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The Night Stalker in name only, but an interesting X-Files clone that had some potential
on 24 April 2012
Despite being widely loathed by the fans of the original series, the short-lived 21st century reboot of Night Stalker isn't exactly a travesty, but it certainly isn't The Night Stalker. Where that offered Darren McGavin's shaggy dog old-school lone wolf crime reporter eternally at odds with Simon Oakland's belligerant editor as he uncovered supernatural stories no-one would ever publish, this is more of an X-Files wannabe, with Stuart Townsend's young crime reporter haunted by the death of his wife at the talons of a supernatural creature teamed up with Gabrielle Union's sceptical partner to investigate crimes that turn out to have supernatural resolutions, all with the support of his softly spoken editor Cotter Smith and Jimmy Olsen-like cub reporter Eric Jungmann. Just to balance things out, John Pyper-Ferguson's incarnation of his sometime FBI source is no longer an ally but determined to put him away for murder...
There's none of the original's witty banter but plenty of X-Files hangovers - mysterious anonymous sources, an only hinted at conspiracy, keywords appearing on the screen in the titles, and similar music scoring included - which probably isn't too surprising considering executive producer/writer Frank Spotnitz previously produced The X-Files. Whereas the original took its monsters seriously while spoofing all the newspaper movie clichés and conventions and occasionally going off on quirky tangents, this takes itself very seriously with little time for cracking wise, and replacing the original's sense of fun with much brooding and monologuing tends to make it feel more like an impersonator than the genuine Carl Kolchak.
If you can get around that it's not a bad supernatural thriller show with some pretty good stories, and unlike the brief US TV run which ended in the middle of a two-parter after it was pulled because of bad ratings, the DVD at least includes the unbroadcast episodes, including the resolution to the cliffhanger. Along with PDFs of outlines for future episodes, the DVD includes a brief interview that does explain the mark that was the show's own unexplained mythology, although the notion that Kolchak is himself evil and fighting his own dark nature that would have taken the show even further from its roots is thankfully barely present outside of the final unbroadcast episode where it's only hinted at. Although it came far too late to do any good, it's a particularly good one that sees Kolchak held captive by a former fellow mental patient who is either dangerously paranoid or more dangerously right, implying that even if it wasn't exactly furrowing new territory it could have turned into an interesting enough genre piece.