The Origin Story
Viral outbreak dramas have been a staple of fiction for as long as I can remember. From the excellent sci-fi renditions like 12 Monkeys and 28 Days Later through to more grounded dramas, this trope continues to deliver fascinating and cautionary tales showing the fragility of our species. Inspired by the book of the same name and based on a true story, The Hot Zone is the latest in a string of viral series, this time focusing on the frightening spread of the Ebola Virus.
Set in the 1980s, we begin in Kenya with a bird swooping down into a house. The owner, a profusely sweating man, gets on a plane with a face full of hives and vomits blood into a bag. As he’s rushed into hospital, he sputters blood all over the Doctor whose woefully under-prepared for this, with no face mask or gloves. We’re left to draw our own conclusions over the fate of this man too, as we then cut to seeing scientists in a Biohazard Level 4 lab putting vials of blood in a fridge, one of which labelled Dr Musoke.
We then cut to 1989 with a family prepping for Thanksgiving; our main family we’ll be following for the duration of the series. The mum, Nancy Jaxx, happens to be a scientist and the next day she heads to work where she receives a package with a weird blood clot inside. Sensing something is afoul, she calls on the help of Trevor who helps her as they prep for entry to Level 4 Biohazard containment.
After strapping themselves down with numerous layers, duct tape and plenty of expositary dialogue through the process, Nancy begins testing the clot to find out what sort of virus they’re dealing with. Unfortunately, she spills one of the vials of a deadly virus on her suit and rushes to decontamination. Thankfully, she’s not infected but it’s enough to get her suspended for her recklessness, especially with the cut on her hand the night before. Before she leaves however, she pleads with the others to continue the experiment, convinced this strain may well be the Ebola Virus.
Released from containment, Nancy’s husband pleads with her to come home but she declines, determined to get to the bottom of the viral situation. This leads her to Frank, a man looking after monkeys which she suspects may be contaminated. He’s bagged up two dead monkeys in his car which Nancy grabs and heads for the lab where we leave the episode.
A few logical quibbles aside, The Hot Zone gets off to a pretty good start. While it’s a far cry from some of the better choices in this genre, there’s enough here to make for a good start to this six part mini-series nonetheless. While I’ve unfortunately not been able to read the book so I can’t comment how well this has been adapted, all the usual tropes you’d expect from a show like this do crop up.
The camera work is a little rigid and some of the editing feels quite stale but the story itself is paced well with enough bite to make it worth investing in. Whether the rest of the series can keep up the consistency with the storytelling remains to be seen, but for now there’s enough here to make The Hot Zone a mini-series worth checking out.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!