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Millennium – The Hand of St. Sebastian (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 Hand of St. Sebastian closes out the first third of the second season of Millennium. It also marks the half-way point in the episodes credited to Morgan and Wong as writers over the course of the season – it is the sixth of a phenomenal twelve scripts credited to the showrunners, even outside their responsibilities as executive producers. In many ways, The Hand of St. Sebastian represents the point at which the stage has been completely set. It establishes the last of the basic ideas that the team will play with across the rest of the season.

The Curse of Frank Black and 19:19 had affirmed that Christian eschatology would be a driving force for the show, as if that had ever been in doubt. After all, the first season’s big two-part epic had been Lamentation and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions, an epic story about demons and angels. More than that, Morgan and Wong had revised the opening credits sequence of the show so that it ended with the promise that “the time is near”, an obvious textual reference to Revelation.

Circle of trust...

Circle of trust…

The Hand of St. Sebastian confirms what was inferred in Beware of the Dog when Frank pointed out that the ouroboros was “used as a secret symbol on early Christian graves.” Here, the Millennium Group itself is identified as an ancient Christian organisation, one interested in ancient Christian relics for their spiritual and magical uses. There is a decidedly pulpy feel to the second season; one that is particularly evident in The Hand of St. Sebastian, as Frank and Peter go abroad to do a modern day Raiders of the Lost Ark on a nineties television budget. Ambition is not the worst vice.

However, The Hand of St. Sebastian is perhaps most notable for putting the focuse squarely on the character of Peter Watts. Naturally, Frank plays a pretty vital role in The Hand of St. Sebastian, but the episode does a lot to develop Peter as a character. It builds off his powerful speech in The Beginning and the End to portray a man of faith searching for validation and meaning in the world. The second season really capitalised on the presence of Terry O’Quinn, recognising the actor’s immense talent and helping to establish him as a televisual talent to watch.

This is who we were...

This is who we were…

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Millennium – Sense and Antisense (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.

Sense and Antisense is a misfire.

It is an episode with far too much going on, and no time to unpack it all. Sense and Antisense moves like a rocket ship, jumping from one crazy idea to the next crazy idea. It opens with the threat of a viral contagion, but quickly escalates into the realm of conspiracy theories and mind control. It is an episode that is almost impossible to summarise without sounding as crazy as some of the characters populating the narrative. It is unsatisfying and disjointed, but not in a way that makes those sentiments seem part of the plan.

The pupil has become the master...

The pupil has become the master…

At the same time, it is an incredibly ambitious misfire. The biggest problem with Sense and Antisense is that it tries to cram too much in there. It is constructed almost writer Chip Johannessen tried to condense down contemporary conspiracy theory into a single forty-five minute story that winds up connecting the Department of Energy to the Rwandan Genocide. There is a breathless enthusiasm to all this that would make Fox Mulder blush. As much as Sense and Antisense doesn’t work, it is hard not to admire it’s sheer gumption.

The second season of Millennium might not be the most consistent season in the history of the medium, but even its failures are bold and energetic. Sense and Antisense is not The Curse of Frank Black, Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” or Luminary, but it is a far cry from something like Unrequited, Synchrony or Schizogeny.

A stain on the record...

A stain on the record…

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The X-Files – Hell Money (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.

Hell Money is an oft-overlooked episode of The X-Files.

The positioning in the third season probably doesn’t help. It comes directly after Teso Dos Bichos, probably the season’s weakest episode. It is also positioned in the gap between Pusher and Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”, two broadly-loved episodes that serve as pitch-perfect examples of The X-Files both on- and off-format. In contrast, Hell Money is something a little stranger. It is not as conventional as Pusher, nor as radical as Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.”

Seeing is believing...

Seeing is believing…

Instead, Hell Money is an episode of The X-Files that loosely fits the show’s format. Mulder and Scully investigate a bunch of macabre murders where sinister forces are at work. However, in keeping with the broad themes of the third season, the evil in Hell Money takes a particularly banal form. There are no monsters here; at least, not any supernatural monsters. The only ghosts that haunt the narrative are metaphorical. There is a culture alien to our leads, but one a bit more grounded than extraterrestrials.

Hell Money is a clever and thoughtful piece of television that feels subtly and harrowingly subversive.

The writing is on the wall...

The writing is on the wall…

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The X-Files (Topps) #2 – A Dismembrance of Things Past (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

A Dismembrance of Things Past is an absolute delight, and a nice demonstration of how well writer Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard could tell stories set within The X-Files universe.

There are many interesting things about A Dismembrance of Things Past. It’s a fine piece of work, deftly balancing the demands on a new comic book set within the world of The X-Files with an urge to tell a story that fits very clearly and very comfortably within the show’s basic structure. It is easy to imagine A Dismembrance of Things Past receiving a live-action adaptation. Indeed, Petrucha’s script feels like something of a tribute to writer Darin Morgan before Darin Morgan had even written for the show, half-way between Blood and José Chung’s “From Outer Space.”

Something to remember them by...

Something to remember them by…

A Dismembrance of Things Past confronts the difficulties of writing a tie-in comic book to The X-Files, while using those constraints to tell an interesting story in its own right. After all, the comic book would have to tell an alien or U.F.O. story eventually. The words “The X-Files” are written on the cover, and that comes with the territory. At the same time, Petrucha and Adlard have to acknowledge the fact that the tie-in comic book cannot advance the on-screen mythology arc. Indeed, it seems unlikely Carter had shared too much of that arc with Petrucha or Adlard.

It takes a lot of skill to balance these competing demands of a tie-in comic book – to remain connected to the source material, but never pulling too far away or ahead, while remaining interesting. A Dismembrance of Things Past manages to satisfy all of its obligations and then some.

Through alien eyes...

Through alien eyes…

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