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Millennium – Beware of the Dog (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.

Beware of the Dog opens with the shot of the same comet discussed at the start of The Beginning and the End, just in case viewers thought that The Beginning and the End was somehow a fluke or a deviation. The Beginning and the End was not a freak occurrence, it was not some random divergence from the rest of Millennium. It was very much a new beginning for the series, harking in a bold new direction utterly unlike that marked out by The Pilot. The second season of Millennium was a new breed of animal.

And so a lot of Beware of the Dog is devoted to reinforcing this new direction – convincing the viewers at home that Millennium had reinvented itself from the ground up. Part of what is interesting about Beware of the Dog is the way that the basic structure and beats of the episode hark back to the formula and themes of the first season, but in a way that makes it quite clear that things have changed. Beware of the Dog embraces the pulpy absurdity of a show about millennial fears and anxieties, about the nature of good and evil in the world.

Call of the wild...

Call of the wild…

Beware of the Dog is a very weird piece of television. It is resoundingly and unapologetically odd. It is nowhere near as quirky and eccentric as the second season would become in episodes like The Curse of Frank Black or Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” or The Time is Now, but decidedly more surreal than the first season had allowed itself to be – even in episodes like Force Majeure or Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions. This is an episode which takes the first season’s “serial killer of the week” format, and substitutes in packs of wild dog.

The result is a piece of television that is quite difficult to classify and quantify, but which feels fresh and exciting. As with The Beginning and the End, there is a playfulness and fun to Beware the Dog that was sorely lacking from extended stretches of the first season. Indeed, it seemed unlikely during the first season that Millennium would ever be classed as “playful” or “fun.” That sense of energy and vibrance imbues the second season with life, helping to carry the show across some admittedly rough episodes later in the year.

Circle of trust...

Circle of trust…

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The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #2 – Deep Throat (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.

Season One feels like a very odd way to franchise The X-Files.

Topps had enjoyed tremendous success with their licensed tie-in comic book, so it made a certain amount of sense to try to milk the franchise as much as possible. After all, they had already tried a number of other promotions, like releasing “digests” to supplement that monthly series and releasing tie-in comics to appear with magazines like Wizard. So offering another series that would publish on a regular basis starring Mulder and Scully made perfectly logical sense.

The truth is up there...

The truth is up there…

About a year after the release of their adaptation of The Pilot, Topps decided to push ahead with a series of regular adaptations of first season episodes of The X-Files. They reissued their adaptation of The Pilot as the first comic in the series, and then began publishing new adaptations of those early episodes written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by a rotating team of artists. The comics would be about twice as long as the issues of the monthly series, but would only publish once every two months. The monthly series was priced a $2.50, with Season One priced at $4.95.

It is hard not to feel quite cynical about Season One, particularly in an era where these classic episodes of The X-Files stream of Netflix and entire seasons are available to purchase at very low prices.

The shape of things to come...

The shape of things to come…

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The X-Files – Gethsemane (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.

Agent Mulder died late last night from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

– Agent Dana Scully, 22nd October 1997

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Millennium – Sacrament (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.

If Force Majeure and The Thin White Line seem to call forwards towards the weird and eccentric second season, Sacrament is a bit more modest. In many ways, Sacrament seems to foreshadow the last stretch of episodes in the first season. The forces of evil seem to encircle the Black family, creeping closer and closer to the big yellow house and everything it represents. For the first time, Sacrament explicitly puts Frank’s family at the heart of a case; this time focusing on the kidnapping of his sister-in-law from her child’s christening.

In many respects, this points towards the direction the show will take in its final stretch of episodes. Lamentation and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions will see the forces of evil explicitly violate the Black residence, insidiously eroding the idealised life that Frank has tried to build for his family in their new Seattle home. The cliffhanger at the end of Paper Dove pushes the concept to its logical conclusion, as a secret that Frank has tried to keep from his family finally comes home to roost.

Worst. Uncle. Ever.

Worst. Uncle. Ever.

As with WeedsSacrament demonstrates that writer Frank Spotnitz has an uncanny understanding of how Chris Carter built Millennium. It is an episode that is soaked through with the core themes of the series; it is a story about good and evil, and how evil taints everything that it touches. As with a lot of Millennium, Sacrament is not subtle; the moment that Tom Black is identified as the brother of our protagonist, it is inevitable that the forces of evil will come barrelling down upon him.

Nevertheless, Sacrament demonstrates a clear understanding of what it wants to be, and is a pretty effective snapshot of Millennium at this moment in time. The first season of Millennium is often overlooked and overshadowed amid the controversies surrounding the second or third seasons, but Sacrament stands as a great example of what the first season was trying to do.

Our father...

Our father…

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The X-Files – Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man (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.

“No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”

– Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History

Light 'em up...

Light ’em up…

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The X-Files – Unruhe (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.

Unruhe was the first episode of The X-Files to air on Sunday nights.

The show had vacated its traditional Friday evening slot to make room for Millennium. It had been moved to Sunday evenings. Although the production team were initially quite cautious about the move, it would ultimately pay dividends for the show. The show had already become a mainstream hit, but the Sunday night slot would help to push it into the stratosphere. Airing alongside Fox’s other long-running success story, The Simpsons, the show would secure its highest ratings ever less than six months after moving into its new slot.

Photo copy?

Photo copy?

Of course, this also draws attention to another interesting facet of Unruhe. This was the first episode of The X-Files to air after Millennium hit the air. Unruhe aired two days after the pilot. The impact of Millennium has already been keenly felt on the fourth season of The X-Files in a number of ways; deadline and production issues hindered Herrenvolk, while James Wong and Glen Morgan had been drafted back to The X-Files to help shore up the fourth season. However, Unruhe seems to directly (and perhaps pointedly) acknowledge Chris Carter’s younger series.

Unruhe is an episode that would probably have been quite at home on Millennium. It is an episode that could easily have been re-worked or re-tooled for Carter’s new show – with only a few minor changes. With its serial offender, fascination with forensic psychology, and its grim reflection on mankind’s capacity for evil, it feels like an story that could comfortably have been told using Frank Black. While it serves to welcome Millennium to the genre neighbourhood, it also seems to suggest that Millennium might be a little redundant.

A walk among the tombstones...

A walk among the tombstones…

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Millennium – Pilot (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.

You think you’re protecting me but you make it worse, Frank. You can’t shut the world out for me. You can’t ask me to pretend that I don’t know what you do.

Everyone pretends. We all make believe. These men I help catch – make us.

We’re raising a daughter, Frank. The real world starts to seep in. You can’t stop it.

I want you to make believe that I can.

Fade to Black...

Fade to Black…

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The X-Files (Topps) #17 – Thin Air (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.

By all accounts, this was the kind of creative team that Ten Thirteen Productions probably wanted on Topps’ X-Files comic since the start.

Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard had done a phenomenal amount of work on The X-Files comic line. They had written sixteen issues of the monthly series, an annual, two digests and a slew of short stories scattered across various forums. However, it was quite clear that their approach to the comic was not quite what Ten Thirteen had hoped for when they licensed the comic to Topps. Petrucha’s scripts were ambitious, bold and playful; they were occasionally downright cheeky. Adlard was a master of mood and expression; he was less suited to likeness.

Here come the men in black...

Here come the men in black…

This had caused no small amount of friction between the production company and the creative team. By all accounts, the working relationship between Petrucha and the production company was quite strained. Eventually they fired him from the comic, making Home of the Brave the last story written by Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard on Topps’ The X-Files comics. Given the two had been with the comic from the start, this was quite a radical change.

However, this did allow Topps to put a team more agreeable to Ten Thirteen’s demands on the comic.

"I call it blue steal..."

“I call it blue steal…”

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Silent Enemy (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Silent Enemy is very much a game of two halves.

It’s an episode that suffers from the decision to incorporate two radically different plots into a single episode. In many respects, it’s a show that suffers from Star Trek: Enterprise‘s decidedly old-fashioned storytelling aesthetic: the sense that most hours of Star Trek need to have two plots running through them for pacing and structural reasons. This storytelling technique is a decidedly outdated approach to television, reflecting the narrative conservatism at play in the first season of the show.

We come in peace...

We come in peace…

Silent Enemy is built around two plots. The primary plot sees the ship coming into conflict with a bunch of strange predatory aliens who do not respond to attempts for contact, and who grow increasingly belligerent over the course of the episode. Archer and his crew find themselves facing an opponent far stronger and more aggressive than they are. It’s a pretty bleak, pretty heavy plotline. Inevitably, the show decided to pair it with something a bit more light-hearted, so we get Hoshi trying to figure out what Reed’s favourite food is that Chef can bake him a super-special birthday cake.

While the combination of plotlines isn’t the worst in the history of the franchise – the episode doesn’t feel like Frankenstein’s monster in the same way that Life Support does, for example – it’s still rather incongruous. Silent Enemy is an episode weakened by the decision to combine these two into a single story; the desire to offset the doom of the “Enterprise under siege” story with something a bit more easy-going and comedic.

Alien aliens...

Alien aliens…

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The X-Files – Talitha Cumi (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Talitha Cumi is a staggeringly confident piece of television, the kind of episode casually produced by a show at (or approaching) the top of its game.

It is interesting just how much this season finalé seems to promise business as usual. It is perhaps the least radical of the show’s season-ending cliffhangers, with the third season closing on an immediate rather than a conceptual threat to our leads and to The X-Files as a show. The Erlenmeyer Flask ended with the death of Deep Throat and the closing of the X-files. Anasazi ended with Mulder being burnt alive in a boxcar filled with alien bodies. Gethsemane ups the ante further.

A stab in the dark...

A stab in the dark…

In contrast, Talitha Cumi ends with the Alien Bounty Hunter walking towards Mulder and Scully in a rather menacing fashion. It is very effective television – and a solidly suspenseful cliffhanger – but it also feels rather low-key when compared to other season-ending episodes. Talitha Cumi feels like a pretty effective hook, rather than a game-changer. There’s an immediacy to the cliffhanger, but nothing that threatens to upend the show as a whole.

Then again, one suspects that is entirely the point. The third season has been largely about consolidation of The X-Files. It makes sense that it wouldn’t throw everything up into the air at the end of the season.

It's been a long year...

It’s been a long year…

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