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The X-Files – Trust No 1 (Review)

This December, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the ninth season of The X-Files.

Trust No 1 is an episode that is more relevant now than it was in January 2002. And not just because “trustno1” is still among the most popular (and least secure) internet passwords.

The core ideas of Trust No 1 are fascinating. In hindsight, it is impressive that the production team were able to produce something like Trust No 1 so quickly after the events of 9/11. The type of surveillance state depicted in Tust No 1 would turn out to be quite close to reality in the era of Edward Snowden and the scandal National Security Ageny. “They’re watching,” the words at the end of the title sequence tease, words which seem even more ominous over a decade after initial broadcast.

Circle the odd one out...

Circle the odd one out…

Unfortunately, while Trust No 1 seems to get more and more relevent with each passing year, the episode itself is a mess. As powerful and resonant as its central themes might be, Trust No 1 is very clearly the work of a production team with no idea of where the show is going or where they want to take it. All the worst excesses of the ninth season mythology are on display here, from the heartbreaking obsession with Mulder through to the marginalisation of Scully. The dialogue is overwrought and the climax is absurd. Trust No 1 simply doesn’t work.

And yet, despite all that, it exerts an odd power. It is a power muted by some of the creative decisions around it, and by some of the choices made in structuring the teleplay, but it is power nonetheless.

Night vision, deserves a quiet night...

Night vision, deserves a quiet night…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Breaking the Ice (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.

Breaking the Ice is the first episode of the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise not to reserve a “story by” credit for Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. (Although – in the To Boldly Go documentary – Braga has suggested that at least some of the episode came from his own ideas.)

It is instead credited solely to the writing team of Maria & Andre Jacquemetton. A husband-and-wife writing team, the duo have a long history of writing for television. Before they worked on Enterprise, their credits included Baywatch Nights. However, they are probably more notable for the work that they did after Enterprise, working as executive producers and writers on Mad Men. The duo have won WGA awards for their contributions to Mad Men and been nominated for Emmys.

Guess who's coming to dinner...

Guess who’s coming to dinner…

It is very easy to take the pedigree of the writers on Star Trek for granted. After all, Ronald D. Moore went from a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan with a spec script to the showrunner on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. Bryan Fuller went from a workhorse on the Star Trek: Voyager staff to a television auteur with work on Dead Like Me, Pushing Up Daisies and Hannibal. Brannon Braga has been prolific since his departure from the franchise, while Ira Steven Behr and René Echevarria have worked consistently in genre television.

It is tempting to claim that Enterprise was something of a formative experience for the Jacquemettons, but that would be disingenuous. Despite writing the show’s first script without a credit to Berman and Braga, the duo were not around long enough to make an impression on the show. They departed at the end of the first season, along with most of the writing staff. Indeed, the most significant influence that Enterprise had on their career was probably the fact that they used to discuss the idea for Mad Men with creator Matt Weiner while they were working on this show.

They're cracking up out there...

They’re cracking up out there…

Still, while hardly a demonstration that Jacquemettons were a creative force to be reckoned with, Breaking the Ice is a solid little episode. It ranks as the strongest episode of Enterprise since the pilot. In many respects, it recalls the Prime Factors/State of Flux duology from the first season of Voyager. It is a flawed episode that has no shortage of ambition, offering a taste of what could make its show unique in the Star Trek pantheon.

It is an episode that celebrates everything that makes Enterprise unique as compared to the other Star Trek shows, taking a great deal of pleasure in things that the audience had come to take for granted in the franchise. It’s a quiet character piece, where what little plot exists is pushed very much to the background, and which offers a much more nuanced view of human/Vulcan relations than Strange New World or The Andorian Incident.

Those Vulcans are cold so-and-sos...

Those Vulcans are cold so-and-sos…

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