There aren't many television series I get hooked on. And out of those few, even fewer are in the horror genre. That's why Millennium will always have a special place in my black heart. Make that my "Frank Black" heart.
Frank Black is certainly one of the most memorable TV characters from the 1990s. Played with quiet deliberation and simmering intelligence by Lance Henriksen, Black is a former FBI profiler who's joined the semi-covert "Millennium Group". The Millennium Group is a corporation of lawmen who pursue unusual, almost-supernatural cases that seem to point toward end-of-the-world millennium conspirators. Almost like a 'CSI meets Oral Roberts' Hour of Power meets Night Gallery', every show flawlessly blended forensics with religious fanaticism with the paranormal.
Certainly the reason for the show's success are the men behind it: X-Files creators and collaborators Chris Carter, Mark Snow, Glen Morgan, James Wong, and Chip Johannessen are just a few who had a hand in the Millennium pie during its 1996 - 1999 network television run.
The debut season, now available for the first time on DVD, is certainly the best (towards the end, the series -- much like the X-Files -- fell apart at the seams). The complete first season includes the all-important pilot episode, setting the stage for weekly serial killer plots which more often than not involved apocalyptic ciphers and portents of doom. The series setting was, rather appropriately, gloomy Seattle, WA. Black and his family (wife Catherine played by Megan Gallagher and their young daughter, Jordan, played by Brittany Tiplady) have just moved into a deceptively happy-looking yellow house, but it's soon revealed that trouble has followed them from Black's old stomping grounds. This lurking danger is a continuous thread throughout the series. The pilot episode starts right off with a White Zombie song, another thing that would help set the series' tone -- the use of the popular music of the era (pre-millennium) makes for a time-capsule feel much better than all-original tunes (ala X-Files) would have. In this episode, it looks like there's a killer going after strippers but it turns out he has his, er, "sights" set much differently.
There are 22 episodes in all on six discs: Pilot, Gehenna, Dead Letters, The Judge, 522666, Kingdom Come, Blood Relatives, The Well-Worn Lock, Wide Open, The Wild and the Innocent, Weeds, Loin Like a Hunting Flame, Force Majeure, The Thin White Line, Sacrament, Covenant, Walkabout, Lamentation, Powers Principalities Thrones and Dominions, Broken World, Maranatha, and Paper Dove. Stand-out episodes include the Pilot, which is about a poetry-loving stripper killer; Force Majeure, which focuses on clones preparing for the apocalypse (and guest stars Brad Dourif); Lamentations, showing how Frank's partner comes to be killed by demonic forces; and Broken World, the story of a man who begins by killing horses then escalates to human beings. (This episode is particularly of interest to those interested in horse welfare; see more here: http://www.premarin.org/pmu_new.html)
Additional release material includes commentary by Chris Carter on the pilot, and commentary by director David Nutter on Gehenna. The commentaries disseminate relatively interesting tidbits of trivia, but both are rather dry and stilted. It would have been a lot better if both man have chatted together on both episodes; single-person commentaries seldom work. There is also a documentary called "Order in Chaos: Making Millennium Season One" which is somewhat interesting, but presented in a pretty static manner. One thing you might find amusing (if you were paying attention during Chris Carter's Pilot commentary) is the discrepancy between Carter's and Henriksen's account of the events that led to Henriksen getting the role of Frank Black. Another featurette is "Chasing the Dragon: A Conversation with the Academy Group", which is a look at real-life profilers. I love the subject matter, but not the presentation. It's made quite dull thanks to the use of the static "talking heads" documentary approach. Probably the most interesting and enlightening extra is the mini-doc on creating the logo and title sequence.
Whether you were a fan of Millennium on its first run, or if you've never seen it but you like horror/crime, this boxed set is definitely worth the price.
(by Staci Layne Wilson)