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The X-Files – The Pine Bluff Variant (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

The Pine Bluff Variant is probably John Shiban’s best solo script for The X-Files.

It is the kind of story that the show does very well, a taut conspiracy thriller packed with sharp twists and turns. Not all of those twists and turns make a great deal of sense, but there is an incredible momentum to the episode that keeps it moving forward. John Shiban’s script is beautifully brought to life by Rob Bowman’s direction, with Bowman demonstrating once again why he was the perfect choice to direct The X-Files: Fight the Future. The Pine Bluff Variant is a well-constructed piece of television.

He who hunts monsters...

He who hunts monsters…

It also fits quite comfortably in the context of where the show is at this point in time. The fourth and fifth seasons of The X-Files saw the show really engaging with the dark underbelly of conspiracy culture just as Mulder when through his own dark midnight of the soul. After three seasons of endorsing paranoia and skepticism, The X-Files was ready to deal with the sorts of organised groups that believed in such conspiracies. The Pine Bluff Variant has Mulder infiltrating a militia a few months before the release of Fight the Future would recreate the Oklahoma City Bombing.

It is a thread with which the show had been playing since The Field Where I Died early in the fourth season. The Pine Bluff Variant is the last time that the series pushes these sorts of militia groups to the fore, with Mulder reaffirming and regaining his faith at the climax of Fight the Future. It is a suitably satisfying farewell to this recurring thematic motif.

Fleshing out the threat...

Fleshing out the threat…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Royale (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

“None of it makes any sense, sir,” Riker succinctly states before the credits role on The Royale. The Royale is a decidedly nonsensical episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where an away team find themselves trapped inside an atrocious casino melodrama and have to figure out how to return to the ship. The episode is packed with interesting visuals and a bizarre situations, but it never quite comes together in the end.

And, yet, despite the obvious problems, The Royale is intriguing. Visually, it’s one of the most striking and memorable episodes of the show’s first two season. The rotating door to nowhere is a beautifully strange image, and the sight of the Enterprise away team wandering around a twentieth century casino is enough to prevent the episode from ever becoming boring. The Royale isn’t the best constructed episode of the show’s first two years, and it has more than its fair share of problems.

However, it’s also a wonderfully bizarre and adventurous piece of science-fiction, as if Riker has beamed into a cheap imitation of The Twilight Zone. That’s enough to make it well worth a watch.

The whole plot revolves around absurdities...

The whole plot revolves around absurdities…

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