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New Escapist Column! “His Dark Materials” Could Only Exist in a Post-“Game of Thrones” World…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. This one took a look at the new BBC/HBO co-production of His Dark Materials, adapting Phillip Pullman’s fantasy epic for a new generation.

It feels appropriate that somebody should take another crack at Pullman’s novels now. New Line Cinema attempted to adapt The Golden Compass back in 2007, using the same model that they applied to The Lord of the Rings. However, that was never going to work; Pullman’s work was too subversive and too radical to ever fit the traditional cinematic narrative template. In contrast, this feels like the perfect moment for another adaptation, as Game of Thrones has pushed the boundaries in terms of television fantasy, both in what is possible and what audiences will accept.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! Rorschach, White Supremacy and “Watchmen”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last Friday. One of the more interesting aspects of Watchmen has been the controversy that the series has demonstrated by looking at white supremacy head-on.

In particular, the show’s treatment of the legacy of Rorschach has been controversial to some fans, who have objected to the idea that his iconography would be adopted by a white supremacy group like the Seventh Kavalry. However, these concerns suggest a misreading of the graphic novel, which offers a very start view of Rorschach’s politics. Indeed, any close reading of Watchmen suggests it is almost inevitable that Rorschach would become a beacon for the sort of reactionary views that power the modern alt-right.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! How Disney Have Monetised Spoiler Culture…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine over the weekend. I’ve been thinking about this for a little while, since the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and it came bubbling to the surface with the announcement that the first episode of The Mandalorian would include “a dramatic Star Wars-universe spoiler in the first episode.”

This got me thinking about the way in which, more than any other mass media company, Disney have weaponised spoiler culture as a selling point, to create urgency among consumers and to use that to drive the market. They have also used it to shape the conversation, to control what can or cannot be said about their films and at what point. Spoiler culture has grant Disney a surprisingly strong control of the fandom-driven market. It’s an incredibly canny move from the company, one which has exploited a core part of current nerd culture.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 2, Episode 6 (“The Curse of Frank Black”)

Because it’s Halloween, The Time is Now has a special treat. I was flattered to talk about The Curse of Frank Black with the one and only Tony Black. A perfect piece of Halloween viewing, it is one of my favourite episodes of Millennium, and so was a huge honour to be asked to sit in on this one.

I’ve gone on record about this before. The second season of Millennium is one of my favourite twenty-odd-episode seasons of television ever produced. It is hard to pick a single favourite from a season that features episodes like Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense”, Owls and Roosters, and The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now. Nevertheless, The Curse of Frank Black is one of those episodes of television that has really stayed with me over the years. I have lost track of how many times I have watched it, and every time I still find something new. So this was a delight.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below. I really hope you enjoy.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Season 7 (Review)

The seventh season of Star Trek: Voyager is not the worst season of Star Trek ever. It isn’t even the worst season of this particular show.

It contains nothing as spectacularly ill-judged and tone-deaf as Alliances or Tattoo. None of its central characters are as insufferable as those presented in Parturition. There is nothing here quite as soul-crushingly boring as Twisted. Indeed, the seventh season of Voyager is a mostly competent season of television. Producer Brannon Braga had turned his attention to the launch of Star Trek: Enterprise, leaving the day-to-day running of the series to veteran Kenneth Biller. Biller approached that role as one of simple maintenance. He kept the trains running on time.

The result is that the seventh season of Voyager features no spectacular embarrassments. In its own way, this is an accomplishment for a Star Trek series. After all, final seasons tend to be filled with the kinds of episodes that reflect a production team desperately clutching for story ideas, leaving them open to mockery from a fandom with fixed ideas of what Star Trek should be. Final seasons tend to be home to misfires like Spock’s Brain, … And the Children Shall Lead, Interface, Dark PageForce of Nature, Journey’s End, Prodigal Daughter, The Emperor’s New Cloak.

The seventh season of Voyager largely avoids those sorts of embarrassments. Even episodes that threaten to tip over into high camp, like Drive or Repression, maintain an even keel. The seventh season of Voyager is much more consistent than the seventh seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There is a neatness to it, a stability. It feels like “business as usual” for the series in a way that those other final seasons did not. Episodes like Imperfection or Human Error could easily have come from any of the three prior seasons.

Of course, this is a double-edged compliment. As much as the seventh season of Voyager is more stable and more consistent than other final seasons, it is also much more modest. The final season of The Next Generation was incredibly inconsistent, but it was still playful and ambitious, resulting in gonzo delights like Masks or Parallels. The final season of Deep Space Nine might have sagged in the middle, but it still pushed the boundaries franchise, engaging in biting criticisms in Chimera and attempting to wrap up with a sprawling ten-part series finale.

The seventh season of Voyager is not the worst season of Star Trek ever. it is, however, one of the dullest.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Endgame (Review)

Appropriately enough, Star Trek: Voyager ends with a betrayal of itself.

Endgame even frames that betrayal in terms of its own internal logic. The first scene after the teaser finds what remains of the crew attending a tenth anniversary reunion following the successful completion of their mission and their return to Earth. Reginald Barclay, “adopted” member of the family and veteran of Star Trek: The Next Generation, offers a toast. “Twenty three years together made you a family, one I’m proud to have been adopted by. Let’s raise our glasses to the journey.” The room toasts, “To the journey.”

Toast of the town…

This is first point of betrayal. Her glass raised, Admiral Janeway suggests a modification of the toast. “And to those who aren’t here to celebrate it with us.” It is a fair toast given how many crew members Janeway had lost over the course of the journey. However, it also suggests the central thesis of Endgame, which is itself the central thesis of Voyager. It was never really about the journey, despite what any of the crew might say at any given point in the show’s run. It was never about the time spent together, or the family forged. It was never even about the people.

It was about getting home. It was about completing the journey. It was about reaching the end point at the designated time. The journey, the adventure, the exploration; these were never the focus. All that potential, all that possibility, was squandered. Endgame is the story of how Admiral Janeway erases sixteen years of exploration, sixteen years of growth, sixteen years of character development. Admiral Janeway does that so that Voyager can complete its journey after the designated seven years, the expected one-hundred-and-seventy-eight episodes.

Living with herself…

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New Escapist Column! “Undone”, “Back to the Future” and Keeping Time Travel In the Family…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Friday. This one takes a look at Amazon Prime’s really very wonderful Undone. Seriously, if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, give it a look right now. It’s only four hours long in total, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen this year.

Anyway, the series is interesting in its use of its central time travel premise as a metaphor for exploring the relationship between parent and child. Freudian psychology and Campbellian storytelling argues that a parent must die for a child to become a completely independent person, that realisation of mortality standing as the most important marker on the journey to adulthood. However, like Back to the Future before it, Undone suggests a more nuanced idea. Maybe children don’t grow up when confront with the death of a parent, but instead when they realise that their parents were just ordinary human beings.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.