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Star Trek: Voyager – Once Upon a Time (Review)

Once Upon a Time is another example of thwarted ambition on Star Trek: Voyager.

The original pitch for the episode was incredibly ambitious and narratively experimental, a Star Trek story told exclusively from the perspective of a child character trying to make sense of a world from which the adults are trying to protect her. In many ways, it recalls the original pitch for Macrocosm, an episode that Brannon Braga had originally hoped to write as a piece of silent television. However, like that earlier episode, the original plan for Once Upon a Time was vetoed in favour of something far more conventional.

Toyetic, isn’t he?

In many ways, this conservatism was a reminder of just how far Voyager was being left behind, of how the dominant production strand of the Star Trek franchise was failing to keep pace with the changing media landscape around it. Genre television had been a hotbed for experimentation in the nineties. Twin Peaks changed television, allowing the medium to embrace surrealism and weirdness in a way never seen before. Series like Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine returned serialisation to prime time, after it had fallen out of fashion.

Over the course of the decade, genre shows were willing to push the boundaries of what was possible in television, proving dynamic in a way that would be hugely influential for the more high-brow “prestige” series that followed. Even shows like The X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer indulged in the occasional experimental episodes like The Post-Modern Prometheus, Triangle, Who Monitors the Birds?, Hush and Once More With Feeling. There was a revolution taking place in television during the nineties.

It’ll never catch on.

Of course, that particular television revolution was already in its final days as the decade drew to a close. The next big innovation in television storytelling was just around the corner, with The Sopranos only a few months away from broadcast. Once that happened, the television revolution would shift away from science-fiction and horror shows on free-to-access broadcasters and towards more critically-respected genres on more prestigious (and exclusive) networks. Voyager would have been late to the party anyway, but instead decided to skip it anyway.

Once Upon a Time is an ambitious premise watered down to mediocre execution. It is Voyager in a nutshell.

Why, I Flotter…

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The X-Files – The Unnatural (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Let me get this straight: a free-spirited alien fell in love with baseball and ran away from the other non-fun-having aliens and made himself black, because that would prevent him from getting to the majors where his unspeakable secret might be discovered by an intrusive press and public and you’re also implying that…

You certainly have a knack for turning chicken salad into chicken spit.

– Fox Mulder and Arthur Dales discuss the merits of The Unnatural

Swing and a hit...

Swing and a hit…

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Non-Review Review: Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters

There is a gem of an idea buried in Hansel & Gretel. Indeed, there isn’t too much excavation required to recover it. It lurks near the surface, visible to the naked eye. What would happen if you took a fairy tale and reworked it as a bombastic action adventure, complete with the clichés, archetypes and gimmicks you associate with such films? Hansel & Gretel veers on wry self-parody at points, as if an acerbic take on Hollywood’s fondness for “gritty” reimaginings of familiar concepts. With producers including Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, it’s not too hard to believe that this subversive exploration of genre tropes was explicitly intended as a sly joke at the expense of these sorts of nonsensical and gratuitously violent and aggressive takes on old classics. There are moments where Hansel & Gretel flirts with genuinely post-modern greatness.

Unfortunately, there’s also a sense that the film lacks the will to follow through on that somewhat sarcastic premise, and the result is that the shrewder gags are undermined by a surreal earnestness that seems to ask the audience to accept Hansel & Gretel for nothing more than what it is. The result is a discordant and scattered piece of film, one that seems almost at war with itself.

The hottest adaptation of Hansel & Gretel you have ever seen...

The hottest adaptation of Hansel & Gretel you have ever seen…

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Non-Review Review: Shrek the Third

The biggest problem with Shrek the Third is arguably reflected in its lead character. Despite producing two sequels, making a boatload of money and establishing a massively iconic franchise, it seems like the creators are unwilling to accept their changed reality. Much like the title character refuses to adapt to his new-found circumstances, and the possibility that he will become a father, Shrek the Third refuses to admit that it has essentially become the fairy-tale establishment that it so sorely ridiculed and mocked. The wry and subversive take of fairy tales championed by the original Shrek is no longer on the outside looking in, but on the inside looking out. Shrek the Thirdjust stubbornly refuses to accept that.

Has the franchise lost direction?

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Non-Review Review: Mirror, Mirror

With Mirror, Mirror, director Tarsem Singh’s record remains unbroken. He’s still a director with a unique and appealing visual style that is struggling to find a proper output. Here, Singh’s stylish direction struggles against a somewhat tired premise and lazy script, managing to create a feast for the eyes that feels strangely lacking in substance. It’s a bit disappointing, if only because there are some interesting and fascinating ingredients, but they’re overwhelmed by tired cliché, a weak central performance, and a script that feels like it was filmed on the first draft.

Belle Swan...

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Non-Review Review: Shrek

I caught Shrek again at the weekend, and I’m surprised how well it still holds up. Of course, part of my concern was that the sequels might have somehow retroactively impacted on my opinion of the original film, but I’m always a little hesitant to return to films I greatly enjoyed when I was younger – afraid that they might have been superseded by movies I’ve seen in the years since, or perhaps victim to slightly changing tastes. To be honest, it help up very well, and I was genuinely reminded of why I enjoyed it so much over a decade ago.

A fairy tale romance?

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The Princess is Dead, Long Live the Princess: Disney Won’t Be Letting Fairy Tales Live Happily Ever After…

Apparently Disney are putting an end to the production of fairy tales, which is somewhat ironic for a studio which has an iconic fairytale castle as its distinctive corporate logo. I suppose it was sort of inevitable coming from a studio that was terrified of advertising Tangled as a “princess” movie. Disney board director John Lasseter explained the decision:

Today, among little girls especially, princesses and the romanticised ideal they represent – finding the man of your dreams – have a limited shelf life.

It’s very clever to couch his argument in what might be considered modern feminist terms  – “finding the man of your dreams” is such a fifties aspiration for young girls, after all – but I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with what Disney plans to replace them with. I’ll admit that I am a relatively conservative individual – I just don’t like change – but there’s something unsettling about such a major refocus, and perhaps what it says about pop culture as a whole these days.

Okay, so maybe Disney needs to work on its female leads...

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