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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #6-7 – Hosts (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.

Balance was always going to be an issue for The X-Files: Season 10, even in a purely logistical sense.

At its peak, The X-Files was churning out twenty-six episodes in a season. Of those, maybe a third would be mythology episodes and the rest would be standalone monster of the week stories. As a result, the show could find the time to balance earth-shaking mythology episodes like Paper Clip, Nisei, 731 and Talitha Cumi with brilliant episodic television like Clyde Bruckman’s Final ReposeOublietteGrotesquePusher and Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.” Part of the appeal of The X-Files was always striking that balance.

No Fluke.

No Fluke.

That is not really possible with a conventional comic book release schedule. Comic books are released once a month, limiting the creative team to twelve issues in a given year. They might also get an annual, if the comic is popular. Given modern comic book narrative conventions and the lower page counts of modern comics, “done-in-one” standalone stories are increasingly uncommon. At best, it seems like a creative team might get away with seven stories in a year, six two-parters and an annual.

This causes issues in structuring a comic book season of The X-Files. Quite cleverly, The X-Files: Season 10 runs for twenty-five issues, evoking the length of a classic television season. However, it tells far fewer stories, with the run dominated by epic sprawling mythology stories like the five-part Believers, the five-part Pilgrims and the five-part Elders. That is three-fifths of the “season” given over to three mythology stories. It is no wonder that the rest of the run feels so compressed.

Worming his way back to you...

Worming his way back to you…

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The X-Files – The Host (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

The Host and Little Green Men represent a fantastic one-two punch combination to open the second season of The X-Files. It’s very hard to think of two back-to-back standalone stories that most effectively sum up the show, capturing a lot of what makes the series so beautifully compelling and enduring. The two episodes are also quite surprising. It feels strange that Chris Carter didn’t write Little Green Men, given the importance of the premiere to the show. However, in light of that, it also feels strange that Carter did write The Host.

Working on The X-Files, Carter tends to gravitate towards “event” episodes. His name is frequently seen on episodes that push the show forward – in multiple senses. Carter is the architect of the show’s grand mythology, so his name pops up quite frequently on those scripts. However, Carter is also prone to write occasional “big” episodes of a given season. He wrote and directed The Post-Modern Prometheus and Triangle, for example, two of the more unique and distinctive episodes of the fifth and sixth seasons.

Through the looking glass...

Through the looking glass…

So, seeing Chris Carter’s name on the first “monster-of-the-week” of the new year rather than the all-important season premiere feels a little strange – particularly since The Host is an episode that seems a lot less ambitious than Little Green Men. After all, Little Green Men depicted Samantha Mulder’s abduction, revealed the show’s aliens and tried to make Vancouver look like Puerto Rico. In contrast, The Host is about an overgrown mutant worm.

And yet, perhaps that’s the point. The second season of The X-Files was a massively important year for the show. Along with the Fox Network itself, this was the year that The X-Files defined its own identity and really began to aggressively carve out a niche. The show did not make the top 100 shows of the 1993-1994 season, but almost reached the top 50 shows of the 1994-1995 season. That’s a meteoric rise, and the second season is very ruthlessly refining itself.

X marks the spot...

X marks the spot…

To describe The Host as a simple “monster-of-the-week” is to miss the point entirely. The show doesn’t exist yet another entry in a genre that the show established during its first year on the air. Instead, The Host is clearly constructed to be the monster-of-the-week episode. It’s an hour of television that is designed to get a reaction, to push buttons, to get people talking. This is an episode squarely aimed at anybody who heard the buzz over the summer hiatus and wanted to see what the fuss was about.

It works very well in this capacity. There is a reason that The Host as endured as a classic episode of The X-Files, packed with all manner of iconic and memorable imagery. Chris Carter constructed The Host as an example of what The X-Files does very well – and it’s a piece of science-fiction horror that sticks with people. It’s incredibly hard to forget. And that’s the beauty of it.

A monster mash-up...

A monster mash-up…

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