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The X-Files – Humbug (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.

The world is a weird place, but it seems to get a little less weird all the time.

One of the great recurring themes of The X-Files is that globilisation and rapid development have cast light on the deepest nooks and crannies, having a homogenising effect. There’s little room in the world for the eccentric and the strange, as Starbucks opens an average of two stores every day and access to the internet in the United States doubling between 2000 and 2014. In 2009, the furthest a person could be from a McDonalds in the United States was 107 miles. The world is getting smaller.

Funhouse mirror...

Funhouse mirror…

Paradoxically, this only winds up pushing people further apart. This happens on both a community and an individual level. Small towns find themselves struggling to survive in the current economic climate, despite the increased accessibility. Despite the growth of social media to make interpersonal communication easier than ever, the number of people feeling socially isolated has doubled since 1985.

Humbug is the show’s first script from writer Darin Morgan. While not as polished as his later work, it perfectly captures that mournful sense that a certain kind of weirdness is passing.

Something fishy is going on...

Something fishy is going on…

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Doctor Who: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy originally aired in 1988.

Sometimes I think it’s you that’s crazy, not Deadbeat here.

Anybody remotely interesting is mad in some way or another.

– Ace and the Doctor cut to the heart of Doctor Who

It’s very hard to believe that The Greatest Show in the Galaxy aired as the final story of the twenty-fifth season of Doctor Who. Stories like Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis were clearly anniversary fodder, celebrating the progress of the show to this point. The Happiness Patrol was a delightfully surreal oddity that has only really been noticed by the general public in recent years, with news breaking in 2010 that Andrew Cartmel had been using Doctor Who to tell politically subversive stories. Which, I suppose, confirms just how few people were watching The Happiness Patrol in 1988.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is as concerned with the legacy of Doctor Who as Remembrance of the Daleks or Silver Nemesis, but it lacks the nostalgic shine. Instead, it’s a stunningly bitter piece of television that offers a pretty damning indictment of what Doctor Who had become by the late eighties, a critique of selling out and chasing ratings and living in constant fear that the gods of entertainment – the middle-class families so desperately courted and so carefully catered to – might tune out and consign the show to oblivion.

The Doctor welcomes you to The Greatest Show in the Galaxy...

The Doctor welcomes you to The Greatest Show in the Galaxy…

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Non-Review Review: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants is undoubtedly a well made film from a technical point of view. It stylishly evokes a collective memory of Depression-era America with a skilled romanticism, all beautifully staged and designed, scored with music clearly intended to tug at the heart-strings. However, despite the technical proficiency with which the film is crafted, it ends up feeling ultimately quite lifeless, and a little stale – like a mediocre circus, the movie is stylish and momentarily distracting, but it never manages to grasp its audience, or to engage.

He packed his trunk and said goodbye to the circus...

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