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Archive for October, 1998

Entertainment Weekly: Millennium

Entertainment Weekly
Ken Tucker

Get ready for another new Millennium as Lance Henriksen’s FBI guy loses a wife and gains a partner

Klea Scott and Lance Henriksen

When we last left “Millennium” — well, let’s see, hero Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) had found out that his Millennium Group, which was supposed to save the world, was involved in some sort of internecine, apocalyptic battle with a splinter faction called the Family; the human race was being wiped out by a virulent plague carried in part by birds; his fellow Millennium operative Lara Means (Kristen Cloke) had seemingly gone insane after a season-ending hallucinogenic trip starring the Virgin Mary and set to Patti Smith’s “Horses” (the entire song!); his wife, Katherine (Megan Gallagher), had blown her brains out rather than fall victim to the plague; and Frank’s dark hair had suddenly turned completely white. The whole thing was like a nightmare David Lynch might have had after eating a bag of bad E. coli burgers.

“Well, Frank’s hair will be gray this season,” says Duggan, chuckling. “And the world didn’t end, despite what that episode implied, so we’re going to pick up the pieces and move on by sending Frank to D.C., and giving him a new work partner and a new life.” The plague scenario will be contained and tidied up, and creator Chris Carter’s acknowledgment that “we took the serial-killer-of-the-week criticism seriously” is being heeded. Sounds like Fox should go with a new ad campaign: “Everything You Knew About Millennium Is Wrong.”

For its first two seasons this was the most uneven good show in prime time — sometimes scary, sometimes silly; sometimes daringly experimental, sometimes hollowly pretentious. Last year, under the guidance of former “X-Files” brainiacs Glen Morgan and James Wong, you never knew whether Black was going to be a dour killer-hunter or a deadpan conspiracy-nut-buster. It was an exhilarating run — Morgan and Wong have since moved on to feature films — but a decidedly confusing one. And such creative dissonance, combined with lackluster ratings (104th last season), nearly cost the show a slot this fall. A source at Twentieth Century, which produces “Millennium,” admits that the network’s decision to renew was down to the wire. (No doubt the cachet of Chris “X-Files” Carter helped.)

Now that Black is back, “we want to root the series more firmly,” says Duggan, who oversaw last season’s low- and underrated ABC FBI show “C-16.” “Megan’s character is gone. Frank is now a single father who has decided to go back to what he used to do — work with the FBI in D.C. on especially tough cases. He’ll get a partner, which will give viewers a fresh set of eyes to see the show through.”

Those eyes are the big brown ones of Klea Scott, who stood out in the crowded squad-room of CBS’ ballyhooed bomberoo “Brooklyn South.” Scott, who played a smart beat cop will now join Millennium as FBI agent Emma Hollis. “She’s not a rookie,” explains Duggan, “but she’s young enough to be in awe of Frank Black’s rep as a legendary crime solver.”

Variety: Carter tries novel approach

Carter tries novel approach
Judy Quinn

‘X-Files’ creator finds seven-figure deal for original books

NEW YORK – Publishing industryites say “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter has scored a high-seven-figure deal to write two original suspense novels for Bantam.

The books are reportedly not related to Carter’s existing or recently signed upcoming new projects for 20th Century Fox TV, which may be a reason why this deal was, surprisingly, not made at News Corp. sister company HarperCollins, which formed new imprint HarperEntertainment in part for synergistic projects.

Carter recently inked a new exclusive development and production deal with 20th Century Fox TV (Daily Variety, Sept. 18).

Several publishers reportedly tried for the new Carter books. Bantam publisher Irwyn Applebaum could not be reached for comment. Renaissance agent Joel Gotler, who reportedly repped Carter on these properties, would not comment on the deal.

Horror Online: The Carter Administration

Horror Online
The Carter Administration
Ed Martin

The creator of “The X-Files” and “Millennium” discusses his future plans.

Before Chris Carter makes any more X-Files movies, he’s going to make certain that his two television series are in good hands. There was speculation back in 1996, when 20th Century Fox formally announced that an X-Files feature film would be theatrically released two years later, that Carter, who wrote the screenplay in addition to overseeing both the X-Files and Millennium television series, was taking on more than any one man could handle.


“I am dedicating myself to putting (‘Millennium’) back to a place where I think it can be.”

It now appears that the naysayers were right. While The X-Files enjoyed its highest ratings ever during the 1997-98 TV season, and the X- feature became one of the top grossing films of the summer, Millennium didn’t fare as well, suffering both creatively and in the weekly Nielsen ratings race. Last spring, rumors began to circulate in Hollywood and New York that Millennium would not be on Fox’ 1998-99 schedule. But Millennium was given a reprieve of sorts and returns for a third season this month.

As soon as Carter began making plans to revitalize Millennium, however, the X-Files movie franchise once again threatened to distract him from the show. In late July, weeks after the X- feature had opened and days before production of the third season of Millennium was to begin, Carter had his first official call from Fox asking about the possibility of doing a sequel,” he recalls.

Could Carter take on another X- feature? “I have no idea,” he replies, keeping his plans close to the vest. “It’s just something to think about. I don’t want to let anything suffer for any new projects.” Asked if he envisions a day when the X-Files movie franchise might begin to resemble the Star Trek movie series, with Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully moving over to the big screen and two or more new agents taking center stage on The X-Files, Carter says, “To be honest, I don’t even want to think about it until the time comes to think about it.”

“(“Millennium” is) scarier than X-Files in a way.”

For now, Carter is focused on the sixth season of The X-Files, which has recently moved from its long time production center in Vancouver to Los Angeles, and the third season of the troubled Millennium, with the latter undergoing a thorough creative overhaul. Indeed, Carter is making the care and nurturing of Millennium a priority. “I am dedicating myself to putting this project back to a place where I think it can be,” Carter says. “I am going to be traveling back and forth to Vancouver to prep the shows and to work on getting the crew to a place where we get everything running like a top again.”

Carter and new executive producers Chip Johannessen (who has been with the series from the beginning as a consulting producer) and Michael Duggan are determined to steer the show away from the supernatural storylines it had begun to flirt with last season. Narratively, the show will also move away from stories about the Millennium Group itself. “That’s not really where the looming war between good and evil, as we move from here to the future, is going to play out,” says Johannessen. “We want to take the storytelling away from the Millennium Group itself and have them be a piece of this puzzle that we’re going to start to articulate. [Last season] there was a lot of carrying relics around and that sort of thing. While we continue the idea that the Millennium Group has a history, we’re going to start looking to the future.” Step one will involve a dramatic midlife upheaval for Frank Black (Lance Henriksen): The death of his wife, Catherine (Megan Gallagher), and his return to Washington, D.C., where he becomes a consultant for the FBI.

Although Carter and his crew deny it, any resulting resemblance to the thriving X-Files franchise is undeniable. In his new capacity, Black will become mentor to a pretty young FBI agent named Emma Hollis (Klea Scott). She’s “someone who is slightly left of center from the mainstream thinking of the FBI,” Duggan explains. “[She’s] attracted to [Black] as a heavyweight consultant who comes back to the FBI; who views things quite differently than the standard proceduralists at the FBI. She feels a need to attach herself to his belt loop or under his wing and learn about the way he sees the world.” The two-part season opener will deal in part with the enormous emotional pain Black suffers following his personal tragedy, as well as his new status as a single parent and his involvement with Catherine’s parents. Duggan also notes that Frank’s relationship with the Millennium Group “changes quite a bit. There’s a lot of geography to explore there.”

“What we learned [last season] is that [the Group’s] agenda is not necessarily what it was stated as,” Carter adds, explaining that Frank will now be forced to look at the group “in a different light. There are things that have come out of the last two years that are going to play out now in a new, dramatic way with these new revelations.”

Carter also says that after two seasons of working on the show and talking to people about it, he has learned that “people really aren’t afraid of the Millennium. That was never the idea of the show, that people are dreading this date coming up.” Rather, Carter notes, people are uncomfortable with “the idea that we are heading into some unknowable kind of future, that we’re moving too fast technologically.” Still, Carter sees the approaching Millennium as significant on many fronts, and his observations will power the show.

“(Emma Hollis) is someone who is slightly left of center from the FBI.”

“We want to find meaning in the world,” he says. “This date is going to be a reckoning. It’s going to be a time of accounting, and that’s kind of a scary thing for us. It’s been an important date, the turn of the century, forever-or for as long as we can remember.”

With the stage reset, the focus of the series will return to “stories that are about real human emotion,” Carter continues. “It’s about what happens when bad things happen to good people. Those are the kind of stories we will explore. I would like to see if they have some relevance in relation to the world we live in. I’ll just say that the reason Millennium is even a show is because there were human monsters that [we] couldn’t do on X-Files that really were interesting to me as a storyteller. And I think that’s really what it will continue to be. That’s what makes the show scary. Scarier than X-Files in a way because the monsters are all too real.”

So what went wrong along the way, ultimately necessitating such sweeping changes to the show’s format? Carter says he thinks everyone involved with the series reacted to what he calls “serial-killer-of-the-week criticism” from the press during the series’ first season, when they were simply trying to “tell stories about human tragedy.” The result was a move toward sporadically exploring supernatural themes and the mythology of the Millennium Group in year two, which lead to Millennium losing “some of what I felt worked about the show in the first season,” Carter explains.

But Carter also admits that the original narrative structure of the series is partially to blame for its relative weakness. “When I approached Lance with this pilot script, I really had given him a story that, by design, had no franchise,” he says. “It was about a man who was an overidealized hero-overidealized by me. [He had] an idealized home life with a wife he loved and a daughter he loved, and he wanted to keep the darkness that he saw, because of his experiences, away from them.

I liked that idea a lot, Carter continues. “What we learned in the course of the storytelling [was] that when you try to protect something that is perfect to begin with or you imagine as perfect, it creates a non-dramatic situation. So, there was a sameness in that relationship, and we realized through the telling of stories that there were more opportunities to be had telling good stories, letting Lance be the character he was, by removing him from that home.

How close did Millennium come to being cancelled? “The way I understand it is that there was a slim chance that it would be, Carter recalls. “I think we benefitted from some things that happened in the development season, but I think the show deserved to be back. It’s actually got a very good hardcore audience. It really is, in a way, the cult show that X-Files used to be, and I’d like to see if this year we might not expand on that and build a bigger audience for it. I said this about X-Files originally: Fridays at 9 p.m. is a [time when] you cannot steal an audience. You’ve got to create an audience. You’ve got to change television habits. You’ve got to make people stay home to watch those shows. That’s what we have to do this year.

“Some people may have tuned in early on and tuned away,” Carter confesses. “I’d really like to get people to come back because I think that we know now, having had the last two years to go by, what we do best and what works best. If people come back this year, they’re going to see better and a little bit different kind of storytelling.”

It seems certain that one way to accomplish that goal is to cross-pollinate Carter’s creations. Indeed, talk of crossovers between Millennium and The X-Files this season has been at full boil since last May, when Fox Entertainment president Peter Roth announced that Millennium would return for a third season with Black relocating to Washington, D.C., and becoming a consultant to the FBI. “This would be a good year for a crossover,” Carter admits, but he says his first concern is to preserve the integrity of both shows. “I wouldn’t want to ask the actors to do it as a stunt,” he says. “If it made sense in a storytelling way to do a crossover, that might be a fun thing to do. It may not happen, but if there was a good reason to make it happen, we wouldn’t turn it down.”

Carter is also determined to keep his two shows separate and distinct from each other, especially now that they will both be centered in and around Washington and focus on FBI operations. “We’re all conscious of the similarities,” he says. “We are going to make them quite different. That’s something that we’re being conscious of, as I was conscious of not trying to recreate X-Files with Millennium. But they both do share an FBI franchise, if you will, and now that franchise is coming into more active use in Millennium. We’re trying to steer away from the obvious comparisons.”

Cinefantastique: Millennium: TV's best kept secret improves in its sophomore season

Millennium: TV’s best kept secret improves in its sophomore season
Paula Vitaris

The best kept secret on television last season was Millennium, which offered some of the year’s most thoughtful, imaginative, and suspenseful story-telling. Unfortunately, the second season received virtually no build-up— quite a contrast to the campaign waged by the Fox Network for the debut in 1996; since the noticeable drop in ratings after the premiere, the network no longer exerted a major effort to promote the show. The losers were the television audience, both first and second seasons.

For the second season, creator Chris Carter turned the show over to others while working on the fifth season and feature film of The X-Files. Glen Morgan and James Wong, who had served as consulting producers during the first season, were tapped for the job. New writers joined the staff. Glen’s brother Darin signed on and wrote and directed two episodes. Michael Perry, who had won an Emmy for an episode of NYPD Blue co-written with Steve Gagahn, had been recruited by Chris Carter. Morgan and Wong also brought on board writing partners Erin Maher and Kay Reindl. Held over from the first season were Chip Johannessen and Robert Moresco.

Both critics and the audience had expressed the opinion that Millennium’s first season was too grim, violent and monotonous, with the majority of the episodes devoted to serial killer plots and not enough time spent on Frank’s inner life or the Millennium Group. The network wanted changes, and Morgan and Wong were happy to oblige. “There was too much gore in the first season, and it was for shock’s sake,” Morgan said. “There was no humor. Everybody wanted to know more about the Millennium Group. What was Frank’s role with them? We needed to develop Frank. We had a good actress, Megan Gallagher, playing his wife, and what could we do with their relationship? Where can this go?”

Not everyone agreed with the changes, including some of the producing and writing staff who had been retained from the first season. “I think it was good to open the show up a little in terms of its tone,” Johannessen said. “To my taste, some of the stuff became much more adolescent, and it changed the center of gravity a little bit–but it did open up the show.”

Despite first year problems, Morgan and Wong believed Millennium possessed a number of strong elements. They had a strong leading man in Lance Henriksen as Frank Black. They were also intrigued by the symbolism of Frank’s yellow house, his ideal home. “What really appealed to me was that Chris had said that he had made the show because of the Black’s yellow house,” Morgan noted. “This year was an opportunity to make a hero-myth of the story; take the house away from Frank, have him go through the dark forest, and get back to the yellow house.”

At the beginning of the second season, Morgan and Wong sat down with Carter and explained their ideas. Carter told them to go ahead, and although they consulted with him during the season, he had very little input. Carter had been planning to write and direct an episode but eventually backed 6ff due to his X-Files responsibilities.

In the season opener, “The Beginning and the End,” Morgan and Wong quickly resolved the kidnapping cliffhanger from last season. Frank’s stalker, the Polaroid Man (Doug Hutchison), was now holding Catherine captive and taunting Frank. By the end of the episode, Frank has located them and killed the Polaroid Man, precipitating a crisis in Catherine, who is afraid of the feelings of hatred and anger she senses both within herself and Frank. She asks him to move out so she can gain some perspective. In the second episode, “Beware of the Dog,” Morgan and Wong introduced a character known as the Old Man (R.G. Armstrong, a long-time favorite of Morgan’s) who acts as a spiritual guide for Frank and begins to expose him to the arcane knowledge of the Millennium Group.

The third episode, “Sense and Antisense,” written by Chip Johannessen, was a government conspiracy about bio-terrorism that seemed more appropriate to The X-Files. “That didn’t quite come off the way I’d hoped,” Johannessen said. “That was one of those tortured things. To my mind, the rewrites got colossally worse, and part of that had to do with the fact that the first draft concerned a much more sensitive area–race–and Broadcast Standards had certain concerns.”

The fourth episode, “Monster,” about accusations of abuse at a day care center and the evil within one particular child, introduced a new recurring character, psychologist Lara Means, played by Morgan’s wife Kristin Cloke (previously seen in Morgan and Wong’s Space: Above and Beyond). Lara, like Frank, is a candidate for the Millennium Group and, also like Frank, experiences visions. Unlike Frank, however, her visions, often of an angel, fill her with fear, and by season’s end she suffers a complete mental collapse.

Morgan and Wong created Lara as a character who would both challenge and reflect Frank. “My biggest worry was that people would think we were trying to make them like Mulder and Scully,” Morgan said. “We wanted somebody with an incredible gift to counter Frank. Right from the beginning, the idea was to have Lara see these visions and know what the Millennium Group was saying was true. Knowing that would drive her crazy because if the world is ending, what’s the point of going on? Coupled with that, we had the Millennium Group saying, ‘We not only have the responsibility of knowing; we have the responsibility of doing something about it.’ The knowledge overloads her, and she goes insane. By seeing that, Frank Black will have a person to compare and contrast himself to: ‘This is my potential fate.’ And that took him back to the yellow house. Lara is a possibility of what Frank could be. If you’re going through the forest, you could be eaten by a troll, or you could get out. Lara did not get out of her dark forest. When the Millennium Group says to Frank, ‘Do you want to become an initiated member? You’re ready to move up a rank,’ he can look at Lara and say, ‘I don’t know.’ And yet, he believes in what she sees and that what the Group is after is right. It’s such an extraordinary responsibility. ”

Another new character was computer wizard Brian Roedecker, played by Allan Zinyk, who had been in Darin Morgan’s X-Files episode “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space.'” Roedecker was a sarcastic wisecracker created to serve as an occasional foil for the humorless Frank. Fans did not take kindly to Roedecker, who came across to them as a knock-off of The X-Files’ Lone Gunmen and totally out of place on Millennium. “I was surprised by the rejection of Roedecker,” Morgan admitted, adding that he wished the fans had given the character more time before pronouncing judgment. Roedecker remained a favorite with Morgan, however, and he and Wong were disappointed when Zinyk left the show to fulfill another acting commitment.

A major goal for the season was to give Frank’s life the kind of narrative drive absent last season, and many of the episodes dealt with his on-going relationship with Catherine, his estranged father, and his friendship with colleague Peter Watts (Terry O’Quinn). Intertwined with all this was Frank’s growing knowledge of the Millennium Group’s true nature and the ethical situations their actions forced him to confront. These episodes made for some of the season’ strongest story-telling, particularly the extraordinary “The Curse of Frank Black,” a surreal, ghostly journey from uncertainty to renewed determination, played out on the silent, wind-blown streets of Frank’s neighborhood on Halloween night.

Since Frank is often alone in this episode (which was influenced by the Japanese ghost move Kwaidan), there is very little dialogue; much of the meaning is conveyed visually. “I didn’t want to do any more dialogue,” Morgan said. “Lance is so great with looks.” The director was Ralph Hemecker, whom Morgan praised highly: “Ralph came up with some beautiful shots, and I really have to credit him with a lot of the episode’s tone.”

Frank’s Halloween journey is as much through his memories as it is through the streets of his neighborhood. At one point, he recalls his Halloween encounter at age six with the neighborhood recluse, Mr. Crocell (OZ’s Dean Winters). Crocell is a World War II vet suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but all Frank and his friends know is that he is a figure of fear to them. Crocell had killed himself, but now he appears as a host to challenge Frank to give up his fight against evil, because he can’t beat the devil. “Frank’s journey is similar to Lara’s,” Morgan commented. “That’s where Frank could go, where he could quit and find a place for himself. He is at the brink–he goes back to his yellow house and throws eggs at it, like kids do at Halloween. He was on the brink of becoming Mr. Crocell. But he’s got to go back and clean up the mess; otherwise he would just be giving up. What I liked is that it did seem like a slip-up in his quest.”

The episodes by Erin Maher and Kay Reindl also highlighted Frank’s development. Their first episode, “A Single Blade of Grass,” sent Frank to New York City to investigate a death at a construction site that employed a Native American crew. The story included a ceremony where rattler venom induced hallucinations. At Morgan’s behest, Reindl and Maher restored Frank’s gift–his near-psychic abilities–which had vanished early in the season. “I felt last year those visions were a cheat,” Morgan said. “The camera would go to a coffee cup and Frank would say, ‘The murderer used a coffee cup.’ It drove me nuts. What we were trying to do this year was to elevate Frank’s visions to a dream-like state, so he would have to interpret what he’s seeing. There would be more mystical, symbolic imagery that might give him more of a sense of what’s going on. I had wanted to strip away the gift for a long time and see if the show really played well without it. But we got back into that. The Old Man in ‘Beware of the Dog’ was trying to tell Frank, ‘Your gift isn’t gone; it’s going to be different.'”

Maher and Reindl’s next episode, “Midnight of the Century,” examined Frank’s relationship with his emotionally withdrawn father (Darren McGavin). The two writers had drawn the assignment of scripting “a scary Christmas episode.” They rented every scary Christmas movie they could find, like Silent Night, Deadly Night. “We came up with the idea of doing ‘A Christmas Carol’ with Frank,” Reindl said. “The three ghosts would be serial killers of the past, present and future. We pitched our board, and after the first act, Glen said, ‘Did we talk about this at all?’ And we said, ‘Well, not really, just generally.’ He said, ‘Well, we have this scene in the Halloween episode.'”

The scene Reindl and Maher had written was a flashback where a youthful Frank discovered his neighbor was a murderer. While not identical to the flashbacks in “The Curse of Frank Black,” it was close enough that it was jettisoned. At that point, Morgan gave new instructions about the episode: while he didn’t want a scene that close to “The Curse of Frank Black,” he wanted the Christmas episode to be similar in that it would be a day in the life of Frank Black, rather than have Frank investigating a case. “It was Frank being guided along some kind of spiritual journey,” said Maher. “Since it was a Christmas episode, we wanted to deal with Frank’s family. It was a good opportunity to show some of his past with his father. Originally we had talked about Johnny Cash as Frank’s dad, but then he got sick. And then of course we were very jazzed to get Darren McGavin. The Night Stalker as Frank’s father! It was so perfect. We could not have asked for a better performance. “We were thinking about Frank’s visions, and we thought if one of his parents had visions, that would mean something, since his daughter Jordan has them,” Maher added. “It’s something that’s passed from generation to generation. So we decided that his mother would have visions too, mainly because last year in ‘Sacrament,’ the episode with Frank’s brother, we got a very strong impression that Frank and his father weren’t very close and that his father was very remote and very strict. We were wondering why that was. And Frank and his brother never talked about their mother. So we came up with the idea of Frank’s mother dying when he was six years old, and he really didn’t understand how deep his father’s love was, so he blamed his father for letting her die alone. We also thought about the idea that Christmas is always supposed to be this perfect family holiday, but Frank’s family has split up–he’s without his wife and child. He really doesn’t have a good relationship with his dad. It’s sort of the Christmas that you end up with, rather than the Christmas that you really want.” This time., Reindl noted, by reconciling with his father and enjoying with Catherine a Christmas pageant in which daughter Jordan appeared, Frank finally got the Christmas that he wanted.

Maher and Reindl also wrote the one episode this season, “Anamnesis,” in which Frank did not appear. Instead, Catherine Black and Lara Means team up to investigate the strange behavior of a group of high school girls. One of the girls, Clare (Genele Templeton), claims to have seen Mary. Lara and Catherine both come to the case as psychologists, and in their discussions with the girls, eventually realize that the Mary of Clare’s visions isn’t the Virgin Mary by Mary Magdalene. Maher and Reindl became thoroughly fascinated with Mary Magdalene while researching the early years of Christianity. “We thought, ‘Wow, she rocks,'” laughed Maher. They were surprised by what they learned, that Mary, although portrayed for nearly two centuries as a prostitute, was more likely a woman of good family and reputation. “She’s the apostle to the apostles. She’s the one who really understands what Christ is saying,” Maher said. “She was pretty much weeded out of the Bible. Women can’t be in any position of power, but when you look back at the history there were early Christian women who are priestesses. What happened to them? Why was that so threatening? We wanted to play with that a little bit.'”

The episode questioned the purity of Jesus, a divergent view of Christ that Maher and Reindl had also come upon in their research. Network Standards and Practices objected, and the two writers spent many hours on the phone trying ~ to explain their position. “They suddenly realized what the episode was about, and they were horrified,” Maher said, “because we’re implying that since Jesus was Jewish and a rabbi, he probably was married and had children. Standards said, ‘You’re implying that Jesus had sex!’ And we’re going ‘Yep!'”

The two writers enjoyed playing the rational Catherine off against the visionary Lara, who senses the breakdown that awaits her. “We got to do a little Mulder and Scully thing with them, because Lara is the spiritual one and Catherine is more scientific,” Maher noted. “But in this episode you really see Catherine opening up a little bit more to the possibilities.”

Added Reindl, “She has a really great strength in this episode. I think that one of the things she learns is that although she’s very protective of her family, she’s not protecting out of fear but out of strength, and she can do that for Frank and Jordan. Nobody is going to mess with those two when she’s around, and that’s what we really wanted to bring out in this episode;”

Another episode that traced Frank’s growth as well as his relationship with the Millennium Group was “Luminary,” written by Chip Johannessen. Frank defies Millennium Group orders and searches for a young man lost in the Alaskan wilderness who may have already died from exposure. “I wanted to write a story where Frank chose to stand up to the Millennium Group and do something he felt was personally important, based just on his instinct and his vision,” Johannessen said. “Although the Millennium Group was clearly pleased with him in the end, it wasn’t a task they set for him. And yet it was the right thing for him to do, and they were wise enough to see that. I wanted Frank to get out in the woods, having followed his inner voices, and have this moment where he realizes that the kid is dead and that he had been completely wrong to go on the search. It should be one of those moments in your life where you just feel lost. And then he’d realize the kid was still alive and that he was called there for a reason.”

Although serial killer plots were downplayed this year, one of the season’s best episodes, ‘The Mikado,’ centers around a particularly baffling serial killer who calls himself Avatar. Writer Michael Perry based Avatar on the Zodiac serial killer who had plagued the San Francisco area in the 1970’s. Like Zodiac, Avatar sends cryptic telegrams and coded messages to the police, wears an executioner’s hood and robe and, also like Zodiac, is never caught. He comes to the attention of the police and the Millennium Group when he displays his victim on a camera hooked up to a website and slays her in full view of thousands of people. Before Avatar cuts the on-line connection, a teenage boy manages to print the frame, and brings it to the police.

“1 wanted a crime that no police department would have jurisdiction over,” Perry explained. “Who’s going to go after it? Ordinarily, if there’s a murder down the street, the city is going to take care of it. That’s how our entire society has been built. With a murder that isn’t tied to a physical place, this guy can go on forever, unless there’s a Millennium Group. That was the sport of it. It also has the great beginning for a mystery. It’s articulated by Frank, who says, ‘We don’t know who the victim is; we don’t know where the crime scene took place. We don’t have any crime scene. We don’t have any evidence except for a blurry print-out.’ That’s such a tantalizing beginning.”

With the location of Avatar’s set-up unknown, Frank is unable to connect physically with the evidence of the scene, a concept that Perry enjoyed. “Avatar cut Frank off from what he naturally does; this also has to do with the demonizing elements of the internet. It’s both a character and a thematic element, because 4,000 people per hour are logging on, hoping to see this girl die. The dehumanizing aspects of mediated communication, the internet in this particular case, are a sub-theme, and it ties in to how Frank, being cut off from being in a real place, can’t do what he normally does. That was a fun thing to play around with, and it works for both plot and character.”

“The Mikado” also marked the last appearance of Roedecker, a character Perry had loved from the beginning. “Frank and his colleague Peter Watts are accustomed to dealing with the macabre, so as a viewer you think they’re much cooler than you are. They don’t have to flinch; they’re tough guys. What I like about Roedecker in: this episode is that he becomes an advocate for the audience. Roedecker is able to express the revulsion, the tears that Frank has to constantly hold back. For the first time, Roedecker has a chance to see this is what Frank and Peter do all the time. It makes Frank seem grander because, if nobody in an episode reacts to the gruesome and macabre things that are around, they don’t seem so terrifying.” .

Millennium mythology–the development of Frank’s relationship with the Millennium Group and the revelations about the group’s mission–also took up a number of episodes, particularly “The Hand of Saint Sebastian,” and two-parters “Owls” and “Roosters,” and “The Fourth Horseman” and “The Time is Now.”

In “The Hand of Saint Sebastian,” Peter Watts calls upon Frank to help him on an unauthorized mission that brings them to Germany to retrieve the long-lost, recently recovered, mummified hand of St. Sebastian. They soon realize that someone is working against them, and the traitor turns out to be Millennium Group pathologist Cheryl Andrews (CCH Pounder). Wong, who wrote the script, wanted to write a Watts-driven episode, which would showcase O’Quinn and develop the Millennium Group. “I felt that by revealing that the Millennium Group had existed for centuries and setting the episode overseas, that would give the story greater scope and weight,” Wong said. “I also thought it would be interesting to get Peter excited about something that was not sanctioned by the Group and to show that he will do something like that. Terry is such a great actor, and we thought he deserved something to do instead of just saying, ‘That’s right, Frank’…’You’re right again, Frank.’ I thought, ‘What’s a great way to divide the Group?’ I thought about doing a spy kind of show. I was doing research on the Knights Templar and the Masons, and it seems like all those groups had other groups who were against them and betrayed them. There was so much intrigue. I realized that this is how groups act, and I thought, why shouldn’t the Millennium Group have the same thing?”

The two-parter “Owls” and “Roosters,” revealed a new level of conflict among the Millennium Group, when an artifact believed to be a part of the True Cross is stolen. One faction, the Roosters, believes it was taken by another faction, the Owls, to weaken the Roosters. Morgan said that “Owls” and “Roosters” grew directly out of “The Hand of Saint Sebastian,” an episode he had loved. “It’s nice to be so influenced by something your partner did,” he said. “I wanted to break the split we saw in that episode into a secular one. How can you make people believe that the end of the world is in sight? I tried to look to a scientific possibility. In the two-parter at the end of the season, I tried to tie those together with a plague. I started reading about germ warfare and thought, “Here are scientific events occurring in our world, and they’re predicted theologically.”

The season’s two-part finale, “The Fourth Horseman” and “The Time Is Now,” showed the outbreak of a plague which builds on the division within the Millennium Group and Frank’s growing distrust. He is tempted by an offer to join a rival investigatory group called The Trust. Meanwhile, he and Peter investigate the outbreak of a deadly plague, while Lara, who has been initiated into the Millennium Group’s secret knowledge, begins her final descent into madness. At the end, the Blacks have taken refuge in the remote cabin of Frank’s late father, where a sick and probably dying Catherine sneaks off into the woods so that already inoculated Frank can use their one vial of plague vaccine on Jordan. The cabin, for Morgan, had become Frank’s yellow house, where the Blacks are reunited, even if death soon takes Catherine away. “I didn’t feel right leaving Frank without his yellow house. I think in life you sometimes search for a yellow house, but for Frank, it actually was that cabin.”

Morgan and Wong wrote the season finale not knowing whether Millennium would be renewed. They pitched several endings to Carter, who made a surprising suggestion that they kill Catherine. Morgan and Wong were taken aback, but didn’t object, especially when Carter said to leave her death ambiguous.

After thinking how to make Catherine’s death meaningful, Morgan discussed it with Megan Gallagher and described the scenario to her. “I told her the neat part will be that after Frank Black has done so much sacrificing for his family, ultimately it will be Catherine who makes the ultimate sacrifice. She liked that. So that had a big part in the decision to kill Catherine.”

Like so many plot ideas, the plague as millennial doom emerged from the writers’ research. “When I looked at the current research, I found the thing that was most likely to get us was some sort of plague or virus,” Morgan said. “I didn’t really pay much attention during the mad cow scare in England, but in reading about it I found it horrifying.”

One of the most striking sequences of the two-parter is the third act depicting Lara’s visions of the apocalypse and her breakdown. It was shot and cut much like a music video, accompanied by the Patti Smith song about heroin, “Horses,” which had been a college favorite of Morgan’s. He had always envisioned someone going crazy to it. “Editing was really difficult. Doing this was rather naive on my part,” Morgan admitted. “Music videos probably have a budget close to what one of our entire episodes costs, and we had only three days to put it together. I don’t think we competed very well with the kind of imagery you see on MTV. But I felt that this hasn’t been done on a primetime, network drama. I’m glad we did it, but it was really, really hard.”

With renewal confirmed last May by Fox, the responsibilities of running Millennium’s third season have been given to Chip Johannessen and Michael Duggan (Earth 2). Michael Perry, Erin Maher and Kay Reindl have remained on staff. Chris Carter also plans to be more involved than he was in the second season. Morgan and Wong have departed, satisfied with their work on the show. “I’m really proud of a lot of the episodes this season,” Wong said. “The frustrating thing was that we didn’t find a new audience. Some of the people who watched it the first season decided it wasn’t for them and didn’t come to watch it this season to see if they liked it better or see how it changed.”

Cult Times: Myth Maker

Cult Times
Myth Maker
Melissa J. Perenson

We sent Cult Times’ best agents to try to get the truth out of Chris “Conspiracy” Carter once and for all

Chris Carter, The X-Files executive producer, leans back in his chair as he discusses his hit series and the new feature film that has resulted from its success. “I had a three day surfing weekend and I was thinking about what it is as a surfer that I bring to my occupation.” Carter, a long-time surfer who spent over a decade earlier in his career as an editor and writer at Surfing magazine, certainly looks the part, given his relaxed, laid-back manner and his casual dress consisting of jeans and a T-shirt.

“I think, for me, it’s a minimalist sort of self-reliance, a focus that all surfers have,” he continues. “Surfers have this one thing they love to do, and I’ve sort of taken that focused energy and applied it to what I do. That has nothing to do with anything other than basically a work ethic.”

Whatever its origin, Carter’s solid work ethic has certainly achieved results: The X-Files is widely recognized as being one of the best series currently on television. Rather than feel the pressure to succeed ratchet up a notch, Carter has drawn strength from the show’s popularity. “Does the pressure mount? It’s the same pressure. You still face that same blank page,” he confides. “What you start to develop, though, is confidence in your ability to come up with the ideas, confidence in your ability to execute the ideas, so in that way the pressures are the same, but your confidence builds.”

After 16 Emmy nominations, and a worldwide box office take that’s well over the magical 100 million dollar mark, Carter should be experiencing an abundance of confidence right about now. In fact, the only wildcard going into the series’ sixth season is how, if at all, the show’s relocation from Vancouver to Los Angeles will affect The X-Files’ trademark dark and atmospheric look.

“I’m going to do a heatwave episode,” jokes Carter about the impact of their new location on the show’s dark and damp settings. “Mulder and Scully solve crimes in different cities, so we’ll just take advantage of some environments to do stories in Nevada and Idaho and California and New Mexico and Texas. We’ll use places like that, that we wouldn’t have been able to use in Vancouver. The show is really told at locations around the country. So we’ll get to be in different places telling new kinds of stories.”

Even though the favourable exchange rate in Canada made filming in Vancouver a producer’s dream, Carter plans to keep any budget increases in check, and to avoid a sudden surge. “It better not, or else I’m in big trouble,” he laughs good-naturedly. “I think that there will be some increases. I hope to minimize those. But I don’t know – there are going to be some increased costs, and that just happens to be the nature of what we do.”

Carter had a taste of what it’s like working with a larger budget while filming The X-Files feature last year. The feature’s budget was about $65 million. With it came a level of action and special effects that could never have been attempted on the kind of money available to a weekly television series.

One of the toughest things about doing the film was getting the fifth season of the show to end up where it needed to be in order to set up the film. “That was the hard part, because we never plan too far ahead, by design. We want to feel our way through the dark a little bit, with a general idea of where we’re headed,” explains Carter. “Season Five was the first season that we actually knew what we needed to accomplish. So we knew there were certain marks we needed to hit, certain characters we needed to bring in and out, belief systems that needed to be played with. It actually provided us with a much more rigid set of demands in the story telling than we’ve ever been set with.”

Determining how to get there required a road map of sorts. “We just sat down and tried to imagine everything. We tried to be very big and bold about it and not hold anything back. We wanted to put it all out there,” Carter says. “Because my philosophy is don’t hold back, just put as much out there as you can. There will always be more stories to tell, there will always be something else to do that you can’t really exhaust these things completely because you can always turn them, flip them, take the truth back and make it a lie. There are lots of ways to play with The X Files.”

While the original plan was to have the fifth season finale lead directly into the film, Twentieth Century Fox vetoed that plan: “They were afraid that people would think that you needed to be an avid fan to watch the movie,” Carter reveals. “So they started back-pedaling a little bit. And I understand why they did it. They invested a lot of money in the movie, so they want to make sure it’s a hit. I think you’ll get more enjoyment out of the movie if you do know some facts, but I think you can completely enjoy the movie not knowing anything.”

It was important to Carter that the film maintain a balance so that it could appeal to fans who’ve invested in the series as well as newcomers to The X-Files. “You don’t want to alienate the hardcore audience. The movie,” he recognizes, “really in a way, came as a result of there being fans. And you don’t want to make it a movie that alienates the other movie-going audience because you want to make it a great movie-going experience for anybody who doesn’t watch television or The X-Files. So you try to calculate all these things and address them all.”

One story element Carter originally intended to include in the film – the explanation of what really happened to Samantha – was pulled from the final cut of the feature. “It wasn’t that we took something out that needed to be there,” he explains, emphasizing that the Samantha mention was getting lost in the shuffle of the movie’s bigger themes. “It’s something that is going to now be addressed naturally through the story telling process.” According to Carter, Samantha is just one of several outstanding XF issues that will be addressed in the coming season.

While the film’s director, Rob Bowman, has said in the past that he didn’t think the movie gave dedicated viewers as much cake as they wanted, Carter disagrees. “I think it’s given then a lot. I think there are lots of big, big answers in there. And big things happened that I think really satisfy the audience. But it’s not like we brought the series to an end, though. We didn’t sacrifice everything, but there are big things that happen in the movie.”

As some of the series’ more astute fans may have noticed, Carter purposefully paraphrased a line from the second season episode, Ascension, when he had the Well-Manicured Man (John Neville) state to his Consortium colleagues, “Kill Mulder, we take the risk of turning one man’s quest into a crusade.” “I just did what I thought was right. I didn’t weigh it that carefully,” says Carter of his choice to use a quote similar to the one used so long ago. “I did what I felt was right for the story we were telling. And that line, which I think is really an important line, says why they don’t just ‘off’ Mulder. It’s important to understand why they just don’t kill him. Imagine if you’ve got a guy out there railing against the world. But still, he could become a martyr to a much bigger cause. It suggests, as it’s been suggested in the series, that Mulder may be out there doing work for them [the Consortium]. In fact, he may be a pawn in a much bigger game.”

That there’s a bigger game afoot draws heavily on Carter’s early influences of conspiracy theories and scary stories. Carter’s own belief in conspiracies was forged while he was in high school. “It was right when I was becoming an angry young man,” he laughs. “Watergate happened and I developed this sense of paranoia and lost all of my faith in institutions. I loved that movie All the President’s Men, and those sorts of things helped to foster and cultivate my natural paranoia.”

Also as a teenager, Carter found himself drawn to Kolchak: The Night Stalker. “I could have watched it every night of the week. I loved that show as a kid,” he recalls.

“Then I end up becoming a television series creator and, after being in the business for about 10 years, someone asks me what I want to do, and I said I wanted to do something as scary as Kolchak: The Night Stalker, since there’s nothing scary on TV anymore. They said that sounds like a good idea. And that’s how you got The X Files.”

Ironically, Carter seems to identify better with Scully’s scepticism than Mulder’s willingness to believe. “I’m a sceptic,” admits Carter of his own perspective. Indeed, Carter had initially been sceptical of the series’ long-term prospects when it first premiered in 1993; certainly, he hadn’t anticipated the groundswell of popularity that has since launched the show to previously unimaginable heights.

Although Carter likes to say that it’s TXF stories that draw viewers week after week, he recognizes the important role that actors David Duchovny (Agent Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Agent Scully) have played in making the series the phenomenon it is. “Their stardom, international stardom, beyond just even here [in the US], has been the thing on which we’ve all been successful,” he admits. Plus, he adds, “they need good stories and they’ve gotten good stories, so that’s very important to the success of the show.”

Another reason Carter cites when speaking of the series’ success is the sheer ambiguity of the meaning behind the stories told. “‘The truth is out there’ – these are all metaphors for something bigger and really are kind of religious, if you think about it,” Carter offers, “you can replace the word ‘truth’ with another word very easily. So I think that’s what gives the show its magnetism.”

Ambiguity is all fine and good, yet even Carter realized the need to spell things out once in a while. Which explains the short narrative piece that’s included on The X-Files’ movie soundtrack, also featuring music by such artists as the Foo Fighters, Crystal X [sic], and Noel Gallagher. “What I really did with that is tell you what you’ve seen in the series. It doesn’t tell you anything more,” he maintains. The explanation of the conspiracy “is very dense and you’ve got to listen to it very carefully, as it sets up what happens in the movie. I just thought it was an opportunity to give something a little special to people who are paying attention.”

Carter knows he treads a thin line between viewer loyalty and utter frustration as he keeps dangling questions in front of audiences, but, as he says, “that’s the fun of the show. I hopefully provide enough sustenance that people are able to enjoy it.”

Case in point: the electric tension surrounding Mulder and Scully’s relationship. The romantic overtones of not just the now-infamous hallway scene’s almost-kiss, but indeed the entire film, are a development that at one time Carter eschewed – and yet, viewers have been interpreting that level of emotion for years. Now, five years later, the tide has changed. Somewhat. “I think it’s a natural expression of the love these two people obviously have for one another. And that was an expression of that love, it’s not necessarily a perfectly…” Carter drifts off for a moment, stumbling for the right words to describe his thoughts on the matter. “It’s not a sexual expression. That they almost kiss isn’t stepping over a line that I think that neither of them are quite prepared to step over. But it’s a quite believable one,” Carter insists. “That it doesn’t happen, that’s part of the fun.”

Although Carter says Mulder and Scully’s relationship will be dealt with in Season Six, he does stick firm to one of his former proclamations: “I don’t see Mulder and Scully getting in the sack.”

In addition to tackling Mulder and Scully’s relationship, the sixth season opener, The Beginning, picks up on the plot from the fifth season finale, resolving at least some of the outstanding issues concerning Agent Diana Fowley (Mimi Rogers) and the chess prodigy Gibson Praise.

Although you won’t need to have seen the movie in order to follow the series, the virus that affected Scully in the film will be brought back into the limelight, as will Scully’s abduction. “We’re going to point it out in a big way this season. I mean, her abduction was all-important to the mythology of the show,” teases Carter.

When asked whether there will be references to the spaceships and aliens from the movie as well, Carter affirms, “Yes, there will be.” Switching gears a bit, he continues, “I think what’s interesting is the fact that this group, which seems to be orchestrating the whole thing, has stated that they are working on a vaccine. But if they’ve been working on a vaccine, that means in fact they could be a force of good. So there is some question about what their agenda really is.”

The movie’s new directions promise to give the series a renewed energy as it heads into its sixth season, a critical time when most series start showing their age. “We’ve got a lot to play with,” says Carter with a twinkle in his eye. Reading between the lines, that means: ‘Expect the unexpected.’ After all, that’s what The X-Files continually does best.