MillenniuM – Chris Carter’s Forgotten Classic

During the third season of The X-Files, its creator, Chris Carter, was approached by Fox Television to produce another series. For this they would give him complete freedom to develop the look, of the show, with a budget of almost $1.5 million per episode. The result was, MillenniuM, which aired in 1996. It ran for three seasons, before being axed due to poor ratings, in 1999. MillenniuM had an uppercase ‘M’ at either end to signify the year 2000, as it would appear in Roman numerals.

While developing the story and character of its main protagonist, Frank Black, Chris Carter had only one person in mind, Lance Henriksen. However, Fox thought that he was unsuitable and wanted William Hurt, but Chris Carter stuck to his guns. Things were made difficult for him when Lance Henriksen turned down the offer, as he didn’t want to enter a TV career. Lance had turned down Chris Carter before, when he had been asked to appear in The X-Files. Still unswayed, Chris Carter, sent a script to Lance Henriksen’s agent, which Lance read, thinking it was for a movie. Immediately liking the script, he contacted his agent, who then told him it was an upcoming TV series. Amazed that it was for a TV series, Chris and Lance finally got together and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chris Carter gave Lance Henriksen a small bit of direction, that defined Frank Black’s character for the duration of the series.

Chris said to me. “Lance, here’s our rule for Frank Black, for the whole show: Don’t move your hands.” I said, “But I’m from New York, I use my hands for punctuation.” He said, “When somebody talks with their hands, it looks like you’re selling something.” For a while I was in abject misery. I don’t trust language, and now I can’t use my hands. What am I supposed to use? How am I gonna fill the void? I realised, I have to rely on my heart…. When I made that connection, I was okay with it all. I used my most primitive instincts to play the most sophisticated character – a very bright, articulate human being. The part of him that I could grasp was as primitive as I feel I am. His basic nature is what gives him the strength; his intuition gives him strength; his caring gives him strength; his non judgmental nature gives him strength to do what he has to do and to survive. – Lance Henriksen

MillenniuM followed Frank Black, a former FBI forensic profiler with an uncanny ability to ‘see’ through the eyes of the killer. Sometimes this ability was almost a sixth sense, while at other times it was an almost psychic ability. Frank Black had been forced to retire, from the FBI, after receiving Polaroids of his family through the post. Moving his family to Seattle, for the safety of a normal life, Frank Black became a freelance profiler for the MillenniuM Group, helping the Police with murder cases. However, Frank Black is soon disturbed to find photographs of his family, in Seattle, posted through his door. To keep up the facade of everything being well, only Frank and the MillenniuM Group are aware of the images. The MillenniuM Group itself was made of former FBI, Police and various other specialists, all who were expert in their field, with Peter Watts (Terry O’Quinn) being Frank’s main contact in the Group. Unlike many recent crime dramas, Frank Black wasn’t just a profiler. Through Frank Black we were taken on a deep, and often dark, analysis of the evil that surrounds us.

The complete three series of MillenniuM, plus the book, Back to Frank Black.

The complete three series of MillenniuM, plus the new book, Back to Frank Black.

The first series focused on Frank using his ability to aid the Seattle Police Department, among others, with help from the MillenniuM Group, as it was needed. Frank is not a member of the MillenniuM Group, but he is being tested to see if he is worthy to join. During the first series episode Lamentation, we are first introduced to the character of Lucy Butler, who would become the embodiment of evil on Earth, to Frank’s good.

During the second series, Frank Black is caught up in some more supernatural cases and makes a friend of Lara Means (Kristen Cloke), who also works for the MillenniuM Group. This series had many references to the ‘End of the World’ and the ‘Apocalypse’ of the coming millennium of the year 2000, dealing with angels and demons and the fight between good and evil. As the series progressed, Frank begins to realise that the MillenniuM Group is hiding a sinister agenda. Fearing for his family, Frank takes them into the woods, as a virus outbreak sweeps the state.

The third, and final, series sees Frank rejoining the FBI, following the death of his wife in the virus outbreak. Joined by a new partner, in the form of FBI Agent Emma Hollis, Frank tries to prove that the MillenniuM Group were responsible for the outbreak, and so his wife’s death. This series was more like the first and gave us some great twists and surprises.

Although the series was cancelled, many fans clamoured for more, or at least some form of closure for Frank Black. What they received was an episode of The X-Files, entitled MillenniuM, which did nothing for the MillenniuM or Frank Black storyline, in my opinion.

Series two had a different ‘feel’ to series one and three, due to Chris Carter handing over of the management of the show to Glen Morgan and James Wong, while he concentrated on season five of The X-Files and The X-Files movie. This absence cost the show, dearly, and made sure that MillenniuM didn’t see in the new millennium, even though he back control for the third series.

The theme music was written by Mark Snow, who also wrote the theme for The X-Files, and was a haunting violin piece, set to bizarre and disturbing images. On many episodes the titles were followed by a quotation from the likes of Plato, Jean-Paul Sartre, W.H. Auden, Biblical quotes and many more.

Chris Carter (creator), Lance Henriksen (Frank Black) and Frank Spotnitz (co-executive producer) have all stated ‘On The Record’ of their hope and desire to bring Frank Black back to the screen, whether on TV or through a motion picture.

For myself, I think MillenniuM was a fascinating and sometimes extraordinary series, that was greatly overlooked. For its time it was quite graphic and had a lot of gore, which did put some people off, but this wasn’t for shock value, but to show how evil the world can be. But, no matter how desperate Frank Black got, he still had the focus and mindset to overcome, sometimes at great risk to himself or others. Unlike other shows, Chris Carter wasn’t averse to having his hero beaten up, arrested or shot. Frank Black went through all manner of misfortune through the entire series, but somehow managed to keep sight of what was right. Throughout the show it is Frank’s family, especially his daughter Jordan, who may also have his ability, that keep his course true. The writing was, for the most part, natural and wasn’t dumbed down, making it more of an intellectual feast than your typical run of the mill crime shows. Even now I still enjoy watching the DVDs and find that they are just as good now as they were nearly two decades ago.

Below are a few links, for those who want to find out more.

Original Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcKyW_AtXB0

MillenniuM Website http://millennium-thisiswhoweare.net/

Back to Frank Black http://www.backtofrankblack.com/

THE TIME IS NOW

 

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4 responses to “MillenniuM – Chris Carter’s Forgotten Classic

  1. David, such a great post. I am one of the people behind the Back to Frank Black campaign and wanted to thank you for this post and the picture of our book. If you are interested, we’d love to invite you on our podcast the Millennium Group Sessions to talk about Millennium. You can message me at troy@backtofrankblack.com.

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  2. The second season is my favorite season of Millennium. It’s actualy one of my favorite seasons of all TV shows I’ve ever seen. It’s true that the ratings weren’t good, but (I understand that) towards the end of season one, there was already a declining tendency in the show’s ratings; and besides, the show was many years ahead of its time, so low ratings were almost inevitable. It’s sad that there weren’t any more seasons, but I prefer three seasons with the level of quality, originality and edginess that we got, instead of having the show watered down and dumbed down so it could be more appealing to a mainstream audience, just to survive as a shadow of itself for a few more years.

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