Television as we know it is changing, and with the success of Netflix’s new model of releasing entire, instantly viewable series of streaming content, such as the acclaimed House of Cards, Amazon/LOVEFiLM have unveiled their latest pilot offerings. FILM IN WORDS casts it vote on which content deserves to make it big in TV land.
DO YOU WANT TO BELIEVE IN CHRIS CARTER?
The legacy of Chris Carter’s X-Files requires very little introduction. The illustrious sci-fi series not only stands as a major influence upon modern television – creating a genre jumping blueprint to which many of today’s most popular shows adhere – but its pairing of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) remains a beloved onscreen dynamic that is yet to be surpassed.
Besides The X-Files, Carter’s televisual output has been somewhat limited. Millennium, an oppressive doomsday themed X-Files crossover, starring Aliens’ Lance Henriksen, exhibited many ingenious moments and delivered in terms of building a compelling mythology to compliment Carter’s fictional universe – but ultimately a waning viewership sealed its fate after three series.
Following the second, disappointing X-Files movie, Carter’s latest supernatural offering, The After, arrives as one of many Amazon produced pilot episodes delivered via their online streaming service LOVEFiLM – luckily it would seem that Carter is still capable of weaving a strange and compelling story for audiences to wrestle with.
Tonally, The After closely mirrors The X-files and Millennium, situating its insular character dissections amongst a seemingly deeply layered, overarching supernatural premise. A premise which often hints that it inhabits the same universe as Carter’s former shows due to several implications, including the use of repeated imagery such as the ancient Ouroboros symbol synonymous with Millennium. Such fan-service will ultimately pay dividends when Amazon collate the votes and ratings of The X-Files’ enduring fan base.
Much of The After’s strength lies in the ‘not knowing’, so major plot points should not be readily relinquished, but essentialy the story revolves around an unidentified disaster uniting a group of highly divergent characters who share a mysterious common bond. Sadly, though clearly impressive in terms of scale – at least for a pilot episode with possibly no future – The After’s setting in the midst of a world-changing event feels incredibly stale thanks to the influx of recent years’ post-apocalyptic, character-driven TV offerings such as The Walking Dead and Falling Skies. Such shows’ tendency to meander off into desolate boredom filled landscapes, filled with equally boorish characters, between action set-pieces, has created a good deal of survivalist fatigue that will prove incredibly difficult for Carter to overcome.
Fortunately, The After portrays its human struggle in a much more dynamic manner than its peers; initially there is no clear threat, such as the undead, laser-gun toting aliens, or a severe lack of resources, and the audience is just as oblivious to where the true danger lies as the characters on-screen are. Carter’s readiness to progress his story at a fast pace and place a heavy emphasis upon action also seems intact from his X-Files tenure – providing welcome change in terms of pacing.
The characterisation is highly promising despite some clichéd dialogue, and thanks to a genuinely creepy and bizarre moment during the pilot’s final moments, the story Carter has decided to tell (if he truly knows what that story is) appears to possess many exciting plot-lines and character arcs to explore. If The After leads its characters down a dark and mysterious road of discovery as opposed to one which leads to the end of the world, this very well may be the content X-Files fans have been longing for… at least until Gillian Anderson agrees to make the next movie.