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Night Stalker – The Sea (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

One of the interesting aspects of doing a long-running pop culture project is the subtle shifts that you can see taking place over time.

The realities of media consumption change over extended periods; in response, the methods of media production also change. It is not too hard to imagine a world where Night Stalker would have been cancelled by ABC six episodes into its run, ending on a cliffhanger with the remaining four episodes buried for all eternity. Television would have moved on to its next reboot, its next new launch, and the cycle would have continued. Night Stalker would have been dead and buried, even more of a genre curiosity than it is now.

Fenced off...

Fenced off…

There was a time when Night Stalker would have been consigned to history. At best, it might have been a footnote in Frank Spotnitz’s filmography, a point of reference in interviews and conversations about how mainstream American television treats science-fiction history. Had Night Stalker appeared (and been so promptly cancelled) even ten years earlier, it would probably be a curiosity on the IMDb pages of its cast and crew. The name would resonate with genre fans, and t would casually be dropped in career overviews. But it would largely be lost.

However, the reality of television had changed by the twenty-first century, the explosion in home media ensuring that even a six-episode failure like Night Stalker could receive a neatly-packaged DVD release and remain easily accessible to the generations that followed. In some respects, this feels like the worst thing that could have happened. The biggest obstacle between Night Stalker and the status of “cult classic” is ease of access to the show itself; the readiness with which the nostalgic refrain of “cancelled before its time” might be rebutted by simply buying the DVD.

A blast from the past...

A blast from the past…

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The X-Files – Provenance (Review)

This December, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the ninth season of The X-Files.

Provenance and Providence are a landmark moment for The X-Files. They represent the last mid-season two-parter.

The mid-season two-parter has been an institution since the early second season, when external factors forced the production team to improvise around Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy. It was decided that the character of Scully would marginalised and written out so as to avoid dealing with the pregnancy, and the centre-piece of that plan was an epic two-parter that would air during in October 1994. Duane Barry and Ascension were such a big hit that the production team opted to do a second mid-season two-parter in February 1995, with Colony and End Game.

The Truth will not be buried...

The Truth will not be buried…

The show never looked back. Those episodes quickly codified the mythology, becoming a highlights in the season schedule. The two-parters typically aired during Sweeps and occasionally managed to garner press and media attention. They featured bigger budgets and impressive scale, with many of those two-parters standing out as prime examples of The X-Files as “event” television. The submarine in the ice in End Game, the leap to the train in Nisei, the mid-air alien abduction in Max. These were blockbuster moments.

Provenance and Providence would mark the end of this rich tradition. Sadly, they do not embody the finest attributes of the form.

Burnt notice.

Burnt notice.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shades of Grey (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

Well. That’s over now. Star Trek: The Next Generation limps across the finish line of its second season with a compilation clip show designed to save money and keep the season’s episode count up. Shades of Grey is frequently cited as the worst episode not just of the second season of The Next Generation, but of the show as a whole. While it’s hard to entirely agree with this assessment – Shades of Grey is cynical and lazy, but it’s neither as sexist as Angel One or The Child nor as racist as Code of Honour or Up the Long Ladder – it is possible to see where that argument comes from.

Like the first season before it, there’s a sense that the second season of The Next Generation might have been better had it ended an episode earlier. Indeed, the second season could have ended with Q Who? and the only episode anybody would really miss would be The Emissary. Unfortunately, one imagines the syndication agreements and network policy made this impossible. While one suspects many of those involved would be happy if Shades of Grey simply faded from existence, it remains part of the show’s syndication package.

This is a little like what this episode feels like...

This is a little like what this episode feels like…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Measure of a Man: Extended Cut (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

This is a rare treat.

The Measure of a Man is generally regarded as one of the best episodes that Star Trek: The Next Generation ever produced, and a crown jewel in the entire Star Trek franchise. As such, it’s a prime candidate for this sort of lavish restoration treatment, with the blu ray collection featuring not only the televised version of the episode, but a special extended edition.

This extended edition was the version originally filmed and edited together, until the production team realised that it ran almost a quarter-of-an-hour over the slot allocated to the show on syndicated airing.

tng-themeasureofaman23

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Jameson Cult Film Club: Predator

I had the privilege of attending last Tuesday evening’s Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Predator. It’s easy to take for granted the care a preparation that goes into these nights celebrating popular classic films, but the crew pulled out all of the usual stops for the evening, turning their city centre into something of a jungle. From improvised death traps (within health and safety regulations, of course) through to advice on movie etiquette translated from… whatever that noise is that Predator’s make, the evening was a fitting tribute to an eighties cult classic.

Again, the production team walked the line, balancing the need for spectacle carefully against the integrity of the film. Predator is a loud film by its nature, and the special effects on the location were well-chosen to turn the volumes up to eleven. The pyrotechnics display during the movie’s climax was just astounding, as were brief interludes of the Predator itself preparing for battle or cleaning up after one.

The guys at Jameson Cult Film have sent over some snapshots of the night. Check them out below and click to enlarge. In the meantime, feel free to register at their website for free tickets to their next event, which I am already looking forward to.

EK4G0958 Continue reading

Doctor Who: Blink (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.

Blink originally aired in 2007.

But listen, your life could depend on this. Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead.

– the Doctor

Like Love and Monsters, Blink is a “Doctor-lite” episode, an effective time- and money-saving measure from the show’s production staff, built around filming an episode that requires the minimal involvement from the lead actors. Also like Love and MonstersBlink is an episode of Doctor Who that is about Doctor Who.

Granted, Steven Moffat’s script doesn’t engage with fandom as directly as Russell T. Davies did. Here, the fans trying to find their own meaning in the show are the anonymous net-izens on forums and fan sites, rather than a friendly group of eccentric individuals enriched by contact with one another.

While Love and Monsters is about how Doctor Who fandom tends to serve to unite diverse people beyond an interest in Doctor Who itself, forming bonds that become more significant and important than the interest in the show, Blink is very much a story about trying to make sense of the show itself.

Rocking the boat...

Rocking the boat…

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Win! Tickets to a Jameson Cult Film Club Screening of Predator on November 19th!

Due to unprecedented demand, the Jameson Cult Film Club is returning to Dublin for an explosive  screening of the 1987 classic, PREDATOR, at a secret Dublin location on Tuesday 19th November 2013.

These free events are more than just your typical screening, as characters from the movie, live theatre and special effects timed perfectly with on-screen action help to create an electric atmosphere  throughout the movie.

Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Predator - 17.11.13

*Warning* – the Predator blends in with its surroundings, taking trophies from the  bodies of its victims as it goes along.

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