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New Podcast! The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch – Episode #51 (Unusual Suspects/Detour)

I’m thrilled to be a part of The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch, a daily snippet podcast rewatching the entirety of The X-Files between now and the launch of the new season. It is something of a spin-off of The X-Cast, a great X-Files podcast run by the charming Tony Black. Tony has assembled a fantastic array of guests and hosts to go through The X-Files episode-by-episodes. With the new season announced to be starting in early January, Tony’s doing two episodes of the podcast per day, so buckle up. It’s going to be fun.

My first appearance of the fifth season actually teams me with Tony Black for our first collaboration of the podwatch, and what great episodes. We’re covering the episodes Unusual Suspects and Detour, both of which are episodes that I deeply love. I think that Unusual Suspects is one of the series’ smarter and slier episodes, and Detour is just the platonic ideal of an X-Files episode. But enough of me writing about these episodes, let’s get to me talking about these episodes with Tony.

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Harsh Realm – Three Percenters (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

Three Percenters is written by Frank Spotnitz.

Spotnitz is the longest serving staff writer on The X-Files, with the exception of Chris Carter. He worked with Carter in shaping and defining the mythology, sharing credit on some of the biggest episodes of the series. He is credited as a screenwriter on both The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe. He is the only writer apart from Carter to work on all Millennium, Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen. As such, Spotnitz is an essential part of the Ten Thirteen family.

Talk about finger food...

Talk about finger food…

Spotnitz has a very clear of structure. Working on The X-Files, he was renowned for his ability to “break” a story, to split it down to its constituent elements and to make it make sense. His first credit on The X-Files was the script for End Game, which was a hugely important part of shaping and defining the mythology of the show. His two scripts for the first season of Millennium (Weeds and Sacrament) capture the spirit of the show in that moment in time, for better and for worse. It makes perfect sense for Spotnitz to script a first season episode of Harsh Realm.

However, Spotnitz’s script for Three Percenters perhaps demonstrates one of the problems with these initial nine episodes. Spotnitz is very good at understanding story structure and logic, but Harsh Realm doesn’t really have a set formula or template that he might be able to apply. Five episodes into its run, the show hasn’t settled into a grove in the same way that Millennium or The X-Files had. This perhaps explains why Three Percenters feels so odd and uneven; it occasionally seems like Spotnitz just pasted over a template from The X-Files itself.

Walking on water...

Walking on water…

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The X-Files – Detour (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.

Detour is a wonderfully traditional little episode in the middle of a somewhat eccentric season.

Although it lacks the off-kilter improvisational madness that drove much of the fourth season, the fifth season of The X-Files is a rather strange beast. With The X-Files: Fight the Future already filmed, the show was somewhat limited in what it could and couldn’t do in the fifth season – preventing the series from doing anything as dramatic as throwing Memento Mori into the middle of the run. Nevertheless, the fifth season features a variety of experimental and off-format episodes. Stephen King and William Gibson contribute scripts while Darren McGavin pops in as a guest star.

The woods are alive...

The woods are alive…

Detour was broadcast between Unusual Suspects and The Post-Modern Prometheus. Unusual Suspects was an episode headlined by the Lone Gunmen, while The Post-Modern Prometheus was broadcast in black-and-white as an homage to James Whale’s feature film adaptation of Frankenstein. As such, Detour feels like a rather conventional and old-fashioned episode, with Mulder and Scully encountering something strange in a rural setting, getting trapped in the wilderness, and encountering a monster threatened by the expansion of civilisation.

The beauty of Detour is that the episode’s decidedly traditional aesthetic feels out of place and almost novel amid all the off-format episodes surrounding it. Detour represents something of a literal detour – away from the more eccentric episodes of the season and towards something more familiar and safe. This allows Detour to have the best of both worlds – it feels at once traditional and quintessential, but also distinct from everything happening around it. Detour is a refreshingly old-fashioned episode of The X-Files, a reminder of just how much fun the show could have in its comfort zone.

Back to nature...

Back to basics…

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