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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #86 (“Well-Manicured Sacrifice”)

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 my time on the Fight the Future minute comes to an end. It has been a pleasure. I like to think that Kurt and I go out like the Well-Manicured Man himself, in a blaze of glory. We discuss everything from the Well-Manicured Man’s flare for the theatrical, to his somewhat unnecessary killing spree, to how exactly we imagine the local papers are going to cover the weird murder-suicide-in-an-alley sequence. It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s a recording I really enjoyed – and which I hope you enjoy as well.

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

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #85 (“Well-Manicured Murder”)

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 my time on the Fight the Future minute nears an end. However, there’s still one minute left. So this provides a nice opportunity to talk about the weirdness of the Well-Manicured Man’s plan during this exposition-driven sequence that apparently includes crossing “double murder-suicide” off his bucket list. We also discuss the narrative conventions that require a propulsive conspiracy thriller like Fight the Future to generate completely absurd tension and suspense in place where it really has no reason to exist.

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

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 #83 (“Well-Manicured Truth 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.

You know what’s better than exposition? Even more exposition. More than that, exposition that isn’t actually even in the finished film. This is a fun minute of Fight the Future, in large part because it tries to fit about five years worth of exposition into a single minute of screen time while also trying to simultaneously build tension to keep the audience engaged. It’s notable that this sequence was the point at which Carter tacitly acknowledged he could only go so far while pleasing both casual viewers and die-hard fans, which makes it fun to explore.

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

 

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #82 (“Well-Manicured Truth I”)

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.

Who doesn’t like exposition? Especially when it’s delivered by a veteran British character actor trying to cram as much as physically possible into the space between two set pieces? We’re in an incredibly dense stretch of Fight the Future in which the film tries to offer a cliffnotes of the show’s mythology for the blockbuster audiences watching in cinemas. The result isn’t always elegant, but it’s surprisingly effective.

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

 

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #81 (“Well-Manicured Car”)

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 second stretch kicks off here, with a minute that is largely about building atmosphere and tension. It kicks off the second of the film’s extended sequences focusing on the Well-Manicured Man, but we have a little room here to talk about the actual film-making of Fight the Future, the small differences that distinguish the summer blockbuster from the weekly production of The X-Files as a television show – particularly the little flourishes of Rob Bowman’s direction that take advantage of longer production time and a higher fidelity format.

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 – Fight the Future Minute #52 (“A Well-Manicured Man (Again!)”)

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 Well-Manicured Man is – not so secretly – one of my favourite characters in the larger X-Files pantheon. This is partly because he’s played by the wonderful character actor John Neville, but also because he serves as an excellent analogy for the corrupting influence of the sort of power that runs through The X-Files. While the Cigarette-Smoking Man is transparently evil, and while the Elders are vaguely defined at best, the Well-Manicured Man is interesting in large part because he seems actually conflicted about what he has committed to.

In the first of this stretch of minutes, Fight the Future reintroduces the Well-Manicured Man in what is effectively a microcosm of the movie’s approach to storytelling. The audience is immediately given some understanding of who this character is, what he represents and what his motivations might be. It is more economical and effective than elegant, and a prime example of how Fight the Future was trying to position itself as a blockbuster rather than a cult film.

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

 

The X-Files – Three Words (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

There is no “to be continued…” explicitly linking DeadAlive to Three Words, but there doesn’t have to be.

In this final stretch of the eighth season, The X-Files adapts a somewhat serialised narrative model. Although stories like Empedocles and Vienen technically serve as “monster of the week” stories that stand alone, they feel very particular to this moment in the show’s history. Mulder’s return to the land of the living in DeadAlive does not mark a return to the status quo, despite his best efforts. Instead, it creates a highly volatile (and, by its nature, transitory) set-up that cannot be maintained over an extended period.

Howard Salt was willing to go to any lengths to return the President's copy of The X-Files film.

Howard Salt was willing to go to any lengths to return the President’s copy of The X-Files film.

This is not a sustainable status quo. This is not “business as usual.” This is not what the ninth season will look like. This is not like those other changes to the status quo that occurred at the start of the second and sixth seasons, when Mulder and Scully were taken off the X-files but continued to investigate cases that were X-files in all but name. Episodes like Blood or How the Ghosts Stole Christmas could be transitioned into a regular season order with a minimum of changes, but these episodes all feel uniquely tailored to this point in the show’s history.

As such, the end of the eighth season takes on a loosely serialised quality, and not just in the story of the new mythology or the so-called “super soldiers.” The character dynamics evolve and grow, with the individual episodes seeding character development leading the season finalé. Episodes like Three Words and Vienen make it increasingly clear that Mulder is not back in an permanent sense by first pushing him away from the X-files and then firing him from the FBI. Scully’s pregnancy is actually allowed to progress at this point in the season.

He's back!

He’s back!

This serialisation is apparent in the discrepancies between the production and broadcast order. As with extended sections of the fourth season, the final stretch of the eighth season was produced in a different order than it was broadcast. Unlike the fourth season, however, this shift does not create any dissonance as significant as the conflict between the version of Never Again that was filmed and the one that was broadcast. Despite being produced in a different order, these stories could not work in any order other than the broadcast order.

Although The X-Files frequently gets credit for pioneering and popularising (or, at the very least, re-popularising) serialised narratives on prime-time television, the final stretch of the eighth season is perhaps the serialised stretch of the entire nine-year run.

A touching reunion...

A touching reunion…

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