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The X-Files – Without (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Taken as a whole, the eighth season of The X-Files is remarkable.

It is not a perfect season of television, by any stretch. The eighth season doesn’t hit as many highs as the fourth, fifth or sixth seasons. As great as Robert Patrick is as John Doggett, and as skilfully as he is introduced, it is impossible to replace the easy dynamic between Mulder and Scully. The actual mythology of the season feels overcrowded and convoluted, with “supersoldiers” feeling a tad cliché and Mulder’s terminal illness going nowhere of note. The season’s recurring motifs of darkness, death and body horror are not for everybody.

I bet David Duchovny really missed working on The X-Files...

I bet David Duchovny really missed working on The X-Files

At the same time, there is a staggering consistency and reliability to the season. From the outset, the eighth season seems to know what it wants to be and where it wants to go. There is a stronger sense of purpose to the eighth season than to any other season of the show, with the possible exception of the third. Even the lead-up to the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future did not feel this single-minded and focused. In terms of consistency of theme and imagery, this is the closest the show ever came to pulling off a season-long arc.

It is tempting to credit this renewed vigour and energy to the absence of David Duchovny; the search for Mulder provides a solid and compelling hook for the season ahead. However, there is more to it than that. Mulder’s disappearance is a part of it, but the big thematic bow wrapped around the eighth season is Scully’s pregnancy. After all, David Duchovny returns to the show two-thirds of way through the season; it is Scully’s pregnancy that provides the season’s finalé.

"Thank goodness we all wore different ties. That might have been awkward."

“Thank goodness we all wore different ties. That might have been awkward.”

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Millennium – TEOTWAWKI (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 best thing that can be said about TEOTWAWKI is that it knocks quite a few items off Chris Carter’s “millennial anxieties” checklist – touching on issues of school shootings, gun control, Y2K, anarchy, survivalism, and a few more.

There are some good and interesting ideas in TEOTWAWKI. It is written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, the first script credited to either writer since the first season of the show. It seems like both writers were clearly thinking about Millennium while working on the fifth season of The X-Files, storing up ideas for late use. TEOTWAWKI is not a script suffering from a lack of ideas. In fact, it has too many ideas packed too tightly. The script isn’t particular graceful; none of the threads dovetail as neatly into one another as they really need to.

Blood money...

Blood money…

This is a recurring theme across the third season of Millennium. There are shows with interesting and compelling ideas, but they are mixed together in a way that doesn’t work – often mingling with some of the more unfortunate creative decisions driving the show. Episodes in the third season frequently feel like curate’s eggs – scrambled messes with good bits and bad bits that are ultimately impossible to separate. TEOTWAWKI might be an interesting mess, but it is still a mess.

TEOTWAWKI makes it clear that The Innocents and Exegesis were not a rough spell as Millennium tried to find its sea legs. This is the way that things will be going forward, at least for a while.

"Doomsday Defense" was a better read...

“Doomsday Defense” was a better read…

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Millennium – Midnight of the Century (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Midnight of the Century is a Millennium Christmas episode, as strange as that might sound.

In hindsight, it really should not seem so strange. After all, The X-Files had just done a big two-part Christmas episode with Christmas Carol and Emily. More than that, executive producers Glen Morgan and James Wong had demonstrated an affinity for holiday-themed episodes. The duo had written the Christmas-themed Beyond the Sea for the first season of The X-Files, and had commissioned The River of Stars while they were running Space: Above and Beyond. They had also written The Curse of Frank Black, a Halloween-themed Millennium episode.

Angels in America...

Angels in America…

Midnight of the Century is the second Millennium script credited to writers Kay Reindl and Erin Maher. The duo had been recruited by Morgan and Wong at the start of the second season, and had already produced A Single Blade of Grass. It was a messy episode, albeit one with flashes of genius. Midnight of the Century gives the two writers a much cleaner brief and a lot more room to work. As with The Curse of Frank Black, there is a wonderfully relaxed pace to Midnight of the Century, a sense it knows both where it’s going and how it wants to get there.

On paper, the idea of “a Millennium Christmas episode” sounds like the bleakest thing ever. However, while there are elements of melancholy involved, it is to the credit of everybody involved that Midnight of the Century feels so damn bittersweet.

A Black (family) Christmas...

A Black (family) Christmas…

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