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CinÉireann – Issue 6 (April 2018)

The latest issue of CinÉireann has just been released.

It’s a really great read, with Conor Murphy continuing his exploration of cinematic education, Jay Coyle looking at the filmography of Michael Inside director Frank Berry, and Stacy Grouden examining the elaborate worlds of Wes Anderson. Very much worth a look, whether you’re interested in Irish or international film.

I also have a piece in there contextualising The Cured as part of the broader trend of recent apocalyptic horrors invested in the idea of the end of a world that has yet to accept its passing; films like Logan and shows like The Leftovers.

You can read CinÉireann as a digital magazine directly. You can even subscribe and get future issues delivered to you directly. Or click the picture below.

Star Trek: Enterprise – Stratagem (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.

With Stratagem, the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise gets its head back in the game.

The recent stretch of third season episodes seemed to lose sight of what made this such an intriguing premise. Although Rick Berman had conceded that there was an escape hatch in place in case the Xindi arc could not sustain a full season of television, it was increasingly clear that the third season of Enterprise would be a single extended arc exploring Archer’s attempts to find the source of a deadly threat against mankind. It was a bold experiment for a show that had been quite rigidly episodic to this point. At least in theory.

Archer's on candid camera...

Archer’s on candid camera…

In practice, the third season of Enterprise seemed to flounder a little bit once it got past the initial burst of speed powering it into the third season. All of a sudden, the crew found themselves involved in a number of increasingly stand-alone adventures with superficial ties to the larger arc. Episodes like Extinction and Chosen Realm could easily have been produced and broadcast during the show’s first two seasons, with minor alterations. Exile and North Star were only loosely connected to the season’s plot. Carpenter Street was a time travel episode.

Proving Ground had suggested that the show was ready to re-focus its attention on the matter at hand and get back to the imminent threat posed by the Xindi. At the same time, the episode was also keen to stress its episodic nature – most notably in its role as the show’s annual check-in with the Andorians. Stratagem is very much its own self-contained story, but it is a lot more confident about how it fits in the larger scheme of things, and where it fits in the broader arc of the season.

Engineering a convincing set-up...

Engineering a convincing set-up…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Twilight (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.

Twilight is a fascinating piece of Star Trek.

There are some significant flaws with the episode, particularly in how it treats T’Pol as a character and the eagerness with which it grabs at the famed “reset button.” However, despite these problems, Twilight is pretty much perfectly positioned. Eight episodes into the third season, the new status quo has been established. The ground rules have been laid down. Over the past seven episodes, fans have been given a sense of how the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise is supposed to work.

Keep your shirt on, Archer...

Keep your shirt on, Archer…

However, there is a palpable sense of unease about the larger arc – a question of how Star Trek can tell a story like the Xindi arc while remaining true to itself. The Shipment was an awkward attempt to impose a traditional Star Trek moral structure upon the season. North Star and Similitude are very much traditional Star Trek morality tales set against the backdrop of the larger arc. Like many of the stronger shows towards the tail end of the second season, these episodes seem to ask how you can apply old Star Trek standards to the twenty-first century.

Twilight is an episode about what happens if the Xindi arc goes wrong. Obviously, this is a story about what happens if Archer cannot save Earth from the Xindi, documenting the slow death of mankind as they are hunted through the cosmos. However, on an external level, Twilight is a story about what happens if Star Trek bungles this big grasp at relevance. It is no coincidence that the debilitating impairment that Archer develops involves his long-term memory. If the franchise forgets itself, all is lost.

Everything dies...

Everything dies…

Twilight is not just the story about the death of Earth or the death of humanity. It is a story about the death of Star Trek. Two years earlier, the franchise had seemed almost invincible; the idea of there not being any Star Trek on the air after the end of Star Trek: Voyager seemed almost absurd. However, by the time that the show had reached the third season, its existence was very much in peril. Twilight is a story about how horrible and apocalyptic the future might be; how Star Trek might find itself hobbled and then destroyed.

As its name implies, Twilight is a lament for the franchise; perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that the show was nothing more than a dead man walking at this point. The result is a surprisingly moving piece of television, a thoughtful and considerate examination of just how much is on the line for the franchise as well as the characters.

Waking dream...

Waking dream…

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Millennium – Exegesis (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

It is odd to think of The Innocents and Exegesis as a two parter, despite the explicit “to be continued” that bridges the two episodes.

The Innocents is very much a straightforward procedural episode, with Frank rejoining the FBI and investigating a string of mysterious occurrences that are all connected. As Frank tries to pull himself back together after the death of his wife, various parties insist that he is more lost than ever before. There is a sense that Frank needs to work though what happened to him, regardless of the doubts expressed by his embittered father-in-law or his friendly supervisor at the FBI. Of course others doubt him, and of course he works through those doubts.

"I can see it all clearly..."

“I can see it all clearly…”

It is very much a standard “lead character gets his life back together” story, complete with obligatory sequence where Frank demonstrates he has made his peace with the loss of Catherine by using his story as emotional leverage to ply a confession (or, at least, an explanation) from a person of interest in the on-going investigation. The Innocents is a very banal and paint-by-numbers episode of television. Underneath all those biohazard warnings and eerie blue-eyed siblings, there is a strong procedural element to The Innocents. It feels trite and coy.

At the very least, Exegesis is more unique. It feels like an episode of Millennium, rather than some generic dime-a-dozen procedural. This is likely down to the fact that The Innocents was written by Michael Duggan and Exegesis was written by Chip Johannessen. Michael Duggan was a writer who had a lot of experience on procedurals (Law & Order and C-16: FBI), but who had no prior experience writing Millennium. Hired to run the show in its third year, he would only write two scripts for the show before departing seven episodes into the season.

Go fly a kite...

Go fly a kite…

In contrast, Chip Johannessen had helped to define Millennium’s identity in its first year. In fact, with a group of nearly identical female sisters working towards a mysterious goal (based on vague prophecy), Exegesis owes a great deal to Johannessen’s earlier script Force Majeure. While it does illustrate how Exegesis feels like a more traditional Millennium episode than The Innocents, it is not a comparison that does Exegesis any favours. Force Majeure was one of the best episodes the show ever produced; Exegesis is… not.

As with The Innocents, Exegesis is handicapped by a lot of the clumsy production decisions made at the start of the third season. It feels curiously disconnected from what came before; it plays a little too much like a reheated leftover from The X-Files; a lot of the nuance and development given to Peter Watts and the Millennium Group over the second season is washed away. Nevertheless, it does have a clearer sense of purpose and energy than The Innocents. It feels like Johannessen knows what he wants to say, even if the show is still tripping over itself.

Welcome back, Frank.

Welcome back, Frank.

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