"Midnight of the Century"

#MLM-211

Written by Erin Maher & Kay Reindl

Directed by Dwight Little

Edited by George R. Potter

Aired December 19, 1997

Summary: Unnerving visions that haunt Frank Black at Christmastime hark back to his troubled youth and lead to a fateful reunion with his estranged father, Henry.

 

  Season Two on DVD

 

  Full Transcript Available

 

Synopsis:  In flashback, five-year-old Frank Black draws the form of an angel. A woman, her face unseen, writes the date "12/24/1946" on the bottom of the paper. In the current day, Frank returns home with an armload of Christmas decorations and gifts. He listens to messages on his answering machine, the first a reminder from Jordan regarding her upcoming Christmas pageant, the second from Frank's estranged father. Without listening to the entire message, Frank deletes all calls. Shortly thereafter, Frank receives a Christmas card bearing the likeness of an angel. Frank turns the card over and examines the postmark, which is dated "December 24, 1946." 

Jordan and Catherine pay Frank a visit on Christmas Eve. Jordan shows Roedecker one of her Christmas presents, a virtual pet, which turns out to be the same gift Frank purchased for his daughter. Frank travels to a toy store to buy Jordan a different gift. There he experiences a vision from his childhood, one in which he asks his sickly mother, Linda, for a toy. When the flashback ends, Frank is assisted by three store clerks: Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior. The men attempt to steer Frank towards a specific toy, but Frank insists up a Danny Dinosaur doll. When Frank exits the store, he sees the image of a young man, Simon, reflected in a shop window where an angel mannequin presides over a Nativity scene. Simon says "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow," words said by Frank's mother in his vision. But when Frank whirls around, Simon has disappeared. 

When Frank attends Jordan's pageant, he again sees Simon, this time standing in the back of the church. He follows the vision outside, into the churchyard. Simon explains that ghosts, or fetches, the souls of those who are destined to die during the following year, make "their way to the church in search of those who will soon be their companions." Later, after the pageant ends, Catherine tells him a piece of paper containing a crudely drawn angel made by her daughter — who claims she was assisted by her dead grandmother. 

Frank realizes Jordan received Danny Dinosaur as a Christmas gift the previous year. He returns to the toy store, where he asks the three clerks for a doll. The clerks point him in the direction of an aisle containing a variety of dolls — including an angel. But when he picks up the angel, its face transforms into a hideous death mask. Though the doll returns to its proper form, an angry and frustrated Frank marches out of the store empty-handed. Frank returns home and retrieves a piece of paper from a box of personal memorabilia. On the paper is an angel identical to the one drawn by Jordan. 

Frank invites Lara Means to his house to discuss the events of the past day. Lara describes how she first began feeling the presence of angels, and how, one day, she accurately predicted the death of her father's business associate. She has been seeing angels — whom she believes are messengers — ever since. Lara concludes that the angels are attempting to communicate with Frank. 

Frank returns to his father Henry's house. There, he enters the room where his mother died by herself. He discovers that every inch of wall space has been covered with images of angels. In flashback, Frank recalls his mother saying goodbye to him for the very last time. Afterward, Henry describes how Linda first predicted the death of her brother, Joe, during the invasion of Normandy in 1945. Though Henry believed his wife's words, he feared she might be institutionalized if word of her ability spread. Eventually, Linda's prescience tore them apart. Finally, Linda foretold her own death.

Though Henry admits he believed her, he nonetheless acted as if Linda was crazy. Before she died, Linda told Henry she would move an angel figurine "from the other side," as proof she was waiting for him. But the angel still sits, just as it had been left many years earlier, covered with dust. Frank shows his father the angel Jordan drew. With tears in his eyes, Henry picks up the dusty angel figurine, and hands it to his son — a gift for Jordan. Frank meets Jordan and Catherine at church. When Frank gives Jordan the angel figurine, she says, "Grandma wants me to have it." Frank and his daughter then gaze upon the churchyard, where they see ghostly fetches, one of whom is Henry. Frank watches as the specters vanish — comforted that he has made peace with his father.

Photographs:

- Lara Means decorates a tree with tinsel

- Frank's estranged father, Henry Black

- Frank and Henry connect

- Henry gives Frank his mother's statue

- Frank considers an angel doll

- Frank and Lara discuss the holidays

- Frank gives Jordan his mother's statue

- Lara Means considers her gift

- Frank and Jordan observe the fetches

- Frank and Catherine discuss Jordan

 

Media Review: "Leave it to Millennium to find a way to make a holiday-based special into something far more serious and sentimental, with just a taste of the sinister on the side. This is truly an acting tour de force for all the performers involved... But the true highlight comes when Frank’s father played by Carl Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin arrives. McGavin has an amazing monologue about the death of Frank’s mother, and in combination with the ongoing family issues in his life (and the possible flirtation with Lara Means) this emotion tangle threatens to undo Frank’s fragile mind. That we sense both hope and a kind of closure at the end of this episode means that, once again, this series has managed to find a way to thwart convention while providing the key to successful television total entertainment value." —Bill Gibron, DVD Talk

 

Trivia:  Guest star Darren McGavin, who portrays estranged father Henry Black, served as a significant influence on series creator Chris Carter. McGavin was the star of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the 1974 paranormal investigation series that inspired Carter to create The X-Files. Carter strove for years to schedule McGavin in a prominent guest role on The X-Files, originally hoping he could portray the father of Fox Mulder, but it was Millennium that took the honor. "Since it was a Christmas episode, we wanted to deal with Frank's family," Erin Maher explains. "It was a good opportunity to show some of his past with his father. Originally, we had talked about Johnny Cash as Frank's dad, but then he got sick. And then, of course, we were very jazzed to get Darren McGavin." Some viewers will also recognize McGavin, particularly around the holidays, in a fatherly role in the 1983 comedy A Christmas Story.

 

Kay Reindl once commented, "We couldn't have expected anyone more perfect than Darren McGavin. He was heartbreaking. He was Henry, completely. We were very interested in the relationship between Frank and his father, since it seemed like they were distant. We wondered if that was always the case. We also wanted to explore the origins of Frank's gift and thought if we introduced the gift through his mother, it could parallel what Frank was going through with Catherine and Jordan."

 

The episode seen here is not the first story that Maher and Reindl pitched for the show's producers after being given the Christmas-themed assignment. After viewing a number of Christmas horror films, including Silent Night, Deadly Night, the duo developed a storyline involving serial killers of the past, present, and future. "We came up with the idea of doing A Christmas Carol with Frank," Reindl notes. "The three ghosts would be serial killers of the past, present and future. We pitched our board, and after the first act, Glen said, 'Did we talk about this at all?'  And we said, 'Well, not really, just generally.'  He said, 'Well, we have this scene in the Halloween episode.'" Scenes that Maher and Reindl had written featuring flashbacks to Frank Black's childhood were remarkably similar to scenes in Glen Morgan and James Wong's "The Curse of Frank Black." The plotline of the Christmas episode was reconsidered as a result.

 

Glen Morgan suggested that in "Midnight of the Century" the writers might approach the story as the Halloween-themed "The Curse of Frank Black" had been approached, depicting a day in the life of Frank Black. The focus then shifted, as a result of the holiday influence, toward the Black family. Erin Maher explains, "We were thinking about Frank's visions, and we thought if one of his parents had visions, that would mean something, since his daughter Jordan has them. It's something that's passed from generation to generation. So, we decided that his mother would have visions too, mainly because last year in 'Sacrament,' the episode with Frank's brother, we got a very strong impression that Frank and his father weren't very close and that his father was very remote and very strict. We were wondering why that was. And Frank and his brother never talked about their mother. So, we came up with the idea of Frank's mother dying when he was six years old, and he really didn't understand how deep his father's love was, so he blamed his father for letting her die alone. We also thought about the idea that Christmas is always supposed to be this perfect family holiday, but Frank's family has split up he's without his wife and child. He really doesn't have a good relationship with his dad. It's sort of the Christmas that you end up with, rather than the Christmas that you really want."

 

Death Toll:  0

 

Title:  The episode's title, inscribed on the face of a mysterious card that Frank Black receives and repeated during Peter Watts' holiday toast, eloquently symbolizes the final days of the twentieth century.  The characters of Millennium figuratively exist at a moment of midnight, at a historical landmark marking the end of the century and of the millennium.

 

Soundtrack:  

"Arabian Dance" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

 

Starring:

Lance Henriksen as Frank Black

Megan Gallagher as Catherine Black

Brittany Tiplad as Jordan Black

Terry O'Quinn as Peter Watts

 

Guest Starring:

Kristen Cloke as Lara Means
Allan Zinyk as Brian Roedecker
Darren McGavin as Henry Black
Andrew Blinks as Neil

Tim Bissett as Melchior

Gerry Currie as Simon

Donny James Lucas as Balthazar

Cheryl McNamara as Linda Black

Jessica Schreier as Barbara Watts

Trevor White as Caspar
 

Production Credits:

Production #5C11

Music by Mark Snow
Production Designer Mark Freeborn
Director of Photography Robert McLachlan
Associate Producer Jon-Michael Preece
Consulting Producer Chip Johannessen
Consulting Producers Darin Morgan
Co-Producer Robert Moresco
Co-Producer Paul Rabwin
Producer Thomas J. Wright
Co-Executive Producer Ken Horton
Co-Executive Producer John Peter Kousakis

Executive Producer Glen Morgan

Executive Producer James Wong

Executive Producer Chris Carter

 

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