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Pilot (Millennium)

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"Pilot"
Millennium episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 1
Directed byDavid Nutter
Written byChris Carter
Production code4C79
Original air dateOctober 25, 1996
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Gehenna"
Millennium (season 1)
List of Millennium episodes

"Pilot" is the pilot episode of the crime-thriller television series Millennium. It premiered on the Fox network on October 25, 1996. The episode was written by series creator Chris Carter, and directed by David Nutter. "Pilot" featured guest appearances by Paul Dillon, April Telek and Stephen J. Lang.

Offender profiler Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), a member of the private investigative organisation Millennium Group, retires to Seattle with his family after a breakdown caused him to quit working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Using his incredible profiling skills, Black helps in an effort to catch a vicious murderer who believes he is fulfilling apocalyptic prophecies.

"Pilot" was filmed over the course of a month in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was inspired by the writings of Nostradamus and William Butler Yeats. Airing in the timeslot previously occupied by Carter's first series, The X-Files, the episode received a high Nielsen household and syndication rating and was generally positively received by fans and critics alike.

Plot[edit]

In a strip club in downtown Seattle, an unnamed man known to the club workers as "The Frenchman" (Paul Dillon) is mumbling poetic phrases and hallucinating blood pouring over a blonde stripper, with a wall of fire surrounding her. Later that night, the stripper is murdered. Just arriving in Seattle is Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) and his family. Frank spots a newspaper about the local murder, and immediately contacts his old colleague Bob Bletcher. Frank joins the investigation as an advisor of the Millennium Group, a private investigative group composed of retired law enforcement agents.

When he views the body, Frank gets various vivid visions of the crime. His knowledge of various details unknown to the others unsettles Bletcher. Frank and a fellow member of the Millennium Group named Peter Watts (Terry O'Quinn) officially join the investigation.

In the meantime, the killer is hunting for his next victim. While unknown to him, the murderer is trapped in a world of grotesque hallucinations. Later that night, local police officers spot his latest victim. Frank visits the crime scene, which gives him a vision of the crime, again startling his colleague Bletcher. Later on, Frank presents his finding to the local homicide department, saying that the murderer is obsessed with apocalyptic prophecies and maddened by twisted sexual guilt.

After Frank presents his finding, Bletcher demands Frank give him the stripper girl's "rape & murder on VHS." Frank tells him he can see what the killer sees. After telling him, Frank rushes to hospital when his daughter, Jordan Black (Brittany Tiplady) is stricken with a high fever. Getting another vision, Frank leaves the hospital and gathers local law enforcement officers to another victim.

This follows with Frank tracking down the killer to the local police department's own evidence lab. In a mad rage the killer attacks Frank, but Bletcher shows up and shoots the killer, saving Frank's life. After clearing up the case with the local authorities, Frank returns home and opens up a newly arrived anonymous piece of mail containing pictures of his family.

Production[edit]

"Pilot" was written by series creator Chris Carter. Beyond creating the concept for Millennium, Carter would write a total of six other episodes for the series in addition to "Gehenna"—three in the first season,[1] and a further three in the third season.[2] Director David Nutter would also go on to direct several episodes in the first season of the series—"Gehenna", "522666" and "Loin Like a Hunting Flame".[1]

"Pilot" was filmed over the course of a month, which was an unheard-of length of time for a single television episode.[3] The episode was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia in early spring to give it a "gray" and "bleak" look. The decision to film in Vancouver was to give the show the same dark feel as its sister show The X-Files, which had also been created by Carter. The strip club, Ruby Tip, was inspired by a club in Seattle named the Lusty Lady, which is located on that city's main street. Director David Nutter had been a long-time staff member of The X-Files crew. Carter said the episode was "directed beautifully by David Nutter who added to the project in so many ways, even as it came on, things that he saw visually that were able to actually change and make the script more concise".[4] Although "Pilot" did not open with a literary quote as the series would do from the next episode onwards, its plot heavily features the 1919 poem "The Second Coming" by Irish poet William Butler Yeats.[5]

Carter called it a "pleasure" to cast Kate Luyben and April Telek, because they were "good"-looking, which he felt was a refreshing change from frequently casting "character actors" on The X-Files. Luyben would later make an appearance on The X-Files and played a prominent role on Harsh Realm. The idea behind the character "The Frenchman" came from a prophecy by Nostradamus. According to Carter, "the idea that there is something approaching at the millennium, this series being produced I think four years before the end of the century, that we were headed toward something grave and foreboding". The name of recurring character Bob Bletcher came from an attorney Carter had worked with previously. Another name, Giebelhouse was another name Carter had gotten from his childhood years. Carter said "This idea of the hard-boiled detective is a kind of cliché". But felt that the characters came "very real to life", when compared to real law enforcement personnel.[4]

Millennium was given the Friday night timeslot previously occupied by The X-Files, prompting Carter to quip that his earlier series was "being abducted". However, Millennium received higher viewing figures during its first season than The X-Files had done, while the latter show's fourth season, the one airing concurrently to Millennium, saw its ratings reach their highest to that point.[6]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Right from the start, with the sequences of blood running down walls to the syncopated dance beat of a peepshow, this is a programme which is marking itself out as being cruder and nastier than its more obviously populist sister show - but what's remarkable is that however brutal the episode is, there's a compelling beauty to it too.

—Robert Shearman, comparing the episode to Carter's previous series The X-Files[7]

"Pilot" was first broadcast on the Fox network on October 25, 1996;[7] and gathered a total viewership of 17.72 million in the United States. In the "adults 18–49" demographic, the episode earned a Nielsen rating of 9, with a 27 share; meaning it was viewed by nine percent of television-equipped households and 27 percent of those actively watching television.[8] The rating across all demographics was 11.9.[9] The episode's broadcast set the record at the time for the most-watched program on Fox.[10]

Writing for The A.V. Club, Zack Handeln rated the episode a B, finding it to be "weirdly prescient of the crime dramas we wallow in today". Handlen felt that episode's tone was so "overwrought" as to be "hilarious", but still found the series to be "uncompromising" and "compelling". Handlen also noted similarities to the films Manhunter and Seven in both the episode's plot and the series' premise.[11] Bill Gibron, writing for DVD Talk, rated the episode 5/5, calling it "perhaps the most perfect opening episode to a one-hour suspense thriller ... ever conceived". Gibron also praised the casting of Henriksen and O'Quinn in the series.[12] An Entertainment Weekly preview for the episode noted that some of its scenes were "the grimmest ... in prime-time history".[13] Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen, rated the episode four stars out of five, calling it "bleak and confrontational" though finding that its symbolism was "too boldly stated". Comparing the series to its sister show, The X-Files, Shearman and Pearson noted that Henriksen portrays his role "with a confidence that makes him immediately a more credible character than Mulder or Scully would be for an entire season".[7] Writing for The Register-Guard, Renee Graham called the episode "as lurid a television show as you're ever going to see", adding that it seemed "just too horrific to be enjoyable". However, Graham noted that the episode was "by far the superior show" compared to the similar series Profiler, which aired around the same time.[14]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Millennium: The Complete First Season (booklet). David Nutter, et al. Fox.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ Millennium: The Complete Third Season (booklet). Thomas J. Wright, et al. Fox.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ Chris Carter, Ken Horton, Frank Spotnitz, Lance Henriksen, Megan Gallagher, David Nutter, Mark Snow, John Peter Kousakis, Mark Freeborn, Robert McLachlan, Chip Johannessen and Thomas J. Wright (2004). Order in Chaos: Making Millennium Season One. Millennium: The Complete First Season (DVD). Fox Home Entertainment.
  4. ^ a b Chris Carter (narrator) (2004). Audio Commentary for "Pilot". Millennium: The Complete First Season (DVD). Fox Home Entertainment.
  5. ^ Genge, pp.130–131
  6. ^ Genge, pp. 8–9
  7. ^ a b c Shearman and Pearson, pp. 105–106
  8. ^ Adalian, Josef (October 11, 1998). "High-profile dramas skid on Fox, ABC". Variety Magazine. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  9. ^ Genge, p. xiii
  10. ^ "Millennium". Television Heaven. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  11. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (September 25, 2010). ""Herrenvolk"/"Pilot" | The X-Files/Millennium | TV Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  12. ^ Gibron, Bill (July 20, 2004). "Millennium: Season 1: DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". DVD Talk. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  13. ^ Tucker, Ken (September 13, 1996). "Friday's New Shows". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  14. ^ Graham, Renee (October 25, 1996). "'Millennium' is grim, gripping drama". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. p. 14. Retrieved April 11, 2012.

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