Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Thomas J Wright
It pains me to say it but for the second episode in a row what we're being presented with here is not an episode of Millennium but an episode of The X Files guest starring Lance Henriksen as Frank Black in place of Mulder and Scully. Bearing the name of Chip Johannessen as its author there is the hope that this could morph into something different. The first season seen the writer take what could have been X Files concepts and turn them into something that felt like they were at home on Millennium, but like Morgan and Wong he takes what could be very interesting ideas for this show and turn them into something that's come from its sister series and it's a damn shame in a way because like Beware of the Dog there is a lot here that is tremendous, from its rain soaked atmosphere and conspiratorial paranoia to a superb twist ending, but that nagging feeling that for the second week running Millennium is in X Files mode scuppers any good work.
Like Beware of the Dog any twists, turns, plot revelations and story threads feel like they should have Mulder and Scully walking through them, not Frank Black. Don't get me wrong, the idea of Frank Black walking through an X Files style conspiracy thriller is an interesting one and with Johannessen at the helm you get the feeling that it could turn into something original and different, but it doesn't. Johannessen himself claimed that he wasn't happy with this one as the script had to go through several rewrites due to Standards and Practices reluctance for the episode to deal with the racial element that it dabbles in, which gives one pause for thought.
The fourth season of The X Files presented an episode entitled Teliko, which was written by Howard Gordon and which dealt with a genetic mutant from Africa who killed other African men and did so by extracting their skin colour through their pituitary gland. An idea proposed in the earlier stages of that episode was that the men were being killed by a disease, before the episode turned into a typical and somewhat dull monster of the week tale. In some way Sense and Antisense should have been the episode Teliko was. The X Files episode played it safe whereas everything in Millennium usually goes for the more dangerous elements and yet in the end, Johannessen, although this isn't really his fault, plays it safe too, albeit with different elements.
We are presented with a deranged African American man known as Patient Zero who is taken to hospital displaying a possible disease in a teaser that plays out with statistics on US Military experimentation on third world citizens. The man escapes from hospital with the help of his taxi driver whilst government agents in long trench coats give chase. So far it's very X Files and it get even more X Files when the CDC offices Frank and Gielbelhouse visit disappears in the blink of an eye, Zero is caught but then discovered not to have had a disease at all and the same government agents turn up in crime scenes instigating a cover up. There is even a Medical Examiner that Frank visits who in the end turns out to be involved in the conspiracy, while the twist ending feels like a sting in the tail plot development that Mulder and Scully would gasp at.
The worst thing about Sense and Antisense, like Beware of the Dog, is that it isn't bad at all. It is a hugely enjoyable and thrilling forty five minutes of television, intelligently scripted, wonderfully directed (like The X Files, Millennium has the whole mini-feature film look down to a tee) and could easily be recommended to anyone looking for a gripping piece of television that doesn't treat the audience with contempt or as stupid, but I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I am, so I apologise for that, but when I watch Millennium, I want to watch Millennium not Millennium impersonating The X Files and for two episodes on a trot, that's what we got.
Thankfully, if you allow me to get ahead of myself and your viewing for a bit, if you're reading my reviews whilst watching the series at the same time, things are about to get better and more original. Next up is Monster, which is more indicative of what Morgan and Wong are trying to achieve with their vision of the show and once we get past A Single Blade of Glass, things will get astonishingly well done with The Curse of Frank Black. This has been a small slip on the road, if you want to call it that, and I hate to be so critical, but it's just a shame that in trying to carve out a new identity for itself, Morgan, Wong and Johannessen have stumbled a little at this early stage with being X Files-esque. Thankfully though that's over and we can now get down to some seriously good and original television.