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The X-Files – Nothing Important Happened Today II (Review)

This December, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the ninth season of The X-Files.

Of course, the ninth season was broadcast in a radically different world than the eighth season.

Nothing Important Happened Today I was broadcast early in November 2001, less than two months after hijackers commandeered control of several airline jets and sent them crashing into various American landmarks. The attacks upon the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon changed the world in a way that very few events can claim. History can be comfortably divided into “before 9/11” and “after 9/11”, a rare marker of cultural significance generally reserved for events like World Wars.

World on fire...

World on fire…

Tom Brokow has argued that 9/11 was “when the twenty-first century truly began.” Anne-Marie Slaughter argued that 9/11 was “the defining event of the new millennium.” Phillip E. Wegner suggested that 9/11 represented the end of “the long nineties” that had begun with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that 9/11 changed absolutely everything. It defined American foreign policy for over a decade after the fact, cemented a culture of anxiety and surveillance, cast an incredibly long shadow over world culture and politics.

Over two-and-a-half thousand people were killed on 9/11. Estimates suggest that up to twenty-one thousand civilians and more than two thousand American troops died during the War in Afghanistan. Studies suggest that up to half a million Iraqis have died of war-related causes and nearly four-and-a-half thousand American troops have died during the Iraq War. These are just the losses that can be tangibly measured; it is to say nothing of the lives caught in ripple effects and unforeseen (or foreseeable) consequences.

Shining a light on what happened...

Shining a light on what happened…

It is very cavalier and insensitive to suggest that The X-Files was a victim of 9/11 in any real sense. With everything else going on in the wake of 9/11, the cancellation of a television show means nothing. The cancellation of a show (even a popular show) is not even a footnote in any account of how the world changed. It is entirely reasonable to argue that The X-Files might have been cancelled even if 9/11 never happened. The show was nine years old, and had just lost one of its two leads. It was entirely possible that the show could never have recovered from that anyway.

Still, The X-Files was a show indelibly and undeniably anchored in the context of the nineties. It was a show that tapped into the zeitgeist in that historical lacuna following the end of the Cold War, when there were no more enemies to fight and where there was room for introspection and reflection about government authority. By the start of the ninth season, the show’s cultural moment had passed.

A Doggett lead...

A Doggett lead…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Anomaly (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Anomaly continues the sense that the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise is essentially a new first season of the show.

That is most obvious in the way that the script works hard to establish the ground rules of the Expanse. There is a sense that the episode is very clearly establishing rules and plot points that will come into play later in the run. Anomaly not only explains why mining for trellium-D is such a profitable enterprise; explaining that ships without it are susceptible to all sorts of strange distortions to the laws of physics. Anomaly also introduces the spheres, strange structures that will become a key part of the third season’s mythology.

A good man goes to war...

A good man goes to war…

The show is also marking out ground for later exploration. Anomaly becomes a lot more potent in hindsight, with various decisions here reversed in later episodes. In Anomaly, Archer is a victim of piracy; in Damage, he is forced to commit piracy. In Anomaly, Archer tortures a prisoner in order to procure information that he needs; in Countdown, Hoshi is tortured by Dolim in order to procure information that he needs. It is not entirely clear whether these plot beats were figured out ahead of time, but – like the destroyed Xindi home world in The Xindi – they lend the third season a nice sense of moral symmetry.

Most interestingly – and, perhaps, most pointedly – Anomaly represents a clear return to two very early episodes of the first season. The script of Anomaly touches quite overtly on plot points from Fight or Flight and Strange New World. In some ways, it could be seen as a belated do-over.

Sparks fly...

Sparks fly…

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Days Like This – 24:Day 8

24 is over. It’s a bit of a shock. Don’t worry, there will be a movie. At least, they promise there will be. Eventually. In fairness, long before the news that the show was going off the air, this season had the feel of a final season. Eight years is a long time for any television show to be on the air, not least of which one founded on such an interesting gimmick (though, admittedly, “real time” had its definition stretched over those eight years) and Day 8 felt like a perfectly dignified send off.

24 has a captive audience...

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24 for 24: The Best Cliffhangers

24 will bow out on UK and Irish television screens next week. I figured I’ll review the final season of the hit show, but I also thought I should do something a bit more special for the occasion. So, I decided I’d count down the top 24 cliffhangers. As those familiar with the show will know, each episode ends with a massive cliffhanger designed to reel the audience back in the following week. A major character is killed, someone is a mole, Jack does something almost unforgivable. Anyway, the best ones leave us hungry for more. So, over the eight years of the show, what are my personal best 24 moments?

The only reason you’re still conscious is because Jack Bauer doesn’t want to carry you…

Note: By its very nature, this article contains spoilers for all eight seasons. Don’t read it if you haven’t watched them yet, but still plan to. Even if you’re a casual fan of the show, some of these may shock you and ruin a good twist or two.

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My Top Ten Shows of the Decade

Yep, it’s retrospective time. I’ve done my top 50 movies of the past ten years, so it’s time for me to reflect on my top 10 television shows of the 00s. Prepare to be awed and mazed, shocked and astounded, angered and enraged, by the inclusions (and omissions) from my list. The good folks over at Television Without Pity included their favourite episode in each choice, so I think I’m going to run with that idea.

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Jack and Tony: Brothers in Arms?

I had the pleasure of rewatching bits and pieces of the seventh season of 24 with my parents (as they are equally avid fans of the show). We recently completed the final double episode and I have to admit that it only really occurred to me how well the writers had constructed Tony as a shadowy counterpart to their lead. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the season as a whole, but I just thought I’d make a quick note of some of the more interesting parallels and ponder whether Jack is really so much better than Tony.

jacktony

Clothes colour coded for your convenience... white=good, black=bad....

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The Palmers: A Reflection of the Kennedys?

Senator Ted Kennedy passed away last week amid a media frenzy. What interested me most about the Senator’s passing was the revelation of how he spent his final days: watching Bond movies and the entire run of 24. There are worse entertainments to be found, to be sure. I wonder if he watched that hallmark American television show enthralled by the actions of Jack Bauer, or if he saw something more hidden away? He wouldn’t be the first to find parallels between the show’s African-American Presidential family and the illustrious Kennedy dynasty. Did he see a reflection of what might have been, in another life?

I like the flag. Patriotic touch.

I like the flag. Patriotic touch.

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