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The Lone Gunmen – Like Water For Octane (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.

Taken together, Like Water for Octane and Three Men and a Smoking Diaper represent perhaps the creative nadir of the first season of The Lone Gunmen.

They are the episodes that not only engage in the excesses of the show’s early first season, but practically revel in them. In particular, Like Water for Octane is an episode that thinks it is hilarious to have a sequence where Langly sticks his hand up the backside of a bull, while the climax revolves around Jimmy strategically tugging the bull’s “one giant udder” at just the right the moment. The problem is not that the gags are juvenile. The problem is that the gags simply aren’t funny. And there are a lot of unfunny gags across these two episodes.

New patriots...

New patriots…

Again, there is a sense that these are ultimately just teething problems, that The Lone Gunman has not quite figured out what it wants to be. The show improves in later episodes, but not necessarily because the gags get funnier. The gags do get funnier, but there is never really a sense that The Lone Gunmen is funny enough to carry forty-five minutes on cheap laughs. Instead, the show seems to release that it needs more than “dick and ass” jokes to sustain itself. Like Water for Octane and Three Men and Smoking Diaper are devoid of heart.

More than that, though, Like Water for Octane feels like a fundamental betrayal of the show’s core principles. It is a story about the Lone Gunmen struggling to expose the truth, only to decide that the people are too stupid to be trusted with the truth and that the trio should appoint themselves custodians of that truth. The episode seems entirely sincere in this belief, which makes it seem like the production team have somehow completely misunderstood their own characters.

Out of the night...

Out of the night…

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The X-Files – Dreamland I (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

It occasionally seems like the sixth season of The X-Files is having something approaching a midlife crisis.

It has gone through a fairly massive change in routine and lifestyle; the show recently pulled up sticks and moved to Los Angeles. It has gotten a lot more ostentatious; it looks to be spending a lot more money than it was before, and it is hanging around with a whole new caliber of guest star. It has reinvented itself completely; no longer the brooding and atmospheric show it once was, it is now downright goofy and silly. Old acquaintances would be forgiven if they had trouble recognising the show. And it’s perfectly understandable.

Back to back...

Back to back…

This is the sixth season. Dreamland I is the one-hundred-and-twenty-first episode of The X-Files. The show is well past what Chris Carter had originally planned, and well past just about any measure of success. Most shows are lucky to reach a sixth season, let alone come into the sixth season off the back of a summer film and with a great deal of security about the future. David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Chris Carter were all committed through to the end of the seventh season. There was even talk of a sequel to The X-Files: Fight the Future being released in 2000.

Dreamland I and Dreamland II just externalise that midlife crisis, using the classic “freaky friday” body swap set up putting Fox Mulder in a dead-end job with a family that hates him as Morris Fletcher tries to help the FBI agent grow up just a little bit.

"Yep. It's a little... out there."

“Yep. It’s a little… out there.”

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Matt Fraction’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Nation X (Review/Retrospective)

I am doing a weekly look at Marvel’s complicated crossover chronology, following various key crossovers to see if they might give me a better idea of what I’m missing by avoiding mainstream comic book continuity. While – with The Avengers due for release in 2012 – I am focusing on the stories told featuring those characters over the past five years, I also have time for the X-Men. While this isn’t strictly speaking a crossover, it is a series of issues which connect Utopia to Second Coming, so I figured it was worth a look.

Utopia ended with a heck of a plot twist. Cyclops decided that his merry band of mutants have had enough of being looked down upon in New York and , more recently, San Francisco, so he decides to build himself an island from the remains of Magneto’s “Asteroid M” just off the San Francisco Bay. Announcing the new nation of “Utopia”, he declares the island a haven for mutants. Nation X provides a hardcover collection of the issues from Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men which bridge the gap between Utopia and Second Coming, as well as the four-issue Nation X anthology miniseries. And, while it’s a decidedly uneven reading experience, I have to admit that some of Fraction’s portrayal of the mutant team is a little bit interesting – even if most is slightly boring and deeply convoluted.

Magneto has a magnetic personality...

Note: This collection opens with Dark Reign tie-in X-Men: The List written by Matt Fraction and following an attempted assassination attempt on Namor by Norman Osborn. Accordingly, I think I should open this review with a link to Abhay’s quite excellent article on the issue, which – among some more serious points – suggests that Namor is starring in his own private version of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Seriously, check it out.

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Sympathy for the Daleks: Steven Moffat & The Shifting Status Quo

I suppose you could bring them back, but I’d be slightly puzzled, because they were robots that went wrong. Generally speaking, and maybe Russell wouldn’t agree with a word I’m saying right now, but my favorite Doctor Who story is the one with brand new monsters that you see once and once only. The moment you start crowding the universe with familiar monsters, I think it’s less interesting. Two of the words that you could reasonably apply to the Daleks are ‘reliably defeatable.’ You know those guys are going to lose at the last minute anyway, and you always know what they’re up to, so the best bit about bringing back old monsters is the reveal. After that, it’s all downhill. It’s like Agatha Christie deciding that the butler should always do it, because it was successful in the last book, so that’s not my favorite kind of Doctor Who story. I like brand new monsters.

– Steven Moffat

That answer comes from an interview he gave waaaay back in 2006 – about the time he was writing The Girl in the Fireplace, his second story for the relaunched Doctor Who. I don’t know if he knew then that he was heir apparent to the throne and would succeed Russell T. Davies, but I wonder if being positioned as showrunner has somewhat changed his perspective. In his inaugural year running the show, we’ve already had the return of the Daleks, three episodes in with Victory of the Daleks, next week we’ll witness Moffat returning to one of his own monstrous creations in The Time of Angels and previews have already confirmed that the Cybermen themselves – foes dating from the show’s first leading actor – will be returning as well (with Roman centurians). I’m not complaining at all (a writer as talented as Moffat can do pretty much whatever he wants and I’ll trust him), but I can’t help wondering if perhaps Moffat is playing his own long game with the franchise in his opening season.

Don't worry, this Cyberman is mostly 'armless...

Note: This article contains spoilers for the end of this week’s episode, The Victory of the Daleks, so those who haven’t caught it yet might want to look away or come back to this when they’ve seen the episode. You’ve been warned, so you have.

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