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The X-Files (Topps) #13 – One Player Only (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.

After a twelve-issue opening mega-arc of interconnected stories about conspiracies-within-conspiracies and wheels-within-wheels, author Stefan Petrucha and artist Charles Adlard step back a little bit to close out their run with a series of standalone stories. The four issues (and three stories) that make up the rest of their run on Topps’ X-Files comic stand alone. They are connected by themes and subtext, but very clearly stand apart from what came before. Indeed, they play out almost like a postscript to the main body of work, a series of smaller bite-sized chunks.

In that light, it is interesting that One Player Only feels – superficially, at least – a lot more in step with the television show. The early issues of the comic had seen Petrucha and Adlard creating their own supporting cast and their own conspiracy, so as to avoid stepping on the toes of the production company. The Cigarette-Smoking Man was largely reduced to a number of cameos, with Skinner popping up once or twice along the way.

Ghosts in the machines?

Ghosts in the machines?

Not only does One Player Only feature a guest appearance from supporting characters like Mr. X or yhe Lone Gunmen, it also harks back to the structure and format of the first season of the show. On the most basic of levels, One Player Only feels like a more cyberpunk take on Ghost in the Machine, right down to the fact that Mulder is drawn into a murder at a tech company by an acquaintance from his days in the Violent Crimes Division. At one point, Mulder and Scully stumble on a ransacked house, for Mulder to deadpan, “Hm. Nothing new.”

However, if one peels back the layers, One Player Only is a fascinating piece that sets the tone for Petrucha and Adlard’s last three issues on the series, while infusing the comic with a host of fascinating cyberpunk stylings and body horror that seem to call forward to William Gibson’s future writing for the show.

Coding out...

Coding out…

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The X-Files – Blood (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.

It’s interesting to get The Host and Blood produced back-to-back. Both episodes serve to draw writer Darin Morgan into the world of The X-Files. Brother of staff writer Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan would go on to become one of the most unique and distinctive voices to work on Chris Carter’s television shows – his scripts for The X-Files and Millennium stand out among the very best episodes the shows ever produced, with a very subversive and wry approach to the subject matter.

Morgan enjoyed one of the most surreal paths to the writers’ room imaginable. An actor with a few scattered credits on eighties television, including various shows his brother worked on like 21 Jump Street and The Commish, Morgan was cast as in the thankless role of “Fluke man” in The Host. However, he also found himself drawn into the production of the next episode, Blood. An episode with some production difficulties, Darin Morgan offered some ideas on how to develop the story.

Blood work...

Blood work…

Ultimately, Darin Morgan didn’t write Blood. The script was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, with Darin receiving a “story” credit on the finished episode. However, his ideas had impressed producer Howard Gordon, who would later propose that Darin Morgan join the writing staff. Morgan would accept the invitation and write Humbug later in the second season, before producing two genuine classics during the show’s phenomenal third year. (And also War of the Coprophages.) Darin Morgan would later write two more scripts for Millennium.

As such, Blood isn’t really a Darin Morgan episode. As it was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, their own sensibilities shine through on the broadcast episode. However, Blood does contain a few of the wonderful trademarks of Darin Morgan’s approach to the show, not least of which a very post-modern cynicism about cynicism. Blood feels like a rather subtle and incisive critique of the culture of paranoia that The X-Files thrives on, refusing to offer clear-cut answers and suggesting that Mulder might be just a little bit off-balance.

A very calculated title drop!

A very calculated title drop!

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