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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 1, Episode 19 (“Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions”)

Wrapping up a late-first-season exploration of Millennium with the incomparable Christopher Knowles, I was thrilled to pop onto The Time is Now to discuss Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions.

In case the title doesn’t give the game away, Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions is a delightfully weird episode of television. It finds Frank Black confronting the loss of his best friend Bob Bletcher by becoming embroiled in an epic and existential conflict that exists at the very limits of his understanding. It might involve a ritualistic killer and a corrupt lawyer, but it may also involve renegade angels and the forces of hell operating on the mortal plane. The beauty of Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions lies in the ambiguity.

Indeed, that ambiguity was a huge part of the fun in discussing the episode with Chris. I think we both had slightly different reads on what the episode was about and where it was coming from, which speaks to its strength as an episode of television. It’s a staggering piece of work, one that obviously lays the groundwork for Patient X and The Red and the Black in the fifth season of The X-Files.

As ever, you can listen to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below.

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Millennium – Borrowed Time (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 third season of Millennium is all over the map.

Due to a variety of factors, the show veers wildly in just about every direction. The transition from the second season to the third season was tough on everybody involved, but even the third season itself went through considerable issues. Michael Duggan was brought in to steady the ship, but his approach didn’t really work out. He departed the show a third of the way through the season. As a result of all of this, the third season can often seem disjointed and uneven. It is hard to tie it all together.

Angel of mercy?

Angel of mercy?

At the same time, there are certain recurring motifs and ideas that recur through the twenty-two episode season. A lot of these can be traced back to writer Chip Johannessen (with a great deal of help from Ken Horton). Johannessen was the consistent voice across all three seasons of Millennium, and an executive producer for the entirety of the third season. Although given a seemingly impossible task, Johannessen did work really hard to impose something resembling order upon the chaotic third season.

Borrowed Time hits on a lot of the ideas running through the third season. It is a story that suggests Millennium is about the fragile balance between life and death, and that death is not as much of an absolute as earlier seasons might have suggested. Borrowed Time is a little uneven and messy in places, but it is underscored by a host of bold and interesting ideas. It finds Johannessen engaging with the religious and mystical themes that informed early scripts like Force Majeure and Maranatha.

Countdown...

Countdown…

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Millennium – Omertà (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.

It might not feel like it – particularly while actually watching the episode – but Omertà does represent something of a shift in the third season of the show.

Although it was the ninth episode of the third season to be broadcast, it was the eighth produced. It was held back so that it could be broadcast closer to Christmas, in keeping with the themes of the show. As a result, it was the first episode of the third season not to be produced by Michael Duggan. Chip Johannessen is the only “executive producer” listed before Chris Carter at the end of the episode. In a way, shuffling Michael Duggan’s script for Human Essence back earlier in the broadcast order might have been a good thing; it makes for a cleaner break.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Black."

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Black.”

Omertà is not a great piece of television, by any measure. It is not even a good piece of television, by most measures. However, it does mark a point of transition for the third season of Millennium. Omertà begins a run of episodes that deal substantively with the legacy of the show’s second season, and which engage with grand themes of death and spiritual rebirth. The third season of Millennium is a thematic mess, but Omertà represents a point where it seems like the creative team might finally be getting a grip on things, almost half-way through the year.

None of this makes Omertà any easier to watch, but it does provide an intriguing prism through which the episode might be viewed.

"Tonight, we're gonna party like it's 1989!"

“Tonight, we’re gonna party like it’s 1989!”

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The X-Files – All Souls (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.

There are a lot of aspects of The X-Files that mark it as an artifact of the nineties.

It is easy to point to all the visual cues and indicators – the mobile phones, the suits, the cars. The political elements are all in play as well – the unquestioned assumption that the United States is the global superpower, the indulgence in a paranoia that exists in sharp contrast to the material prosperity surrounding it. There are even any number of pop cultural references buried within episodes themselves – from Byers and Frohike joking about Bill Clinton’s haircut in Fearful Symmetry to Scully quoting Babe in Home.

Angels in America...

Angels in America…

However, perhaps the most obvious indicator of the nineties is the way that The X-Files seems to fetishise absolute and unquestioning faith. Through episodes like Miracle Man, RevelationsAll Souls and Signs and Wonders, there is the recurring sense that giving oneself over absolutely and completely to religious faith is a sign of strength and certainty. At times, it seems like the writers are almost envious of those who have unwavering conviction in their beliefs amid the wry cynicism of the nineties.

The X-Files finds something romantic in such pure and uncompromised faith. After all, Gethsemane had proved that even Mulder has his doubts. This fixation on unquestioning religious belief made a great deal of sense against the backdrop of nineties disillusionment, but it a lot more uncomfortable when examined in hindsight through the prism of the early twenty-first century.

Scully has seen the light...

Scully has seen the light…

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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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Millennium – Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

High matter thou injoinst me, O prime of men,

Sad task and hard, for how shall I relate

To human sense th’ invisible exploits

Of warring Spirits; how without remorse

The ruin of so many glorious once

And perfet while they stood; how last unfould

The secrets of another World, perhaps

Not lawful to reveal? yet for thy good

This is dispenc’t, and what surmounts the reach

Of human sense, I shall delineate so,

By lik’ning spiritual to corporal forms,

As may express them best, though what if Earth

Be but the shaddow of Heav’n, and things therein

Each to other like, more then on earth is thought?

– Raphael, Paradise Lost, Book V

This is about to get biblical...

This is about to get biblical…

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Non-Review Review: Dogma

I have to confess that I have a soft spot for Dogma. It’s very much the black sheep of Kevin Smith’s “View Askew” trilogy (of six films), veering away from incorporating his trademark witty banter and dialogue with a relatively new philosophical and religious undercurrents. Dogma is, in fact, an odd film by any standard – one part “group on a quest” film akin to The Lord of the Rings, one part slapstick comedy and part indie introspective dramedy. Smith admittedly has great difficulty balancing the different demands on his script, pulling it one way or the other. It doesn’t always work, but the cocktail is certainly interesting and – truth be told – I am actually quite fond of the film.

Alan Rickman found himself winging it...

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