Sky launches yet another channel on Monday - sci-fi horror and fantasy channel The Zone. Here's a guide to new shows and stars.

1. The Rising Star: Corey Stoll

Corey Stoll keeps dying on screen - his disgraced politician was gassed to death in House of Cards. His CIA station chief was a victim of lynch mob in the season opener of Homeland. And now he's playing a virologist dealing with a mysterious contagion in sci-fi horror series The Strain. You have to wonder - how long has his character got?

Well, it's no spoiler to say that Stoll's Dr Ephraim Goodweather survives at least the opening episode of the series created by Guillermo del Toro.

"Guillermo created the world, he wrote the books that the series are based on, then he wrote and directed the pilot and he has been a constant presence throughout. It's a great combination because he has this very filmic, very quirky, irreverent and very profane world view, while Carlton Cuse (the showrunner, also the showrunner on Lost) is kind of a genius at telling a story episodically and keeping the audience engaged and hopelessly addicted. If you were going to enter the horror genre, you really couldn't pick better people to be with."

Followers of Stoll's career will notice that in The Strain he's done something with his hair - he has some. Del Toro insisted on a wig.


"I agreed because Guillermo told me Eph's look is going to change. He has an incredible arc."

Stoll's bald head is popping up all over right now - he's one of four siblings (together with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Adam Driver) in the film This is Where I Leave You and in the new medical drama movie, Decoding Annie Parker.

But he'll get a chance to die in whole new ways as wasp-ish supervillain Yellowjacket to Paul Rudd's Ant-man in one of Marvel's 2015 superhero movies.

Will the movie also prove fatal to the tall 38-year-old?

"I can't say. I've had to learn fight choreography and green screen and special effects stuff, but it's about people and that's one thing that's great about the Marvel movies."

* The Strain starts Thursday November 6 8.30pm

2. The Hot Topic: Epidemics

Zone has two shows - The Strain and Helix - both featuring folks from the US Centre for Disease Control battling with a mysterious virus. The shows were in the works long before the current Ebola epidemic. But isn't two viral shows a little much?

No says channel programmer Chris Philpott.


"Science fiction has a tradition of imitating life and tackling big issues, all the way back to Kirk kissing Uhura at the turning point of the American Civil Rights Movement in the late 60s, so we have no apprehensions about bringing these shows to New Zealand amid the climate of fear surrounding Ebola.

"We believe our audience can easily distinguish between the threat of vampires in The Strain or the zombie-like effect of the contained outbreak in Helix, and the very real threat presented by an actual viral outbreak."

3. The Local Boy: Grant Bowler

You can judge the success of a sci-fi show by its presence in cosplay. In the case of Defiance, it was only one season before Kiwi lead Grant Bowler was running into costumed versions of himself at events and conventions.

"If science-fiction shows are very successful they gather that cult following ... that's the marker with sci-fi - how many people are dressing up like you and how much of your gear they have at home," says Bowler, 46.

"Which is really weird to be part of for the first time."

In Defiance, set in 2046, Earth has been transformed and what remains of the human race co-exists with aliens, peculiar new species and hybrids. Joshua Nolan (Bowler) and his rebellious adopted alien daughter Irisa end up in the town of Defiance, where Nolan becomes sheriff under mayor Amanda Rosewater (Dexter's Julie Benz).

There's no shortage of action and mythology, but executive producer Kevin Murphy says the character drama is just as important.

"Other people can do the punching, shooting and blowing stuff up better than we can, on a network budget. What we do better is explore the bizarre alien world and what it's like, if you are a viewer, to be put in this strange place that you've never seen before."

Recently renewed for a third season, the series is complemented by a video game, which intertwines with the TV storylines, both realms affecting each other and which Bowler plays himself. "It's bloody awesome. I can muck around in the game and be completely anonymous, which I love."

* Defiance starts Monday 8.30pm.

4. The Hot Young Things

That will be From Dusk Til Dawn's D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz and Eiza Gonzalez. The two guys are fraternal crime wave Gecko brothers, characters originally played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino in the 1996 Tex-Mex vampire movie by Robert Rodriguez who has directed most of the first season of the spin-off . He created the series for his own El Rey Network and was picked up by Netflix in the US.

It also stars Mexican former soap and pop star Gonzalez in the Selma Hayek role of Santanico Pandemonium, aka, the demon stripper with the snake.

That meant occasionally burying her looks - Gonzalez was implicated in the break-up of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth a few years back - in four hours of make-up contact lenses and prosthetics.

"I didn't remember that side of Selma becoming really ugly," she told Timeout about the original film which she first saw as a pre-teen when her older brother showed it to her,

"The whole makeup is very uncomfortable but when I was on set someting flipped inside of me and I so enjoyed it. I really transformed into a beast."

For his part Holtz didn't mind Rodriguez cast in the "Tarantino" role as opposed to the "Clooney".

"It just means I get to play the fun stuff and the obnoxious aggressive stuff which is fun is fun for me."

Oh and yes Gonzalez's older sibling , a big fan of the original movie, likes that his little sister is in the remake - to a point.

"My brother feels uncomfortable watching the series now and watching me dance with a snake."

* From Dusk Til Dawn starts Tuesday November, 4, 9.30pm
What: The Zone
When: Launches Monday, November 3
Where: Sky TV, channel 016

- TimeOut