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‘Helix’ Will Have To Fight Claustrophobia

New Ronald D. Moore series meets high expectations

What has Ronald D. Moore been up to since departing from “Battlestar Galactica”?

Fans will get a big look at that Friday night when Syfy’s newest series, “Helix,” premieres in a two-episode event.

Created by Cameron Porsandeh in his first television project, “Helix” takes viewers to the near future, to a research facility in the Arctic where some mysterious disease has broken out.

A team from the Centers for Disease Control makes their way to the station, only to find themselves caught up in not only a conspiracy behind the outbreak, but in the heart of the outbreak itself.

And while viewers will learn that this base is much larger than anyone expected — there are still challenges to make sure scenes stay fresh enough to survive in an enclosed space.

“One of the things that was really important to us is to get outside whenever we could,” showrunner and executive producer Steve Maeda told Airlock Alpha and other news outlets participating in a recent conference call. “And, of course, outside means … either in our refrigerated room or … out on the green screen … exterior. But at least we were outside and didn’t have four walls around us.”

Because it’s the Arctic, going outside is about as colorful and magical as spending too much time on Hoth in the Star Wars universe, so even opening the doors once in a while to the frozen landscape might not solve all the problems.

How do you fix it? Give the virus that’s infecting everyone the ability to open the world up.

“While we’re not doing flashbacks, part of what the virus does is make you hallucinate,” Maeda said. “And so hallucinations play a fairly good sized piece of certain episodes. And what they allow you to do is go to places you wouldn’t otherwise be able to go. And I’ll leave it at that.”

But staying in a confined space could actually be good for character development, said Kyra Zagorsky, who plays Dr. Julia Walker.

“I think the other side of that is embracing the claustrophobia, and that’s kind of what a huge piece of this show is … just watching people go through having to be stuck in that,” Zagorsky said. “And so I think the audience is going to feel some of that. It might not be comfortable, but it’s really cool to just kind of be experiencing that along with the characters that you’re watching.”

It’s a way that the audience can connect to the humanity, as well as the good and bad sides of the characters, Zagorsky said.

Claustrophobia, however, is nothing compared to what “Helix” itself is going through. Having Moore’s name attached is both a blessing and a curse. It might bring the show more attention, especially from those who have fond memories of “Battlestar Galactica,” but it also raises the bar significantly, with both viewers and critics expecting dramatic gold at every single turn.

“It’s a huge, high bar to hit and so, yes, there is pressure, but it’s fantastic,” Maeda said. “Not just with … the fact that ‘Battlestar’ kind of came before, and that Ron has a lot of that, you know, attached to him. But he was great. I mean, just as a partner, as a producer on the show, as someone to … come in and talk about ideas and to weigh in. He was fantastic. I couldn’t ask for better.”

Will “Helix” succeed in doing that? Fans will have a chance to weigh in for the first time Jan. 10 beginning at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.

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