“Looking for answers to questions I’m only learning how to ask. About things adults dismiss. But children are right to fear shapes that lurk in the darkness. Nightmares that intrude from another realm. Forces that spring not from the imagination, but live amongst us. Unseen. These forces have taken something from me.” Carl Kolchak, the Night Stalker

There is a new wave of genre shows coming to television this fall: Ghost Whisperer, Supernatural, Surface, Invasion, Threshold. Night Stalker is the latest entry. The original series, Kolchak: the Night Stalker was a show that greatly influenced the creation of the X-Files (Frank Spotnitz of the X-Files has come full circle and is a writer and executive producer for the show). Though it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the original short-lived series (Kolchak: The Night Stalker, 1974-1975), I still have fond memories of the show (and it has been, coincidently, released on DVD).

Night Stalker follows the story of crime reporter, Carl Kolchak (Stuart Townsend) newly hired to the L.A. paper, The Beacon, and paired with “senior” crime reporter, Perri Reed (Gabrielle Union). Together, they investigate mysterious deaths and strange happenings, which may be related to the death of Kolchak’s wife. A death that a member of the FBI still considers Kolchak having a hand in. Though it did provide an “origin” for Kolchak, the show gave no explanations and little to say that there’s an on-going mystery to be solved beyond some vague conspiracy against him. Even with the back story, you don’t feel like you can identify with him or any of the characters. I’m waiting for something approaching chemistry to develop between Kolchak and Reed, besides a pale imitation of her Scully to Kolchak’s Mulder..

The show lacks a certain spark, though not for lack of trying. In the updating of the show, they haven’t done much besides upgrade the cars and the technology. Night Stalker follows the monster of the week formula done so often in the X-Files. Its chaotic direction style, meant to enhance the creepiness and excitement, only muddled the action. The show takes itself so seriously, retaining none of the original’s humor. Stuart Townsend’s Carl Kolchak seems awfully young and can’t quite convey the sense of world weariness that Kolchak should be exuding. That wouldn’t have been as big a deal for me, if they hadn’t have digitally inserted Darren McGavin, into a background scene in the newsroom.

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Psalm 91:5-6 (New International Version)

Fear, doubt, broken relationships, suffering, horror, death (some of these words highlighted in Kolchak’s voice overs); we’ve learn to live with these symptoms of a fallen world. We know that something’s is wrong with creation, but we’ve learned to pretend that it’s not there. As a crime victim told Perri Reed, “there are no answers. People get desperate for an explanation. Sometimes they believe the unbelievable.”

Some questions have no answers, or at least answers that we’d be satisfied with. Wondering why evil exists or why bad things happen to good people; these are things that each of us has to wrestle with for ourselves. It’s what marks the journey of faith because some things have to be experienced, not taught.

Night Stalker, like the X-Files, is about faith and the pursuit of the truth. Faith in things that go bump in the night, in principalities, unseen forces, and that there is some reason behind them all. It speaks to our feeling that something terrible is happening. For Kolchak, strange deaths and mysterious circumstances fit together like pieces in a grand puzzle that he doesn’t understand yet. The show examines the darkness that haunts our world, and stalks us, explaining how we are all like Kolchak, “a man drawn to a story that so closely mirrors his own.”