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New Podcast! The X-Cast Season 11 #35 – Barbara Beaumont and the Cult (“Nothing Lasts Forever”)

The second of three podcasts looking at the penultimate episode of what might be the final season of The X-Files, Nothing Lasts Forever.

Once again chatting with Carl Sweeney, this time we discuss the “monster of the week”, washed up immortal sixties starlet Barbara Beaumont and the cult that she has built around herself. Along the way, we discuss other supporting characters like Juliet and Doctor Luvenis, along with constructing a twenty-first century vampire story.

We’ll be back tomorrow talking about the combination of writer Karen Neilsen and director James Wong. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the episode. Click here, or check it out below.

Star Trek: Voyager – Dark Frontier, Part II (Review)

Star Trek: Voyager has a morbid fascination with the Borg. Quite literally.

Time and time again, the series returns to the image of the Borg dead and dying. Blood Fever ends with the discovery of a Borg corpse. Unity features the extended autopsy of that corpse. In Scorpion, Part I, Kes is haunted by the image of a grotesque mound of Borg drones, torn apart and reassembled. In Unimatrix Zero, Part I, the Borg Queen tears the heads off her drones and mounts them on spikes. There is a very similar image in Dark Frontier, Part I, where Janeway wanders casually through the wreckage of a Borg ship.

Queen of minds.

Star Trek: The Next Generation worked hard to establish the Borg as a credible threat. If the Borg were associated with death, it was only because they delivered something akin to it. In The Neutral Zone, the Borg scooped an entire outpost off the surface of a planet. In Q Who?, Picard had to literally beg Q to save the Enterprise after the loss of eighteen crewmembers. In The Best of Both Worlds, Part I and The Best of Both Worlds, Part II, the Borg tore through the Federation like it was made of tissue paper. The trauma of that invasion informed Emissary.

In contrast, Voyager seems preoccupied with the destruction and desecration of the Borg Collective. This is an interesting creative choice on a number of levels. Most obviously, it severely undercuts the menace and threat posed by the Borg Collective. Janeway seems to travel through the Delta Quadrant leaving a trail of broken Borg bodies in her wake. It is hard to believe that the Borg are a big deal, when Janeway seems to decorate her ship with their remains. The Kazon, the Vidians and the Hirogen have all taken Voyager at some point. The Borg have never.

Green light for reassimilation.

Perhaps this fascination with Borg corpses and remains simply speaks to their visual aesthetic. With their pale skin and their lack of individual identity, the Borg have always evoked the walking dead; Star Trek: First Contact was essentially a zombie movie in deep space. However, perhaps this desecration of the Borg speaks to something buried deeper within the psyche of Voyager. The Borg are perhaps the most iconic aliens of the Berman era; they represent the moment that The Next Generation came into its own. Perhaps their decay mirrors that of the Berman era itself.

Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II represent something of a final frontier for the Borg Collective. While the Borg had been in decline for some time, Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II marked a point of no return. Regeneration is an underrated return to form for the iconic cyborgs, but it is too little and too late. Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II is effectively a funeral for the most iconic adversaries of the Berman era. However, they would remain shuffling lifeless for another two-and-a-half seasons.

Subject to change.

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Night Stalker – Timeless (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.

The unaired episodes of Night Stalker are fascinating glimpses into what the show might have been.

Into Night was the show’s original second episode, brutally shunted from its original position when ABC decided that they did not want a show focusing on monsters. The version of Into Night that appears on the DVD appears somewhat cobbled together, hastily editted in such a way as to make the show’s second episode sit as its eighth. The result feels like something of a rough cut, a glimpse at the pressures bearing down on the production team to meet various network demands.

It's dead at night in here...

It’s dead at night in here…

In contrast, Timeless and What’s the Frequency, Kolchak? feels like something completely different. These are episodes that were obviously produced while Night Stalker was still airing on ABC, but which did not complete production under the network’s supervision. While Timeless and What’s the Frequency, Kolchak? are ver clearly part of the same show, they feel tangibly different. The two episodes are more horrific, more confident, and less pandering than what came before.

In many respects, the two episodes suggest that Night Stalker benefits from not having to air on ABC.

My word!

My word!

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The X-Files – Bad Blood (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.

Despite a notable absence of Darin Morgan, Bad Blood makes a much more convincing case for Vince Gilligan as the heir apparent to Darin Morgan than Small Potatoes did at the end of the fourth season.

Bad Blood finds Gilligan touching on some of the same broad ideas as Small Potatoes – how Mulder is perceived and how he perceives himself, a sly awareness of the show’s tropes and conventions. However, Bad Blood feels a lot more honed and focused than Small Potatoes. It felt like Small Potatoes only got to the meat of the story it wanted to tell in its final third, while Bad Blood is shrewd enough to put its core concepts front-and-centre. While Bad Blood has the same broad humour of Small Potatoes, it feels a lot more convincing when it comes to characters.

The tooth is out there...

The tooth is out there…

It could be argued that Gilligan drew quite heavily on the work of Darin Morgan in some of his scripts. There is no shame in this. After all, Darin Morgan is perhaps the most widely-praised writer to work on The X-Files. In this context, Bad Blood is something of a spiritual successor to Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.” Gilligan’s script is not quite as structurally or philosophically ambitious as Darin Morgan’s final credited script for the series, but it does hit on the same fundamental idea that truth is an inherently subjective construct.

Bad Blood is essentially an episode that is not only about how Mulder and Scully see each other, but how they see themselves.

Mulder knows what's at stake...

Mulder knows what’s at stake…

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The X-Files (Topps) Digest #2 – Dead to the World (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.

Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard are winding at this point in their curatorship of Topps’ The X-Files comic book. The duo have contributed an absolutely staggering volume of work to the line. On top of monthly issues and short stories, there have been annuals and digests. The volume of the output has been staggering. All of it has been written by Petrucha and the vast majority was illustrated by Adlard. The quality has – generally speaking – been quite impressive.

Dead to the World is the headline story in the second “digest” published by Topps comics. As with Big Foot, Warm Heart before it, the format of the “digest” feels a little strange. There is a single (and rather long) comic written by Petrucha and illustrated by Adlard, following by a collection of shorts taken from Ray Bradbury Comics, a somewhat less popular feature of Topps’ comic book publishing line. There is a sense that the format might have worked better as a collection of short X-Files-themed stories for a variety of creators.

Face to face...

Face to face…

Nevertheless, the result is interesting. In many ways, Big Foot, Warm Heart seemed to point at where Petrucha and Adlard would go when they wrapped up their massive twelve-part “Aquarius” mega-arc. With its reflections on human failings and human abuses, it seemed like Big Foot, Warm Heart set the tone for the stories that would follow – like One Player Only or Falling. It offered a tease of things to come, suggesting the humanity could be more monstrous than any mythological creature.

In contrast, it is very tough to see where Dead to the World might have been pointing. Then again, Petrucha and Adlard would be gone from the comic a month after its publication. So perhaps the story’s funereal atmosphere feels appropriate.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: Morbius – It Is The Life (Review)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

At a scant fourteen pages (sharing a single issue with a larger Flash Thompson story), It is the Life feels like something of an interlude in the large scheme of The Gauntlet. While most of the stories in the cycle are relatively short and contained (with nothing running over four issues), this is an exceptionally brief encounter between Spider-Man and one his older foes-turned-allies.

At the same time, writer Fred Van Lente manages to pile a lot into the fourteen pages of It is the Life, maintaining a wonderful thematic consistency across the line. Editor Stephen Wacker has done a wonderful job managing his team of “web-heads” and making sure that The Gauntlet remains internally consistent and on-point. Despite the diversity in talent working on the sprawling Spider-Man epic, it never feels like the larger threads get away from any of the writers.

Even a short fourteen-page interlude manages to hit on many of the event’s core themes.

What's at stake?

What’s at stake?

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Non-Review Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

The vampire genre has been around for a reasonably long time. The literary genre that was formalised by Bram Stoker’s Dracula at the dawn of the twentieth century, even if it drew on a rich selection of local beliefs and superstition. And yet, despite that, there really hasn’t been too much radical done with vampires in recent times. The last attempt to do something a bit provocative and game-changing with vampires occurred with Anne Rice’s discovery that you could easily shape vampire narratives into creepy romances – a technique refined by Stephanie Meyer to considerable commercial and popular success.

As such, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is fascinating because it manages to push the archetype a little further. It builds off those sorts of vampire romances and vampire fantasy epics in order to tell a more novel sort of story. Only Lovers Left Alive is a wonderful piece of mood based around two powerful central performances, taking one of cinema’s oldest monsters and finding a way to make them interesting again.

Only Lovers Left Alive is the most original vampire movie in what feels like an eternity.

onlyloversleftalive5

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