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Star Trek: Voyager – Year of Hell, Part I (Review)

Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II might just be the perfect episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

Taken together, these episodes perfectly demonstrate the raw potential and strength of the third Star Trek spin-off. They are a boldly ambitious story of a ship that finds itself in hostile territory surrounded by a hostile force with superior firepower, all while playing into the recurring themes and fascinations of the wider series. Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II are effectively a story that finds history itself under threat, while emphasising Brannon Braga’s interpretation of Janeway by setting her against a similarly obsessive opponent.

Things fall apart.

Things fall apart.

The result is one of the most thrilling and engaging stories of Voyager‘s seven-season run, among the most satisfying of the series’ impressive “blockbuster” two-parters. Although the show is still being broadcast in the standard nineties 4:3 aspect ratio, it feels like a widescreen story. Part of that is due to the fact that the two-parter unfolds over three quarters of an entire year, part of that is the expanded room for storytelling, part of that is the fact that history itself hangs in the balance, part of that is the fact that Voyager itself feels at stake.

Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II do an excellent job capturing the essence of Voyager.

The Voyager cast Christmas party took a heavier toll than usual.

The Voyager cast Christmas party took a heavier toll than usual.

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The X-Files – Grotesque (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.

Grotesque is probably Howard Gordon’s strongest script for The X-Files.

F. Emasculata had demonstrated that Howard Gordon and Chris Carter worked very well together as a writing team. Carter was very good at big philosophical concepts, while Gordon was very adept at structuring a plot. Gordon knows how to build momentum and suspense, and his best scripts benefit from that particular talent. It helps that Gordon and Carter are probably the writers with the best understanding of Mulder as a character at this point in the show’s run.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

Grotesque is an intriguing episode, particularly when examined in the context of the third season. The first and second season of The X-Files had been rather experimental in nature – the show tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t. The third season built off the successes of those earlier seasons. The idea seemed to be that the show would do more of what had worked, only better. So there were more two-part mythology episodes, more grounded stories, more comedy.

Grotesque is fascinating because it draws as much from earlier stories that didn’t work, using the lessons that the show had learned in the years since in order to make them work this time around.

Face-off...

Face-off…

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Non-Review Review: Turbo

Turbo is the best animated movie of 2013, well worth coming out of your shell to see. It’s probably the best Dreamworks film since Kung-Fu Panda and the best CGI animated feature since Toy Story 3. Indeed, Turbo manages to evoke a lot of the charming early Pixar films, in particular channelling Ratatouille, as we follow the adventures of one common unloved animal who decides that “good enough” is not quite good enough.

Stop the clock...

Stop the clock…

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Non-Review Review: Robo-Cop

I think Robocop might be on the shortlist of most influential B-movies ever made. Certainly, coming out of the eighties, I think that Robocop defined what an audience expected from an incorporated future – the notion that big business would eventually replace local government in the lives of citizens. It’s not a novel theme, it’s one that science-fiction has been throwing out for decades, but I think that Robocop almost redefined that argument. It’s hard not to detect the influence of the film in a lot of movies that followed, so effortless and all-consuming was the “not too distant future” presented by Verhoeven.

I wonder if that's a manual or an automatic...

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