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Star Trek: Voyager – Prey (Review)

Prey is a fantastic piece of television, and stands as one of the best standalone episodes of the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager.

It is an episode built around a very simple premise, pitting two of Voyager‘s more memorable alien creations against one another and throwing a nice character arc into the midst of this epic conflict. Prey is an exciting thriller built around the established characteristics of both the Hirogen and Species 8472, using two very distinctive cultures to tell a compelling and engaging story with the regular cast thrown into the fray. “Lone Hirogen hunter pursues lost member of Species 8472” is a great hook for an episode.

Here come the big guns.

However, Prey goes even further than that. The basic plot is intriguing on its own terms, but Prey cleverly grounds the story in what we know about these characters and their dynamic. As much as Voyager is caught in the crossfire of this horrific situation, the crew are also forced to make tough decisions. How will Janeway react to a wounded member of a hostile (and nigh-invulnerable) species? How will Seven of Nine respond when asked to save the life of a creature that participated in a brutal war with the Borg Collective?

This is intriguing stuff, largely anchored in what the audience already knows of the characters and delivered with top-notch production values and a great sense of pacing. Prey is an episode that plays to all the strengths of the fourth season, from the appeal of the Hirogen and Species 8472 through to the chemistry between Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan.

There’ll be hull to pay.

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Night Stalker – Malum (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

Malum is a mess of an episode.

It has a number of very strong ideas, and some interesting twists along the way. However, the script has no idea how to fashion any of those ideas into a compelling narrative with tangible stakes. Instead, Malum gets tangled and twisted in its own wealth of story ideas. Anything worth exploring in Malum is suffocated by the sheer volume of material, affording the audience no opportunity to care about what is happening or invest in any of the supporting characters.

He's so proud of it, he put his name on it...

He’s so proud of it, he put his name on it…

It is a shame, because the basic ingredients of Malum are among the most interesting ideas of the show’s first season. Throwing out the script, the underlying story ideas of Malum are strong enough to support an engaging and exciting episode. Malum has a fantastic cast, with veteran supporting actors Tony Todd and Fredric Lehne making guest appearances. It also has stakes that should be very emotionally affecting, a very powerful central issue, and a structure that lends itself to this sort of horror storytelling.

It is just a shame that none of this actually works.

Bloody murder...

Bloody murder…

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The X-Files – Sleepless (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.

Vietnam casts a long shadow over The X-Files, just as it casts a long shadow over the rest of American popular culture. It was a conflict that left a scar on the American psyche, prompted no small amount of soul-searching and naval-gazing, forcing the country to contemplate its role on the global stage. The issues of war guilt and veterans rights haunted America well into the nineties, with films like Forrest Gump and Heaven and Earth still trying to make sense of it all.

Along with Watergate, Vietnam came to embody the disillusionment and disengagement of the seventies. While public discomfort with American involvement the Korean War never climbed above 50%, public disapproval of American involvement in Vietnam would reach almost 75% in March 1990. Vietnam remains a boogeyman, with memories of Vietnam arguably informing Clinton’s reluctance to commit American ground troops to foreign theatres during the nineties and serving as a frequent point of comparison to twenty-first century entanglements in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Howard Gordon’s first solo teleplay for The X-Files, Sleepless is an episode that explores Vietnam as a perpetual waking nightmare.

Preaching to the choir...

Preaching to the choir…

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Non-Review Review: Final Destination

I am actually quite fond of the original Final Destination. Don’t get me wrong, it has its flaws (and some very fundamental ones at that) and the sequels drove the concept into the ground, but it actually has a fairly original premise for a teen horror movie. I’m fond of horror as a genre, and I’ll freely admit that I’m quite exhausted by the perpetual cycle of slasher movies or ghost stories or ghost story slasher movies. Instead of adhering rigidly to the conventions of the teen horror film, Final Destination feels like something of a breath of fresh air. It’s a well-constructed teen horror movie, even if it does fall into many of the same traps and issues.

Ali onboard…

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Non-Review Review: Final Destination 5

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, the rather wonderful film festival organised by Vincent and everybody else over at movies.ie. It was well worth attending, and I’m already looking forward to next year. Good job all.

Okay, if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that it means you’re interested in the Final Destination series. I mean, at a fifth instalment, it’s hard to argue that the audience doesn’t know what to expect – especially in a series like this, which is build around a particular gimmick. In this case, the gimmick happens to be turning the entire world into a Rube Goldberg Machineof death. So the question isn’t really whether the film works as a self-contained entity, or whether the entire concept works. We’ve had four films to determine whether the very idea of Final Destination 5 appeals to you, so let’s just focus on – if you’ll pardon the pun – the execution this time around.

It's a grave matter...

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