The late Lord Blake, attacking the unenviable task of evaluating Benjamin Disraeli’s skill as a novelist, recalled the Oxford concept of the “alpha/gamma” grade. Long story short, a reviewer would award this grade when confronted with brilliance mixed with baffling incompetence.

That’s how I’m feeling about Millennium right now. The concept has similarities to the inferior Freejack (though it’s been years since I watched that): humans from the 30th century are retrieving people from airline crashes right before they die, leaving the flow of history uninterrupted. Our main characters are an NTSB investigator (Kris Kristofferson), an operative from the 30th century (Cheryl Ladd), and a physicist (Daniel J. Travanti, best known as Captain Furillo from Hill Street Blues).

MillenniumThings are bad in the 30th century. The environment is severely degraded and all of humanity is barren. The people of the 30th century intend to use time travel to take people from the past who won’t be missed and then send them into a far future where the Earth is (presumably) more livable. That hangs together as far as that goes but I would think that a society which has mastered time travel could also master space travel and drop a colony somewhere. Pale blue dot and all that.

Anyway, as with most time-travel movies, the A plot revolves around a potential time paradox. That’s okay as far as that goes. The B plot, centered around the awkward relationship between Kristofferson and Ladd, really drags down the middle third of the movie. The effects work is variable; the opening air crash isn’t very convincing (in fairness, it’s better than the crash in Air Force One), but the time-travel effects look good. The makeup on the 30th century mutations is pretty darn good.

I want to like this movie. I think I did like this movie. Yet there are things that bug me. Travanti’s physicist is important but doesn’t have enough screen time. The concept of “time quakes” isn’t well-explained; why a temporal paradox would cause cascading destructive effects in the 30th century (but nowhere else?) isn’t explained either. Too much is elided in the final act. The character of Sherman the Robot is poignant, but underdeveloped. There’s also at least one inexcusable deus ex machina in the closing minutes.

It’s on Netflix; if you’re at all attracted to science fiction/time travel/Kris Kristofferson it’s worth a look. I think it’s better than director Michael Anderson’s other futuristic science fiction film, the overrated Logan’s Run.