Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

The X-Files – The Truth (Review)

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

It is interesting how the popular memory of a thing can differ from the actual thing itself.

Memory was always a key theme of The X-Files, particularly in the early years of the show. Although the aliens and the conspirators were plucked from the demented imaginations of the most paranoid tinfoil hat enthusiasts, a surprising amount of the show was rooted in real history that had been allowed to slip by under the radar: the genocide of the Native Americans; the resettlement of German and Japanese war criminals after the Second World War; radiation experiments upon prisoners; the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

Daddy's home.

Daddy’s home.

The truth is contained in the gap between memory and history. In a way, then, it feels entirely appropriate that the popular memory of The X-Files should remain quite distinct from the show itself. The popular memory of The X-Files tends to suggest that the mythology makes no sense, that it does not fit together in any tangible form. This is an opinion repeated so often that it has become a critical shorthand when discussing the end of the show; much like the assertion “they were dead all along” tends to come when discussing Lost.

The truth is that the mythology of The X-Files largely made sense. Sure, there were lacunas and contradictions, inconsistencies and illogicalities, but the vast majority of the mythology was fairly linear and straightforward. It had been fairly straightforward for quite some time. The show had been decidedly ambiguous in its first few seasons, only confirming that colonisation was the conspiracy’s end game in Talitha Cumi at the end of the third season. Elements like the black oil and the bees tended to cloud matters, but the internal logic was clear.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

Significant portions of both The X-Files: Fight the Future and Two Fathers and One Son had been dedicated to spelling out the finer details of the mythology in great detail. Mankind were not the original inhabitants of Earth; the former occupants had returned and were making a rightful claim; the conspirators had agreed to help them, selling out mankind for a chance to extend their own lives. Everything else was window dressing. The production team had laid everything out during the fifth and sixth seasons.

Still, the general consensus of The X-Files was that it was a show driven by mysteries that was always more interested in questions than answers. This was certainly true, but it was somewhat exaggerated. When the cancellation was announced, the media immediately demanded answers. A month before The Truth was broadcast, Tim Goodman complained about how the show offered “precious few answers to Carter’s riddles.” Two days before the broadcast, Aaron Kinney wondered of the conspirators, “Who are these people and what is their agenda?”

The Truth on trial...

The Truth on trial…

It does not matter that these answers have mostly been provided and that the truth is mostly know. This was the context of the conversation unfolding around The Truth, and it likely explains a number of the creative decisions taken during the production of the episode. The Truth plays as an extended video essay dedicated to providing answers that were offered three or four seasons earlier in relation to mysteries that are no longer part of the show. The Truth is a passionate and intense argument that the mythology of The X-Files does make sense.

For viewers tuning back into the show for the first time in years, this means long expository monologues and skilfully edited montages that do not tie into the plot of the episode in any significant way. For those who stuck with the show for these past few seasons, it means rehashing everything that the show has taken for granted since the fifth or sixth season. While it feels like The Truth is desperately longing for vindication, to the extent where the show puts itself on trial in the person of Fox Mulder, this does not make for compelling viewing.

Happy ending.

Happy ending.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Millennium – The Mikado (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.

Glen Morgan and James Wong famously pulled Millennium away from its “serial killer of the week” format in its second season. While the label might be a little harsh (and perhaps a little exaggerated), it did hint at a recurring formula in the first season. Frank Black would be called in to catch a serial killer with a unique and distinctive modus operandi. The first season was littered with episodes built around that core format, wildly varying in quality. For every Blood Relatives or Paper Dove, there was a Loin Like a Hunting Flame or Kingdom Come.

The second season largely moved away from all that. Although Morgan and Wong occasionally made nods towards the classic format in episodes like Beware of the Dog, 19:19 or Goodbye Charlie, the second season of the show was a lot less formulaic and familiar. This is was a show that could transition from The Hand of St. Sebastian to Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” to Midnight of the Century to Goodbye Charlie to Luminary. It seemed quite reasonable to suggest that the second season of Millennium was not as firmly attached to the concept of serial killers as the first season had been.

This is Avatar calling...

This is Avatar calling…

This makes The Mikado a rather unique instalment, arriving a little past half-way through the season. Written by Michael R. Perry, The Mikado is very much an archetypal serial killer story. There is a case from Frank Black’s past, lots of victims, some occult imagery, and even a ticking plot. In fact, The Mikado is probably the only episode of the second season that would arguably fit more comfortably in either the first or third seasons of the show. All you’d have to do is write out the character of Roedecker.

However, there is something decidedly big and bold about The Mikado. It is perhaps the most archetypal (and maybe the most successful) straight-down-the-middle “serial killer of the week” story that Millennium ever produced. After all, if you are only going to do produce one truly traditional “serial killer of the week” story in a season, you may as well go big. And you can’t go much bigger than the Zodiac.

It's all about the execution...

It’s all about the execution…

Continue reading

The X-Files (Topps) #1/2 – Tiptoe Through the Tulpa (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Tiptoe Through the Tulpa is another nice “extra” from Topps’ licensing of The X-Files. The comic book was Topps’ most successful property, and the company worked very hard to promote it across various platforms. They tried to recruit potential readers from within the comic book industry and outside the comic book industry, devoting considerable time and energy to advertising the ongoing series.

Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard had provided promotional strips for TV Guide and for Hero Illustrated, both very clear attempts at courting potential new readers. Both strips adopted very different approaches. Aimed at as broad an audience as possible, the strip for TV GuideCircle Game – was a tight five-page story that covered a lot of ground in a very efficient manner. In contrast, the strip for Hero IllustratedTrick of the Light – was very clearly targeted at a much more niche audience, featuring in-jokes and references for fans and geeks.

He's not 1/2 the man he used to be...

Herbert’s not 1/2 the man he used to be…

Tiptoe Through the Tulpa was written as a tie-in promotion for Wizard magazine, a giveaway for people who read the comic industry’s most popular collector and insider magazine. People would buy Wizard #53, fill out a form and then send away for their copy of the seventeen-page X-Files #1/2. It was a gimmick, but it was a gimmick that was very clearly aimed at broadening the comic’s audience, convincing a few readers who wouldn’t otherwise try the book to check out a “free” sample comic.

As such, Tiptoe Through the Tulpa is written as a seventeen-page comic that could serve as a potential jumping-on point for new readers. It is rather light, rather simple, but nevertheless makes for a clean and effective X-Files one-shot.

Cue theme music...

Cue theme music…

Continue reading

The X-Files (Topps) Annual #1 – Hallow Eve (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.

No matter how you cut it, the creative team of Stefan Petruscha and Charles Adlard were prolific. The duo only worked on The X-Files comics book for seventeen months between January 1995 and May 1996, but they put out a phenomenal amount of work. On top of sixteen issues of the monthly series, there were also two digests, a number of short stories and an annual. In most cases, some of this work would be outsourced to another creative team, but Petrucha and Adlard remain the creative team for Topps’ X-Files comic.

While this undoubtedly required a great deal of creative energy from Petrucha, churning out scripts on a regular basis, it is worth pausing to praise artist Charles Adlard. These days, for a variety of reasons, it seems that major comic book artists have difficulty producing twelve twenty-odd-page issues in a year. Not only was Adlard able to meet that objective, he was able to do that while drawing a large volume of supplementary material, including this feature-length annual.

All about Eve...

All about Eve…

It’s remarkable how consistent it all is. One of the advantages of a tie-in comic book with a steady creative theme is that there’s a much clearer authorial voice. Although Chris Carter oversaw the production of The X-Files, the demand of weekly network television mean that some episodes got more attention than others, and that particular voices tend to shine through. Darin Morgan writes his own version of The X-Files, as do Glen Morgan and James Wong or Howard Gordon or Vince Gilligan. (This isn’t a bad thing, by the way.)

On a comic, with all the issues written by the same author and illustrated by the same artist, there is a bit more consistency. Even though Hallow Eve is a stand-alone one-shot story that exists quite separate to Petrucha and Adlard’s twelve-issue meta-arc, it fits quite comfortably with their themes and subtexts. It’s an episode about history and memory, and perception and reality.

Shocking...

Shocking…

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Paranormal Activity 3

Part of me wonders how far you can stretch a particular concept. I’m a big fan of the original Paranormal Activity, and I think it’s fair to argue that it was a massive game-changer for low-budget horror, somehow finding a novel twist on the “found footage” genre. However, there’s only so many times a particular trick will work. Paranormal Activity 3 works a lot better than Paranormal Activity 2 ever did, even if it comes with its own set of problems and its own diminishing returns.

Putting this spectre to bed…

Continue reading

Mike Carey’s Run on Ultimate Fantastic Four – Vol. 4-6 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, I’m taking a look at some of the stories featuring the characters over the past half-century.

Ultimate Fantastic Four was never really the crown jewel of the Ultimate line. It wasn’t ever as consistent as Brian Michael Bendis’ 100+ issues on Ultimate Spider-Man, nor as zeitgeist-y as Ultimate X-Men (which had the success of the X-Men trilogy to back it up at least). Instead, like Fox’s Fantastic Four movies, Ultimate Fantastic Four was just… well, just kinda there, really. To be fair, I dug Mark Millar’s twelve-issue run on the title. Hell, I even enjoyed elements of the opening arc by Millar and Bendis, and the year-long run by Warren Ellis that followed. However, Mike Carey’s run is somewhat disappointing. This was the run which essentially saw the series through to the big Ultimatum event, and perhaps it justified the decision to clean the slate when it came to Marvel’s Ultimate line. Because, whatever Carey’s run was, it certainly wasn’t consistently fantastic.

That surfer dude looks spaced...

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: The Shining

My mum can’t watch horror films. She just can’t. Even if they aren’t that scary. Even if they are horror-comedies or versions of stories she’s heard before. She can’t even be in the same room when they’re on – even if nothing actually horrific is happening. It turns out that – in her youth, while an au pair in Belgium – one of her friends convinced her to see a movie playing in the local cinema. A film about a family in a hotel over the winter, starring Jack Nicholson. That movie scared her to death, and has arguably scared her ever since.

That movie is – if you haven’t gathered from the title of this post and the plot description – The Shining.

Baby, it's cold outside...

Continue reading