I spent this afternoon catching up on episodes 1–3 of the new Syfy Network thriller called Helix — set in an Arctic research facility owned by one of those “umbrella” corporations always home to an escaped killer virus of dubious origins. Normally, I live for such things and love to snuggle under the covers with my puppies and contemplate the unlikely erasure of our entire existence due to pandemics of our own making. Not so much this weekend.
First, mentioned in the plot a few times was the H1N1 flu virus (aka, “swine flu”), a virus that has killed about 15 people in my area of the country over the past few weeks. In fact, I have been so preoccupied with the flu threat that I myself actually walked down to the Walgreens last Friday and got myself a flu vaccination for the very first time in my life.
What makes this year different? This year it is taking the lives of perfectly health people in the 20-40 age range along with the standard children and elderly pool of victims. That frightens the hell out of me.
Secondly, I recently read a fascinating book, The Hot Zone, by renowned viral expert Richard Preston. In it he details the discovery of such real-world “hot” agents such as Marberg Virus and Ebola Virus, and he goes into great detail to show how all of us are often just a plane trip away from having them invade our communities — wiping us all out forever!
How can a Syfy Channel movie about a fictional research lab in the Arctic possibly compare to the story of a REAL outbreak of Ebola Zaire that occurred at the warehouses of a Washington, D.C. area monkey import business just a few years ago. As they say, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction — in this case, truth is more real, more terrifying, and much closer to home. The Syfy program is reasonably well made (if you forgive a horribly executed CGI rat-on-rat fight in Episode 2), but it just can’t top what’s already happening in the real world.
FINAL VERDICT: Skip the creepy television show in favor of the totally horrifying reality story already available in print.