. And the love square, where we had two triangles going, was a result of us trying to figure out different permutations of how things would work, and it led to some great storytelling that will become apparent in Episode 7, 8, 9, 10. Some people love the love triangles, and others are like, "Bring me the good twists!" Love triangles are an attempt to make these stories as emotional as possible by giving a lot of interconnected character backstory. 


There are a lot of theories out there about aliens somehow being involved in Helix. Point blank: What do you say to people pitching that idea?

I say, "Continue to hypothesize!" For me, one of the fun things about the show is that you can throw a lot of balls in the air. As long as everything comes down and is resolved in a satisfying way, part of the fun of these types of shows is to play along and figure out what is going on. So I will neither confirm nor deny that there are aliens! One of our favorite theories, just by virtue of working with [Battlestar Galactica creator Ronald D. Moore] is that they're all Cylons. We definitely wanted to leave a lot of things open up until the point we resolve them. And we will [resolve them], in this first season. We were very, very clear from the beginning. We are going to open up mysteries, but we're going to answer them. The major mysteries will all be answered by the end of the first season.


So we will know what the virus does by the end of the first season?

What the virus does, why it was designed, we will have all those answers by the first season. In fact, before the end of the first season.


Another speculation out there is that Julia is Hatake's daughter.

That is also a great hypothesis that I will neither confirm nor deny! What we wanted was you to be really intrigued by what the nature of that relationship is. The more ambiguity it has the better, up until the point when we resolve it, and we're going to be resolving that relatively soon. We want all those theories out there to wonder, "What it the deal?"


Anything else you want to tease before you go? 

I don't think there's anything I can give right now. We're happy we have a very dedicated fan base, we have lots of cool surprises and good twists coming up. We're especially excited about this back half of the season.


Helix airs Fridays at 10pm on Syfy. Star Trek: Voyager's Jeri Ryan guest stars in this week's episode, "Survivor Zero." 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 4/10/2015

Season 2 : Episode 13

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Follow the creator / writer of Helix Cameron Porsandeh producer Ron Moore if you really want to follow the minds that created the show!
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Winder how many seasons they are planing.
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"We are going to open up mysteries, but we're going to answer them. The major mysteries will all be answered by the end of the first season....What the virus does, why it was designed, we will have all those answers by the first season. In fact, before the end of the first season."

I LOVE YOU.
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I am very happy the he has promised a ending and answers to the main mystery by the end of 1st season. For that alone, I will continue to watch till the end. I am so pissed many good shows did not give an answer when the show got canceled after 1 season.
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I really wasn't sure about this show, until last week. The dynamic between Balleseros and Anana and the missing kids and Hatake kinda upped the game for me. I'm curious to see what happens when Jeri enters the mix www.fox.com
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Yes, they're my favorite! I think that storyline definitely adds a better emotional subplot then the gross Sarah-Alan relationship....
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I am glad you brought up that some of the fans aren't feeling the love square thing, the only thing that really turned me off was the Alan and Sarah relationship turning sexual. Alan looks 30 years older than her, it didn't seem like something a good guy character who is acting as mentor would do, it almost feels exploitative. Idk why I'm harping on that, it just really icked me out and made me really dislike Alan and Sarah.


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I disagree - whilst I think the show should have allowed their relationship to develop more normally, I think it's OK that he's so much older than her. There's nothing icky about a large age difference, especially since in real life couples are a lot more diverse than the cookie cutter, same age same everything tv often presents. In addition, it fits in with the whole off-beat vibe of the show...
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I completely agree. I hate when shows add a love story that doesn't need to be there. Particularly when there's much more going on that is far more interesting. This one feels obligatory and I literally walk away from the screen when those two are on now.
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I would love Helix as far as they continue to give me 'mice out of the mouth' or 'severed head in a jar' scenes. It really lets my imagination go crazy. and I can't imagine how you wouldn't ask if the mystery of severed heads in underground glass jars would be answered or not, that matters much more to me than the virus!
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I really wasn't sure about this show, until last week. The dynamic between Balleseros and Anana and the missing kids and Hatake kinda upped the game for me. I'm curious to see what happens when Jeri enters the mix.
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Seven Of Nine. Love her. I'm enjoying Helix very much so far. I think it will only get better as the story unfolds..
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Excited to see where this story goes. Thanks Tim.
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My problem with Helix is that I don't like or empathise with any of the characters and want them all to die of stupidity. Other than that I actually enjoy the show.
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I would agree with you, except Balleseros is hot. And it may be too soon to tell but I'm really digging Anana so far; she's got the brains (and good looks!) and can pack a punch.

Also, I was so close to liking Sarah until [spoilers] 1) she hid the vector in her room and 2) it came out that she and Alan were a thing (gross!). If we pretend both of those things never happened, I might be persuaded to like her yet.
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Yeah gross, because they're so ugly... oh wait. But seeing how you like a character just because he's hot, it says a lot and is not very bright. What matters is how the characters are written, age difference or looks are secondary.
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Gross because their relationship reads very father-daughter to me. As group leader he is in a position of power plus he's obviously older than her....it's like a professor sleeping with their student (not illegal, but yuck!).
I agree that the characters' personalities should be the trait that is most important, but unfortunately I have yet to see a character that I actually like or sympathize with, because they are either boring or unbelievably stupid/selfish/annoying/evil/etc. Hence, the only character I am invested in is the good-looking one whose back story interests me and who also doesn't annoy me - although if his relationship with Constantine persists that may quickly change.
I have to say, though, I love Anana so far; although we don't know much about her she's quickly becoming my favorite as the only really good/smart/interesting character on the show. But we shall see....
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Please get your head out of the sand there is nothing gross or abnormal about relationships with a large age difference...
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Yup that's it! I couldn't put my finger on why I'm not totally into the show because it's pretty much right up my alley, but you nailed it. I realized I have zero attachment to the characters, I like Julia a little and the native cop lady is interesting but that's about it.
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Ha ha I see what you're saying. And I think that's a fine way to watch the show. I'm very neutral on everyone as well, although Hatake gives me the giggles in a great way.
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has Helix been renewed for season 2?
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Not yet, but I expect it to get a second season.
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Helix is great and I hope it gets a longer second season and so on. I want to see where they are going with it, because it is moving in snail pace so far. That is actually something I like because it makes it seem more moody and atmospheric. I get that it's also because each episode is 1 day.

I am not a fan of Jeri Ryan, so I am not excited about her introduction on the show, but oh well...

I am not a big fan of grayzones. What it does is water out every character so they all become the same - both good and bad. That's not realistic. People have different levels of it. It usually just makes every character seem like the same personality, like they could have swapped the storyline with another character and it wouldn't even get noticed.
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A big fan of Helix. Throw me into the bunch that aren't that pleased with the love triangles but since I spend most time with a pillow in front of my face when I watch this show anyway it comes to good use when you want to censor things out ;)
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Why do you watch this show with pillow in front of your face other than to specifically block out the love triangle scenes?
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Honestly it was just that ep with them up in the vents looking for Peter. Too much Alien for me to be able to watch it without a pillow. Mouse coming out of Dr Doolittles mouth was a scene I would've wanted the pillow for. So lately the pillow is just there to block out that horrendous mushy romantic stuff ;)
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That rat scene is one my personal favorite moments of Helix along with Dr. Hvit. I mean who doesn't love a severed head in a jar? But i totally agree on the mushy romantic stuff. How can anyone find a lab with a lethal black goo epidemic and dead bodies in middle of arctic sexier than that comfy CDC office in the pilot!?
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Answer: people who don't want to have nightmares ;)
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Steve Maeda clearly has got and understood the zeitgeist of how viewers are now wanting to watch entertainment series. A complete story arc in one season whether it is 13 or 22 episodes. A chance to tell the story in a long filmic format rather than rushing stories from start to finish in as little as one episode. Which has so often happened. The American Horror style format worked well for me. You could develop character, story and tension if expected. Also great for boxed set viewing.
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Cool, not sure how resolving everything is a good thing if we are to get a second season?
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He also said they have big plans for Season 2. It sounds like they have a self-contained story to tell for each season. I'm pretty sure they'll get a second season, so we'll find out!
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Oh, in that case bring it on!
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To clarify, Season 2 would be a new story that comes from the first season, not an entirely different story like American Horror Story.
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Love that idea. The problem I have with AHS-style storytelling is that what you love about S1 doesn't necessarily appear in S2....but on the other hand with traditional tv shows you end up with Siberia situations where the show is cancelled and there are almost NO answers. This seems like a great compromise.
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That would be better, no one would like to see Helix changing into a new show. Anyone I guess who likes Helix likes it for what the show is right now.
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I love this show. Fun, scary and now with Jeri Ryan!!
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