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The X-Files – Alone (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.

In a way, the entire final third of the eighth season is an extended finalé for The X-Files – or, at the very least, an extended finalé for a version of The X-Files starring Mulder and Scully.

This seems quite ironic, considering the confusion that existed towards the end of the seventh season, when it seemed like the production team were unsure whether they could (or should) commit to the idea of The X-Files coming to an end. The seventh season was never entirely sure what (if anything) was going to come next, and so it did not have the opportunity to gracefully set up all of its plot points. As a result, the eighth season had to retroactively incorporate elements like Mulder’s brain illness or Scully’s fertility treatment.

Cue cliché marriage jokes.

Cue cliché marriage jokes.

In contrast, the eighth season seemed quite conscious of the end. The entire eighth season is structured as a strange hybrid; it feels like it could serve as both the final season of the show as it aired for seven years, while also serving as a launching pad to something new and exciting. The final eight episodes of the eighth season are largely about tidying away the character arcs and dangling plot thread associated with Mulder and Scully so that their journey might finally end. If the ratings are strong enough, then Doggett might get to launch his own show.

As such, Alone is positioned very much like Je Souhaite had been and like Sunshine Days would be. It is potentially the “one last monster of the week” story marking the end of an era. While Je Souhaite had marked the end of the Mulder and Scully era of the show, Alone seems to mark the end of the transitional period between Mulder and Scully and whatever is supposed to come next. It is a very light episode, no less effective for that. As with a lot of the late eighth season, its biggest problem is the way that the nineth season creative decisions retroactively undercut it.

Leyla... L-E-Y-L-A... Leyla.

Leyla… L-E-Y-L-A… Leyla.

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Millennium – Season 1 (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.

Millennium is a strange television show.

It is quite clear that Chris Carter and Fox both had a very different understanding about how best to follow on from the success of The X-Files. Fox clearly wanted another popular hit, a television show that it could plug comfortably into its 9pm Friday slot and grow into a multimedia franchise. The network spent a phenomenal amount of money promoting Millennium, with advertising and screenings and other publicity attempts. This approach paid off; The Pilot broke all sorts of records for Fox.

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However, Millennium could not sustain those viewing figures. Over the first season, it haemorrhaged viewers. Chris Carter was not trying to present an accessible and popular pop hit; instead, Carter was taking advantage of the success of The X-Files to construct something decidedly more esoteric. Millennium is a tough show to watch. It is grim, unrelenting and oppressive. It is a show about darkness in the world that tends to roll up its sleeves and jump right in. Millennium has a clear idea of what it wants to be, but what it wants to be is alienating and uncomfortable.

On just about any level, the first season of Millennium is more accomplished than the first season of The X-Files. The production is more confident, the ideas are much bolder, the themes are much clearer. In fact, the first season of Millennium even holds up well when stacked against the fourth season of The X-Files on an episode-by-episode basis. But that’s not the problem. By definition, “Lance Henriksen fights serial killers and the concept of evil in America” will never be as popular as “David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson fight aliens and monsters and weird stuff!”

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The first season of Millennium is a show that offers a distinctive and uncompromising auteur vision which cares little for what the audience might want or expect. For better or worse, that approach would prevent Millennium from ever approaching the critical or popular support that The X-Files had already begun to accrue at the end of its own first season. The result is a television show that was never going to rival The X-Files as a pop culture phenomenon , but which serves as a bold philosophical statement from its creator.

“This is who we are,” the opening credits state, unapologetically. They seem to be speaking for the show as much for society.

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Gotta Get a Gilliam…

Apparently Terry Gilliam wants to work at Pixar. How incredibly awesome would that be? Even the concept is intriguing. I’m not as head-over-heels in love with Gilliam as most film fans seem to be (his output tends to fluctuate wildly in quality), but Brazil is quite possibly my favourite science fiction film ever. And I love science fiction. Anyway, I would have thought a major studio that is a subsidiary of possibly the largest and most influential entertainment conglomerate in the world would be the last place an auteur like Gilliam would be found.

Evidently, I was wrong.

Rawr! Gilliam's Gonna Get Ya!

Rawr! Gilliam's Gonna Get Ya!

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