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The X-Files – Colony (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Colony is another second season game changer. As with other episodes in the second season, there’s a sense that the production team are really getting to grips with what works with the show – laying groundwork and defining a template that they can work with into the show’s third season. While the Duane Barry and Ascension two-parter had been an act of desperation to work around Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, Colony and End Game is a two-parter that the show embraced entirely of its own volition.

These two two-part episodes really set the template for the show going forward. There’s a sense that Chris Carter and his team were really defining what a season of The X-Files should look like, giving them a blueprint that they might build on in the years ahead. From the second season through to the sixth, the show would stick quite rigidly to the idea of two big two-parters in the middle of the season, quite apart from any multi-part stories bridging the seasons.

Lights in the sky...

Lights in the sky…

These two parters were typically broadcast as part of the “sweeps”, and inevitably focused on the show’s alien conspiracy mythology. Even the more stand-alone two-parters like A Christmas Carol and Emily or Dreamland Part I and Dreamland Part II still build off the series’ central mythology. Given those were the points at which the show got the highest exposure, and the point where the show worked hardest to draw in an audience, it’s no surprise that the mythology arc rose to such prominence.

Duane Barry and Ascension undoubtedly set a precedent, but those episodes were prompted by factors outside the control of the creative team. However, Colony and End Game really solidified that precedent into a guiding principle for the show. This two-parter comes to codify and cement a lot of the things that the show’s mythology comes to take for granted. For better and worse.

Quite pointed...

Quite pointed…

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The X-Files (Topps) #2 – A Dismembrance of Things Past (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

A Dismembrance of Things Past is an absolute delight, and a nice demonstration of how well writer Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard could tell stories set within The X-Files universe.

There are many interesting things about A Dismembrance of Things Past. It’s a fine piece of work, deftly balancing the demands on a new comic book set within the world of The X-Files with an urge to tell a story that fits very clearly and very comfortably within the show’s basic structure. It is easy to imagine A Dismembrance of Things Past receiving a live-action adaptation. Indeed, Petrucha’s script feels like something of a tribute to writer Darin Morgan before Darin Morgan had even written for the show, half-way between Blood and José Chung’s “From Outer Space.”

Something to remember them by...

Something to remember them by…

A Dismembrance of Things Past confronts the difficulties of writing a tie-in comic book to The X-Files, while using those constraints to tell an interesting story in its own right. After all, the comic book would have to tell an alien or U.F.O. story eventually. The words “The X-Files” are written on the cover, and that comes with the territory. At the same time, Petrucha and Adlard have to acknowledge the fact that the tie-in comic book cannot advance the on-screen mythology arc. Indeed, it seems unlikely Carter had shared too much of that arc with Petrucha or Adlard.

It takes a lot of skill to balance these competing demands of a tie-in comic book – to remain connected to the source material, but never pulling too far away or ahead, while remaining interesting. A Dismembrance of Things Past manages to satisfy all of its obligations and then some.

Through alien eyes...

Through alien eyes…

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The X-Files – Fresh Bones (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Written by Howard Gordon and directed by Rob Bowman, Fresh Bones is a superbly constructed piece of television. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that Fresh Bones is the best “traditional” episode of The X-Files produced since Scully returned to the fold. While episodes like Irresistible and Die Hand Die Verletzt have been bold and adventurous in their attempts to expand the show’s comfort zone, Fresh Bones is perhaps the best example of what the show was missing while Gillian Anderson was unavailable – proof the familiar formula still works.

It’s a great example of what might be termed “the standard X-Files episode” – a demonstration of how all the moving parts come together to produce an episode of the show, offering an example of the series’ standard operating practice. If you were to pick an episode of the second season to demonstrate how a “standard” episode of The X-Files should work, Fresh Bones would be perhaps the most appropriate example. (Aubrey and Our Town are perhaps the only two other examples.)

Grave danger...

Grave danger…

In keeping with Bowman’s approach to the series, Fresh Bones feels like a forty-five minute movie. The show atmospherically shot with some wonderful kinetic sequences – such as Mulder’s pursuit of Chester on the pier or Scully’s attack in the car. The Voodoo subject matter lends Fresh Bones a wonderfully pulpy atmosphere, although it seems like Howard Gordon has done his homework. The script to Fresh Bones averts many of the awkward stereotypes you’d expect in a show about Voodoo starring two white leads produced in Vancouver.

The result is a superb piece of television, an example of what The X-Files is capable of.

A bone to pick...

A bone to pick…

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Non-Review Review: Sin City – A Dame to Kill For

It is very hard to get the same trick to work twice.

When it arrived in cinemas, Sin City was a visceral punch to the gut. It was powerful and shocking, and utterly unlike anything that had ever been seen before. It had its fair share of problems, mostly inherited from Frank Miller’s source material, but it managed the rare treat of being incredibly raw and stylishly slick at the same time. Even years later, the images and characters from Sin City linger in the popular consciousness.

It would be too much to expect the same from Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, but the movie lacks the youthful energy that made the original such a classic and the memorable images that imprinted themselves on the collective imagination. Sin City arrived with a reckless irreverence and a whole new bag of tricks. Ultimately, A Dame to Kill For feels like an old dog, and you know what they say about those.

Green-eyed monster?

Green-eyed monster?

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The X-Files – Die Hand Die Verletzt (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Die Hand Die Verletzt is a fascinating piece of work, for a number of reasons. The most striking reason, however, is that it is essentially a comedy episode. While The X-Files has always had a wry sense of humour – Mulder’s viewing habits are a recurring joke, after all – this is the first time the series has tried to produce a full-length comedy episode. Die Hand Die Verletzt is still a horror story, and the comedy is pretty black, but it does seem to prove that the show can do an entire episode that is funny.

The implications of this are far-reaching. At its height, the beauty of The X-Files was its versatility. The show could tell just about any sort of story imaginable, flitting between prestige drama, out-and-out horror, pastiche, broad comedy, political thriller, satire or even romance. While you could always bet on at least a hint of the supernatural and a dash of horror, The X-Files could really be anything that Chris Carter and his writers wanted it to be. It was even a show that could collide with other shows, as in The Springfield Files or X-Cops.

She's the devil in disguise...

She’s the devil in disguise…

To be fair, the second season is already reaching towards that approach to The X-Files. Although he has yet to produce a script for the series, the show has hired Darin Morgan to work on the writing team; his sensibilities would be proven truly and brilliantly gonzo. Irresistible proved that you could produce an episode of The X-Files without an overt supernatural horror, focusing on a more grounded horror. Red Museum provided an “almost crossover” with another television series.

However, Die Hand Die Verletzt is the point at which the show does something that looks truly weird in the context of what has come before, yet feeling strangely comfortable in light of what has followed. The script may mark the departure of Glen Morgan and James Wong from the show – the duo leaving to produce Space: Above & Beyond – but it isn’t the end of an era so much as the start of a new one.

The writing's on the... er... chalkboard...

The writing’s on the… er… chalkboard…

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Non-Review Review: Into the Storm

Into the Storm is at least up front about its intentions.

It is a surprisingly pragmatic natural disaster film, one that moves with almost ruthless efficiency. Quite like the eponymous storm front, it goes where it wants to go, with little consideration for minor details like character development or intricate plotting. Into the Storm is a movie that knows what it wants to be and what it wants to be. There’s a strange utility to the world of Into the Storm.

Gimme shelter...

Gimme shelter…

In this world, used car lots exist purely to provide material for hurricanes to toss through the air; abandoned mills with all sorts of dangerous chemicals exist purely to put young members of the cast in peril; youtube-obsessed hicks exist solely as comic relief to be be shuffled out of the film before the stakes get well and truly raised. It’s a film that believes that twisters are fine on their own, but things can always be enhanced by the addition of a fire twister or by combining multiple twisters into a giant twister.

Into the Storm is a film so ruthlessly up front that it puts the Sci Fi (or SyFy) Channel to shame. There’s something almost endearing about that, even the result is far from satisfying.

Who films the filmmakers?

Who films the filmmakers?

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The X-Files – Irresistible (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Irresistible is a fascinating piece of television and arguably one of the most iconic and important episodes of The X-Files ever broadcast.

It’s also very, very good.

Here's Donnie...

Here’s Donnie…

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