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The X-Files – Alone (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.

In a way, the entire final third of the eighth season is an extended finalé for The X-Files – or, at the very least, an extended finalé for a version of The X-Files starring Mulder and Scully.

This seems quite ironic, considering the confusion that existed towards the end of the seventh season, when it seemed like the production team were unsure whether they could (or should) commit to the idea of The X-Files coming to an end. The seventh season was never entirely sure what (if anything) was going to come next, and so it did not have the opportunity to gracefully set up all of its plot points. As a result, the eighth season had to retroactively incorporate elements like Mulder’s brain illness or Scully’s fertility treatment.

Cue cliché marriage jokes.

Cue cliché marriage jokes.

In contrast, the eighth season seemed quite conscious of the end. The entire eighth season is structured as a strange hybrid; it feels like it could serve as both the final season of the show as it aired for seven years, while also serving as a launching pad to something new and exciting. The final eight episodes of the eighth season are largely about tidying away the character arcs and dangling plot thread associated with Mulder and Scully so that their journey might finally end. If the ratings are strong enough, then Doggett might get to launch his own show.

As such, Alone is positioned very much like Je Souhaite had been and like Sunshine Days would be. It is potentially the “one last monster of the week” story marking the end of an era. While Je Souhaite had marked the end of the Mulder and Scully era of the show, Alone seems to mark the end of the transitional period between Mulder and Scully and whatever is supposed to come next. It is a very light episode, no less effective for that. As with a lot of the late eighth season, its biggest problem is the way that the nineth season creative decisions retroactively undercut it.

Leyla... L-E-Y-L-A... Leyla.

Leyla… L-E-Y-L-A… Leyla.

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The X-Files – Christmas Carol (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Part of the challenge of the fourth and fifth seasons is watching The X-Files adapt the speed of its mythology.

The mythology has a very clear momentum in the first three seasons. For all that Chris Carter and his writers loved teasing out new questions, there was a clear sense of momentum and movement. The show had gone from a series about an isolated alien abduction in The Pilot to a series with a date set for the alien colonisation of Earth in Talitha Cumi. For all that the series was accused of being ambiguous and mysterious, there was a sense that it was at least going somewhere.

And so this is Christmas...

And so this is Christmas…

Things changed during the fourth season, most likely as the prospect of The X-Files: Fight the Future loomed in the future. It was clear that Fox would not allow Carter to set an end date on the television show before transitioning to feature films, and that the series would have to stretch beyond Carter’s original roadmap for it. All of a sudden, the mythology started stalling. The fourth season’s mythology had no clear direction in which to go, as evidenced by the fact that the decision to give Scully cancer in Leonard Betts was an eleventh hour decision with no long-term planning.

The fifth season’s mythology comes with its own particular set of problems. The movie had been written during the fourth season and filmed during the gap between the fourth and fifth seasons. This is quite evident in the way that the movie carries over abandoned elements of the fourth season mythology like the bees, who do not register at all in the fifth season. However, this also meant that the end point of the fifth season was essentially set in stone for the production team. The End would have to lead into Fight the Future, no matter what happened in the intervening nineteen episodes.

Picture perfect...

Picture perfect…

This means a lot of things for the fifth season. It means that the fifth season is stuck with the “Mulder as a skeptic… sort of” setup until Fight the Future, even if the show generally ignores it as much as it can. It also means that the mythology episodes probably should not contain any earth-shattering revelations or introduce any major character who were not already written into the film. Although Patient X and The Red and the Black effectively throw out these constraints almost completely, Christmas Carol and Emily try to adhere to them.

The result is a mythology episode that adheres rather closely to the successful approach adopted by Tempus Fugit and Max, a story that takes the backdrop of what the show has already revealed about the conspiracy and then uses that as a setting in which it can tell a decidedly more intimate and personal story.

It's a Scully family Christmas...

It’s a Scully family Christmas…

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The X-Files – Nisei (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.

The most interesting aspect of Nisei and 731 is the fact that there’s very little forward movement by the end of it.

The previous multi-part conspiracy episodes typically featured big hooks and shock revelations. Duane Barry and Ascension demonstrated that the government was officially responsible for alien abductions, to the point where they could arrange Scully’s abduction. Colony and End Game featured shape-shifting aliens and confirmation that Samantha Mulder was a big part of this. Anasazi, The Blessing Way and Paper Clip revealed that Mulder’s father was part of a conspiracy involving Second World War criminals working on American soil to create an alien-human hybrid.

The only way its getting off this planet is in a bodybag...

The only way its getting off this planet is in a bodybag…

Nisei and 731 don’t contain any truly seismic revelations. The biggest moments here – the reveal that Japanese war criminals have been experimenting on Americans with the assistance of the government, and that the bodies in the box car in Anasazi were probably originally human – all build on what Paper Clip already established. There’s nothing as significant as the reveal of the Bill Mulder’s complicity in the conspiracy from Paper Clip, or the first appearance of the Black Oil in Piper Maru.

Nisei and 731 really seem to be about taking stock of what has happened so far in the show – as close to a “breather” mythology episode as the show could manage at this point. Of course, this being The X-Files, this “breather” episode still moves a break-neck pace and climaxes with a death-defying leap on to a moving train. As you do.

The doctors are in...

The doctors are in…

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Space: Above and Beyond – Mutiny (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.

Nothing says “this is a militaristic science-fiction show!” quite like a mutiny episode.

When producing a show like Space: Above and Beyond, doing a show based around a mutiny in wartime is a given. It’s no surprise that Mutiny is the third regular episode of the show. Indeed, when Battlestar Galactica – a show that owes a sizeable debt to Space: Above and Beyond – wanted to establish its own militaristic science-fiction credentials, it produced Bastille Day as the third episode of its first season – another story about an uprising on a spaceship in a time of crisis.

His sister's keeper...

His sister’s keeper…

Mutiny is also notable as the first episode of the season not credited to the creative team of Glen Morgan and James Wong. Of course, as executive producers, Morgan and Wong would have had a massive impact on the development and the writing of Mutiny. Stephen Zito is credited as the writer on the show. Zito is a veteran television writer and producer, working in the industry since the late eighties. He departed Space: Above and Beyond halfway through the first season, moving on to a long run on J.A.G.

Mutiny is far from perfect – indeed, it is often quite clunky in places. At the same time, it is a lot more comfortable in its skin than The Dark Side of the Sun was.

Watching like a Hawkes...

Watching like a Hawkes…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Family (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

He’s still out there. Dreaming about starships and adventures. It’s getting late.

Yes. But let him dream.

– Robert and Marie try to figure out what all this “Star Trek” milarky is about

Starry, starry night...

Starry, starry night…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Most Toys (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

In a way, The Most Toys feels like the other side of the coin to Hollow Pursuits. One of the more interesting aspects of Hollow Pursuits is the way that it casts guest character Reginald Barclay as something of a Star Trek fan. He escapes from his mundane existence into a fantasy world where he tells his own stories about the crew, succumbing to various fan fiction clichés. The Most Toys is also built around a guest character who seems to have been written as a Star Trek fan, albeit a lot less pleasant sort of type than Barclay.

Fajo is a collector, you see.

An honest trader? Fajo chance!

An honest trader? Fajo chance!

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The Sopranos: Sopranos (Review)

I feel like I am massively late to the party. Not fashionably late, mind you. However, my gran received The Sopranos on DVD for Christmas, and I’ve decided to go back and watch it from the start with her. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the iconic television show over the years – even following it for a full two seasons in the middle – but I’ve never seen David Chase’s dark exploration of the American dream from beginning to end. So, slowly, in the company of my grandmother, I shall be making my way through what many people consider to be the best television show ever produced. And where better to start, after all these years, than the very first episode?

Talking it out...

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