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Star Trek: Voyager – Good Shepherd (Review)

Good Shepherd is a terrible execution of a potentially interesting premise.

There is something interesting in speculating what the Star Trek universe must look like for those characters who exist outside the senior staff of a given series. This premise has been explored and touched upon in a number of episodes; most notably in the basic premise of Star Trek: Discovery, the primary plots of Lower Decks and Learning Curve, even the sections of Strange New World focusing on Novakovich and Cutler. Still, these are only a handful of episodes in a franchise that spans half a century and over seven hundred installments.

Looking out for her crew…

As such, the basic plot of Good Shepherd is compelling. The teaser visuals the appeal of such a story in a playful and innovative way, with the camera following a command all the way from the top of the ship to the bottom; from Janeway’s ready room to Astrometrics to Engineering to the lowest viewing port on the ship. It is an interesting way of demonstrating how anonymous and disconnected individuals can feel, even on board a ship with a crew numbering around one hundred and fifty. What does it feel like to be anonymous, on a ship as isolated as Voyager?

Unfortunately, Good Shepherd awkwardly bungles the question. In doing so, it fails to provide any satisfying answers.

Running rings…

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Millennium – Seven and One (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.

Seven and One is the last episode of Millennium to be written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz.

That is a pretty big deal. Frank Spotnitz had been a vital part of Ten Thirteen since the second season of The X-Files. He had also been the only X-Files writer apart from Chris Carter, Glen Morgan and James Wong to cross over to work on Millennium. He would become one of Carter’s most trusted associates, also contributing scripts to Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen. When The X-Files: Fight the Future took Carter’s attention away from Millennium in its second season, he proposed Spotnitz to run the show in his stead.

Here's Frankie!

Here’s Frankie!

Chris Carter had created Millennium, and it was clearly a show that meant a lot to him. While The X-Files was populist and accessible, Millennium always felt like more of an auteur project. It was solemn, abstract, contemplative. There is a sense that he was quite disappointed when his attention was diverted away from the show in its second year. Carter has talked time and time again about how he created Millennium as an examination of evil in the world. Appropriately enough, Seven and One finds him circling back around to that idea right before the show concludes.

Seven and One might be the most overtly religious script that Carter and Spotnitz have ever written. It seems to foreshadow the closing themes of Carter’s script for The Truth, the final episode of The X-Files. It emphasises just how essential religious themes are to Carter’s work.

Eye spy...

Eye spy…

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The X-Files – Terms of Endearment (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.

Terms of Endearment is perhaps the most conventional episode of The X-Files to air between Drive and Agua Mala.

The early sixth season was generally quite experimental and playful, and Terms of Endearment stands out in this stretch of the season as an episode that is very much structured like a horror story and which conforms to the expectations of an episode of The X-Files. A local law enforcement official brings a case to the attention of the FBI; Mulder and Scully trade theories; Mulder pursues his hunches, while Scully offers pseudo-scientific rationalisations. There is a crime; there is a paranormal element; there is a secret.

Who said their marriage is lacking some fire?

Who said their marriage is lacking some fire?

Terms of Endearment is an episode that could easily have been written into the fifth or seventh seasons of the show without any real difficulty. Barring the brief appearance of Spender at the start of the episode, and the occasional references to the fact that Mulder is not technically on the X-files anymore, this is business as usual. Indeed, the episode’s themes of reproductive horror might have fit quite comfortably with the recurring infant-related horror stories that populated the fifth season.

Still, Terms of Endearment works. In a way, its somewhat conventional nature serves it well. As with the stand-alone monster of the week stories scattered sparingly through the fifth season, it is easier to appreciate an episode like this when it feels exceptional rather than generic. Featuring an intriguing central metaphor, a great guest performance, and a number of memorable visuals, Terms of Endearment is a clever and powerful little script. It is not a bad début from writer David Amann.

"Who loves you, baby?"

“Who loves you, baby?”

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Millennium – Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me (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.

Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me is Darin Morgan’s last script for Millennium.

It is an interesting script. It not as straightforward (and linear) as his scripts for Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose or Jose Chung’s “Doomday Defense”, but it is not as outwardly complex (and intricate) as Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.” These descriptors are all relative, of course. Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me is a Darin Morgan script through-and-through. It is clever, well-constructed, and thoughtful. It is one of the most eccentric episodes in a season full of eccentric episodes.

Little devil...

Little devil…

However, Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me remains rather hard to pin down. It doesn’t feel as cohesive or as singular as Morgan’s other scripts. Morgan tends to build his episodes around big thematic tentpoles. There are ideas and themes that reverberate across and throughout Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me, but the nature of the script means that the episode lacks the unity of purpose that viewers have come to expect from Darin Morgan. Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me is a rollercoaster of an episode, which seems to hop from one idea to another.

Of course, that would seem to be the point. Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me is a bold and experimental script in its own way. Morgan has essentially constructed a set of four interlocking (and occasionally thematically overlapping) short stories that are built around his own core themes and ideas. These are small and intimate tales, lying at the intersection between the mundane and the surreal. As such, it seems like the perfect place for Darin Morgan to take his second bow.

A demon crying on a toilet. What more could you want?

A demon crying on a toilet.
What more could you want?

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Millennium – A Room With No View (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.

“This is how it will all end,” Jose Chung idly speculated half-way through Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense.” He advised Frank that the end of the world will not begin “with floods, earthquakes, falling comets or gigantic crabs roaming the earth. No, doomsday will start simply out of indifference.” He may have been correct. It is one thing to kill a person; it is quite another to destroy their spirit, hollowing out the shell before slotting them comfortably back into a functioning society.

A Room With No View plays Chung’s observation and plays it straight. Well, mostly – there is something darkly comical about Landon’s reaction to discovering that he is being abducted into Oregon. Appropriately enough, Lucy Butler’s hideout in Hood County is relatively close to the town of Boring, Oregon. A Room With No View is a bleak and cynical piece of work, an existential apocalyptic horror story perfectly suited to Millennium. It is an episode that would seem strange or unusual in any circumstances, but fits quite comfortably here.

Here's Lucy!

Here’s Lucy!

On paper, A Room With No View could easily seem cynical or exploitative. It is the story about a sadistic kidnapper who abducts teenagers to torture and sexually abuse them in a dungeon. The basic plot elements of A Room With No View come from the pop culture serial killer playbook, to the point where it is not too hard to image the episode as a trashy instalment of CSI or Criminal Minds or – truth be told – the first season of this show. In basic structure, A Room With No View could seem as crude as Wide Open or Weeds or Loin Like a Hunting Flame.

However, it is the execution of A Room With No View that marks as a genuine classic. For all that the episode trades in the stock tropes of serial killer fiction, it is doing something unique and provocative with them. Writer Ken Horton and director Thomas J. Wright construct a potent allegory for abuse and under-achievement, a haunting horror story that is all the more unsettling for its refusal to conform to audience expectations for a story like this.

Blue is not always the warmest colour...

Blue is not always the warmest colour…

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The X-Files – Demons (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.

The fourth season of The X-Files is an oddity.

That is particularly true when it comes to the show’s mythology. Not only has any sense of narrative progression stalled after the “to be continued…” hook of Talitha Cumi, the fourth season seems to branch the mythology out in multiple directions that never really get anywhere. Tunguska and Terma introduce a Russian conspiracy that quickly becomes a footnote. Tempus Fugit and Max focuses on private military contractors who are never mentioned again. Memento Mori gives Scully cancer halfway through the season, and the rest of the year tries to catch up.

A cigarette-smoking spectre...

A cigarette-smoking spectre…

Demons is an episode that sits rather awkwardly as the penultimate episode of the season. An episode about Mulder undergoing aggressive therapy to recover lost memories seems a little out of place with everything else going on around him. After Memento Mori, you would imagine he would be worried about Scully. After Zero Sum, you imagine he would be wary about putting himself in a vulnerable position. Demons feels very much like it would make a good first season episode, a product of the time when Samantha Mulder was our lead’s primary driving motivation.

Instead, Demons sits awkwardly before the big season finalé with its own clear agenda. Scully’s closing monologue is clearly designed to lead into Gethsemane as almost a four-part season-bridging epic. However, the execution feels a little too haphazard, a little too casual, a little too disorganised. Demons feels less like the lead-in to an earth-shattering story and more like a script designed to plug a gap late in the season.

"Hey, look on the bright side, this time next year, you'll be in a psychiatric institution."

“Hey, look on the bright side, this time next year, you’ll be in a psychiatric institution.”

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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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