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Millennium – The Beginning and the End (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.

The Beginning and the End manages the impressive and paradoxical feat of both rebooting Millennium and resolving the cliffhanger at the end of Paper Dove. These two contradictory impulses become part of the thematic fabric of The Beginning and the End, an episode fascinated by duality and opposition. Can the polaroid stalker be both a serial killer of the week and the herald of something so much greater? Can Catherine and Frank Black be both united and separated? Can Millennium be the same show it was last year and something completely new?

The Beginning and the End is the start of the show’s polarising and divisive second season. To critics, the second season completely branches off from the first season of the show, replacing a framework that had grown and developed over the course of the year with a bizarre and unwieldy approach that was gonzo and surreal. To fans, the second season was an ambitious and exciting piece of television utterly unlike anything that had been broadcast before or has been broadcast since.

Up in the sky...

Up in the sky…

With Chris Carter back focusing on the development of The X-Files and the looming release of The X-Files: Fight the Future, Fox drafted in Glen Morgan and James Wong to steer the second season of Millennium. The duo had helped to define the identity of The X-Files in its first year, and had produced the failed (but ambitious and prescient) series Space: Above and Beyond for the network. After working on the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium, Fox allowed the pair to produce their own pilot – The Notorious Seven.

When Fox opted not to take The Notorious Seven to series, they asked Glen Morgan and James Wong to take charge of Millennium in its sophomore season. As The Beginning and the End demonstrates, Morgan and Wong promptly made the show their own.

Looking up and wondering...

Looking up and wondering…

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Space: Above and Beyond – … Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Fox has a very weird (and perhaps even paradoxical) reputation when it comes to cancelling television shows. On the one hand, there is the tendency to run successful shows into the ground, missing the window of opportunity to transition them into big screen franchises. The X-Files and 24 are perhaps the most obvious example of this tendency. Of course, this isn’t unusual in American television. If a show is making money, it makes sense to keep on the air for as long as possible.

On the other hand, the network is notoriously ruthless when it comes to cancelling young shows. Although popularised by the cancellation (and subsequent revival) of shows like Firefly and Family Guy in the early years of the twenty-first century, the network had already demonstrated that it had little time for dead weight in the schedule. In hindsight, it seems like a wonder that The X-Files survived its first season, and was allowed to grow and develop into a massive cultural phenomenon.

We have met the enemy...

We have met the enemy…

Indeed, considering the abbreviated runs of shows like Profit or The Tick or The Ben Stiller Show or Harsh Realm or The Lone Gunmen, Space: Above and Beyond was lucky to get a full twenty-two-episodes-and-a-pilot run on Fox, even if it couldn’t count on the network to air the episodes at a consistent time on a consistent day. Space: Above and Beyond was undoubtedly treated shabbily by the network, but it could have been a lot worse.

That’s not the best eulogy you could write for a television show, but it is worth treasuring what we got.

President of the World...

President of the World…

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Space: Above and Beyond – And If They Lay Us Down to Rest… (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

The last stretch of episodes of Space: Above and Beyond are quite mournful and introspective.

It is very difficult to tell a war story. There are a host of tightropes that any writer has to navigate. After all, it is very easy for a story about the bonds of warfare and humanity in wartime to be interpreted as militaristic or fascistic. At the same time, it is very easy for an anti-war parable to seem critical of the soldiers fighting the war, to dismiss the bravery and courage on display in that most horrific of environments.

Seeing eye-to-eye...

Seeing eye-to-eye…

With its futuristic tech and gigantic guns, as well as its fascination with the military apparatus, it is easy to read Space: Above and Beyond as a pro-military piece. Given how much pride it takes in the way that it presents military life, or how much it wallows in the military setting, a casual viewer might be forgiven for assuming the it glorifies warfare. However, this is the most superficial of readings. It ignores a lot of what the show actually has to say about combat and warfare.

Space: Above and Beyond is by turns cynical and romantic in its portrayal of this futuristic conflict – it clearly respects and appreciates the sacrifices made by those in service of mankind, but is also wary about the motivations of those ordering the sacrifices. It is a very delicate balance to maintain. However, And If They Lay Us Down to Rest… and … Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best seem to lay the cards out on the table, once and for all. This is as anti-war as the show ever gets.

Face of the enemy...

Face of the enemy…

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