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The Lone Gunmen – All About Yves (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.

The broad consensus would seem to suggest that All About Yves is the best episode of The Lone Gunmen.

While this is perhaps unfair to Madam, I’m Adam and Tango de los Pistoleros, it is certainly a defensible position. All About Yves is one of the tightest shows of the season, and marks the first time since The Pilot that a plot has managed to actually build momentum and tension across its run-time. As effective as the climaxes of Madam, I’m Adam and Tango de los Pistoleros might have been, the first season of The Lone Gunmen doesn’t really offer much in the way of dramatic stakes.

"This looks familiar..."

“This looks familiar…”

In a way, that is to be expected. The Lone Gunmen is, first and foremost, a comedy. There are points in the first season where it feels like The Lone Gunmen exists primarily as a silo to store all the displaced comedy that the production team stripped out of the sombre eighth season of The X-Files. (Cynics might suggest that there wasn’t quite thirteen episodes’ worth of comedy to be re-homed.) It is hard to feel too stressed when Langly is threatened in Bond, Jimmy Bond or when a poacher points a gun at Byers in Diagnosis: Jimmy.

That is the beauty of All About Yves, managing to create a growing sense of tension and unease without sacrificing any of the show’s humour. Indeed, with the addition of guest star Michael McKean to the cast, All About Yves winds up funnier than about half of the preceding season.

The truth is out there...

The truth is out there…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Zero Hour (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

There was a very real chance that Zero Hour might have been the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise to air.

In fact, it was entirely possible that Zero Hour‘s distinctive (and downright provocative) closing shot of an evil!alien!space!Nazi might have been the last shot of Star Trek to air on television for quite some time.

Time is running out...

Time is running out…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Shockwave, Part I (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Re-watching a television show with the benefit hindsight is a particularly intriguing experience. Knowing that certain plot lines or character threads will or won’t pay off can be a liberating experience. While a disappointing ending to a particular story can undermine a lot of what came before, foreknowledge of the inevitable anticlimax allows the viewer to manage their expectations and temper their enthusiasm. It stops the viewer from getting too involved with threads that lead to dead ends, and heightens appreciations for those that pay dividends.

The Temporal Cold War plot on Star Trek: Enterprise never went anywhere. This is rather obvious in hindsight, given that it has been a decade since the end of the show. However, it’s worth acknowledging that many viewers correctly predicted as much on the initial airing of Broken Bow in late 2001. None of the questions raised will be answered, none of the plot threads will be resolved. It will just sit there, nestled snugly in the heart of this Star Trek spin-off, possibly embodying the show’s unfulfilled potential.

Enterprise isn't quite going to make it to seventh (season) heaven...

Enterprise isn’t quite going to make it to seventh (season) heaven…

While the Temporal Cold War lacks a clear resolution, it does provide the impetus for some pretty good storytelling on its own terms. In many respects, the plot works best when it exists as a driving force in the background of an episode – rather than being pushed to the fore. This is probably why Cold Front and Shockwave, Part I work much better than episodes like Shockwave, Part II – episodes that use the Temporal Cold War as a jumping off point to character work and development, rather than an end of itself.

Shockwave, Part I is notable for ending the first season of Enterprise on a cliffhanger. This was the first time that the opening season of a Star Trek had show had closed on a cliffhanger. The other shows closed out their freshman season with open-ended stand-alone stories, with the last episodes in the first seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager emphasising how far their cast had come. In contrast, Shockwave, Part I closes the first year of Enterprise on an honest to goodness “to be continued.” And a good one at that.

Seeking a friend at the end of the world...

Seeking a friend at the end of the world…

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Star Trek: Voyager – Season 1 (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 best thing that can be said about the first season of Star Trek: Voyager is that it avoids being actively terrible.

This might sound like damning with the faintest of praise, but it’s worth looking at the show in the context of its siblings. None of the Star Trek spin-offs have had illustrious first seasons, often struggling to find their feet. It’s worth noting that Voyager‘s first season doesn’t contain any episodes that are as flat-out bad as something like Code of Honour, Angel One or The Passenger. While the show has more than its fair share of problems, it’s hard to look at the concept behind any episode in Voyager‘s first season and think “this is truly bad idea.”

voy-caretaker2

Of course, the logical counterpoint to that argument is the observation that the show hasn’t produced anything of equivalent quality to Heart of Glory, Conspiracy, Duet or In the Hands of the Prophets. This is perfectly legitimate criticism, and it really explains the problem with the first season of Voyager. While the show has avoided any spectacularly embarrassing decisions, it did this by completely avoiding any real risk.

The first season of Star Trek: Voyager is almost perfectly calibrated to land in the Star Trek comfort zone.

voy-learningcurve18

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Space: Above and Beyond – The Dark Side of the Sun (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.

Space: Above and Beyond is half-way between an epic space opera and a wartime saga.

The Dark Side of the Sun confirms something suggested as early as The Pilot. While creators Glen Morgan and James Wong have a firm grasp of the war story aspect of the show, they are a bit less comfortable with the science-fiction elements. While The Farthest Man From Home was a solid old-fashioned “love in wartime” epic, The Dark Side of the Sun is steeped in stock science-fiction elements and interesting ideas, but seems to falter in the execution.

Wild cards...

Wild cards…

It feels very much like Morgan and Wong are trying to push the show’s science-fiction elements to the fore, but aren’t entirely comfortable with those elements. The result is a curious little episode, one that does a decent amount of character and world-building, while also baking some intriguing ideas and concepts into this potential future for mankind. At the same time, there’s an awkwardness to it all, as if The Dark Side of the Sun is trying to establish the show’s sci-fi credentials and can’t quite figure how everything fits together.

The Dark Side of the Sun is a show that feels like it could have used a bit more time and another draft or two, perhaps a reminder that Morgan and Wong are still relatively new at this sort of thing.

Cold dead eyes...

Cold dead eyes…

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Non-Review Review: Network

Network is a compelling condemnation of news television. The black comedy from Sydney Lumet is one of those great movies which actually feels more relevant now (thirty years after it was first released) than it did when it first appeared on the big screen. In particular, while some plot developments are clearly satire, it seems that quite a few moments in the movie seem a lot less ridiculous or fantastical in this day and age than they would have when originally written. It’s a rare movie that can do something like that, and the fact that it’s a lot easier to imagine some of the movie’s jokes coming to pass in this day and age only makes it all the more potent.

Beales appeal...

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