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The X-Files – The Gift (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Sweeps have arrived. And so has David Duchovny.

David Duchovny appeared in three of the four episodes of The X-Files broadcast in February 2001. (The fourth, Medusa, is very much the “blockbuster” episode of this stretch of the season, with a large budget and impressive scale.) This was very much a conscious choice on the part of the production team. Although Duchovny’s shooting schedule meant that the episodes were filmed across the season, the show made a choice to broadcast them all as part the February Sweeps.

He's back...

He’s back…

Indeed, even the order of the episodes in question has been jumbled around. The Gift is the third broadcast episode of the eighth season to feature an appearance by David Duchovny; it was filmed before Badlaa, but broadcast after it so as to open the Sweeps season. However, Per Manum would be the fourth broadcast episode of the eighth season to feature an appearance by David Duchovny; not only was it filmed before The Gift, it was actually filmed between Via Negativa and Surekill.

There is a sense, looking at the differences between the production and broadcast orders of the eighth season, that the production team were well aware of just how big a deal the return of David Duchovny would be. In fact, the decision to broadcast The Gift before Per Manum seems like a very canny attempt to tease those viewers excited about the return of Mulder. The character is much more prominent in Per Manum, so it feels like the decision to air his smaller supporting role in The Gift earlier is an effort in building suspense and excitement.

"The name's Doggett, John Doggett."

“The name’s Doggett, John Doggett.”

The Gift doesn’t offer much in the way of advancement for the season’s on-going story arcs. Although the teaser is smart enough to build to the reveal of David Duchovny, the character only appears in quick flashes throughout the episode. Mulder has less than half-a-dozen lines over the course of the show’s forty-five minutes. He does not directly encounter (or engage with) Doggett or Scully, only appearing for a brief moment as a vision in the basement at the end of the episode. Fans eagerly anticipating Mulder’s return would undoubtedly be frustrated.

However, there is something almost endearing in the show’s playful teasing of its fanbase. It feels almost like the show getting comfortable with itself once again. Indeed, the structure of the episode – paralleling Mulder’s investigation with that of Doggett rather than intersecting them – seems to suggest that perhaps the show might be in good hands without the need to have Mulder literally validate his successor.

Now that's branding...

Now that’s branding…

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Star Trek: Voyager – The Cloud (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Cloud feels more like a first season episode than Time and Again and Phage did. Star Trek: Voyager has ploughed fairly effectively into its first season, primarily by treating it as the eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, the first season has been falling into a regular pattern so fast that pausing for forty-five minutes to do some awkward and ill-defined character work doesn’t feel like a bad idea.

The Cloud is an awkwardly constructed piece of television that feels like it’s interested in building up this ensemble. As such, the pacing suffers, and the episode makes a number of awkward mistakes along the way, but it still feels like it is at least trying to do something worthwhile.

Shaking things up around here...

Shaking things up around here…

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The X-Files – Anasazi (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.

Burn it.

– C.G.B. Spender, 16 April 1995

On alien soil...

On alien soil…

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The X-Files – Shapes (Review)

Shapes feels like something of a companion piece to Shadows. Both are very traditional horror monster stories, feeling a little dated and out of place among the more modern paranoia of The X-Files. Shapes might carefully avoid using the word “werewolf”, instead dressing up the classic movie monster in loose fitting Native American mythology, but it feels like an attempt to pay homage to one of the definitive Hollywood monsters. Unfortunately, like Shadows, it winds up feeling a little stale and tired, a little too familiar and cliché.

It’s a werewolf story that lacks bite.

Chew on this...

Chew on this…

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Non-Review Review: Room 237

Room 237 is an ode to cinema. Not just Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, mind you, despite the fact that fact that Kubrick’s horror film is the focus of the film’s talking heads (or disembodied voices) discussion. No, Room 237 is a celebratory tribute to every discussion and dissection of popular film, no matter how plausible or implausible, no matter whether conducted in print, on-line or in the pub with friends. Director Rodney Ascher’s documentary is as interested in the personal lives of its subjects – where they came from, with regards to the film – as it is with their views on the film itself.

In case you can’t tell, I was very taken with it.

Cut it there, Jack!

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Non-Review Review: The White Buffalo

I’m sure there must have been a good movie in there somewhere. The story of Wild Bill Hickok hunting down the wild white buffalo from his nightmares through the Old West could have been a compelling one, even if it’s hard to imagine it ever being a classic. Instead, the movie is hackneyed cheese-fest that seems uncertain what to do with itself. It doesn’t help that Charles Bronson, sleepwalking his way through the production, gives the best performance of the film. If that’s not a bad omen, I don’t know what is.

What a load of bull...

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