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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Reckoning (Review)

The end is nigh.

As the sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine draws to a close, the production team are increasingly aware that things will be wrapping up shortly. Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven seasons, setting a nice target for the spin-offs. Indeed, most of the sixth season had been spent discussing contract extensions with the cast for a final season. The writers (and the cast) knew that the seventh season would be the last. As the sixth season wound down, that massive deadline loomed large.

That’s gonna leave a stain.

The long-term storytelling on Deep Space Nine was largely improvised on the fly, with the writers adding new and interesting twists to the mythology as they went; this led to strange-in-hindsight tangents like Dukat’s time as a space pirate between Return to Grace and By Inferno’s Light. There had never really been a long-term plan, explaining why seemingly important plot points like Bajor’s admittance to the Federation seemed to just drop off the table after Rapture.

At best, the writers on Deep Space Nine knew the direction in which they were moving, but had not charted the course that they would follow. Still, a looming deadline tends to focus the mind. In the final third of the sixth season, the production team begin aligning plot points and character arcs towards the end of the story. Ira Steven Behr wrote His Way in large part because he wanted to introduce Vic Fontaine and pair off Kira and Odo, realising that time was working against him.

Who Prophets?

The Reckoning is a story about the end of days, in more ways than one. Broadcast in April 1998, it perfectly taps into the millennial eschatology that had taken root in the popular consciousness in the lead up to the twenty-first century. The Reckoning posits an epic battle between good and evil that will mark the end of an epoch, tapping into an anxiety simmering through popular culture in television shows like Millennium and films like End of Days. As the nineties came to a close, there was a clear anxiety about what the future might hold, if it existed at all.

However, The Reckoning also feels like a conscious effort to align various characters and plot beats in service of the final season ahead. The Reckoning properly seeds an entire subplot that will play through the remainder for the show, from Tears of the Prophets through to What You Leave Behind. Character motivations are made clear, stakes are heightened, mythology is explained. All of this is very much in service of where the writers plan for Deep Space Nine to go.

The wormhole in things…

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Millennium – Forcing the End (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.

In its own odd way, Forcing the End is reassuring.

Not in any way that makes Forcing the End a good piece of television. In fact, Forcing the End is a terrible piece of television. It is poorly written, awkwardly staged, horribly muddled and needlessly convoluted. It wastes two potentially interesting guest stars in Julie Landau and Andreas Katsulas, and doesn’t give our characters anything interesting to do. The best that can be said bout Forcing the End is that it has some interesting ideas and striking imagery, but never seems to be able to fashion them into a functioning story.

"Wait. What."

“Wait. What.”

However, Forcing the End is reassuring because it stands as a monument to the second season of Millennium. The second season of Millennium was a gloriously odd and ambitious piece of television, one that floated ideas and concepts that often seemed insane or ridiculous. It was unlike anything else on television, and holds up rather well. However, the second season of Millennium is interesting because it invites the viewer to wonder whether to is fueled and sustained by its high concepts and big ideas, rather than its scripting and plotting.

Forcing the End answers that question rather clearly. It confirms that the second season works as well as it did because it was well written and beautifully constructed; carefully put together and meticulously crafted. It is not enough to just throw crazy apocalyptic concepts and imagery at the screen and see what sticks. The fact that Forcing the End is so packed with weird eschatological imagery and themes, and yet so stubbornly refuses to work, demonstrates that it is not enough for television to be odd. It has to be good.

Veiled threats...

Veiled threats…

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Millennium – The Time is Now (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 holds together very well as a season of television.

It is arguably more cohesive in terms of plotting and theme than any individual season of The X-Files, with the possible exception of the eighth season. Ideas, characters and themes are all set up early in the season so that they might pay-off at the climax. Watching The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, it is very hard to believe that the season could have ended any other way. That is a tremendous accomplishment on the part of Glen Morgan and James Wong, who steered the second season as Chris Carter brought his focus back to The X-Files.

Dicey proposition...

Dicey proposition…

The attention to detail is staggering. There are lots of little touches, from the way that the use of chickens in The Fourth Horseman calls back to the story that bookends Monster to the reference to the fate of Brian Roedecker to the quick shot of Frank placing the statue of the angel on his father’s grave. Glen Morgan has repeatedly stated that the character of Lara Means was introduced in Monster knowing her fate in The Time is Now, and that seems to be true of most of the character and plot arcs over the stretch of the second season.

However, what is truly touching about the second season of Millennium is the way that the show manages to remain deeply personal and emotional, despite the scale of what is unfolding.

Shattered mirror...

Shattered mirror…

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Millennium – The Fourth Horseman (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 has been consciously building towards an apocalypse.

Actually, that is not entirely true. The second season of Millennium has been building to an almost infinite number of apocalypses. The collapse of Michael Beebe’s home in Beware of the Dog, the destruction of an entire community in Monster, the dissolution of the tribe in A Single Blade of Grass, the potential loss of a child in 19:19, an author’s acceptance of his fading skills and relevance in Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense”, the stealing of a soul in The Pest House, the breaking of a spirit in A Room With No View. The second season is populated with apocalypses.

Everything dies...

Everything dies…

Ever since The Beginning and the End opened with Frank Black staring into space as he contemplated cosmic forces of entropy and decay, it has been clear that the second season of Millennium is about more than just the end of the world. It is about the end of worlds. Over the course of The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, Peter Watts loses his faith (and maybe his life) as Lara Means loses her sanity. Frank Black loses his father and his friends – and, ultimately, his wife. The Marburg Virus is just a blip on the radar compared to all of this.

The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now combine to form one of the most interesting and compelling finalés ever produced. The two-parter is the perfect conclusion to the second season of Millennium. Indeed, it would be the perfect conclusion to the entire series. Perhaps the biggest problem with The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now is the fact that The Innocents is lurking only a few months away.

Cracking up...

Cracking up…

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Millennium – Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” (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.

Well, all’s well that ends well. Though that’s easy for Shakespeare to say – he’ll be around for another millennium. But what of our own millennium? Will it all end well? No one of course can know, but that of course doesn’t stop anyone from guessing. And the nature of these predictions always revolve around the usual suspects: salvation and/or self–satisfaction. With that in mind, I humbly add my own prophecy of what the dawn of the new millennium shall bring forth: one thousand more years of the same, old crap.

– Jose Chung

The write stuff...

The write stuff…

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Millennium – 19:19 (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.

One of the interesting aspects of the second season of Millennium is just how carefully structured all the chaos actually is.

There is an endearing and infectious randomness to the plotting of episodes like Sense and Antisense or A Single Blade of Grass, with individual episodes often struggling to fit together on an act-by-act basis. However, things become a lot clearer from a distance. Pulling back, it appears quite clear that there is a method to the madness. The episodes in the season – particularly those positioned towards the beginning and the end – each serve a clear purpose in the larger arc of the second season.

Will he die for our sins?

Will he die for our sins?

The first third of the season is very much about establishing concepts that will be of use later in the story. The Beginning and the End removes Frank from the yellow house and starts him on a new journey. Beware of the Dog introduces the Old Man and teases the mythology of the Millennium Group. Monster introduces Lara Means. The Curse of Frank Black gives Frank his long dark midnight of the soul. 19:19 and The Hand of St. Sebastian were the last two episodes in this opening act, and they exist to affirm the show’s cosmology.

Both 19:19 and The Hand of St. Sebastian firmly establish the show’s apocalyptic worldview in a Christian theological framework. 19:19 does this by exploring biblical prophecy and eschatology, while The Hand of St. Sebastian reveals the Millennium Group to be a secret Christian sect who have existed for over a thousand years. Although the show has always taken a lot of its imagery and iconography from Christianity, 19:19 engages explicitly with the idea of biblical prophecy and millennialism.

All part of the plan...

All part of the plan…

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Millennium – Force Majeure (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.

Papa?

It’s begun.

Fire and ice.

Fire and ice.

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