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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 4, Episode 7 (“Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man”)

This was a surprise and a delight. Reteaming with Carl Sweeney, with whom I last discussed Unruhe, I’m back on The X-Cast this week covering Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man.

To tip my hand quite early, Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man is one of my favourite episodes of The X-Files. More than that, it’s one of my favourite pieces of nineties pop culture in general, the twisted evil twin of Forrest Gump and an exploration of the first half of the American Century through the lens of conspiracy theory. It’s a prime example of the sort of experimentation that made The X-Files such a great piece of nineties television, anchored in a playful and self-aware script from Glen Morgan and some great direction from James Wong.

So it was fantastic to get the chance to talk about it at length with Carl – even “Bad Carl” – on The X-Cast. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast Season 11 #36 – Karen Neilsen and James Wong (“Nothing Lasts Forever”)

The final of three podcasts looking at the penultimate episode of what might be the final season of The X-Files, Nothing Lasts Forever.

I’m joining the great Carl Sweeney to discuss the writer and director combo on Nothing Lasts Forever. The episode pairs a relatively new writer with a veteran director. Karen Neilsen worked with Glen Morgan on Intruders, and had her short Grace included on the season ten release, but this is her first script for The X-Files. In contrast, James Wong is a veteran director; he was nominated for an Emmy of Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man and this is the second episode that he has directed this season.

We also discuss our hopes (and fears) leading into My Struggle IV. I’ll be returning next week to discuss the season finale. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the episode. Click here, or check it out below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch – Episode #41 (Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man/Tunguska)

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.

My first appearance of the fourth season is covering the episodes Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man and Tunguska with the fantastic Zach Moore. It’s actually the last hurrah of this particular pairing, but talk about going out on a high note. Well, half a high note. Half a high note and a really weird Senate-driven cliffhanger.

 

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The X-Files – Season 10 (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.

The six episode revival miniseries is a strange beast.

It is hard to think of it as the tenth season of the show. In fact, the marketing of the DVD and blu ray sets describes it as “the event series”, perhaps a tact acknowledgement of that fact. There are a number reasons why it is difficult to think of these six episodes comprising a tenth season. Most obviously, the season is only six episodes. Even in the current context of truncated episode orders and split season, that is a short season. By modern standards, it would be a short half-season. Referring to it as the tenth season of The X-Files feels like false advertising.

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However, there are other reasons that it is difficult to think of these six episodes as constituting a season. Quite frankly, the six episodes are wildly variable in tone and quality, to the point that it is difficult to distill a singular unifying theme or meaning from. They are six random episodes of television, some good and some less good, with one masterpiece and one boldly ambitious mess. It is almost easier to talk about the episodes individually than it is to discuss them as a single season television.

Then again, that’s what makes them feel so much like The X-Files.

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The X-Files – Founder’s Mutation (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.

In technical and aesthetic terms, Founder’s Mutation is the most modern of the six episodes to air as part of the revival miniseries.

To be fair, the other episodes in the miniseries do embrace the twenty-first century in their own unique ways. My Struggle I and My Struggle II update the mythology for the new millennium. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster deals with themes that resonate particularly strongly now that Mulder and Scully are in their middle age. Babylon is a sincere (if misguided) attempt to engage with the current political climate. However, those episodes are decidedly old-fashioned in how they choose to tell their stories.

Title drop.

Title drop.

There are little nods towards contemporary technology in the other five episodes. Mulder’s inability to work his phone is something of a running joke, whether in his failure to snap a picture of Guy Mann in Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster or his inability to turn off his “find my phone” app in My Struggle II. Carter is justifiably proud of how My Struggle II incorporates cutting edge pseudo-science. However, none of those stories integrate new technology and new ideas as smoothly as Founder’s Mutation.

However, it isn’t just the use of technology that marks Founder’s Mutation out as the most modern of the six episodes. The episode’s storytelling and style are noticeably more contemporary than the episodes around it. Founder’s Mutation tells its story in a way that feels very much in step with the television landscape around it. More than the other five episodes in the miniseries, Founder’s Mutation feels like an episode of twenty-first century television.

Can you hear me at all?

Can you hear me at all?

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The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #9 – Shadows (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

And, with Shadows, the Season One line comes to a close.

Although The X-Files was at the very peak of its popularity between the fifth and sixth seasons, the Topps line of comics was winding to a close. Although Topps had turned a very tidy profit on the line, Ten Thirteen had been less enthused by the relationship. The production company decided not to renew their contract with Topps, and so the X-Files line of comics was quietly retired. Shadows was published in July 1998, a month following the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future.

A shadow of itself...

A shadow of itself…

It was not the last X-Files comic book to be published by Topps. The company would release one more issue of the regular series – Severed – shortly before the start of the sixth season. There was little indication that Topps expected the contract to come to an end; the publisher had actually solicited two further issues of the Season One line beyond Shadows, adaptations of The Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine. These were somewhat lackluster first season episodes, but episodes with the sort of impressive visual ideas that might translate well to the comic book medium.

An adaptation of The Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine would certainly have made for a more visually satisfying final issue than an adaptation of Shadows.

What we do in the shadows...

What we do in the shadows…

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Millennium – Season 2 (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.

The second season of Millennium is understandably polarising.

It is returned from its summer hiatus as what was, on the surface, a radically different television show. The Millennium Group was no longer simply a forensic consultancy firm, but had transformed into a secret society dating back millennia; it had become, as Frank would concede in The Fourth Horseman, “a cult.” More than that, the show had changed around the Millennium Group. Serial killers had been the show’s bread and butter in its first season, prompting some critics to describe it as a “serial killer of the week” procedural; now they were a rare occurrence.

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More than that, Frank Black had also changed. In interviews around the first season, Lance Henriksen had been very proud to play a hero who solved problems with his mind rather than with a gun. In contrast, the second season opened with Frank Black brutally murdering the man who kidnapped his wife. The yellow house had been a symbol of everything pure and good in the world of Frank Black, of the family he worked hard to protect. The second season had exiled Frank Black from this family and had him move deeper and deeper into the Millennium Group itself.

However, there were other changes that were less profound, but just as striking. Frank Black was suddenly a fan of the music of Bobby Darin. He suddenly had a sense of humour that led him to crack more than two jokes in a season. at the same time, he was also more short-tempered and grouchy. The first season had presented Frank Black as a rock in the middle of otherwise chaotic seas; in the second season, it was clear that Frank himself was feeling the strain and the stress. In short, Frank Black felt a lot more human.

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The entire mood of the show changed around Frank. Millennium was suddenly a lot weirder. Though the first season had largely moved away from the classic “Frank hunts a serial killer” formula by the end of the year, the second season abandoned any sense of formula altogether. Watching the second season of Millennium on a week-to-week basis, it was almost impossible to predict what the next show would be like. Although there was a very strong thematic continuity between episodes, there was less of a rigid structure to their construction.

The second season of Millennium was a radical departure from what had come before. It was also the best season of television ever produced by Ten Thirteen.

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