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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 2, Episode 9 (“Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense”)

With Christmas coming up, The Time is Now is firing up again. This week, I finally got to talk about a Darin Morgan episode, joining I was flattered to join Paige Schector and Kurt North to discuss Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense.” It remains one of my favourite episodes of television ever, in one of my favourite seasons of seasons of television ever.

If you have never watched Millennium, this is actually the perfect opportunity to dip your toe in the waters. Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” is an episode of Millennium through and through, suitably “millenniumistic” and concerned with the themes of the show around it, but it is also an accessible Darin Morgan script feature Charles Nelson Reilly reprising his iconic role from Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.” It is playful, funny and deeply moving. It is all that one could want from an episode of television.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below. I really hope you enjoy.

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The X-Files – Season 10 (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

The six episode revival miniseries is a strange beast.

It is hard to think of it as the tenth season of the show. In fact, the marketing of the DVD and blu ray sets describes it as “the event series”, perhaps a tact acknowledgement of that fact. There are a number reasons why it is difficult to think of these six episodes comprising a tenth season. Most obviously, the season is only six episodes. Even in the current context of truncated episode orders and split season, that is a short season. By modern standards, it would be a short half-season. Referring to it as the tenth season of The X-Files feels like false advertising.

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However, there are other reasons that it is difficult to think of these six episodes as constituting a season. Quite frankly, the six episodes are wildly variable in tone and quality, to the point that it is difficult to distill a singular unifying theme or meaning from. They are six random episodes of television, some good and some less good, with one masterpiece and one boldly ambitious mess. It is almost easier to talk about the episodes individually than it is to discuss them as a single season television.

Then again, that’s what makes them feel so much like The X-Files.

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The X-Files – Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ve been given another case, Mulder.

It has a monster in it.

Total eclipse of the heart.

Total eclipse of the heart.

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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #6-7 – Hosts (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

Balance was always going to be an issue for The X-Files: Season 10, even in a purely logistical sense.

At its peak, The X-Files was churning out twenty-six episodes in a season. Of those, maybe a third would be mythology episodes and the rest would be standalone monster of the week stories. As a result, the show could find the time to balance earth-shaking mythology episodes like Paper Clip, Nisei, 731 and Talitha Cumi with brilliant episodic television like Clyde Bruckman’s Final ReposeOublietteGrotesquePusher and Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.” Part of the appeal of The X-Files was always striking that balance.

No Fluke.

No Fluke.

That is not really possible with a conventional comic book release schedule. Comic books are released once a month, limiting the creative team to twelve issues in a given year. They might also get an annual, if the comic is popular. Given modern comic book narrative conventions and the lower page counts of modern comics, “done-in-one” standalone stories are increasingly uncommon. At best, it seems like a creative team might get away with seven stories in a year, six two-parters and an annual.

This causes issues in structuring a comic book season of The X-Files. Quite cleverly, The X-Files: Season 10 runs for twenty-five issues, evoking the length of a classic television season. However, it tells far fewer stories, with the run dominated by epic sprawling mythology stories like the five-part Believers, the five-part Pilgrims and the five-part Elders. That is three-fifths of the “season” given over to three mythology stories. It is no wonder that the rest of the run feels so compressed.

Worming his way back to you...

Worming his way back to you…

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The X-Files – Tithonus (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.

Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem’d
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask’d thee, ‘Give me immortality.’
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work’d their wills,
And beat me down and marr’d and wasted me,
And tho’ they could not end me, left me maim’d
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,
Immortal age beside immortal youth,
And all I was, in ashes. Can thy love,
Thy beauty, make amends, tho’ even now,
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,
Shines in those tremulous eyes that fill with tears
To hear me? Let me go: take back thy gift:
Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Tithonus

Shades of grey...

Shades of grey…

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Millennium – … Thirteen Years Later (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.

… Thirteen Years Later is infamously silly. That may not be such a bad thing.

There are a lot of details that would seem to weigh against … Thirteen Years Later. It is the show’s first attempt at comedy since Darin Morgan left the staff at the end of the second season; any episode will suffer in comparison to Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” or Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me. It is an episode built around a guest appearance from the rock band KISS to promote the release of their latest album, Psycho Circus. It is also an attempt to do wry self-aware meta-commentary and Hollywood satire, which could easily become indulgent.

KISS was 'ere...

KISS was ‘ere…

To be quite frank, … Thirteen Years Later doesn’t really work. It is messy and convoluted. A lot of the gags are obvious, and a lot of its satire of Hollywood feels somewhat stock. The framing device builds to a pretty lame (and entirely predictable) punchline. Some of the best gags in … Thirteen Years Later are shamelessly poached from better second season episodes – the idea of Frank Black in Hawaiian shirt comes from Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” while the idea of Frank Black critiquing serial killer movies was hilarious in Midnight of the Century.

However, in spite of all that, … Thirteen Years Later has an energy and momentum that is sorely missing from much of the season around it. The third season has seen a return to the mood and aesthetic of the first season, which occasionally wallowed in gloom and self-importance. … Thirteen Years Later completely skewers that sense of self-importance. Its best jokes seem to be affectionate jabs at Millennium itself, demonstrating that the show still has a great sense of humour; even if it has gotten quite effective at hiding it.

The camera never lies...

The camera never lies…

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Millennium – Season 2 (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 second season of Millennium is understandably polarising.

It is returned from its summer hiatus as what was, on the surface, a radically different television show. The Millennium Group was no longer simply a forensic consultancy firm, but had transformed into a secret society dating back millennia; it had become, as Frank would concede in The Fourth Horseman, “a cult.” More than that, the show had changed around the Millennium Group. Serial killers had been the show’s bread and butter in its first season, prompting some critics to describe it as a “serial killer of the week” procedural; now they were a rare occurrence.

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More than that, Frank Black had also changed. In interviews around the first season, Lance Henriksen had been very proud to play a hero who solved problems with his mind rather than with a gun. In contrast, the second season opened with Frank Black brutally murdering the man who kidnapped his wife. The yellow house had been a symbol of everything pure and good in the world of Frank Black, of the family he worked hard to protect. The second season had exiled Frank Black from this family and had him move deeper and deeper into the Millennium Group itself.

However, there were other changes that were less profound, but just as striking. Frank Black was suddenly a fan of the music of Bobby Darin. He suddenly had a sense of humour that led him to crack more than two jokes in a season. at the same time, he was also more short-tempered and grouchy. The first season had presented Frank Black as a rock in the middle of otherwise chaotic seas; in the second season, it was clear that Frank himself was feeling the strain and the stress. In short, Frank Black felt a lot more human.

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The entire mood of the show changed around Frank. Millennium was suddenly a lot weirder. Though the first season had largely moved away from the classic “Frank hunts a serial killer” formula by the end of the year, the second season abandoned any sense of formula altogether. Watching the second season of Millennium on a week-to-week basis, it was almost impossible to predict what the next show would be like. Although there was a very strong thematic continuity between episodes, there was less of a rigid structure to their construction.

The second season of Millennium was a radical departure from what had come before. It was also the best season of television ever produced by Ten Thirteen.

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