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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #84 (“Well-Manicured Rationale”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

And so, after the exposition comes character motivation – which is handily provided via exposition. The limousine sequence in Fight the Future is notable primarily as a bridging sequence. In terms of the “play the hits” aesthetic of Fight the Future, it serves to get Mulder from Scully’s abduction to his Arctic expedition. As a result, it’s a section of the film tasked with tying all of this together, in a rather condensed and contracted period of time. The results aren’t always elegant, but there is something fun about them.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #55 (“The Syndicate III”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

This episode wraps up my first stretch of episodes discussing Fight the Future, taking a look at the end of the conversation between the Well-Manicured Man and the rest of the Syndicate around him. It’s a fun discussion that finally gets to the heart of Fight the Future, bringing Mulder and Scully back into the story and communicating the stakes clearly to the audience munching on their popcorn.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #54 (“The Syndicate II”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

The delineation between my second and third minutes on the project is a bit looser than the clear demarcation between the first and second, in that it is a continuation of the same scene. Still, Kurt and I take a little bit of a closer look at the character of Strughold, the special celebrity guest star “big bad” who is drafted in to provide suitable amounts of menace to Fight the Future and then never appears again – probably because Armin Mueller-Stahl was a bit above the show’s paygrade, even after it moved to Los Angeles.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

 

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #53 (“The Syndicate”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

In some ways, this section of the film is an illustration of how tightly structured Fight the Future is, in terms of communicating exposition and character dynamics to an audience that may not be entirely up to date with the grand mechanics of the X-Files universe. So Fight the Future spends almost exactly a minute with the Well-Manicured Man before throwing him into conflict with the Syndicate. In doing so, it draws a contrast between the two that serves to very clearly define what distinguishes the Well-Manicured Man from his colleagues and partners.

Again, it would be too much to describe the storytelling here as elegant, but it does communicate things like character motivation quite clearly without distracting too heavily from the emotional crux of Fight the Future. Carter and Bowman both understand that the key is to communicate all of this as clearly and as quickly as possible, in order to get back to what is the movie’s real attraction, the movie-star tension between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. However, even with that in mind, the storytelling here is commendably efficient.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 5, Episode 13 (“Patient X”)

Anybody who has heard me talk about The X-Files knows that Patient X and The Red and the Black are comfortably my second-favourite mythology episodes, behind Nisei and 731. So it was a huge pleasure to be invited on The X-Cast to discuss them with the sensational Kurt North.

I get into it a lot on the podcast itself, but I think a large part of what I love about Patient X and The Red and the Black is that there is so much to it. As a two-parter, it’s the rare X-Files mythology episodes that manages to blend the propulsive blockbuster aesthetic of stories like Colony and End Game with the more existential musings of episodes like Biogenesis, The Sixth Extinction and The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati. It has both big ideas and an epic scope, offering one of the strongest overlaps between The X-Files and Star Wars, which has always been bubbling away in the background as a key influence.

As ever, I hope you enjoy. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below. Kurt and I will be teaming up again next week to discuss The Red and the Black.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 5, Episode 2 (“Redux II”)

It’s a bit of a change up on The X-Cast this week. Last week, I joined Tony Black to discuss the first part of the fifth season premiere Redux I. This week, Tony swapped out with Russell Hugo, whom I joined to discuss Redux II.

Redux II is an interesting beast. I am actually appreciably fonder of Redux II than I am of Redux I. I think the second part of the premiere does a lot of the stuff that the first half attempts, but in a much more interesting and compelling manner. It’s not quite as good as Gethsemane at the end of the fourth season, but it’s still a surprisingly ambitious and adventurous story for The X-Files to tell at this point in its run – the moment at which the series is at the peak of its popularity and The X-Files: Fight the Future is looming large in the horizon. I hope this was a fun and interesting discussion.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 5, Episode 1 (“Redux I”)

The X-Cast just kicked off its season coverage, and I’m back with Tony Black to discuss the first part of the fifth season premiere Redux I.

Redux I was famously the second-most watched episode of The X-Files, behind Leonard Betts. It’s easy to see why. Not only was the episode following on from an edge-of-the-seat cliffhanger involving the supposed suicide of the male lead on one of the buzziest shows of the decade, but it was also the launch of the season that would lead into the feature film adaptation, The X-Files: Fight the Future. As such, it was a pretty daring move on the part of Chris Carter to devote so much of the premiere to purple prose monologues playing over Mulder walking down grey corridors.

I think this is a pretty fun and interesting discussion. Redux I is always an episode that I’ve have complicated and conflicted feelings about, and the podcast was a nice opportunity to work through some of those strange emotions. Anyway, I hope there’s something worthwhile in here.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 16 (“Apocrypha”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, to cover the second-part of the late third-season mythology two-parter Apocrypha.

Picking up where Piper Maru left off, this conclusion finds Mulder and Scully continuing their separate investigations. Mulder is chasing down the missing tape from Anasazi, The Blessing Way and Paper Clip while Scully is dealing with the fallout from the assassination attempt on Assistant Director Walter Skinner that brings her face-to-face with the man who killed her sister. Justice, legacy and guilt are all major preoccupations, tying into the broader themes of the season as a whole.

Once again, a pleasure to substitute in for Tony Black as host of The X-Cast for an episode, and absolutely thrilled to be joined by the great Christopher Irish from The X-Files Lexicon.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Inside Man (Review)

Inside Man is a curious episode.

It is a seventh season episode that feels very much like a first season episode. To be fair, this is perhaps par for the course with any long-running series approaching a definite ending. Both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine got a little nostalgic in their final seasons. The Next Generation neatly bookended Encounter at Farpoint by picking up on the dangling thread of Q’s trial of humanity in All Good Things…, while Deep Space Nine revisited first season ideas like the “one hundred” in Chimera or Quark mistakenly thinking that he was replacing Zek in The Dogs of War.

“I’d counsel against that.”

Star Trek: Voyager was always going to be a little bit more nostalgic than most, given that the nature of the show involved a long journey back towards the familiar and the recognisable. The closer that Voyager got to home, the stronger the urge to look backwards. The seventh season of Voyager evokes the early seasons in a number of ways, such as the manner in which Repression tries to resurrect the Maquis conflict and even brings in a guest star last seen in Learning Curve or the surprise return of Joseph Carey as a guest star in Friendship One.

However, Inside Man has its own very strange nostalgia at its core. The episode builds on sixth season episodes like Pathfinder or Life Line, even including a number of recurring guest stars from those earlier episodes. However, its tone and its plot elements feel like they belong a much earlier script. Inside Man is an episode that treats the Ferengi as semi-serious antagonists who would murder more than a hundred people for a profit, which ignores a lot of their development on Deep Space Nine and jumps right back to their characterisation in early Next Generation episodes like The Last Outpost or Peak Performance.

“I mean, to be fair, they also couldn’t outwit the Kazon.”

However, at the core of the episode is a plot device that the series largely moved past in its second season, and one which feels strangely out of place on what amounts to the home stretch of Voyager. The plot of Inside Man revolves around a promise to get the ship and crew home ahead of schedule, the kind of promise that was frequently dangled in front of the crew in earlier episodes like Eye of the Needle, Cold Fire and False Profits. While it would be teased in later episodes like Hope and Fear or Bliss, it was never with the same intensity.

The irony with these earlier stories was that the audience understood, on some level,how unlikely it was that the ship and crew would be getting home. After all, the entire premise of Voyager was that it was a starship stranded on the far side of the galaxy, isolated from familiar support systems. To bring the ship home would represent a complete betrayal of the premise, even more than downplaying the tension with the Maquis or completely ignoring questions about which set of rules the crew would follow. If Voyager brought the ship home in a random episode in those first seasons, it would be a catastrophic admission of defeat.

Just a Reg-ular Barclay.

In Inside Man, a slight variation on the same central tension exists. Any audience member with any level of televisual literacy would understand that the ship and crew would be returning home at the end of the seventh season; this was the end of Voyager, and that ending had to involve the fulfillment of the show’s basic premise. However, given the show’s conservatism, it was highly unlikely that the crew would be getting home in such an early episode and certainly not as part of a plot involving the Ferengi. Inside Man is the most obvious sort of shell game, where there’s nothing hidden under any of the cups.

However, what’s most striking about Inside Man is that the script seems almost self-aware. The episode is glib and wry, repeatedly seeming like an extended joke being played by the savvy audience and the smirking writers on the series itself. Inside Man is based around the promise that the crew might be returning home, but is immediately established to the audience as nothing more than an empty hustle. The cruel irony (and the most wry punchline) is that the characters themselves remain in the dark even after the con is long over.

Getting into her head.

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New Podcast! The Pensky File – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 3, Episode 20 (“Improbable Cause”)

I had great fun talking about Defiant with Wes and Clay at The Pensky Podcast.

So I was thrilled by invited back to talk over one of my favourite episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with the guys, the late third season two-parter Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast. It’s a brilliant story, in large part because (unlike a lot of Star Trek two-parters) it is very clearly two different stories that happen to neatly dove-tail into one another.

Improbable Cause is a fascinating character study of Elim Garak, following a botched attempt on his life that suggests more powerful forces at work. As Odo investigates the bombing of Garak’s shop, he gradually uncovers evidence of a much larger scheme. It was a pleasure to record, and I’ll be back next week covering the conclusion, The Die is Cast.

You can find more from The Pensky Podcast here, and listen to the podcast by clicking the link or just listening below.

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