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The X-Files – Theef (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.

Theef is an underrated seventh season episode, one often forgotten and overlooked as season seven moves firmly into its second half.

The episode represents another conscious attempt to get “back to basics.” Continuing the vein of Hungry or Millennium or Orison or Signs and Wonders, the script for Theef hopes to prove that the show can still produce a genuinely scary hour of television in its seventh season. It certainly succeeds; Theef is a delightfully unsettling story, one that borders on the downright nasty. From the closing shot of the teaser – a body suspended from a chandelier with the word “Theef” scrawled on a wall in his own blood – Theef goes for the jugular.

"I think he's trying to tell you something."

“I think he’s trying to tell you something.”

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The X-Files – The Sixth Extinction (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 fate of individual human beings may not now be connected in a deep way with the rest of the universe, but the matter out of which each of us is made is intimately tied to processes that occurred immense intervals of time and enormous distances in space away from us. Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.

– Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Connection

Sea of blood...

Sea of blood…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Extinction (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.

In many respects, The Xindi and Anomaly opened the third season as if it were the first season of a new show. In particular, Anomaly built consciously and cleverly off of Fight or Flight and Strange New World in providing a solid foundation for the year ahead. The comparison works quite well. By that logic, Extinction and Rajiin serve as Unexpected and Terra Nova. They are two of the weakest episodes of the season, harmed by their close proximity to the start of the year. Anybody wanting to reach Twilight or Damage has to get through Extinction and Rajiin.

In many respects, this early lag in the third season demonstrates just how inexperienced the creative team were at long-form serialised storytelling. The only arc comparable to the Xindi arc in the entire Star Trek franchise is the Dominion War arc on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There, the writers were clever enough to launch the new status quo with an unheralded six-episode interconnected story. The Dominion War had its share of duds, but the opening salvo was magnificently confident.

Archer's not feeling himself lately...

Archer’s not feeling himself lately…

In contrast, the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise suffers out of the gate. The Xindi and Anomaly do good work setting up plot points and character beats that will be of use later in the season, but there is no real sense that the writing staff has any idea what that use might be at this point of the season. Two episodes into the third season, the show is already back to fairly formulaic adventures that stand quite cleanly alone. It is not too difficult to imagine Extinction or Rajiin as episodes in any other season – albeit with some slight tinkering.

However, this is only part of the problem. Long-form storytelling need not become a burden. There is a great deal of value to be had in drifting away from a serialised story arc to tell a quality standalone tale. Unfortunately, Extinction is not a quality standalone tale. In fact, it is one of the worst episodes of Enterprise ever produced. Airing it as the third episode of a bold new season feels like a poor choice.

"C'mon, wouldn't you like to go back to being a torturing and almost genocidal human?"

“C’mon, wouldn’t you like to go back to being a torturing and almost genocidal human?”

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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: Transcendence

Transcendence is a passable b-movie suffocated by pretension and self-importance. What amounts to a conventional paint-by-numbers story about technology-gone-mad is suffocated by the weight it affords itself. The movie feels like it wants to be a meditation on technology and human independence, but instead feels like a re-heated fifties science-fiction horror lightly flavoured with millennial anxieties. There are good ideas here – the movie’s second act comes quite close to working, sandwiched between a fuzzy first act and a messy climax – but none of the fun that might excuse the sizeable flaws.

There's an app for that...

There’s an app for that…

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Non-Review Review: Sunshine

Sunshine is a science-fiction movie. Well, duh, you proclaim, looking at the screenshots or having read the plot synopsis, it’s about a bunch of people in space flying to the sun. Of course it’s science-fiction! It’s hardly a comedy or musical! However, I’m talking about something more essential than its setting or its superficial elements. Although the story of a bunch of astronauts planning to reignite the dying star at the centre of our solar system may distract you, Sunshine works so well because it grabs the sorts of philosophical ideas at the heart of the best science-fiction: it’s an exploration of the conflict between the rational and the irrational, the logical and the emotional and the place of man and his understanding of the world around him. It’s movie that is far smarter than it pretends to be.

Going for gold...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 4

It did take me a while to get into the series, but it’s hard to describe James Robinson’s fantastic superhero saga as anything other than mandatory reading material for anyone with an interest in the genre, its history or its evolution. Starman was the comic book of the nineties, and a fresh look at an already classic concept. Alan Moore picked apart the superhero genre in Watchmen, declaring that the medium was growing creatively bankrupt. Robinson seems intent to prove otherwise. Brick by brick and strand by strand, Robinson has painstakingly given us one of the most interesting and complex creations in the medium. Often exploring and questioning the roots and the clichés of the superhero genre, Robinson is prone to revel in them. If we are interested in the evolution of the genre, Starman is the book for you.

Everything is better with Nazis...

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