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New Podcast! Not Another X-Files Podcast Podcast #717 – “all things”

Last year, I stopped by Not Another X-Files Podcast Podcast to discuss Vince Gilligan and Rob Bowman’s all-time classic, Drive. So I was thrilled to be invited to join Carolyn and Vanessa to discuss all things.

Positioned towards the tail end of the awkward seventh season of The X-Files, all things is an interesting beast. It is written and directed by series star Gillian Anderson. Unlike Duchovny, Anderson had never really expressed an interest in writing and directing beforehand and hasn’t really embraced that career subsequently. As such, all things is a very strange piece of television, primarily a way for Anderson to explore themes and ideas that were clearly of interest to her.

I’ve always had an awkward relationship with all things. It is not, on its own terms, an especially strong episode. However, it has a strong central vision and an interesting approach to its material, produced with an energy that is largely lacking from the season around it. It’s an oddity in many ways. It is not entirely successful, but it is interesting. It was great to get a chance to hammer it out with Carolyn and Vanessa.

You can check out the podcast here, and past episodes here. Or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch – Episode #80 (all things/Brand X)

I’m thrilled to be a part of The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch, a daily snippet podcast rewatching the entirety of The X-Files between now and the launch of the new season. It is something of a spin-off of The X-Cast, a great X-Files podcast run by the charming Tony Black. Tony has assembled a fantastic array of guests and hosts to go through The X-Files episode-by-episodes. With the new season announced to be starting in early January, Tony’s doing two episodes of the podcast per day, so buckle up. We’re almost there at this point, approaching the end of the Duchovny era of the show.

For the eightieth episode of the podwatch, I’m joining Tanya Hernandez to discuss two unique episodes of the series. all things is famously the first (and so far only) episode of The X-Files to be written and directed by Gillian Anderson, while Brand X features a very different cigarette-smoking man.

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The X-Files – This is Not Happening (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.

The eighth season of The X-Files is remarkable in a number of ways.

It accomplishes a lot of things, and does them in a very logical and linear way. The departure of David Duchovny at the end of the seventh season set an agenda for the season ahead, and gave the production team a very clear set of goals. The eighth season required more discipline and planning than any of the previous seven seasons, with less room for improvisation or error. If Chris Carter and his team were to succeed at bringing the eighth season to life, it would require even more care and discipline than the show usually required.

"Nooooo!"

“Nooooo!”

One of the least discussed aspects of the eighth season is the care that the production team took to structure it. The eighth season of The X-Files is the most meticulously and carefully structured season of The X-Files, clearly adhering to an internal three act structure. The first seven or eight episodes (Within to Via Negativa or Per Manum) are all set-up. The next five (Surekill to Medusa) explored that new set-up. The final eight (This is Not Happening to Existence) closed out the plots and threads of the season, leaving the show in a very different place.

The decision to shift Per Manum around in the broadcast order changes things slightly, but there is still a sense that the eighth season was entering its end game in late February 2001. Positioned at the start of the season’s third act, This is Not Happening offers perhaps the bleakest cliffhanger and puts our heroes at their lowest possible point. Adhering to the classic three-act structure, This is Not Happening serves as the emotional climax of the season. With a five week gap between the broadcast of This is Not Happening and DeadAlive, this is one hell of a cliffhanger.

"Have you seen this devilishly handsome man?"

“Have you seen this devilishly handsome man?”

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The X-Files – Without (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.

Taken as a whole, the eighth season of The X-Files is remarkable.

It is not a perfect season of television, by any stretch. The eighth season doesn’t hit as many highs as the fourth, fifth or sixth seasons. As great as Robert Patrick is as John Doggett, and as skilfully as he is introduced, it is impossible to replace the easy dynamic between Mulder and Scully. The actual mythology of the season feels overcrowded and convoluted, with “supersoldiers” feeling a tad cliché and Mulder’s terminal illness going nowhere of note. The season’s recurring motifs of darkness, death and body horror are not for everybody.

I bet David Duchovny really missed working on The X-Files...

I bet David Duchovny really missed working on The X-Files

At the same time, there is a staggering consistency and reliability to the season. From the outset, the eighth season seems to know what it wants to be and where it wants to go. There is a stronger sense of purpose to the eighth season than to any other season of the show, with the possible exception of the third. Even the lead-up to the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future did not feel this single-minded and focused. In terms of consistency of theme and imagery, this is the closest the show ever came to pulling off a season-long arc.

It is tempting to credit this renewed vigour and energy to the absence of David Duchovny; the search for Mulder provides a solid and compelling hook for the season ahead. However, there is more to it than that. Mulder’s disappearance is a part of it, but the big thematic bow wrapped around the eighth season is Scully’s pregnancy. After all, David Duchovny returns to the show two-thirds of way through the season; it is Scully’s pregnancy that provides the season’s finalé.

"Thank goodness we all wore different ties. That might have been awkward."

“Thank goodness we all wore different ties. That might have been awkward.”

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The X-Files – Within (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.

What is The X-Files without Mulder? Can it even exist without Mulder?

The show entered its eighth season facing an existential dilemma. David Duchovny had renewed his contract with Fox at the last possible minute, three days before Requiem consigned his character to limbo. However, it was not necessarily the renewal that Fox would have wanted. Duchovny had agreed to reprise the role of Mulder in the eighth season of The X-Files, but only for eleven of the season’s twenty-one episodes. This meant that the character of Mulder could only actually appear in just over half of the season’s episodes.

Eye see...

Eye see…

This was a pretty significant blow to The X-Files. The title of the show referred to the procedural cases investigated by Mulder and Scully, but the series had long abandoned any pretense of focusing on those cases ahead of Mulder and Scully. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson had elevated the characters to pop culture icons, with any pop savvy person capable of easily slipping a reference to Mulder and/or Scully into casual conversation. The chemistry between the two was so strong it forced the global conspiracy to second billing in The X-Files: Fight the Future.

Attempting The X-Files without Mulder (or with “just under fifty percent less Mulder”) was perhaps the most daring and ambitious decision of the show’s entire nine-season run.

"And introducing Robert Patrick."

“And introducing Robert Patrick.”

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The X-Files – Season 7 (Review)

This September, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

The seventh season of The X-Files feels like the end.

Indeed, going into the season, the production team were quite certain that it was going to be the end. Chris Carter and David Duchovny had signed two-year extensions to their initial five-year contracts that would expire at the end of the season. David Duchovny had signalled that he was unlikely to return for an eighth season. Frank Spotnitz suggested that the writing staff were approaching the seventh season like it was their last time working with these characters on this show.

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Gradually, however, things changed. As the seventh season continued, it became more and more likely that it wouldn’t be the seventh season of the show. Most obviously, Fox endured one of its worst seasons on record; there was simply no show that could hope to replace The X-Files in the network’s line-up. As a result, there was a clear urge to continue the show into an eighth season. However, the production team could not commit to the possibility because David Duchovny was in the midst of an on-going lawsuit against Fox.

As a result, the entire seventh season occupies a hazily-defined realm between life and death. As the season goes on, it feels more and more like the seventh season is hedging its bets; that the production team might be happy to move on to other projects, but are not entirely ready to give up on The X-Files yet. Watching the season in hindsight feels weird; it often feels like the production team want to bring the curtain down, but are unwilling to definitively or conclusive wrap up all the threads.

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If the sixth season of The X-Files fixated on the show’s immortality and timelessness, the seventh season plays as a reaction against that. The seventh season is very keenly aware that everything must end and that The X-Files‘ cultural moment might be fading. There is something mournful and morose about the seventh season, as if The X-Files is watching itself slip away into history. After all, this was the point where the show became readily available on DVD and where Duchovny was engaged in a lawsuit over syndication; The X-Files was becoming a legacy concern.

The seventh season is about death and undeath.

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The X-Files – Brand X (Review)

This September, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

Watching the seventh season of The X-Files only reinforces the sense that the production team got extremely lucky with the casting of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. The chemistry between the two actors has carried more than a few weak scripts across the seventh season. Lighter shows like Rush, The Goldberg Variation and The Amazing Maleeni were all able to coast off the charm of the pair. It doesn’t matter that the plot resolution in an exposition dump from Mulder when you end on Scully attempting a magic trick. However, this works both ways.

It the seventh season coasts of the charisma of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, this means that their inevitable absences are keenly felt. As The X-Files had become more popular, the demand upon Duchovny and Anderson had grown greater; most obviously, the show had dropped its production order from twenty-four to twenty-two episodes. Even allowing for that, the show could no longer make the same demands of Duchovny and Anderson that it had made in the first four seasons. Nor could they simply produce less television.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em...

Smoke ’em if you got ’em…

As a result, there are points in the show’s run when either (or both) David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are unavailable. There are extended periods of the final two seasons that do not feature David Duchovny in any significant capacity. However, even within the seventh season, there are episodes where both leads are unable to fill the narrative space allocated to the lead characters. Gillian Anderson was largely absent from Chimera while working on all things; David Duchovny was largely absent from all things while working on Hollywood A.D.

It is these absences which suggest an uncomfortable truth about The X-Files. The show might have its own chemical dependencies. In a metaphor stretched in an effort to tie it all back to Brand X, the audience might rely on Duchovny and Anderson as surely as a smoker relies on their quick nicotine fix. Any attempt to genetically reengineer the show to ensure a healthier and longer life could easily end up creating a monster.

Talk about a looming legal face-off...

Talk about a looming legal face-off…

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