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The X-Files – Ghost in the Machine (Review)

I like Ghost in the Machine more than I really should. I mean, I know it’s a mess. The plotting is uninspired. The characters are thin. There’s a last minute link to the show’s overall conspiracy arc thrown in to compensate for the fact that plugging a device into a USB socket is hardly the most thrilling of climaxes. And yet, despite that, I think there’s an endearing weirdness to Ghost in the Machine that appeals to me.

It’s an AI story that has clearly written by a team who (by their own admission) know nothing about computers, and so there’s an almost ethereal quality to the whole thing – Mark Snow’s looping electronic score, the sparse theatrical set design of the COS mainframe, and director Jerrold Freedman’s obvious affection for Dutch angles all contribute to the sense that something rather strange is happening at the very edge of the frame.

Watch out...

Watch out…

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The X-Files – Shadows (Review)

Shadows feels a tad generic, but that’s by design. Written by the duo of Glenn Morgan and James Wong, Shadows was apparently intended to appease the network by offering something in the mold of a traditional ghost story – indeed, The Entity is often cited as an influence on the episode. Shadows runs off a rather conventional premise – a woman is haunted by a strange force capable of manipulating and moving objects, out to avenge some grave wrong.

In many respects, following The Jersey Devil, it almost seems like the first season of The X-Files is trying to knock off various items on a paranormal checklist. UFOs? Got ’em. A popular cryptozoology monster? Yep. Ghosts or poltergeists? We got a story here. The result is hardly inspiring. The X-Files tends to work a bit better when it’s venturing off the beaten track, taking something that isn’t mainstream and running with it.

Author John Kenneth Muir argued that watching The X-Files was like “watching a movie every week.” If that’s the case, Shadows feels more like a movie of the week.

The pen is mightier than the sword!

The pen is mightier than the sword!

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The X-Files – The Jersey Devil (Review)

And with The Jersey Devil, the first season of The X-Files hits its first major snag. The first four episodes have done an efficient job laying down the character arcs and the ground rules for this new conspiratorial series. The rest of the season – like a lot of first seasons – has a great deal of difficulty trying to figure out a formula that works using those elements.

The Jersey Devil is, by all accounts, an episode that should work. It has a nice pseudo-scientific premise. It is written by the creator of the show, and who – at this early stage – could claim a better idea of how the series works than Chris Carter? It gives us some personal insight into both of our protagonists, and it sort of clarifies that Squeeze is not going to be the exception – that there will be a lot of anthology-style episodes.

And yet, despite all that, it doesn’t quite work. The premise is never as interesting as it should be. Chris Carter confirms that while he is a fantastic ideas man, he is not the strongest writer on his own staff. The best of these insights into Mulder and Scully were already made much better in Squeeze, and the rest feel somewhat trite. Despite the fact that it’s only the show’s second anthology-style episode, The Jersey Devil feels like it’s trying to hard to stick to the framework outlined by the three UFO episodes in the series’ opening quartet.

Casting light...

Casting light…

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