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What’s Next for Syfy’s HELIX? Interview with Ron Moore

Posted on August 30, 2014 at 10:07 am by Amanda Andonian


Helix was a breakout hit for Syfy this year, and Tony Tellado from Sci-Fi Talk sat down with Ron Moore at SDCC this year to ask about the inspiration behind Helix and what we can expect next in season two. In case you haven’t been watching, Helix centers around a disease outbreak in a remote Artic research facility and the CDC’s attempts at containing the outbreak. Unfortunately, what the response team doesn’t realize at first is that the disease was engineered by some meddling scientists, and it’s altering the human genome in terrifying ways. Check out the interview with Ron Moore below!

Sci-Fi Talk: So what inspired you for Helix. The show is fantastic yet really scary. Pathegens and everything. What inspired the concept?

Ron Moore: I didn’t come up with the concept. It was Cameron Porsandeh who did the original script. It was a spec. They sent me the spec through Sony, because Sony had developed it with him for about a year. At first I didn’t want to read it because pathegens, medical is really not my thing. I kept saying not my thing yet they kept saying you’ve go to read it. I finally did. It was a page turner. I liked the characters and it was handled in a very interesting way. I thought it was an interesting balance between realisim and horror, there’s potential here. I started talking to Cameron. We worked out the mythology generally for the first season. Then brought Steve [Steven Maeda] on board. It was an interesting project. It wasn’t something that I said I would be doing but you never know.

What kind of scares will we see in Season Two?

I think we’ll up the ante in a lot of ways in certain scares and the horror but still try to ride that line so it’s not a flat out horror show because it’s based on real things that are scary enough. We haven’t started shooting. Like the monkeys were great…the rats. A lot of visual things that we did last season. We’ll be doing more of that.

Is the unpredictability kind of the mantra of the show ? Some shows you can figure out in the first season not this one.

That’s the trick is to try to keep it fresh keep the audience off balance. Keep them guessing where you’re trying to go, and that’s what interested me about it too.

And some of the characters are not what they seem as well.

It’s tricker the second season. You’ve seen that. Now you’re looking for secrets, reveals and twists and turns. To me the trick of doing that is to then to tell the audience you’re doing this story. No actually we’re doing this story. They kind of get comfortable feeling, “I know what is going to happen next.” Then you yank the rug and this is what is happening next. If you can keep then you have something great which is surprise and it keeps the audience interested.

Was this always pitched as a series, or perhaps a movie? How far of an arc do you have planned?

I believe it was always intended to be a series. We have the first season arc, so we know what season one is. And we have concepts as to what we want to do in years two and three but season one is our primary focus.

One of the things that was wonderful in Battlestar Galactica was that the arc was such that you couldn’t jump in the middle. I know that networks are always trying to find a balance. Did you take that into consideration when you were putting Helix together?

I think that aspect has started to lessen now in television generally because audiences have become more familiar with serialized story telling. There are so many ways for you to catch up on a show if you do jump in the middle. You could go back and find it in a variety of ways to catch up. People like to binge watch as they say. I finding that there is less and less concern about that aspect with the networks which is great. So now we can just play the story forward and not worry about explaining the show every week to the new viewer.

The story appears to have more that’s happening below the surface in many ways. So the story that we are seeing is not the story that appears to be.

Yeah. You’re peeling back the layers as the show goes on. They walk in and they think they’re dealing with one situation and as the series develops on they uncover. There are deeper and more mysterious things going on.

What kind of commitment did you have from SyFy when you started working on the first season?

First season all thirteen episodes. It was good to have a full order, it makes things a lot better. Creatively, you can do a better job with the show. You have the time, energy and resources to really develop it and let it evolve over time. The problem with doing pilots is that you spend so much time, effort and money cramming something into a pilot just to get the network to say yes. A lot of times, the pilot is so unrepresentative of what the series is that you’re almost re-inventing the show when you get the series order in. The audience senses that as well. There’s this big splash in the pilot and episode two doesn’t look anything like that. It’s nice to see TV starting to move away from the pilot development process. It’s a holdover from the sixties really. It’s an old way of doing the business that should go away.

Steve Maeda said that the nature of the epidemic is going to start in a very intimate level. Is it still the plan to keep it close knit as the tone of the show or do you plan to take it more global?

The stakes will be global but the show itself will be focused on the base. These people trapped in this environment in this period of time. Every episode is one day. There’s this pressure cooker environment that builds and builds and builds over the course of the first season.

One of the things you did with Galactica was using social media, podcasts. You’re not involved day to day, but will the producers be carrying on that tradition?

When we were doing Galactica, that was all sort of brand new stuff. First season, when Syfy came and said that they wanted me to do a podcast, I didn’t even know what that was. Everything has kind of developed since. So now it’s kind of a given on a show like this, there’s going to be a lot social media interaction back and forth.

How come the move to film in Montreal?

Instead of Vancouver? Strictly a money decision. We’re in an environment now where TV shows and films are all chasing tax credits and who gives you the best deal. It used to be Vancouver and British Columbia beat everybody and then the Province of Quebec decided,”We can do better than that.” And off we went to Montreal. Canadian TV Wars. Setting them against each other. It’s a longer flight. It has its down sides. I miss Vancouver. Vancouver is a great city. Great people. I’m very fond of that whole experience.

It seems that science fiction kind of cycles. We go space bound and then we go back to a grounded type show. Do you think that helps bring in some casual science fiction fans or those who are interested in science fiction elements in the real world?

Possibly. I don’t know. These things kind of go in waves and cycles for not very logical reasons. They just kind of rise and fall. Suddenly we’re all doing vampires, we’re all doing zombies. It’s all apocalyptic stuff. These waves kind of come. I think it has the potential to do what you’re talking about, bringing in more people that are not as hard core science fiction fans as maybe people that gravitated towards Galactica. But you never know. Galactica was always hampered on some level by its name. It was hard to get people to sample it because of its name. But once they did if you could convince them to sit down and watch it. They were compelled by the characters and the story. It’s always a marketing challenge. But this is a different world then we were launching Galactica too. With social media, with the way the audience experiences shows, their ability to binge watch and to go to Netflix and go to all these other places didn’t exist at that time. So even doing a space based show would probably have less of a challenge right now then it did back in the day.

Helix will return in 2015 for its second season, only on Syfy.

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