Monday, April 7, 2014
Ghostlights That Failed: More Imaginative TV Fiction
Another in the wake of Twin Peaks begat X-Files, Dark Skies might fare better now on the coat-tails of Mad Men as it was Johnson-era USA. The alien invasion thread was a lot stronger than its 60s progenitor The Invaders but the thing soon flubs down into encounters with the famous (one of the co-leads meets the Beatles) and soon to be famous (Jim Morrison, student filmmaker who screens a potentially damning reel of film and then, when it ticks off, says "this is the end"). The presence of the late great character actor JT Walsh could not save this from disappointing.
Not only in the wake of the X-Files but from the same team. Chris Carter wanted something even darker than the murk Scully and Mulder moved through. They cast beautifully, including Lance Hendriksen in the lead as Frank Black and Terry O'Quinn as his chief contact with the vigilante Millennium Group and the mood was a pleasant sombreness. But there were problems.
First season was serial killer of the week during the final wave of that genre on cinema screens and, while there was a gloomy apocalyptic thread sewn throughout it didn't really amount to much. Second season concentrated on the approaching apocalypse and saw Frank turn from the Group and get pursued by it. This mixed jarringly with the continued serial killer theme and felt as patchwork and messy as the conspiracy arc in the X-Files. The finale was astouding and daringly ... final ... but ... the third and last season saw Frank go back to the FBI and bounce between an attempt to explain away the apocalypse of the last season as a local incident and get on with the now routine weirdo killer of the week.
Despite perhaps over half of the episodes approaching real greatness the reason I seldom recommend it to folk looking for something from the coffers of a dark 'n' troubling nature is that the consistency is just too low to expect them to wade through the lot. I can watch this for the atmosphere alone but the middling really does outweigh the good.
Through a mumbled science explanation two scientists move around in time and find that the future is easier to change than the past. Several Twilight Zone episodes posed deeper questions with shorter screen time and lesser effects budgets.
Great idea! Vampires are real but a minority that faces the bigotry of the majority. They drink synthetic blood at bars and have their own night clubs. Vampire blood is a highly hallucinogenic aphrodisiac declared illegal but in use as a very black market item. All good stuff until you get into tight corners and start adding other creatures with any powers you want to save the day until the idea of the magic that separates human from humanoid-beast fades away and it chows down to the same soap as anything else. I gave up after the 3rd season, having failed to get through the opening shots of the following one.