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New Podcast! The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch – Episode #75 (Orison/The Amazing Maleeni)

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. We’re almost there at this point, approaching the end of the Duchovny era of the show.

My first appearance of the somewhat uneven seventh season teams me up with the wonderful Clara Cook once again. We’re discussing two rather distinct episodes of the season, Orison and The Amazing Maleeni. Two very different episodes, both in terms of tone and in terms of quality. Enjoy!

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The X-Files – Je Souhaite (Review)

This September, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

The late seventh season has something of a twilight quality to it.

Even the show’s production staff are unsure whether the show will be coming back for an eighth season, so every episode takes on a special significance. Could this episode be “the last time that…”? Is Brand X the last time that the show does a traditional monster of the week? Is Hollywood A.D. the last time that David Duchovny writes and/or directs? Is Fight Club the last time that Chris Carter writes a non-mythology episode? Is Je Souhaite the last time that Mulder and Scully just investigate a weird standalone case together? There is a weight to it all.

"I'll drink to that."

“I’ll drink to that.”

Of course, the show would come back for an eighth season. There would be lots of traditional monster of the week stories after Brand X. David Duchovny would enjoy another story and directorial credit after Hollywood A.D. Chris Carter would get to write non-mythology episodes after Fight Club, and even get to direct a much more successful whimsical adventure. Mulder and Scully would get to hang out together in the late eighth season and even at the very end of the ninth. In a very real way, this is not the end.

However, in an equally real way, this is the end. It has become hyperbole to suggest that something “… will never be the same again.” Even The X-Files has reinvented itself at least twice by this point, at the start of the third and sixth seasons. However, it is also perfectly reasonable to argue that The X-Files actually will never be the same again. The show changes on a very fundamental level after this point, with Je Souhaite serving as the very last glimpse of the show as it was. In many ways, this is the end of the road.

"So... meet up in about fifteen years?"

“So… meet up in about fifteen years?”

Gilligan would get to write and direct another episode of The X-Files before the show finally came to an end. In fact, there are a few thematic similarities between Je Souhaite and Sunshine Days, with both stories serving as affectionate and romantic finalés to Vince Gilligan’s version of The X-Files. There are still two full seasons ahead. Indeed, it is interesting to wonder what it would be like had Je Souhaite come earlier in the season, or even during the sixth season; it would be a light and fun episode, but would have the same heft and weight?

However, there is something different about Je Souhaite. In hindsight, it feels like a snapshot of an extended (seven-year-long) moment coming to end; it is a picture in an photo album that captures Mulder and Scully right on the edge of a transition. It is innocuous, yet profound. It is a picture of college friends sharing a drink at the end of the last term, unaware (or silently aware) of how things will change in the coming months. It is a picture of friends just hanging out before one gets married or has children.

"I am outta here!"

“I am outta here!”

Of course, Mulder and Scully see each other after this point; there is the second half of season eight and the revival hanging in the future. (To say nothing of The X-Files: I Want to Believe or the comics.) College buddies still hang out. People with families maintain friendships. Still, those dynamics change. They are never quite the same. Not better, not worse. Just different. As weird as it is to describe an episode where Mulder encounters a genie as “the point before things got weird”, that’s exactly what Je Souhaite feels like.

What is most striking about Je Souhaite is how much the episode accepts that reality. It is not morose or melancholy; it is practically celebratory. Instead of eulogising the good times, it decides to have a good time. There is something very sweet about that.

"I'm still here for two seasons..."

“I’m still here for two seasons…”

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The X-Files – The Amazing Maleeni (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

The Amazing Maleeni is light and fairly unobjectionable.

There is nothing necessarily bad about the episode. It is inoffensive and effective. It is a story about magic that features any number of magic tricks, twisting and turning as stories about magic are contractually obligated to twist and turn. There are betrayals and double-crosses, gambits and reveals. Nobody is who they claim to be, and everything is suspect. Individual events are never what they initially appear to be, creating a sense that the audience is watching the dominos cascade. The Amazing Maleeni does almost everything that it needs to do.

Top it all off...

Top it all off…

At the same time, there is something lifeless about the final episode; something almost routine. The Amazing Maleeni feels like a rough sketch of a much stronger episode. The mechanics of the trick are in place, but the performance needs a little more polish. There is no dynamism to the episode. The Amazing Maleeni sacrifices momentum for whimsy, charm for engagement. As an episode of television, The Amazing Maleeni is a pleasant way to pass forty-five minutes. Ultimately, it leaves no real impression.

The Amazing Maleeni is more illusion than magic.

Give the man a hand (cuff)!

Give the man a hand (cuff)!

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Millennium – Omertà (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

It might not feel like it – particularly while actually watching the episode – but Omertà does represent something of a shift in the third season of the show.

Although it was the ninth episode of the third season to be broadcast, it was the eighth produced. It was held back so that it could be broadcast closer to Christmas, in keeping with the themes of the show. As a result, it was the first episode of the third season not to be produced by Michael Duggan. Chip Johannessen is the only “executive producer” listed before Chris Carter at the end of the episode. In a way, shuffling Michael Duggan’s script for Human Essence back earlier in the broadcast order might have been a good thing; it makes for a cleaner break.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Black."

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Black.”

Omertà is not a great piece of television, by any measure. It is not even a good piece of television, by most measures. However, it does mark a point of transition for the third season of Millennium. Omertà begins a run of episodes that deal substantively with the legacy of the show’s second season, and which engage with grand themes of death and spiritual rebirth. The third season of Millennium is a thematic mess, but Omertà represents a point where it seems like the creative team might finally be getting a grip on things, almost half-way through the year.

None of this makes Omertà any easier to watch, but it does provide an intriguing prism through which the episode might be viewed.

"Tonight, we're gonna party like it's 1989!"

“Tonight, we’re gonna party like it’s 1989!”

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Star Trek – Catspaw (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Catspaw was the first episode to enter production for that second season of Star Trek. However, it was not the first to air. Amok Time served as the season opener. Instead, Catspaw was produced as something of a rarity – a Star Trek holiday special. Produced in May, it was eventually broadcast during the last week of October. Given the subject matter and trappings of the episode, that seems highly appropriate.

We are, after all, looking at what amounts to a Star Trek Halloween Special.

Bones joins the cast...

Bones joins the cast…

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Non-Review Review: Magic in the Moonlight

Attending a Woody Allen movie can often feel like playing low-stakes roulette. An extraordinarily prolific director with an incredible body of work behind him, Allen seems capable of churning out films that run the gamut from joyless and pedestrian to magical and exceptional. Woody Allen movies are like trains; if you don’t like this one, there will inevitably be another along in a year or so. However, it feels strange that his fiftieth feature should land so near the middle of the pack.

Magic in the Moonlight is an enjoyable Woody Allen comedy. It lacks a mesmerising central performance like Blue Jasmine or the sheer charm of Midnight in Paris, but it is a well-made and enjoyable excursion. There is charm and wit to it, and it never drags too heavily. However, there is very little truly exceptional about it. Magic in the Moonlight is more of a parlour trick than a how-stopping illusion; delightful and diverting, but feeling a little too unrefined to be truly memorable.

magicinthemoonlight4

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The X-Files – Die Hand Die Verletzt (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.

Die Hand Die Verletzt is a fascinating piece of work, for a number of reasons. The most striking reason, however, is that it is essentially a comedy episode. While The X-Files has always had a wry sense of humour – Mulder’s viewing habits are a recurring joke, after all – this is the first time the series has tried to produce a full-length comedy episode. Die Hand Die Verletzt is still a horror story, and the comedy is pretty black, but it does seem to prove that the show can do an entire episode that is funny.

The implications of this are far-reaching. At its height, the beauty of The X-Files was its versatility. The show could tell just about any sort of story imaginable, flitting between prestige drama, out-and-out horror, pastiche, broad comedy, political thriller, satire or even romance. While you could always bet on at least a hint of the supernatural and a dash of horror, The X-Files could really be anything that Chris Carter and his writers wanted it to be. It was even a show that could collide with other shows, as in The Springfield Files or X-Cops.

She's the devil in disguise...

She’s the devil in disguise…

To be fair, the second season is already reaching towards that approach to The X-Files. Although he has yet to produce a script for the series, the show has hired Darin Morgan to work on the writing team; his sensibilities would be proven truly and brilliantly gonzo. Irresistible proved that you could produce an episode of The X-Files without an overt supernatural horror, focusing on a more grounded horror. Red Museum provided an “almost crossover” with another television series.

However, Die Hand Die Verletzt is the point at which the show does something that looks truly weird in the context of what has come before, yet feeling strangely comfortable in light of what has followed. The script may mark the departure of Glen Morgan and James Wong from the show – the duo leaving to produce Space: Above & Beyond – but it isn’t the end of an era so much as the start of a new one.

The writing's on the... er... chalkboard...

The writing’s on the… er… chalkboard…

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