[WARNING: Spoilers Ahead]
In a plot that questions the depth of humanity and its limitations, the SyFy-aired TV series Helix left nowhere to breathe as it consistently challenged the next evolutionary steps us human beings will take via advanced technology: extinction or immortality?
Season one of Helix takes place at a private arctic bioresearch station, comprised of all the world’s leading scientists working together to combat global diseases under a deregulatory setting. Something goes terribly wrong, however, and a few of the station’s staff become infected by an unknown virus, turning them into a violent, yet incredibly intelligent swarm of what are called Vectors. With no other choice, the station’s founder Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (starring Hiroyuki Sanada) calls in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help find a cure for this viral madness.
Soon after the CDC enter the station, all the safety protocols are made and the team gets to work. Basing their initial research on an infected Dr. Peter Farragut (starring Neil Napier), who happens to be the brother of Dr. Alan Farragut (starring Billy Campbell) and team leader of the CDC, they soon realize the virus is nothing like they’d ever seen before. From the black goo residue that leaks out the victim’s orifices, to the show of intelligence it acquires while controlling them, it’s made immediately clear to the CDC that they’re dealing with something brand new – an evolved virus, bio-engineered by man, known as NARVIK.
As the season progresses, one by one, members of the team begin either dying or become infected. Consequently, Dr. Alan Farragut makes the decision to not evacuate the station and instead figure out the true source of this virus, alongside its cure. Eventually he and what’s left of his team come to an unsettling discovery: a conspiracy is afoot, with the virus purposely made for an unknown nefarious reason.
All is not lost, however, as one of the infected members – a Dr. Julia Walker (starring Kyra Zagorsky) – is given a cure, though one not designed by the CDC, but instead by Hatake. Only there’s an interesting side effect to this cure: immortality (not to mention a cool set of silver eyes). This marks a new problem for the CDC, because now not only are they having to deal with a deadly swarm of Vectors, but are soon about to come in contact with Hatake’s bosses – the Ilaria Corporation.
Made up of private commando types and assassins, the Ilaria Corp. make it very clear of their intent: develop a cure as fast as possible and destroy the station and everyone inside of it. Left with no other option, Dr. Farragut and his team attempt to fight Ilaria and take back the station. Soon thereafter, however, Hatake reveals to the CDC that Ilaria Corp. aren’t just any normal private sector army, but are run by what are known as the 500 Immortals – a group of people who’ve since discovered a cure to aging itself. What they don’t understand is what it has anything to do with the Vectors.
As Helix draws closer to the end, and eventually a cure developed without the aid of immortality, all seems right in the world again for the CDC. Unfortunately, at the behest of a captured immortal member of Ilaria Corp., the CDC come to realize that a modified strain of the NARVIK virus has been released in Puerto Rico by Ilaria. Struck by this revelation, the CDC race against time as they attempt to finally evacuate the station and deliver the cure to the now infected Puerto Rican populace. Just as they’re about to evacuate, an explosion erupts, serving as the perfect distraction while the immortal Ilaria member escapes and snatches Dr. Julia Walker, taking her back to Ilaria headquarters via helicopter.
Several months later, we find Dr. Alan Farragut and his brother (who we eventually find out is secretly working for Ilaria Corp.) in Paris, searching for Julia as they discover Ilaria’s headquarters. By the end of season one, however, we’re left with a startling twist: Julia is now a member of the 500 Immortals.
Season one of Helix served us the perfect plot of conflict between two futuristic extremes: bio-engineered super viruses and evil corporations run by immortals. Each problem, however, were designed via biohacking. To an anti-Transhumanist, this TV series served as an excellent warning against Transhumanism – for humans not to use advanced science and technology to transcend their biological limitations. As a Transhumanist, myself, I found this message worrisome.
Understand, the extremes set in stone for Helix’s plot are not actually examples of Transhumanism. Rather they’re perversions to a misunderstood bias towards the movement. Not only does a Transhumanist not want to create super viruses, but groups of them have started nonprofit NGOs (read: Lifeboat Foundation) with the sole mission to discuss and develop ways to help mitigate possible future existential risks. Subsequently, a Transhumanist does not seek an authoritarian bond such as immortality, but rather instead a democratic, individually-decided choice for all of humanity: provide them the cure to aging, so as to acquire an indefinite life of health and youth – to decide for themselves how long they wish to live, and when they’d wish to die (read: Movement for Indefinite Life Extension).
“All around us we have the spectacle of overflowing millions no longer praying but grasping for salvation, behind all facades of sophistication and toughness, each in his own style, every man for himself. Salvation by whatever means – and quickly. It has become the central passion that drives us, a need rapidly turning into an imperious demand to be rescued from nothingness.” — Alan Harrington, The Immortalist
Biohacking is an important facet of the Transhumanist movement, of course. We are avid proponents to genetically modifying crops, just as we are to humans. But our intent is to ensure peace, prosperity, and longevity. To modify crops to help combat against climate change, natural contamination, and freak weather conditions; and to modify ourselves to help us overcome our biological limitations, just as we used technology to help us overcome the limitations of seeing in the dark, of traveling long distances, and communicating with the rest of the world.
Having said that, though, season one of Helix was very entertaining, and certainly a breath of fresh air to see such a well-developed, well-casted, and well-written science-fiction show on the SyFy channel. As a Transhumanist, I may completely disagree with its message to humanity, but I consider myself a sucker to good ol’ fashioned dystopian sci-fi. There are certainly some bumps in the show, of which may either bore or confuse you, but it’s still worth the watch.
Season one of Helix is now available on Netflix, and season two will be airing on the SyFy channel on January 16 of next year. Don’t miss it!