Millennium was, for its fans and many involved with the show, cancelled prematurely by Fox and it is from this that the Back to Frank Black movement was founded. As far as fan campaigns to return shuttered shows to our screens go (they’d prefer a movie in comparison to a new TV series), they’re probably one of the most unusual in that it has resulted in a non-fiction book of essays and interviews on the subject that unites them. Back to Frank Black: A Return to Chris Carter’s Millennium is that book, written by journalists, writers and academics who have witnessed more than just a slice of late 90s prime-time telly.
Originally, Millennium was a TV series that followed the character of Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) who was trying to make a new life for his family and himself after his career in the FBI became too much for to handle. Becoming a consultant for law enforcement on issues such as serial killers, Frank also worked for the mysterious Millennium Group. The show originally aired from 1996-1999.
I never watched Millennium when it was originally aired on TV. I was too young – just old enough for The X-Files (which we’re currently doing a looooooong retrospective on) – but the world of Frank Black was avoided until after I was in my twenties and had already spent a great deal of time reading up on things like true crime, criminology and forensic psychology. It was an interesting place of background reading I found myself in when I started watching through the three seasons of boxsets. I would like to think that this book is of interest to those who are not necessarily über fans of Chris Carter’s worlds, but there are plenty of spoilers contained within its pages and the ways in which much of the show is discussed means that you need to have watched it before reading the book.
Over the course of essays like”Frank Black and America’s Fin de Siècle“, “The Story of Lance Henriksen and the Fable of Frank Black”, “This is Who We Are: Secret Society and Family Redefined”, “Evil Has Many Faces: The Darkness in the World of Millennium” and “Second Sight: Profiling, Prophecy, and Deductive Reasoning in Chris Carter’s Millennium” you’re given a painstaking degree of insight into the cultural and socio-economic forces that moulded the TV series. One important aspect of the character of Frank Black is visited again and again in the course of the book, that of him being a figure of light amongst almost pitch black darkness. While this had the chance to become repetitive, the theme is discussed from a multitude of angles, showing the grey between the theme of darkness and light.
Meanwhile the fourteen or so “conversations” with the show’s stars and creators provides an in-depth grounding in the series and its influences that goes far beyond any making-of featurette could ever hope to achieve. Another interesting area that is explored numerous times is the influences that The X-Files and Millennium had on each other, as well as the controversies that the few similarities the shows had with each other caused. Certainly, if anyone is looking for why the two series are different from each other and yet similar in other respects, then here we are given a good grounding in how this happened and why it’s not just because they had the same creators.
Worth a read?
Beyond the fans of Carter, the show and/or Lance Henriksen who have somehow still not managed to have a read of this – it’s obvious that they need to pick-up a copy. But for everyone else? Based on the nature of Millennium and the time and place it was exploring, the book makes for a good supplement in understanding many of the fears faced by those on both sides of the Atlantic as the year 2000 approached and how fear managed to become such a big aspect of our everyday dialogues before the events of 2001.
Back to Frank Black: A Return to Chris Carter’s Millennium, edited by Adam Chamberlain & Brian A. Dixon, is out now and published by Fourth Horseman Press. It is available from several online stores. This catch-up review is based on a copy of the book bought by the reviewer.