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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 2 (“Paper Clip”)

A real pleasure to re-team with Tony Black to round out our coverage of “the unopened file” on The X-Cast, following on from our discussions of Anasazi and The Blessing Way. And this time, it’s an even stronger line-up. The wonderful Chris Knowles is joins us for the discussion of the final part of the season-bridging trilogy.

As ever, a huge thrill to be a part of this. Anasazi, The Blessing Way and Paper Clip represent a landmark moment for The X-Files as a television show, and it’s been an honour to talk through those changes with Tony. However, Paper Clip is something special because it’s clear how much Chris loves this episode. There are few pleasures in life quite as satisfying as sitting down with somebody to talk about something they love.

I’ll be back on The X-Cast later in the season, to the point that I think the members of the Patreon may already have access to one of my own smaller side projects as part of the podcast. However, it was a delight to get to talk about three episodes that are so close to the core of what The X-Files is for a combined runtime of close to four hours.

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

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New Podcast! The X-Cast Season 11 #39 – William, Skinner, Smoking Man & Everyone Else! (“My Struggle IV”)

Returning to The X-Cast this morning to continue my discussion of the eleventh season finale of The X-Files.

In this installment, we’re discussing the various supporting characters of My Struggle IV, from William (or Jackson) through to Monica Reyes through to creepy possibly-child-abusing car-driving guy! It’s a packed instalment, befitting a packed episode. Thrilled to be joining Tony to discuss the episode in question.

Click here, or check it out below. The final part of our discussion, talking about Chris Carter, will be landing tomorrow morning.

 

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 2, Episode 17 (“End Game”)

Just a quick link to a recent (unscheduled) guest appearance over on The X-Cast, a great X-Files podcast run by the prolific Tony Black.

Following on from last week, I had the pleasure of an extended conversation with Tony about End Game. It was a joy, given the my own fondness for the episode and its place in the large X-Files canon. It was a fun to talk through the episode, from what Mulder really wants to whether the show’s popularity drove the mythology or the mythology’s popularity drove the show to Mister X’s appreciation for the fine arts. Check it out the episode here, or click the link below.

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The X-Files – My Struggle I (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

This is journey that began for me – I’m sorry if I get emotional – twenty-three years ago. Things just don’t last in culture, these days. They… culture gobbles them up and they go away. It’s… it’s rare when something sticks around. Thanks for being part of the journey. The idea is that this is not the end. This is maybe a new beginning. And maybe we’ll do more of these if we do a really good job.

– Chris Carter’s opening remarks at the first production meeting on My Struggle I

The truth is still out there...

The truth is still out there…

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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #21-25 – Elders (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

One of the more disappointing aspects of The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Season 11 is that it does very little to adapt the mythology to the twenty-first century.

The X-Files is very much a show rooted in the political and cultural context of the nineties. Everything about the show’s first seven seasons reflects the Clinton era, with the series perfectly capturing the zeitgeist in the weird lacuna between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the destruction of the World Trade Centre. At its peak, the show touched on underlying anxieties that are social, political and existential; it asked tough questions about identity in the final days of the twentieth century. As much as Friends or The Simpsons, The X-Files embodied the nineties.

The son becomes the father... And the pseudo-son...

The son becomes the father…
And the pseudo-son…

As such, any revival of The X-Files must face questions of relevance. The X-Files so perfectly captured the spirit of the nineties that removing the series from that context runs the risk of severely damaging it. What makes now such a perfect time for The X-Files? What does The X-Files have to say about contemporary culture? How will the show be tweaked for modern audiences and sensibilities? These are not trivial questions. Any X-Files revival should be more than just a nostalgic “victory lap.”

This question of relevance faced the revival miniseries, but it also faced The X-Files: Season 10. What does The X-Files mean in the modern world? Harris had broached the question in a number of different ways, perhaps most skilfully in his approach to the classic “small town horror stories” that populated the show’s nine-season run. Whereas those stories tended to touch upon themes of globalisation and the erosion of so-called eccentric spaces, Harris used stories like Chitter and Immaculate to explore a growing cultural divide in twenty-first century America.

Cuba libre...

Cuba libre…

However, The X-Files: Season 10 does not work quite as well when it comes to updating the mythology for the twenty-first century. A lot of this is down to the strong nostalgic pull of the nineties mythology. Harris employs a lot of the same elements that were in play while the show was on the air; the same characters, the same dynamics, the same story beats. There were occasional nods towards the changing geopolitical realities, such as the use of black-oil-as-oil in Pilgrims. However, the revived mythology never engaged with the twenty-first century as well as it might.

Effectively serving as the season “finale”, Elders makes the strongest play for relevance yet. It consciously references and evokes the imagery of the War on Terror in its exploration of Gibson Praise’s revived conspiracy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work.

Cross to bear...

Cross to bear…

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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #11-15 – Pilgrims (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

Pilgrims is essentially an attempt to do a mid-season mythology episode in the style of Colony and End Game or Tunguska and Terma, a big sprawling epic populated by familiar faces and impossible scale that is driven more by questions and mysteries than by answers or revelations. It is in many ways a testament to writer Joe Harris’ desire to emulate the basic structure and framework of The X-Files, right down to the manner in which he structures The X-Files: Season 10.

There are a lot of obvious markers and touches that help Pilgrims to feel like a classic mid-season mythology episode. There is an international scope, as seen in the trip to the Arctic in End Game or to Hong Kong in Piper Maru or to Russia in Terma. The first half of Pilgrims unfolds in Saudi Arabia, with Mulder and Scully dispatched to investigate what initially appears to be a terrorist attack on an oil operation but is promptly revealed to be something far more sinister.

The red and the black.

The red and the black.

Similarly, in keeping with the style and tone of many of the best mythology two-parters, the basic plot is relatively straightforward even as complications appear at the edge of the frame. In End Game, Mulder is racing to recover his lost sister as details about secret cloning experiments spill out around him. In Nisei, Mulder is trapped in a traincar with a ticking time bomb and a dangerous assassin as he digs away at the conspiracy. In Apocrypha, the black oil just wants to go home. The same is true in Pilgrims, which follows an alien trying to escape.

Even the structure of the five-issue arc recalls that of many X-Files two-parters, with a massive pivot coming between the third and fourth issues in the same way that many two-parters would switch premises at the half-way point. The Saudi Arabia plot wraps up at the end of the third issue, while Gibson Praise is introduced at the start of the fourth. The first three issues focus on the mystery of the Saudi attack, while the final two put a much greater emphasis on the traditional trappings of the X-Files mythology including the conspirators and Skyland Mountain.

Lone survivors.

Lone survivors.

It is remarkable how faithful Joe Harris is to the format of those classic X-Files mythology episodes. Of course, this is something of a double-edged sword. As with a lot of The X-Files: Season 10, the biggest weakness of Pilgrims is the fact that it all feels a little overly familiar and a little too indulgent. Krycek was one of the most popular supporting characters from the nine-season run of The X-Files, but bringing him back at the centre of a five-part epic mythology story feels like pandering and fan service. Harris is not inventing his own mythology, but resurrecting an old one.

Then again, that might seem to be the point. The black oil discovered in Pilgrims is compared to the oil resting beneath Saudia Arabia. In that respect, it is the remains of long-dead organisms compressed and decayed and converted into fuel. There is something more than a little appropriate about that.

Eye see.

Eye see.

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The X-Files: Conspiracy (IDW) (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

IDW is quite different from Topps and Wildstorm, the two prior comic book companies to hold the license for The X-Files.

Part of that simply reflects changes in the comic book industry over time, with a greater fixation on concepts like shared universes and continuity, along with an increased emphasis on the importance of “the canon.” Part of that is simply down to the way that IDW operates as a publisher. The company is the fourth-largest comic book publisher in America, behind Marvel, DC and Image. While the company publishes a number of creator-owned properties, its success has largely been based around licensing properties.

A mutant phenomenon...

A mutant phenomenon…

In doing so, the company has adopted a model quite close to that of Marvel or DC. It tends to organise its books around these properties in the same way that Marvel or DC might organise themselves around the so-called “families.” Much like books like Detective Comics, Nightwing or Batgirl are considered part of the “Batman” family or books like Wolverine, Namor and X-Force fall under the X-Men banner, IDW tends to group its books into familiar families based around licensed properties. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It is not uncommon for each of those lines to support multiple books. For example, the company would publish a number of miniseries as companion pieces to their monthly Star Trek or Doctor Who comics. The same would be true of The X-Files: Season 1o, with the company publishing a number of tie-in books around that. Year Zero and Millennium are the most obvious example, providing the company with the opportunity to publish several branded X-Files books within the same month.

I bet super soldiers wish that they could do this.

I bet super soldiers wish that they could do this.

At the same time, the company engages with its properties in much the same way that Marvel or DC might. Marvel and DC tend to fall into a pattern of massive so-called “events” that serve to draw particular books away from their own internal narratives and towards a more “epic” story. Civil War focused on a fight between Captain America and Iron Man, but crossed over into over one hundred comic book issues published over seven months. There are countless other examples, from House of M to Crisis on Infinite Earths to Siege to Final Crisis.

IDW has organised several of its own blockbuster events to tie together its own licensed properties; Infestation and and Infes2ation come to mind. To celebrate the landing of the license, it was decided that the 2014 crossover would be themed around The X-Files. It is just a shame that the result was terrible.

We ain't afraid of no ghosts...

We ain’t afraid of no ghosts…

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