SyFy’s 12 Monkeys and Helix. Probed

Posted by Science Fiction Author,     Clara Bush

Friday night. Date night. Fun night. Party night. And perhaps your idea of a fun, date, party night is popcorn, a beer, and some SyFy. If that was your scenario for this last Friday night, you were lucky—and I hope in more ways than the premiere of 12 Monkeys and the opener for Season 2 of Helix.

Friday Nights On SyFy Return 


by Clara Bush

As Promised 
(In An Effort To Aid the Hurried Reader)


It’s back to the good old days on SyFy, when Friday nights on the channel were your go-to for entertainment and escape from a week of hell at work and/or school. (Remember Farscape and Firefly?)

12 Monkeys’s premiere was a time traveling thrill ride with beautiful actors who had chemistry and a knack of presenting real conversations—at least as real as one can have with a time-traveler.

Helix’s new season takes on a whole-lot-of new. If you missed Season 1, no worries, you can just dive right into Season 2.

If you must choose between 12 Monkeys or Helix, because you’re taping Grimm, or because your time is too precious to watch both, my choice would be 12 Monkeys.

THE LONG OF IT: Keep reading


Would you hit the reset switch?

Year 2043
Where are you right now? 
Somewhere warm? 
Next to someone you love? 
Now what if all that was gone. 
And the only thing you can do is survive? 
You would, right? 
You’d try. 
You’d do things. 
Horrible things. 
Until you lose that last thing you have left. 
But what if you could take it back? 
All of it. 
A reset switch. 
You’d hit it, right?
— opening narration for
the premiere of 12 Monkeys 
The Army of 12 Monkeys is back and SyFy is doing a bang-up job adapting the 1995 movie classic to your television screen. From the time Dr. Railly (Amanda Schull) finds time-traveler James Cole (Aaron Stanford) in the back seat of her car until the end, the premiere had me on the edge of my bed clinging to quilts and begging for more. 
The actors were multi-dimensional and the dialogue was dynamic, just re-read the opening narration above to confirm. 
In the beginning I wished Cole was better looking, but he grew on me, making the chemistry between Dr. R and Cole captivating. Hey, what do you expect from a guy—who time travels from 2043, a post apocalyptic world, into the past—but an unshaven, shaggy haired, unkempt dude. I kept asking my self: Wait, is that the part Brad Pitt played in the movie? Actually, Bruce Willis portrays the part of Cole in the classic.
AND SPOILER HERE. The part Brad Pitt played, Jeffrey Goines, is portrayed by a female. Nice twist. 
I know many reviewers might give the entire plot, here. I read those reviews and go, Why watch the show (or read the book)? I already know what’s going to happen. So to hold true to my belief that the only real thing readers of reviews want to know is: Will I like it? I’ll give you a couple of things to like and one or two not so much.

To like—the dialogue. Example:

1. Cole and Dr. R dress up to go to a party where Leland Frost is. (Frost is the bad guy. He is responsible for the deaths of seven billion people in the future.)  
Dr. R: You look good.
Cole: Thanks. You. Uh. Look like the women we use to see in all the magazines.
Dr. R: Which magazines?
Cole: (cute chuckle) I mean. You look clean.
I mean what girl doesn’t want to be told she looks clean from a guy from a ratty future. Clean is good. The writers could’ve written: You look beautiful. Or nice. Or pretty. No, they went for clean. It made me laugh.

To like—the hero is decisive and a man of few words.

2. Apparently, there is not much to eat in the future. 
Cole: MMMM. That’s good. If I lived in this time that’s all I’d eat. Cheeseburgers, every meal. (He licks his fingers.)
Dr. R: We need to come up with a game plan for when we find Leland…
Cole: We find him. I kill him. That’s it.
Dr. R: No! You can’t just walk in there and murder someone.
Cole: One for seven billion. That works for me. 
We find Cole to be a man with a mission who is not wishy-washy about killing one for the good of many.

The Bad Guy. Maybe.
Normal viewers are now questioning themselves. Would I kill someone in cold, cold blood, to save billions? 
Even though I am not a killer by nature (heck I return insects to wild rather than mushing them), Cole had me at “one for seven billion”.
Cole: I had him. Why’d you stop me?
Dr. R: I told you. You can’t just kill someone.
Cole: He’s already dead. Don’t you understand that everyone is already dead. You are already dead because of him.
Where’s my gun? Let’s go get him, I’m thinking.
Much of the success of the premiere, I attribute to the writers and the execution of the dialogue by the actors plus their portrayal of the characters.  

Not to like: 

1. I really thought Cole could have been a little sneakier in his attempt to kill Leland, instead of barging right into a party all Die Hard style
2. Example of awkward moment below.

It’s like someone yelled: “Put your hand on your butt. It’s showing.” Perhaps, a bit of better staging was in order. Or a longer dress. Or…How else could you hold a girl you are trying to rescue and you must use your time traveling speed to save your asses. (This is minor. And sorta funny.)

All in all, I can’t wait until next Friday.

Probe-filing of 12 Monkeys

  • Director of the movie 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam, made the following remark when first asked about a TV adaptation of the classic. “That’s just ridiculous. It doesn’t have anything to do with me and no-one has contacted me. It’s a very dumb idea, if it was going to be any good, it would have to be written by David and Janet Peoples, who wrote the film.” 
  • The movie was inspired by the 1962 French science fiction featurette La Jetée by Chris Marker. However the short film doesn’t use the 12 Monkeys.


Helix 2: Do You Know The Way to San Jose?

Real gross. The TMX-7 virus. (We’re assuming.)
When I first invested time in season one of Helix, I thought: another pseudo Zombie pandemic virus series where people excretes black slug. And though it’s sorta like that, it’s not. For one thing, it all takes place on an Arctic research facility and the Center for Disease Control is able to keep the contagion contained in the Arctic—for the most part—but that’s not to say there aren’t numerous opportunities for the virus to go—well—viral, and spread. 
I liked the actors. The dialogue was okay. No major black holes folded in onto themselves. And the characters made me care. And though the storyline is not new, it does have a new treatment. So after season one, I committed to season two, thinking it’s back to the Arctic and the old Narvik virus .
But…no. Oh hell no. 
Season two opens up and we are on boat and then an island thirty years in the future and then back to the island in present time and there is an entirely new pathogen lurking about.

( Granted, if you watch commercials, you already knew Helix 2 would be set on an island. I go to great lengths to avoid commercials, like I go brush my teeth during commercials, or empty the dishwasher or load up the dishwasher or tape all shows, watch later and FF through commercials. But my husband, however, loves commercial. Go figure.) 

So, I sorta knew that they’d be on an island. But there were other significant changes as the season opened. The old gang is not back. Brother Peter (Neil Napier) is in charge instead of Brother Alan (Billy Campbell) and they added another brother—who isn’t related—portrayed by actor Steven Weber. 
There is a new kid on the block. And the new kid is not bad to look at and he talks Texan. I talk Texan! And he is funny. He adds that bit of humor that the first season lacked. Actor Matt Long plays the top-notch toxicologist, Dr. Kyle Sommer, who makes us laugh. 

The new kid. He’s funny. And sexy.

To like :  Some of the new humor even though it could have been written better.

Anticipating the need to protect himself and the team, Dr. Sommer pulls out his gun.
Dr. Sarah Jordan: You brought a gun???!!!
Dr. Sommer: I’m from Texas. We don’t go to the bathroom without a gun.
That’s funny cause it’s true. 

Not to like:  The question: “You brought a gun?”

Why in the heck wouldn’t you bring a gun? All members of the team should be toting. You are on a remote island, in the middle of nowhere, with the possibility of aggressive wildlife or monsters. 
Though the line is funny. The question about the gun is an example of nonsense writing. 

To like :  Better example of new humor:

Scene: Team is in creepy shed. Scary people with torches surround shed.

Dr. Peter: How many rounds you got in that gun, Texas?
Dr. Kyle: Not nearly enough.
Scary hooded off-the-grid people: Please come out. We won’t hurt you. 
Dr. Peter: Well?
Dr. Kyle: It’s either that, or go out like Butch and Sundance.
Dr. Sarah: What the hell does that mean?
Dr. Kyle: You’ve never seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?
Dr. Sarah: (Shakes head, no.)
Dr. Kyle: What kind of American are you?

Not to like:  Unlikely plot advancement.

Unlikely scenario. Lelia, the sole survivor onboard the boat, hears a noise in the woods and runs from the doctors who are the only people on the island who might save her. This is the catalyst that triggers the rising action in this episode. 
But worse case scenario. Why bring the sole survivor back to the island anyway? Hasn’t she been through enough? Surely, all the information she could’ve provided could’ve been gathered in an interview in the safety of the coast guard, rather than bringing her back to the island. She’s a civilian for goodness sakes. It’s like the writers said, we need to have her so we can have a murder on the island, so let’s take her back to this place that reeks of doom. 

Poor dead Leila. Should never have been taken back to the island. 

To like :  

The retro, up beat music, provided by supervising sound editor David Gertsman, sets the tone for the quirkiness of the series. 

Probe-filing of Helix 2

My response: stoned college sophomores can be funny and as long as we don’t end up in the hereafter like we did on Lost, I’m going to keep watching, if for no other reason than to watch the guy from Kentucky play a Texan. It’s harder than it looks.

  • Series developer Cameron Porsandeh stated to SciFi Mafia that a major feature of the series is that each episode represents the events of a single day within the story: thus the entire thirteen episode first season takes place in under two weeks of in-universe time.

Doesn’t look like that’s the case in season 2, although we do get a daily count down. But during the opener, we get a scene that takes place 30 years later (Than what? I’m not sure). In the later thirty years, Dr. Julia Walker (actress Kyra Zagorsky) is dying of the newly introduced TMX-7 virus. AND she is an immortal, but not as in vampire! I gotta see how that plays out. Hope we don’t end up with polar bears.


Are you a fan of the new SyFy lineup? Did you watch 12 Monkeys or Helix? I love hearing from you. 

blog post #85 by Science Fiction Author, Clara Bush

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