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Night Stalker – Timeless (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

The unaired episodes of Night Stalker are fascinating glimpses into what the show might have been.

Into Night was the show’s original second episode, brutally shunted from its original position when ABC decided that they did not want a show focusing on monsters. The version of Into Night that appears on the DVD appears somewhat cobbled together, hastily editted in such a way as to make the show’s second episode sit as its eighth. The result feels like something of a rough cut, a glimpse at the pressures bearing down on the production team to meet various network demands.

It's dead at night in here...

It’s dead at night in here…

In contrast, Timeless and What’s the Frequency, Kolchak? feels like something completely different. These are episodes that were obviously produced while Night Stalker was still airing on ABC, but which did not complete production under the network’s supervision. While Timeless and What’s the Frequency, Kolchak? are ver clearly part of the same show, they feel tangibly different. The two episodes are more horrific, more confident, and less pandering than what came before.

In many respects, the two episodes suggest that Night Stalker benefits from not having to air on ABC.

My word!

My word!

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Millennium – The Well-Worn Lock (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 Well-Worn Lock is trying to say something important.

As easy as it is to mock Chris Carter for being a little heavy-handed in his writing, he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. There is an honesty and an earnestness to his writing that is quite endearing – a sense that he has some things that he wants to say, and that he will say them. The Well-Worn Lock is a tough and grueling episode, with some pretty harrowing things to say. It confronts the types of issues that are often overlooked or ignored, because they are so uncomfortable to examine head-on. There is a lot to admire here.

Happy families...

Happy families…

However, The Well-Worn Lock is also clumsy and ham-fisted. It is so committed to saying what it wants to say that it occasionally gets caught up in itself. It has been argued that Carter constructed Millennium as a vehicle to examine the nature of evil in the modern world, and there are points where the series feels more like a pulpet that a television show. The Well-Worn Lock is an episode about an insidious and oft-ignored evil, but there are points where it has the depth and complexity of a life-action cartoon.

The problem is not that the episode’s antagonist is a monster – after all, it is hard to describe anybody who commits this sort of abuse as anything but a “monster” – but that he seems a grotesquely exaggerated and one-dimensional caricature. Tackling a subject that requires considerable tact and grace, The Well-Worn Lock often has the emotional nuance of a sledgehammer.

The world according to Catherine Black...

The world according to Catherine Black…

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The X-Files – Home (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.

Home is a big one.

It is an episode that is frequently ranked among the best that the show ever produced. It is an episode that many viewers remember quite clearly, even if they only saw it once years earlier. It was the first episode of the show to receive a viewer discretion warning on initial broadcast and was famously never repeated on the Fox Network. “It had one airing and then it was banned,” writer Glen Morgan quipped. “Jim and I don’t get rerun money for that.” It is also one of the rare episodes of The X-Files that is not explicitly paranormal in its subject matter, instead wandering into the macabre and the taboo.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

Home also marks the return of writers Glen Morgan and James Wong to the series, following the cancellation of Space: Above and Beyond. With the debut of Millennium looming, the production team on The X-Files was under pressure. Fox had convinced Morgan and Wong to return to Ten Thirteen in return for producing a pilot for The Notorious Seven, one the duo’s long-gestating ideas. Morgan and Wong would produce four episodes of the fourth season of The X-Files and three episodes of the first season of Millennium.

Home is the first of their four scripts for the fourth season of The X-Files, and it sets the mood quite well. Returning from Space: Above and Beyond, the two seemed to be bristling with an electric energy and a palpable frustration. While not all four scripts are unqualified masterpieces, they each serve to push The X-Files further than it has gone before. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Home is that it is the most conventional of these four explosive scripts.

The mother of all problems...

The mother of all problems…

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Non-Review Review: The Phantom of the Opera (1943)

The Phantom of the Opera is something of an outlier in the Universal monster movie blu ray collection. It’s the only film in the collection available in colour but, more than that, it’s really the only film in the collection that doesn’t have a serious claim to being the definitive big screen adaptation of its source material. I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t include the 1925 adaptation starring Lon Chaney in the title role, as it’s certainly one of the forerunners to the subgenre that would be launched by Dracula in 1931. The 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera is easily the weakest film in the set. Although not without its charms, it feels just a little bit too mangled and messy to try be a classic horror film.

In the gutter, looking at the stars…

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