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1997-12-01 00:00:00 - (Review) Double Helix (minor spoilers) - (Mike Horne <mike@whispers.demon.co.uk>)

The Outer Limits Reviews Double Helix "I don't have much time..." "You're saying my brain is swelling?" 'No, Martin, I'm saying its growing." Something of an oddity, Double Helix spends too much time trying to convince the audience that it is about one thing, and then leaves it too late to bring the twist into the episode. Interesting ideas are thrown into the mix and then discarded when it suits the creators. While not exactly an opportunity mixed, the episode left me with the strange feeling that either I was missing something or the hour was completely wasted. The episode opens with Dr. Martin Nodel (Ron Rifkin) giving a presentation to college students about genetic engineering. The last genome has been mapped, but there are still some things that the scientific community does not know. He believes that some of these elements, Introns, are the key to our future evolution. He presents proof of his theory: a fish, swimming in water one minute and then emerging out of the water, using webbed feet to walk. Following the revelation that he has only a short time to live, Nodel realises that his work might never get the recognition it deserves. When he meets his son, Paul (Ryan Reynolds), with whom he has little or no relationship, he discovers that his entire family sees him as a failure, doing unimportant work that no-one will care about. Dr. Nodel decides that his work needs human experimentation, and that the subject will be himself. What a surprise. Let's start with a few things a liked about the episode. And I stress the word 'few'. Ron Rifkin is without doubt a talented actor, if a little quirky. Luckily, the character he is playing is equally quirky and he gets inside Nodel to produce a spot-on performance. He gives the true sense of a man who knows that he is intelligent, that his work is wondrous and that he is at the top end of his profession. Egotistical, but driven. In the later stages of the episode, Rifkin manages to smoothly increase the amount of hyperactivity and efficiency inside the character. He does this so well, in fact, that the viewer is only aware of the differences peripherally, just like the other characters in the story. Andrew Johnston, who has a small part as the military officer in the woods, does his usual solid job and it'd be nice to think that he is getting more work. I'll deal with Ryan Reynolds later on (which you should all know is a bad sign). The direction was... oh, what's the point. It's Azzopardi again. There are some very nice shots dotted throughout the episode and everything is well done. I usually give high praise to Azzopardi, and he always deserves it. On balance, he comes out on top of the episode because he did what he could, given what he had to work with. Two shots I must mention. About halfway through the episode, the two main students walk down a school hallway towards camera, stop and talk and then continue walking. This is all done in one shot and lasts for about three minutes. I love long one-shot scenes, it shows that the actors are having to put some work in. In the seminar room during and after Nodel has chosen the students for his 'advanced study group', there is some nice swirling, top-down camerawork. This means that we can get some idea of the small size of the room, while at the same time seeing everything that's going on. Writing was by Jonathan Glassner. The script was good, the plot interesting, but there was plenty wrong with it. The main special effects, which appear right at the end, are interesting and nicely done. Shinier and cleaner than they normally get, and it shows that the amount of money available for the episode was used in the best way possible. The make-up for Rifkin/Nodel was particularly impressive, so it gets a special mention for a change. Music, just briefly in this section. Joel Goldsmith is getting plenty of work out of the TOL offices, and he has had more hits than misses. However, the only good thing I can say about his work in this episode is the nicely-scored final scene which added a kind of epic nature to an episode which could have been epic, if only it had been about twice the length. Let the slating begin. Well, it's not that bad. Ryan Reynolds was quite simply wooden in this episode. He didn't bring anything to this episode whatsoever and, considering how important the role was, the episode would have been better served by a different actor. Sorry. Nothing wrong with the directing, apart from not improving the episode beyond what it was. However, added to the writing, I can start to explain why I didn't like Double Helix. It was dull. It was predictable. I doubt there was anyone in the audience who didn't think, as soon as Nodel said "I don't have much time" that he was going to experiment on himself. I mean, how obvious can you get? What would have been more interesting would be to have had Nodel experiment on his advanced study group, instead of himself. I know it would have changed the emphasis of the character to a darker, more sinister area, but it would have brought something new to the series: an episode purely about the bad guy. It was obvious, from the very beginning, that we were going to get an icky horror tale. I know, I know, it changes tack at the end, but for the most part it was just a horror story. In this respect, and in too many others, it reminded me of the Richard Thomas starrer from season one, The New Breed. It had a similar look-and-feel, similar set- up and similarly gross make-up. I didn't need to see The New Breed, I certainly didn't need a repeat. A few things about plot and characterisation: It goes way off the wall in places, especially the advanced study group idea. Who the hell would have stayed around? To quote Sliders: "Run! Run like hell!" The map on the back. Who's been watching Waterworld? No, I'm not suggesting he took it straight out, but it was a good, distinctive idea and perhaps we didn't need to see the idea in another story. The plot is very jumpy. We have the experiment bit, the advanced study bit, the bit with Nodel's son, and then suddenly, we're off into the woods. I don't mind twists, but this was a bit ridiculous. One final thing: The end scene. Without telling you what happens, did it strike anyone else as strange that the army would just let these 8 civilians go into this object? I don't think so. Part The New Breed and part Star Trek's The Chase, this episode has only a few minor details going for it. A sterling performance by Ron Rifkin and good direction by Mario Azzopardi lift it above the attrocious, but there are so many problems that it only has it's eyes and mouth out of the gunk marked 'Failure'. I couldn't go out and say 'Double Helix is bloody awful'. I wouldn't say that. What I would say is that it lacked anything which would make it a must-see episode. A plot that rambled, a couple of actors who let the side down and an ending which just had me shaking my head. All these things added up to an hour not very well spent. Put this one in the drawer marked 'Middle to Bottom' and you'll be about right. Score: 5.4 -- Mike Horne mike@whispers.demon.co.uk * http://www.whispers.demon.co.uk "They say life is a river..."

1997-12-02 00:00:00 - Re: (Review) Double Helix (minor spoilers) - (stoodin101@aol.com)

> However, added to the writing, I can start to explain why I >didn't like Double Helix. > It was dull. It was predictable. What they needed to do was focus...and this may sound absurd, but I think it would have worked...on that FISH in the beginning. Have it go all the way up the evolutionary ladder, into some sort of sentient creature. Not a MONSTER, per se, but something somewhat different from homo sapiens. The story would be, then, how we as 'humans' treat this creature that is really not so far removed from us. At first, I guess, it would be just watched in the lab..then, as it became more intelligent, probably treated as a kind of weird domesticated animal....but when it evolves to the point of humanity, what then? I thought that was where we were going to go and was surprised to see the ep stake out New Breed territory, as well as trying to turn into The Inheritors and not quite making the grade. It was an o.k. ep, pretty mediocre. NECRONOMICON, all-instrumental electronic music inspired by H.P.Lovecraft, now available on c-60 cassette. E-mail StoOdin101@aol.com for details.