X Files, The

The Truth Was Out There ...

 

USA - 1993-02 - 202 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Created by Chris Carter, The X-Files starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as two FBI agents, the true believer Fox Mulder and his sceptical partner Dana Scully, investigating unsolved cases that dealt with strange phenomena that defied rational explanation.

Inspired in part by Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Invaders, whose stars Darren McGavin and Roy Thinnes would make guest appearances in the show, and shot with pseudo-documentary styling, The X-Files veered between monster-of-the-week shows and alien abductions. As the series progressed, Carter and the writers began to put together an extended mythology, triggered by Mulder's initial search for his abducted sister.

Involving alien hybrids, clones, relentless shape-shifting bounty hunters, sentient black oil and killer bees, as well as super-soldiers and numerous inside sources who had their own agenda for helping Mulder battle the Cigarette Smoking Man (who was the point man for a large multi-national syndicate working toward eventual alien colonisation), the ongoing storyline rarely segued into the continuing stand-alone episodes, giving the series a schizophrenic feel. Additionally, the growing cast of supporting characters were not fully utilised.

After Duchovny cut back on his appearances, before leaving the show in the final season, Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish were drafted in to help Anderson's Dana Scully, who also began to take a back seat role. Having created this large, far-reaching mythology, the various plot threads were either forgotten or abandoned, rather than seamlessly woven together, and the series never reached its full potential.

The often-talked about second big-screen movie has plenty of loose ends to tie up - not an easy task when they will also need to make the project stand on its own as a piece of fiction in its own right, for the audiences who were not beguiled for nine seasons on television.


REGULAR CAST
David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully
Robert Patrick as Special Agent John Doggett
Annabeth Gish as Special Agent Monica Reyes
Mitch Pileggi as Asst Director Walter Skinner

 

Vengeance Unlimited

Mr Chapel makes villains repent ...

 

USA - 1998-99 - 16 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Co-created by John McNamara who had produced a number of quirky, off-beat shows like The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. and Spy Game, the short-lived Profit with David Greenwalt, and more recently Fastlane with director McG, Vengeance Unlimited put an eccentric spin on the established figure of the avenging angel.

Whereas Edward Woodward in The Equalizer and Danny Aiello’s Dellaventura had a well-known past and invariably resolved situations with guns blazing, Vengeance Unlimited’s Mr Chapel, played by Michael Madson, was a character with an elusive background who worked to the edict, let the punishment fit the crime, constructing elaborate, gleefully sadistic schemes to make the guilty confess to their misdeeds.

Like the Stephen J Cannell produced Stingray, in which Nick Mancuso’s Stingray asked for a favour in return for helping those that could not help themselves, Mr. Chapel offered a choice between paying him one million dollars or agreeing to a future favour. Once that had been repaid, his response “I’m out of your life forever,” would come as a blessed relief. The only person to stick around was KC, a former victim Chapel had helped out. Working in the District Attorney’s office she passed on information while trying to stop the chocoholic with a twisted sense of humour from going over the edge.

When it first screened in America, Vengeance Unlimited had the misfortune of being scheduled opposite Friends, ironically the title of the show’s final episode, where not even KC could save it from the comedy juggernaut.

 

REGULAR CAST
Michael Madsen as Mr Chapel
Kathleen York as KC Griffin

 

Time Tunnel, The

Quantum Leap on a far bigger historical canvas ...

 

USA - 1966-67 - 30 episodes (60 minutes) - colour

Having created the adventures of the Robinson family, Lost in Space, the year before, for his next series producer Irwin Allen turned his attention from being lost "where" to lost "when".

Deep below the Arizona desert in a top-secret government facility, scientists have built a tunnel that will connect the past, present, and future. Forced to test the untried invention in an attempt to keep their Federal funding, Dr Tony Newman finds himself thrown back in time, appearing on the deck of the Titanic. When it becomes clear that his colleagues are unable to retrieve him from the past, Dr Doug Phillips goes after his comrade and becomes trapped too.

Knowing the outcome of the event they had appeared in but unable to change history, it is left to the scientists back in the laboratory, able to watch Phillips and Newman's progress on the monitors, to contrive a way to save them. Rather than successfully bringing them home, their endeavours send them tumbling into another time. From episode to episode, each attempt throws them out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Using major historical settings allowed 20th Century Fox Television to raid the film division's vaults and use hefty amounts of stock footage to keep costs down, so that Newman and Phillips could find themselves hurled from the Trojan War to the Battle of Little Big Horn, and on to the D-Day invasion of Normandy by way of the French Revolution without giving the show's budget a seizure. More miraculously, the two intrepid scientists managed to survive each adventure without ruffling their hair or dirtying their polo neck sweaters.


REGULAR CAST
James Darren as Dr Tony Newman
Robert Colbert as Dr Doug Phillips
Lee Meriwether as Dr Ann MacGregor
John Zaremba as Dr Raymond Swain
Whit Bissell as Lt General Heywood Kirk

 

UFO

Aliens have landed on Earth - and we're all potential unwilling donors for spare part surgery ...

 

UK - 1970-71 - 26 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's first foray into full live-action for TV, UFO used the same basic premise as Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, with the Earth threatened by aliens. This time however, their presence was physical and the tone of the show more adult than anyone expected: an autopsy of the green-skinned, liquid breathing aliens revealed they were coming to Earth to harvest human internal organs.

While the familiar Anderson inconography were very much in evidence - the UFOs were beaten back by the forces of the secret organisation S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) using sophisticated gadgetry that included Moonbase Interceptors as the first line of defence, with Sky Diver aerial fighters, launched from a conjoined submarine, and S.H.A.D.O. Mobiles ready to engage UFOs that made it through to Earth - although most episodes had their fair share of action and special effects, many stories concentrated on the pressures S.H.A.D.O. operatives were put under and the sacrifices they had to make in the line of duty.

For all its high production values, UFO was not networked in the UK, which meant ITV channels showed it at different times in a very haphazard way. Concerns over content meant some episodes were screened late at night. In the USA, it was syndicated to local TV stations, which meant it didn't get exposure on one of the three main networks - but ratings for early episodes in the major US markets were good.

As one of the most spectacular science fiction series produced at the time, it was also one of the most expensive. The positive reaction to the first few episodes looked like a further season would gain a newtork sale. Pre-production began on new episodes, which envisioned S.H.A.D.O. moving its operation to an enlarged moonbase to combat the continued threat. Unfortunately, when the American ratings tumbled financial backing was withdrawn and the revised format was recycled to create Space: 1999.


REGULAR CAST
Ed Bishop as Commander Ed Straker
Michael Billington as Colonel Paul Foster
George Sewell as Colonel Alec Freeman
Wanda Ventham as Colonel Virginia Lake
Gabrielle Drake as Lt Gay Ellis
Grant Taylor as General Henderson
Vladek Sheybal as Doctor Jackson
Peter Gordeno as Captain Peter Carlin
Antonia Ellis as Joan Harrington

 

Thirtysomething

For adults who don't feel grown up ...

 

USA - 1987-91 - 85 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Described by creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick as a show "about growing up, no matter how old you are", thirtysomething focused squarely on members of the 'Baby-Boomer' generation; still in the process of growing up, and finding themselves unexpectedly plagued by self-doubts and disaffection as they attempted to reconcile their once youthful idealism with the desires for success that shaped the 1980s.

Interweaving both the professional and personal lives of a group of upwardly mobile families and friends, thirtysomething portrayed characters whose self-absorption, emotional angst, and desires to fulfill their dreams irrespective of the cost, were traits familiar enough for the audience to identify with, if not always sympathize with. In contrast to the high-stakes risks portrayed in most other dramas, the show turned inwards to examine the minutiae of everyday life and personal emotions to a degree that had previously been excluded from television narrative. Sometimes self indulgent and a little sentimental, thirtysomething nevertheless boasted consistently excellent writing that expertly used an undercurrent of comedy to underscore the dramatic tensions, which the ensemble cast succeeded in delivering as perfectly judged performances.

Such self-examination wasn't to everyone's taste and while some critics praised the show, others dismissed it as the yuppie angst of a group of people sitting around whining. Audience reaction too was split between viewers who either saw it as an epiphany or a stomach-turning experience. Either way, thirtysomething cleverly portrayed an accurate reflection of the self-obsessed decade.


REGULAR CAST
Ken Olin as Michael Steadman
Mel Harris as Hope Steadman
Timothy Busfield as Elliot Weston
Patricia Wetting as Nancy Weston
Melanie Mayron as Melissa Steadman
Peter Horton as Gary Shepherd
Polly Draper as Ellen Warren

 

 

 

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