11:45am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Comic-Con: Syfy's 'Helix' Sets Key Cast for Ron Moore Drama
Battlestar Galactica guru Ron Moore is back on the small screen with Helix, the 13-episode drama that Syfy picked up straight to series.
The drama is described as a thriller about a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to a high-tech research facility in the Arctic to investigate a possible disease outbreak. There, they find themselves in a terrifying life-and-death struggle that holds the key to mankind's salvation or total annihilation.
Moore (Battlestar Galactica) will executive produce the drama alongside Lynda Obst (Contact),Steven Maeda (Lost, The X-Files) and Cameron Porsandeh, who penned the pilot of the Sony Pictures Television entry.
The Killing's Billy Campbell will star as CDC pathologist Dr. Alan Farragut, who first and foremost is a man of science, having dedicated his life to understanding and containing infectious diseases. Although brilliant, his bedside manner leaves something to be desired. For Alan, his work is his life, especially since the devastating end of his marriage. An affair between his wife (Dr. Kimberly Walker) and his brother (Dr. Paul Farragut) has left Alan in a pretty serious state of denial. He now finds himself forced to deal with emotions old and new when tasked to save his estranged brother who has become infected with a deadly disease.
Additionally, the role of Hiroshi Hitaki, the mastermind behind the arctic base and the top-secret research happening there will be played by Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, Revenge, Lost). Walker, the former wife of Campbell's character who hasn't seen him in two years -- who will reunite with him after two years -- will be played by Kyra Zagorsky, whileand Balleseros, the U.S. military liaison to the CDC with a dangerous agenda of his own, will be played by Mark Ghanime.
Syfy is promoting the series, due in 2014, at Comic-Con with massive building wrap-arounds and banners inside the Convention Center.
During the Friday panel, Mark Stern, president of original programming at Syfy, said the network had been looking to do something with Moore again and the sterilized character story feels as if it's "chaptered" like FX's American Horror Story. He noted that the potential second season could take place in a different location. "The format of this show allows us to take narrative leaps," Moore says.
The show launches with an outbreak and a team from the CDC is sent to contain it. Moore says "they learn that the research that they're involved in has both the potential to save humanity and destroy humanity."
Maeda noted that bypassing the pilot stage helped producers plot out the character-driven show instead of packing everything into the pilot. "We want to get the hooks in early but we also want to set up character so you want to come back and spend time with these people. ... We're planning to keep the tension up."
Stern noted that the series is a big bet for Syfy and helps mark the network embracing its sci-fi roots with additional decisions on its pilots and miniseries coming soon. The series will be paired with Being Human next year.
Maeda said the series will not have a BSG look but the base will have a very sleek look. "Visually, we wanted to do something different. We discussed shooting in a BSG-kind of style," he said. "We are referencing a lot of different filmmakers -- the term Kubrickian has come up a few times."
Moore also said that he recently sat down with his son and watched the BSG miniseries for the first time in years. "He really liked it, I was very pleased. I was holding my breath for a little bit. ... I just sat there and it was really amazing."
Ultimately, Madea said there would be a payoff at the end of the 13-episode season that would answer several of the big questions presented during the characters' journey that will also set up season two.