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Space: Above and Beyond – Sugar Dirt (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.

The end is nigh.

There is a generally funereal atmosphere to the last few episodes of Space: Above and Beyond, creating the sense that the show was well aware of – and had perhaps come to terms with – its own inevitable cancellation. Stardust had assured viewers (and the show itself) that the dead can be heroes too. Sugar Dirt seems a lot angrier about the series’ situation. It is the story of our heroes surrounded and outgunned on all sides; abandoned to their fate by those in authority.

Sadly, McQueen couldn't quite save the show...

Sadly, McQueen couldn’t quite save the show…

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The X-Files – 731 (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.

731 is a lot more substantial than Nisei.

This is most likely due to the episode’s production history. Frank Spotnitz had pitched the episode that would become 731 as a single standalone episode, but the production team discovered that the show was too large to fill a single forty-five minute block. So the show was extended into a two-parter. Given that Spotnitz was the credited writer on 731, it would seem that the second part retained most of the substance.

It's in the eye of the beholder...

It’s in the eye of the beholder…

This makes a great deal of sense, given that the two-parter eschews the stand format of a two-part X-Files episodes, featuring a frantic run-around in the first forty-five minutes and a tighter more intimate story in the second. Coupled with the fact that the episode is more about working through what we already know instead of heaping more information on top, and the two-parter seems a lot more substantial than most of the series’ big mythology shows.

Thoughtful, introspective, and unnerving, 731 is perhaps the highpoint of the show’s entire nine-season conspiracy arc.

Where the bodies are buried...

Where the bodies are buried…

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The X-Files – Nisei (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.

The most interesting aspect of Nisei and 731 is the fact that there’s very little forward movement by the end of it.

The previous multi-part conspiracy episodes typically featured big hooks and shock revelations. Duane Barry and Ascension demonstrated that the government was officially responsible for alien abductions, to the point where they could arrange Scully’s abduction. Colony and End Game featured shape-shifting aliens and confirmation that Samantha Mulder was a big part of this. Anasazi, The Blessing Way and Paper Clip revealed that Mulder’s father was part of a conspiracy involving Second World War criminals working on American soil to create an alien-human hybrid.

The only way its getting off this planet is in a bodybag...

The only way its getting off this planet is in a bodybag…

Nisei and 731 don’t contain any truly seismic revelations. The biggest moments here – the reveal that Japanese war criminals have been experimenting on Americans with the assistance of the government, and that the bodies in the box car in Anasazi were probably originally human – all build on what Paper Clip already established. There’s nothing as significant as the reveal of the Bill Mulder’s complicity in the conspiracy from Paper Clip, or the first appearance of the Black Oil in Piper Maru.

Nisei and 731 really seem to be about taking stock of what has happened so far in the show – as close to a “breather” mythology episode as the show could manage at this point. Of course, this being The X-Files, this “breather” episode still moves a break-neck pace and climaxes with a death-defying leap on to a moving train. As you do.

The doctors are in...

The doctors are in…

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Non-Review Review: The Wind Rises

Best known in Europe and America for beautiful animated fantasies like Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki has opted for something a little bit different with his final – heavily publicised as “farewell” – film. The Wind Rises has touches of fantasy and looks absolutely beautiful, it represents a different sort of animated film. More of a historical drama and romance than an escapist fantasy, The Wind Rises is a thoughtful exploration of Japan in the lead-up to the Second World War.

Focusing on Mitsubishi aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, the film is a lavish animated period drama about the construction of the infamous Japanese “Zero Fighter” – the A6M Zero. The fighter of choice during the Second World War, The Wind Rises notes that the pilots flying those planes never came back as the film reflects on the social context of Japan’s march towards war, and the characters caught in the middle like an umbrella trapped in a strong wind.

thewindrises3

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