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The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #5 – Ice (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.

With Ice, Season One jumps ahead a bit.

It is hard to blame them. The first four episodes of the first season are relatively solid, outlining the heart of The X-Files and conveying everything the audience really needed to know at this point. However, the first season gets a little bit rocky after Conduit. Episodes like The Jersey Devil and Shadows are unlikely to top anybody’s list of favourite X-Files episodes. Ghost in the Machine is somewhat underrated, but it is hardly a world-beater either. So it makes sense to skip ahead to probably the most highly-regarded episode in the first half of the first season.

Worming its way into your heart...

Worming its way into your heart…

Ice is a classic installment of The X-Files. Like Squeeze, it is an episode that tends to lodge itself in the popular memory. It is hard to verify such things in any objective fashion, but it is an episode that many casual fans reference or point to whenever the show is mentioned. It has just the right balance of memorable imagery and distinctive hooks, brought to life in a haunting and atmospheric fashion. It would have been crazy for Roy Thomas’ adaptations of the Season One episodes to skip over this particular episode, and it makes sense to jump right to it.

Then again, there is also a pretty clear precedent for this.

This is not who we are...

This is not who we are…

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Space: Above and Beyond – The Enemy (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.

On paper, The Enemy seems like a good idea.

Space: Above and Beyond has a reasonably large cast. It has devoted character-centric episodes to the three leads, and done a nice bit of world-building around that. To this point, the shows have typically split the characters up, pushed some to the fore and others to the background.  The show is now about a third of the way through the first season, so it makes a great deal of sense to do a show that actually stresses the ensemble dynamic.

Nothing to fear, but fear itself...

Nothing to fear, but fear itself…

A story like The Enemy makes a great deal of sense. When you have an ensemble, you can generate drama from next to nothing. Lock five people in a room together, you’re sure to generate some friction. Character practically defines itself as they play off one another. If you can crank up the tension, it will all come together. So a war story where our heroes find themselves trapped together and cracking under the pressure seems like a solid basis for a good story.

The problem is that The Enemy is just a clumsy mess of a script, and one that stumbles over what should be a fairly robust set-up.

"I'm still not sure that producing the episode could be considered a war crime..."

“I appreciate that it was traumatic, but I’m still not sure that producing the episode could be considered a war crime…”

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The X-Files – End Game (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.

Towards the end of End Game, Mulder stumbles across a nuclear submarine that was attacked in the episode’s teaser. The craft was disabled by a strange craft it picked up in the ocean. Now, following a mysterious alien figure across the world in a quest to find his sister, Mulder approaches the location of the lost American submarine. As he does, he notices the submarine’s coning tower, bursting through the ice.

It’s one of those beautifully iconic television moments. It’s an image that is audacious and stunning and beautiful and breathtaking. It immediately gives End Game (and Colony) a sense of scale. All of a sudden, this isn’t just a bunch of stuff happening under the radar in some small town somewhere. This is the hijacking of a nuclear submarine by a hostile entity. This is Mulder going to the ends of the Earth to get his sister back.

Not so green any longer...

Not so green any longer…

It’s also worth noting that the symbolism is beautiful. Even looking at a picture of Mulder on the ice conjures up all manner of associations. Coupled with the non-linear storytelling employed by Colony and End Game, it calls Frankenstein to mind – Frankenstein serving as a massively influential text on Chris Carter. However, the idea of Mulder finding important existential answers on an Arctic soundstage also evokes Clark Kent’s self-discovery in Richard Donner’s Superman films, playing into the sense that this is an episode framed in cinematic terms.

The rest of the episode could just be dead air, and End Game would still work impressively well. However, End Game remains a fantastic piece of work in its own right, effectively codifying how a two-parter is meant to work.

The truth is out there...

The truth is out there…

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The X-Files – Firewalker (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.

Firewalker is a perfectly solid episode of The X-Files.

The problem is that Firewalker needs to be so much more than “solid.” It’s the first show of the season that has Mulder and Scully working together on an X-file. Nine episodes into the season, the show has finally put the two characters together and dropped them into a regular episodic adventure plot. Scully is back. There is no Cigarette-Smoking Man, no Skinner, no Krycek. The show had waited more than two months to get back to the familiar formula, so there was a palpable sense of anticipation.

Burn, baby, burn...

Burn, baby, burn…

To be fair to Firewalker, there’s a lot to like here. It’s a nice paranoia thriller, one that could easily serve as a text book example of a stand-alone X-Files episode. As you might expect from a script by Howard Gordon, Firewalker is also a nice character study for Mulder. It has a phenomenal guest cast – featuring actors like Bradley Whitford, Leland Orser and Shawnee Smith. On paper, Firewalker is a great episode of The X-Files. Divorced from context, it holds up rather well.

Unfortunately, Firewalker can’t be divorced from context. The episode has quite a few glaring problems. It seems a little disappointing that the first episode after Gillian Anderson’s return to full-time work on the show is a character study of Mulder. The plot is just a little too archetypal, feeling like a retread of Ice from the first season. The episode tries to get back to business as usual without bother to unpack everything that has happened since The Erlenmeyer Flask.

Into darkness...

Into darkness…

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