Millennium (1996 series)

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Summary

"Wait. Worry. Who cares? The time is near. This is who we are. He sees what the killer sees; his curse is your salvation." A former FBI profiler with the ability to look inside the mind of a killer begins working for the mysterious Millennium Group.

The series had an uneven tone from season to season: the first season loosely followed a sort of "serial-killer-of-the-week" format, intertwined with periodic "mythology" episodes concerning a hidden struggle between otherworldly and ambiguously supernatural beings; the second season generally moved into an exploration of the Millennium Group's beliefs and history, punctuated by episodes dealing with conspiracies and blatantly supernatural elements; the third season was an uneasy and seemingly random mix of killer/cult-of-the-week episodes, conspiracy episodes, Millennium Group episodes, X-Files-style monster-of-the-week episodes, and supernatural episodes.


Details

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: TV-MA (Violence, Profanity, Adult Content)

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

This series never makes any explicit connections to Lovecraft's fiction, though the apocalyptic themes (compare series slogan "the time is near" to "the stars are right"), the various doomsday cultists and killers, the secret society of supernatural investigators, and supernatural elements seem to be a natural fit for a modern take on Lovecraft (e.g., Delta Green).

The superficially religious imagery of demons and angels may turn some Lovecraft "purists" off of the series, though the writers do drop hints as the show goes along that there is more science fiction than meets the eye behind these beings.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Y.Whateley - "Regular viewers at the time seemed divided between groups who favored the more down-to-earth detective/procedural/crime elements that characterized many of the first season episodes, the science-fiction/fantasy/horror/weird elements introduced in the first season and given more screen time in later seasons, the Millennium Group conspiracy/mythology stories introduced and explored in the second season, or the X-Files style monster-of-the-week elements involving lizard people and such found most often in the third season, and the series' attempts to find its identity between these different stories at a time when the series was struggling against ratings and executive pressure and writers' strikes helped contribute to the aimless and uneven feel of Millennium as the series progressed. The program had a promising if slow and moody start, built on that into the second season by adding elements of science and crime/procedural fiction, flavored with ambiguous religious and supernatural horror imagery, before executive meddling doomed the series to a wildly inconsistent second and third season, which saw far less subtle uses of fantasy/horror/science-fiction elements and constant "retconning" of established show mythology concerning the Millennium Group, which was moved increasingly into the role of an ominous conspiracy and then lost in its own convoluted and inconsistent "kudzu plot" mythos that tended to bog down any episode that tried to explore it. Still, all three seasons had something to offer to patient viewers, including some real gems hidden among the clunkers."


Synopses of Suggested Episodes

Former FBI agent Frank Black tries to stem the tide of violent crime through psychological means. Even though he blames the mysterious Millennium Group, an organization of former law-enforcement officers dedicated to battling crime as the millennium approaches, for the death of his wife, he joins the group in their fight against a conspiracy of seemingly supernatural forces of evil.

  • Season 1 Episodes (suggested here are "mythology" stories hinting at a secret conflict between otherworldly beings working through human agents/cultists, appearing in a season otherwise characterized by killers and cults; the Millennium Group in this season is a think-tank consulting group that supports law enforcement; the primary antagonists at first appear to be evil people, with hints as the series progresses at the involvement of something inhuman):
    • "Gehenna" - Gruesome cult slayings bring Frank Black to San Francisco, where he experiences a life-changing encounter with evil.
    • "The Judge" - Gruesome remains and other evidence provide Frank Black with a lead to a murderous avenger who persuades ex-cons to do his dirty work.
    • "The Well-Worn Lock" - A case of incest draws Catherine to the plight of a troubled woman who has kept a secret for 23 years: she was violated by her well-respected father.
    • "Force Majeure" - An enigmatic man obsessed with the Millennium Group haunts Frank on a strange case involving planetary alignments, genetic cloning and Judgment Day.
    • "Walkabout" - An Internet connection with a disturbed doctor leads an amnesiac Frank Black into a murder case linked to experimental drugs that drastically heighten anxiety.
    • "Lamentation" - Black investigates the disappearance of a former nemesis and learns that his family may be the target of a murdering nurse.
    • "Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions" - Still reeling from a tragic loss, Frank is swept into a bizarre case of ritualistic slayings that involves an enigmatic lawyer and unearthly occurrences.
    • "Maranatha" - In a Russian community in Brooklyn, Frank joins forces with a Moscow cop to investigate gruesome slayings linked to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster - and to biblical prophecy.
  • Season 2 Episodes (suggested here are a mix of "mythology" episodes a range of subjects including the Millennium Group and an expansion of the supernatural elements introduced in the first season; the Millennium Group in this season is re-invented as a secret society that knows more about the mysterious events surrounding the troubles leading to the new millennium than they let on; the primary antagonists of this season tend to be supernatural monsters and extremist factions of the Millennium Group):
    • "Beware of the Dog" - As Frank's marriage begins to crumble, a pack of vicious dogs terrorizes a small town, and as Frank investigates he discovers several truths about the Millennium Group.
    • "Monster" - In rural Arkansas, Frank investigates the owner of a daycare center accused of child abuse, only to be accused himself.
    • "The Curse of Frank Black" - On Halloween, Frank experiences eerie visions and strange events that spark flashbacks to his youth - and a telling encounter with a troubled World War II veteran.
    • "The Hand of St. Sebastian" - In Germany, Frank Black and his driven companion Peter Watts seek the Millennium Group's secret origins, which are steeped in dark intrigue dating to the first millennium.
    • "Midnight of the Century" - Eerie visions that haunt Black at Christmastime hark back to his troubled youth and lead to a fateful reunion with his estranged father.
    • "Owls" - Mystery and murder surround a search for a piece of the Crucifixion cross that sparks infighting among the Millennium Group.
    • "Roosters" - A venerable Millennium Group member links the schism within the organization to the actions of an underground Nazi clique.
    • "Siren" - The seizure of a ship smuggling Chinese immigrants draws Frank Black into a mystery surrounding another passenger: an enigmatic seductress.
    • "A Room with No View" - Clues in the disappearance of a bright, outgoing teenage boy point to Frank Black's nemesis: the unearthly, seductive woman who killed Bob Bletcher.
    • "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me" - Four demons assemble overnight at a doughnut shop and reflect on the havoc they have wreaked on humanity.
    • "The Fourth Horseman" - Frank Black takes a stand against the Millennium Group over its intensified secrecy and its involvement with a deadly contagion to which he has been exposed.
    • "The Time is Now" - The spread of a virulent disease coupled with mysterious Millennium Group operations kindle crises that beset Frank Black's friend Lara Means and his own family.
  • Season 3 Episodes (suggested episodes include expansions on the supernatural elements explored previously, a couple X-Files style episodes involving conspiracies and monsters, and contradictory explorations of the Millennium Group, which is again reinvented, this time into the sinister, conspiratorial, primary antagonist of the series):
    • "The Innocents" - Frank Black teams up with an intuitive FBI agent named Emma Hollis to probe a plane crash linked to the spread of a deadly plague.
    • "Exegesis" - The probe of an aircraft disaster leads Frank and partner Emma Hollis to an extraordinarily gifted psychic who is on the run from the menacing Millennium Group.
    • "Skull and Bones" - The discovery of secretly buried bodies at a construction site in Atoka, Oklahoma reveals an odious connection to the Millennium Group.
    • "Human Essence" - In Vancouver, Emma takes on a drug case involving her half-sister, an addict who claims that new heroin on the street is turning users into monsters.
    • "Borrowed Time" - Strange fevers endanger Frank's young daughter, whom he believes is being stalked by a sinister man fascinated with near-death experiences.
    • "The Sound of Snow" - Mysterious audio tapes trigger deadly hallucinations in the Seattle area, where Frank's investigation induces visions of his deceased wife, Catherine.
    • "Antipas" - Frank Black's arch-nemesis Lucy Butler resurfaces as the prime suspect in a murder case that involves the supernatural and the demonic possession of a young girl.
    • "Matryoshka" - The suicide of an elderly ex-FBI agent leads Frank into a case that uncovers dark secrets and Bureau intrigue at the dawn of the atomic age.
    • "Forcing the End" - Leads in the abduction of a young pregnant woman from Brooklyn steer Frank and Emma to a mysterious plot hatched by a fanatical cult that is driven by Biblical prophecy.
    • "Saturn Dreaming of Mercury" - Mystery surrounds Frank's new neighbors, a couple and their preteen son whose arrival coincides with erratic, often violent behavior by Frank's daughter Jordan.
    • "Bardo Thodol" - Eerie discoveries haunt Frank and Emma on a case involving Asian mysticism, Millennium Group machinations and incredible biotechnological advances.
    • "Millennium" - X-Files agents Mulder and Scully work with Frank Black to stop an associate of the Millennium Group from resurrecting the dead for use in actively bringing about of a zombie apocalypse as a precursor to the End of Times.


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • As a result of the regularly shifting executive producers who supervised its creative process and to keep the show interesting to viewers in the hopes of boosting ratings, each season of the series carries its own distinct style and unique elements. Creator Chris Carter oversaw production of the first season, which mainly focused on the more human side of violent crime with some strongly hinted supernatural elements. Writers/producers Glen Morgan and James Wong supervised the second season and proceeded to revamp the show considerably, emphasizing religious symbolism and expanding on the nature of the Millennium group while greatly enhancing the anxiety and fear of the coming Millennium. In the third and final season, they were replaced by writer Chip Johannessen; his season dropped the religious symbolism of season two and focused more on crime stories with an occasional science fiction angle and some episodes featuring the supernatural here and there.
  • Millennium was cancelled before the new millennium began, but Frank Black got to appear as a character in a 7th-season cross-over episode of The X-files (1993 series) to help tie up some loose ends from Millennium. The following X-Files episodes either cross over with Millennium or share similar themes:
    • Episode 2x13 "Irresistible" - Someone is excavating graves in Minneapolis, removing body parts from the corpses. Mulder and Scully are contacted because the agent on the case believes it is the work of aliens; however Mulder quickly dismisses the idea, profiling the perpetrator as a "death fetishist" (a term network standards & practices preferred to "necrophiliac"). Later key evidence shows up and Scully realizes the case is more personal than she thought.
    • Episode 2x24 "Our Town" - Dudley, Arkansas, is the site of the latest investigation for Mulder and Scully, who are sent to find a missing poultry inspector. The case takes a twist when another poultry worker is shot after she goes insane, giving Mulder a hunch that the townsfolk really are what they eat.
    • Episode 3x11 "Revelations" - Mulder tracks a series of religiously motivated murders. Each of the eleven victims claims to have been stigmatic but all turned out to be frauds. When Mulder and Scully discover a little boy displaying inexplicable wounds of religious significance, they try to protect him from the killer they know will be coming.
    • Episode 3x14 "Grotesque" - Agents Mulder and Scully join Mulder's former mentor, the FBI's chief profiler, on a case involving a serial killer who claims to be possessed by a demonic force. The case gets even more mysterious when the suspect is apprehended and the murders continue. Mulder gets involved more deeply than expected and Scully as well as Skinner are deeply concerned.
    • Episode 3x20 "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" - When a couple claims to have been abducted by aliens, Agents Mulder and Scully try to get at the truth but everyone has a different version of the story, including the "aliens" themselves. (This is the same character that appears in the Season 2 Millennium episode "Jose Chung's Doomsday Device" - An apostate member of a pop religion is murdered, leading Frank to co-investigate with a flamboyant writer.)
    • Episode 4x04 "Unruhe" - Agents Mulder and Scully investigate a group of bizarre kidnappings in which the only clues are inexplicable photographs. But when Scully is the next intended victim, Mulder must get into the killer's head.
    • Episode 4x13 "Never Again" - On a solo assignment out of town, Scully meets a man whose tattoo does not want to share him—especially not with Scully. (Scully gets an Ouroboros tattoo as a reminder to avoid the mistakes she makes in a repetitive cycle.)
    • Episode 4x15 "Kaddish" - A murder in a Jewish community leads to the deaths of the killers, forcing Mulder and Scully to determine whether vengeance or larger forces are at work.
    • Episode 5x17 "All Souls" - The unexplained death of a young handicapped girl prompts Father McCue to ask Scully for her help, but her investigation leads her to a mystery she's afraid to understand.
    • Episode 6x07 "Terms of Endearment" - When a mother is accused of killing her unborn child, Mulder and Scully discover that the father, Wayne (Bruce Campbell), has his own secrets - and he's not the only one.
    • Episode 7x04 "Millennium" - An associate of the Millennium Group, which believes the apocalypse will happen on the new year of 2000, resurrects the dead for use in actively bringing about of a zombie apocalypse as a precursor to the End of Times, and Mulder and Scully have to ask the help of criminal profiler Frank Black, a man who has former experience with the shadowy group.
    • Episode 7x07 "Orison" - Reverend Orison releases from jail Scully's former kidnapper from the second season episode "Irresistible", in the hopes of passing judgment on him. What he discovers instead is that he has released pure evil, and it's headed for Scully.
    • Episode 8x07 "Via Negativa" - Doggett and Skinner work with the Lone Gunmen to avert the murderous spree of a religious cult leader, while Mulder is missing and Scully takes time off to deal with the early stages of her pregnancy.
    • Episode 8x17 "Empedocles" - Reyes enlists Mulder's help investigating a killer's connection to the unsolved murder of Doggett's son but Mulder soon finds himself clashing with Doggett.
    • Episode 9x03 "Dæmonicus" - With Dana Scully reassigned to the Quantico Training Academy, agents Doggett and Reyes investigate their first X-File together – a series of satanic ritual murders.
    • Episode 9x08 "Hellbound" - Reyes takes the lead while investigating an X-File case surrounding a man found skinned alive. When she discovers that he had visions of a similar thing, she calls on Scully's expertise to help with the investigation.
    • Episode 9x13 "Improbable" - In the race to catch a serial killer, Scully and Reyes find themselves relying on numerology, their powers of deduction, and a mysterious, card-playing stranger.
    • Episode 9x17 "Release" - When one of Scully's students displays an inordinate ability to profile serial killers, his insights reopen the murder case of Doggett's son, Luke.


Associated Mythos Elements

  • TO DO
  • setting: Cthulhupunk
  • setting: Delta Green
  • setting: Pulp Cthulhu (see the optional rules on psychic abilities)
  • organization: Millennium Group, a secret society's front organization, which works as a think-tank or consulting group, lending expertise and advice to police departments, and recruiting members who have the potential for developing talents (such as "psychic" abilities) useful to the Group's cause
    • the Millennium Group's role in the series changed from season to season, from a consulting group that supports law enforcement in particularly violent and monstrous crimes, to a secret society watching for signs of the End of Times, to a malevolent and manipulative conspiracy of cultists
    • faction: Roosters, who believe that Armageddon and the strange events of the series are caused by supernatural beings and forces; this faction consists notably of prophets and doomsayers who wish to warn the public (or at least their leaders) of the impending Armageddon, to "wake up" the people to the wonders, dangers, and difficult work of a new "day", when the world's Master at last returns
    • faction: Owls who believe that Armageddon and the strange events of the series are caused by scientific, natural forces; this faction believes that it is still "night", and that the light and noise of science, knowledge, information, and the Roosters' message are dangerous and risk attracting the attention of dangers lurking in the darkness
    • "... Throughout history, the Millennium Group has had access to scientific breakthroughs that were banned, or withheld, by those in power at the time..... This enabled the Group to leap generations ahead of mainstream research. The Owls' claim is that six billion years ago, before the formation of the Earth, two neutron stars collided six billion light years away. This collision released cosmic rays, particles of such extreme energy, that the collision of these particles could transform the vacuum of space and cause a tear in the fabric of our universe. The Owls claims to have proof that this tear, this expanding cosmic bubble, will reach our solar system within the next sixty years, and a new universe, its properties calculated anywhere between apocalyptic and inconsequential, will be created...." - Lara Means, episode "Roosters"
  • character: "Lucy Butler" (an evil and demonic - or possibly alien - shape-shifter)
  • character: "Sammael" (a young man, dressed in black, who acts in an ambiguous role similar to that of an angel of death)
  • character: "Simon" (an "imaginary friend" of Frank Black's daughter)
  • race: "Demons/Devils" (appear in some episodes as one of the many faces of Lucy Butler, in others as more stereotypical winged tempters of sinners, and in others in the form of "walk-in" spirits that possess the bodies of humans and use them to commit monstrous or bizarre crimes)
  • race: "Angels", appearing in a couple episodes in dark and somewhat threatening or dangerous roles
  • race: Human Cultists, solitary killers, and occasionally "angelic" messengers and guardians; in the series, many of these characters seem to take the form of "walk-ins": people who have reached the extremity of despair to the point of dying spiritually, to be replaced by "walk-in" spirits from the Astral Plane who have ascended to levels of great mystical knowledge, power, and often inhuman corruption before entering human flesh
  • race: Serpent People (episode 3x08 "Human Essence" - a tainted form of heroin causes its users to transform/devolve into an atavistic reptile form)
  • race: "bad dogs" (episode 2x02 "Beware of the Dog" - a group of apparently supernatural black dogs that maintain balance in certain sacred locations
  • race: Ghosts


Keeper Notes

  • Millennium's original concept, a mysterious consulting group with some dark secrets assisting the police in violent and cult-related crimes with supernatural overtones, is a natural hook for many types of investigators to get involved in modern Call of Cthulhu RPG scenarios, and should also work well with Delta Green scenarios.
  • Note that Lovecraft did write several possession stories comparable to the stories in Millennium, involving possessions from the spirits of human wizards and witches and from alien beings. Though the show's stories seem on the surface to be of a traditionally (and non-Lovecraftian) good-vs.-evil nature, with human beings caught between a behind-the-scenes struggle between demons and angels, this need not be taken as anything other than the subjective beliefs of unreliable narrators for a Call of Cthulhu adaptation: both the "demonic" and "angelic" forces interfering in human lives can be regarded as completely amoral Lovecraftian aliens in conflict with each other and with humanity over "human resources" without changing the stories in any significant way.