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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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Night Stalker – The Source (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 Source was the last episode of Night Stalker to air on ABC.

Night Stalker died an ignominious death, especially considering that ABC had actively sought out producer Frank Spotnitz specifically to reboot the classic series. After six episodes, aired over seven weeks, Night Stalker was quietly retired from the schedule. The series did not survive its first Sweeps period, dying a quiet death before it could even reach the Christmas hiatus. Although ten episodes had been produced, ABC opted not to broadcast the four remaining stories; instead, they filled the slot with an episode of Primetime Live focusing on Anna Nicole Smith.

Night falls on the Night Stalker...

Night falls on the Night Stalker…

To be fair, the odds were heavily stacked against Night Stalker from the beginning. The realities of twenty-first century television have made it increasingly difficult to launch a new show. Audiences seem more fickle than ever, and networks can no longer afford to grow audiences over time. With more sources of media competing for the attention of eager young audiences, there is seldom time to fix something that does not work out of the gate. It has become increasingly common to just ditch a dysfunctional show at the first sign of trouble.

At the same time, it is hard to mourn Night Stalker as a forgotten classic that was cut down in its prime. The series’ limited ten episode run suffered from a host of identity anxieties and uncertainties. The series had trouble finding an audience, but it also seemed to have trouble finding itself. While The Source and The Sea might represent a step in the right direction, they are perhaps too little too late.

Zombie bikers from hell!

Zombie bikers from hell!

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Night Stalker – The Five People You Meet in Hell (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 Five People You Meet in Hell makes it quite clear that Night Stalker is not going to have an easy life. (As it turned out, the show was not to have a particularly long one, either.)

The Five People You Meet in Hell was not originally intended to be the second episode of the show. The original plan had been to broadcast Into Night as the second episode of the season. However, the network shifted the broadcast order, opting to air The Five People You Meet in Hell in second place and bury Into Night much later in the season. In fact, Into Night would not be among the six episodes of Night Stalker to air on ABC; the show would be cancelled before the production team would get a chance to broadcast the show.

Eye see...

Eye see…

The reason for the shift is quite obvious. Into Night is not a great episode of television, but it is one that aligns quite neatly with what Night Stalker is supposed to be; it opens the mummification of two office workers and goes from there. In contrast, The Five People You Meet in Hell is much more generic. Sure, it involves mind control and psychic projection, but it is a much blander piece of television. The Five People You Meet in Hell is very much Night Stalker as a forensic procedural with paranormal elements than an accurate representation of the show.

Shifting the broadcast order around in order to prioritise The Five People You Meet in Hell suggests that the network is not entirely comfortable with the show they have commissioned. Two episodes into the first season, that is not an ideal signal to be sending.

A stab in the dark...

A stab in the dark…

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Millennium – Midnight of the Century (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.

Midnight of the Century is a Millennium Christmas episode, as strange as that might sound.

In hindsight, it really should not seem so strange. After all, The X-Files had just done a big two-part Christmas episode with Christmas Carol and Emily. More than that, executive producers Glen Morgan and James Wong had demonstrated an affinity for holiday-themed episodes. The duo had written the Christmas-themed Beyond the Sea for the first season of The X-Files, and had commissioned The River of Stars while they were running Space: Above and Beyond. They had also written The Curse of Frank Black, a Halloween-themed Millennium episode.

Angels in America...

Angels in America…

Midnight of the Century is the second Millennium script credited to writers Kay Reindl and Erin Maher. The duo had been recruited by Morgan and Wong at the start of the second season, and had already produced A Single Blade of Grass. It was a messy episode, albeit one with flashes of genius. Midnight of the Century gives the two writers a much cleaner brief and a lot more room to work. As with The Curse of Frank Black, there is a wonderfully relaxed pace to Midnight of the Century, a sense it knows both where it’s going and how it wants to get there.

On paper, the idea of “a Millennium Christmas episode” sounds like the bleakest thing ever. However, while there are elements of melancholy involved, it is to the credit of everybody involved that Midnight of the Century feels so damn bittersweet.

A Black (family) Christmas...

A Black (family) Christmas…

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