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Millennium – Nostalgia (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.

Nostalgia is the last “serial killer of the week” story produced by Millennium.

Sure, there is a serial killer in Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That, but the last two episodes of Millennium are much more interested in the show’s mythology than in a nuts-and-bolts “Frank catches a serial killer” story. Appropriately enough, given its title, Nostalgia feels like a throwback to a simpler version of Millennium. In a way, it does more to capture the mood and feel of the first season of the show than anything like Matryoshka or Seven and One. It helps that Nostalgia is a great episode, judged by it own merits.

Frank sees all. All.

Frank sees all. All.

It makes sense that Nostalgia should come from Michael R. Perry. With his debut script for The Mikado in the second season, Perry had demonstrated quite a knack for traditional Millennium storytelling. The Mikado was arguably something of a throwback itself, the most old-school “serial killer of the week” story in the show’s delightfully off-kilter second season. If the show wanted to do one last “serial killer of the week” story, there was no writer better suited to crafting it than Michael R. Perry.

In a way, Nostalgia feels like belated vindication for the “back to basics” aesthetic running through the third season – proof that perhaps it might be possible for the show to recapture some of the stronger aspects of the first season even this late in the game. Nostalgia is a much better version of the stories that Closure and Through a Glass Darkly had tried to resurrect earlier in the year. It might be enough to entirely redeem the season’s stubborn fixation on a past fading into history, but it does demonstrate that there were interesting stories to be told using that technique.

Parks and recreation...

Parks and recreation…

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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 – A Room With No View (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.

“This is how it will all end,” Jose Chung idly speculated half-way through Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense.” He advised Frank that the end of the world will not begin “with floods, earthquakes, falling comets or gigantic crabs roaming the earth. No, doomsday will start simply out of indifference.” He may have been correct. It is one thing to kill a person; it is quite another to destroy their spirit, hollowing out the shell before slotting them comfortably back into a functioning society.

A Room With No View plays Chung’s observation and plays it straight. Well, mostly – there is something darkly comical about Landon’s reaction to discovering that he is being abducted into Oregon. Appropriately enough, Lucy Butler’s hideout in Hood County is relatively close to the town of Boring, Oregon. A Room With No View is a bleak and cynical piece of work, an existential apocalyptic horror story perfectly suited to Millennium. It is an episode that would seem strange or unusual in any circumstances, but fits quite comfortably here.

Here's Lucy!

Here’s Lucy!

On paper, A Room With No View could easily seem cynical or exploitative. It is the story about a sadistic kidnapper who abducts teenagers to torture and sexually abuse them in a dungeon. The basic plot elements of A Room With No View come from the pop culture serial killer playbook, to the point where it is not too hard to image the episode as a trashy instalment of CSI or Criminal Minds or – truth be told – the first season of this show. In basic structure, A Room With No View could seem as crude as Wide Open or Weeds or Loin Like a Hunting Flame.

However, it is the execution of A Room With No View that marks as a genuine classic. For all that the episode trades in the stock tropes of serial killer fiction, it is doing something unique and provocative with them. Writer Ken Horton and director Thomas J. Wright construct a potent allegory for abuse and under-achievement, a haunting horror story that is all the more unsettling for its refusal to conform to audience expectations for a story like this.

Blue is not always the warmest colour...

Blue is not always the warmest colour…

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Millennium – Dead Letters (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.

Dead Letters is the first Millennium episode credited to writers James Wong and Glen Morgan, and to director Thomas J. Wright. These are three creative forces that would come to be massively influential in the development of the show.

As with Gehenna, the obvious point of comparison in this early stage of development is with The X-Files. Chris Carter wrote the first two episodes of both shows, outlining the core themes and larger direction. However, the crucial third episode was handed to the team of James Wong and Glen Morgan. They would be the first writers other than Carter to write for Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and Frank Black. They were tasked with demonstrating that these concepts could work in the hands of writers other than Chris Carter.

A hair's breadth away from insanity...

A hair’s breadth away from insanity…

The first script that Wong and Morgan wrote for The X-Files was Squeeze. It was the show’s first stand-alone monster-of-the-week episode, and effectively codified a very flexible subgenre of The X-Files, while also creating a very popular and iconic monster. Dead Letters does something vaguely similar for Millennium, even if it is not quite as effective. Free from a lot of the millennial anxieties that drove The Pilot and Gehenna, Dead Letters offers an example of a fairly pure-blooded “serial-killer-of-the-week” story.

For better or for worse, Dead Letters sets the tone for the rest of the show’s first season.

Bits and pieces...

Bits and pieces…

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Space: Above and Beyond – Sugar Dirt (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.

The end is nigh.

There is a generally funereal atmosphere to the last few episodes of Space: Above and Beyond, creating the sense that the show was well aware of – and had perhaps come to terms with – its own inevitable cancellation. Stardust had assured viewers (and the show itself) that the dead can be heroes too. Sugar Dirt seems a lot angrier about the series’ situation. It is the story of our heroes surrounded and outgunned on all sides; abandoned to their fate by those in authority.

Sadly, McQueen couldn't quite save the show...

Sadly, McQueen couldn’t quite save the show…

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Space: Above and Beyond – Level of Necessity (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.

Coming hot on the heels of Who Monitors the Birds?, Level of Necessity was almost destined to be a little disappointing. Who Monitors the Birds? is perhaps the quintessential episode of Space: Above and Beyond, encapsulating the show’s core themes and utilising its world in a clever and constructive manner. In contrast, Level of Necessity seems almost rote. It is an episode that might have been written for any other nineties science-fiction show.

There are some nice ideas here, but Level of Necessity feels far too generic. In fact, it seems like the episode is centred around Damphousse not because the story makes any more sense for her than it does for any other character, but because she is the only character who has yet to occupy the centre of a story. Thomas J. Wright directs quite well, and Richard Kind makes for a solid guest star. However, Level of Necessity suffers from the fact that it could be an episode of any other show.

Stars in his eyes...

Stars in his eyes…

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Space: Above and Beyond – Hostile Visit (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.

At this point, Space: Above and Beyond could do a lot worse than learn from The X-Files.

There are quite a few echoes of The X-Files in Space: Above and Beyond, becoming more pronounced as the show approaches the middle of the season. Eyes built on the suggestion of conspiracy and cover-up to assure viewers that Space: Above and Beyond was just as cynical about authority as The X-Files ever was. The Enemy felt like an attempt to copy the formula that Morgan and Wong had worked so well back in Ice.

Picture imperfect...

Picture imperfect…

Hostile Visit and Choice or Chance feels like an attempt to do a big sweeps two-parter in the style of The X-Files. This was a crucial moment for Space: Above and Beyond. The series had been scheduled outside of its comfort zone, had not been drawing huge ratings, had found itself preempted and bounced around the schedule as a result of factors outside its control. It needed a strong performance for the November sweeps, which were a matter of pride (and money) for the networks and a matter of interest for the advertisers.

So structuring a two-parter around that period makes a great deal of sense. Unfortunately, Hostile Visit does not make for the most compelling first half.

"I want a good clean sweep."

“I want a good clean sweep.”

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