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Millennium – Seven and One (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Seven and One is the last episode of Millennium to be written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz.

That is a pretty big deal. Frank Spotnitz had been a vital part of Ten Thirteen since the second season of The X-Files. He had also been the only X-Files writer apart from Chris Carter, Glen Morgan and James Wong to cross over to work on Millennium. He would become one of Carter’s most trusted associates, also contributing scripts to Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen. When The X-Files: Fight the Future took Carter’s attention away from Millennium in its second season, he proposed Spotnitz to run the show in his stead.

Here's Frankie!

Here’s Frankie!

Chris Carter had created Millennium, and it was clearly a show that meant a lot to him. While The X-Files was populist and accessible, Millennium always felt like more of an auteur project. It was solemn, abstract, contemplative. There is a sense that he was quite disappointed when his attention was diverted away from the show in its second year. Carter has talked time and time again about how he created Millennium as an examination of evil in the world. Appropriately enough, Seven and One finds him circling back around to that idea right before the show concludes.

Seven and One might be the most overtly religious script that Carter and Spotnitz have ever written. It seems to foreshadow the closing themes of Carter’s script for The Truth, the final episode of The X-Files. It emphasises just how essential religious themes are to Carter’s work.

Eye spy...

Eye spy…

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The X-Files – The Unnatural (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Let me get this straight: a free-spirited alien fell in love with baseball and ran away from the other non-fun-having aliens and made himself black, because that would prevent him from getting to the majors where his unspeakable secret might be discovered by an intrusive press and public and you’re also implying that…

You certainly have a knack for turning chicken salad into chicken spit.

– Fox Mulder and Arthur Dales discuss the merits of The Unnatural

Swing and a hit...

Swing and a hit…

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Non-Review Review: Pixels

Pixels has a fun concept.

The idea of video game characters invading the world is a delightfully gonzo piece of pop culture nostalgia. It is easy to see why Sony picked up the option for Patrick Jean’s 2010 short film, even if the concept was not new. Neither version of Pixels can quite measure up to Raiders of the Lost Arcade, the short that aired as part of Anthology of Interest II during the third season of Futurama. That ten minute short story captured the sheer unadulterated joy of a world under siege from its juvenile obsessions.

You are my sunshine...

You are my sunshine…

There are a lot of problems with Pixels. The most obvious is that it seems completely disinterested in its core concept as anything other than a vehicle for Adam Sandler. There is a lot of CGI and a number of recognisable pop culture references, but Pixels plays just like any other Happy Madison vehicle. It is an excuse to pair Adam Sandler up with a beautiful actress and pay for trips for friends and acquaintances around the world while making jokes that were tired when most of the audience was making them in the playground.

Pixels never embraces the goofy joy of an invasion of eighties video games, instead wallowing in the presence of washed up nineties hackery.

All the President's... People.

All the President’s… People.

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Millennium – Bardo Thodol (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

As with Saturn Dreaming of Mercury and (to a lesser extent) Darwin’s Eye, Bardo Thodol continues to boldly push Millennium towards abstraction.

The plot of Bardo Thodol is actually fairly basic, in the same way that the plot to Darwin’s Eye is fairly basic. Mister Takahashi has done terrible things. Fleeing the Millennium Group assassin known only as Mabius, the mysterious scientist seeks refuge in a Buddhist Temple. As his body turns against him, Takahashi seeks to atone for his crimes. At the same time, an FBI raid on a cargo ship turns up an ice box packed with severed hands. Inevitably the two threads turn out to be intertwined.

Give the man a hand...

Give the man a hand…

However, as with a lot of Millennium scripts, the details of this fairly simple plot are delightfully askew. Bardo Thodol feels almost like a game of Millennium word association. There are cloning experiments, assassination attempts, meditations on reincarnation, actual meditation, discussions of forgiveness, ominous messages delivered by computer virus, lots of atmosphere, an oppressive sense of paranoia. Adjectives like “cluttered” and “stuffed” come to mind, to the point that it feels like a lot of Bardo Thodol ended up on the cutting room floor.

As with Darwin’s Eye, it feels like Bardo Thodol works better as a mood piece than as an example of storytelling television. It is not a hugely satisfying forty-five minutes, but it is always interesting.

Yes. Yes the show is.

Yes. Yes the show is.

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The X-Files – Milagro (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

The teaser establishes the mood quite quickly. It is a rather striking opening sequence for an episode of The X-Files, focusing on a writer staring at a blank page. The sequence cuts through time as the writer searches for inspiration, trying to take his cue from the index cards helpfully arranged on the wall. Eventually, the writer makes a grand gesture. He reaches into his chest, and pulls out his heart. It is a very effective opening sequence, one that makes it clear that Milagro will not be a normal episode of The X-Files.

The sequence also makes it clear that Milagro will not will it be a subtle piece of television. The teaser is not a particularly elegant metaphor, but it is an effective one. What is writing but tearing out a piece of yourself? Sometimes you have to wear your heart on your sleeve; sometimes you have to put it on the page. The teaser to Milagro is a very earnest piece of work from Chris Carter, a clear acknowledgement that what follows is a deeply personal piece of work.

Burning heart...

Burning heart…

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Millennium – Darwin’s Eye (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

There is a reckless abandon to the the late third season of Millennium that is oddly endearing.

The first half of the year seemed almost cautious and conservative, as if trying to smooth the rough edges off the show in the hopes of turning it into a more generic piece of television. That approach failed spectacularly, and hobbled the rest of the season. Towards the end of the third season, Millennium allowed itself to become a bit bolder and more abstract, proudly flying its freak flag high. The show found an energy and verve, throwing crazy concepts into scripts with reckless abandon and little regard for how they fit together.

Shady theories...

Shady theories…

It doesn’t entirely work. If anything, it underscores just how skilfully the second season had integrated these crazy ideas with a clear creative direction and a solid thematic foundation. The second season know roughly where it wanted to go, and so embarked on an epic journey towards that point. While the third season has its own thematic underpinnings, these feel more like recurring visual motifs and ideas than a clear purpose. As a result, the weirdness can seem detached and purposeless, abstract and surreal.

However, even when the late third season episodes don’t quite work, they remain interesting. There is a breathless energy to these stories that was sadly missing in the first stretch of the year. Darwin’s Eye is a prime example. It is not an episode that could be described as a success by any measure, but it is still ambitious and dynamic in a way that mitigates its failings. Somewhat.

That's one way to get a head in love...

That’s one way to get a head in love…

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The X-Files – Trevor (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Trevor is a perfectly solid monster of the week episode of The X-Files.

In many respects, it feels like the episode that Alpha desperately wanted to be. It is very much a traditional story in a season that has been relatively untraditional in its structure and format. Mulder and Scully are assigned to a case that is explicitly paranormal and set about investigating it to the best of their ability. Along the way, Mulder and Scully become passengers in a story that involves the guest cast. Trevor is not as sly or self-aware as something like Monday, Arcadia or Milagro. It is a straightforward case of the week.

"I wanna take his face... off..."

“I wanna take his face… off…”

There are other similarities between Trevor and Alpha. Alpha was an episode that really wanted to tackle a very traditional monster in a very traditional way – it was a very disappointing attempt at a werewolf episode, following on from Shapes in the first season. In a way, Trevor alludes to a more classical monster story than most X-files. Wilson “Pinker” Rawls is effectively a wraith avenging himself upon those who did him wrong, the embodiment of past mistakes returned to haunt the living. He is a ghost, even beyond his ability to walk through walls.

Of course, Trevor provides a suitably pseudo-scientific explanation for what Rawls does, and the climax builds to an intimate family tragedy. However, Trevor feels very much like a classic ghost story about a man returned from the dead to visit retribution upon the living.

Diehl it back...

Diehl it back…

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