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Star Trek: Enterprise – Storm Front, Part II (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II arrive at a transitory time for Star Trek: Enterprise.

The fourth season was almost certain to be the end of the show, with Brannon Braga stepping back from the writers’ room to allow Manny Coto the chance to the take the reins. Coto would use the opportunity to more firmly connect the show to its franchise roots, constructing a final season that would serve as something of a bridge between this prequel series and the rest of the canon. However, there was just one problem. Coto inherited a cliffhanger from Zero Hour, the third season finale that stranded Archer in the past with some evil!alien!space!Nazis.

Into the sunset...

Into the sunset…

Although the fourth season of Enterprise is widely praised by the few fans who remained watching until the bitter end, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II are often overlooked in discussions of the season. Much like These Are the Voyages… at the very end of the season, the opening two-parter is largely treated as a story foisted upon an incoming executive producer that does not reflect his own plans or desires for the season ahead. There is typically a sense of obligation to discussions of the two-parter as little more than a speed bump into the season.

This is a shame. Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II were both written by Manny Coto. Although the producer inherited the basic premise and the brief from his direct predecessors, how Coto chose to approach the material is quite insightful and informative. In that respect, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II might be seen as an introduction to the Manny Coto era before it properly begins in Home.

"It's been a long road, gettin' from there to here... It's been a long time, but my time is finally near..."

“It’s been a long road, gettin’ from there to here…
It’s been a long time, but my time is finally near…”

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The X-Files – Travelers (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

For all that the fifth season of The X-Files is building towards a major summer movie release, the production team seem surprisingly relaxed about it.

The fifth season is as experimental and as loose as the show ever got. Patient X and The Red and the Black suggested that Chris Carter didn’t even feel beholden to the continuity of The X-Files: Fight the Future, introducing new characters and concepts to the mythology that could not possibly be inserted into the film at this late stage. Similarly, the show was willing to play around with special guest writers like Stephen King and William Gibson, film an entire episode in black and white, focus on relatively minor characters, and reveal two separate secret histories of the X-files.

What do you call a baby Fox?

What do you call a baby Fox?

Of course, some of these innovations were driven by necessity or large goals. Patient X and The Red and the Black represent the beginning of the end for this stage of the mythology. Stories like Unusual Suspects and Travelers focus on characters other than Mulder or Scully because David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were otherwise engaged. Nevertheless, there is a very relaxed vibe to the fifth season, as if the show is taking an extended moment to enjoy the peak of its popularity. As well it should.

Travelers is an episode that is far from essential in many respects. It is clunky in places, indulgent in others. It feels like the production teams are just happy to root through the old costuming wardrobe and prop departments, delighted to compose over-written monologues and stock characters. Travelers is light and fun, with its indulgence and its relative lack of substance making it more enjoyable than it would otherwise be.

He'll (Garret Dilla)hunt you down...

He’ll (Garret Dilla)hunt you down…

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The Marvels Project (Review/Retrospective)

hIn celebration of the 4th of July and the release of Captain America: The First Avenger later this month, we’re jumping into Marvel’s comic book alternate history and taking a look at the star-spangled avenger every Wednesday this month.

Truth be told, I’m not sure what to make of The Marvels Project, a miniseries from Ed Brubaker. Brubaker has been doing acclaimed work on Captain America for some years now, so I guess I almost figured that The Marvels Project would be an extension of that – a period piece set during the Second World War which would allow perhaps the definitive Captain America author to put his own stamp on that iconic comic book origin. For better or worse, this isn’t really that story – sure, Steve Rogers’ early career is covered, but as one small section of a much larger puzzle. Far more than the origin of Captain America, The Marvels Project is the origin of the Marvel Universe.

Carryin' the torch...

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What Happened Happened: Mainstream Alternative Histories?

Alternative histories have long been a staple of science fiction. The basic idea is simple enough: take a key moment in history and play it out just a little bit differently (or a lot differently). The Man in the High Castle, the story of how America lost the Second World War, may be the most famous example, but there’s literally a whole subgenre of literary science-fiction based around the idea of playing things out in a way different from how they did. However, this fascination with alternative history never really spilled over into cinema. However, there are slowly emerging signs that audiences may be gradually adjusting to the genre and the potential it offers.

Twenty more years!

Note: This is not to be confused with the historical school of alternative histories, which are all based on perfectly reasonable assumptions, like if a courier who really existed was late or if a wound to a historical figure had been fatal. It seems in mainstream sci-fi these are more likely to involve pepperpot-shaped aliens or glowing blue supermen. So, some historians out there may object to the term – maybe I should use ‘speculative history’ instead. But it’s all semantics.

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