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“Mulder and Scully” by Catatonia (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.

Things are getting strange, I’m starting to worry

this could be a case for Mulder and Scully…

If you needed proof that The X-Files was a cultural juggernaut in the mid-to-late nineties, look no further than Mulder and Scully.

The first single off Catatonia’s International Velvet propelled the band to new heights of fame and fortune. Before the release of Mulder and Scully, the band had skulked around the bottom of the British charts; their biggest success before that point had been You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For, a song lucky to scrape the top forty. Indeed, reaching the third position in the United Kingdom charts, Mulder and Scully easily became the Welsh band’s largest pop hit. A month after the release of Mulder and Scully, its parent album would reach the top of the international charts.

catatonia-mulderandscully3

Having a Wales of a time…

Indeed, it could be argued that Catatonia’s success overlapped quite neatly with that of The X-Files. The core of the band’s “classic” line-up, Cerys Matthews and Mark Roberts, began writing songs together in 1992. The single Mulder and Scully and the album International Velvet represented the peak of their success. The band would release two more albums building off the success of International Velvet, before formally announcing the dissolution of the band in September 2001. It is an arc that roughly mirrors that of The X-Files – suggesting Catatonia were another nineties artifact.

Although Mulder and Scully was Catatonia’s biggest success, it is worth noting The X-Files had enjoyed a great deal of success in the British charts. Late in the show’s third season, the theme song had been released as a single in its own right. Mark Snow’s iconic opening credits music had climbed all the way to the number two slot. Nevertheless, Mulder and Scully is interesting because it is a massive hit about the show that came from outside the production office. The X-Files had conquered television, now it seemed to be laying claim to both cinemas and the pop charts.

Sing when you're winning...

Sing when you’re winning…

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Non-Review Review: Pride

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners is an oft over-looked chapter in the history both the labour and the gay rights movement. Based around the fundamental principle that oppressed groups have a great chance of achieving their goals standing side-by-side (or shoulder-to-shoulder) than they would ever would apart, the alliance forged during the 1984 coal strikes went on to have a lasting and important influence on both the mining community and the gay community.

Pride is perhaps a little bit too whimsical and twee for its own good, going for any number of easy feel-good smiles and affectionate chuckles, but there’s something quite compelling about this tale of two different groups forging an unexpected and unprecedented alliance in pursuit of a common good. Pride is a light and charming “opposites unit” story with enough wit and soul to win over even the most cynical audience members.

Labour of love...

Labour of love…

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Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Terror of the Zygons originally aired in 1975.

Right, let’s see what other damage we can do. Anybody know what this is?

I haven’t the faintest idea.

You tell us.

I will. It’s a self-destructor, and it works like this.

– the Doctor demonstrates to the Duke and Lamont that you don’t ask a question without knowing the answer

Terror of the Zygons is a strange beast. Tom Baker’s first season was bookended by two relics from the Jon Pertwee era. Robot was essentially a Pertwee-era invasion story where the only real difference was Tom Baker’s larger-than-life performance; Revenge of the Cybermen had been commissioned by Barry Letts and felt more like a Pertwee-era space story than anything Hinchcliffe and Holmes would produce.

In contrast, Terror of the Zygons is very definitely an episode of Doctor Who produced by Philip Hinchcliffe and script edited by Robert Holmes. It kicks off one of the show’s strongest seasons, and plays into many of the recurring themes of the era. There are fallen gods and body horror and a sense of the Doctor as a bohemian who won’t be bound by society’s rule. And yet, at the same time, there’s also a sense that Terror of the Zygons is derived from the same basic structure of Pertwee-era invasion story.

In short, Terror of the Zygons feels like it straddles two very different eras of the show, and provides an opportunity for the show to very definitely transform from one form into another.

Let Zygons be Zygons...

Let Zygons be Zygons…

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To Play the King (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. Read my thoughts on the service here, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

You’ve got the King against the Prime Minister, the Lords against the Commons. The bishops are in now, you’ve got “don’t blame the royals”, and – in particular – you’ve got Urquhart’s plan to bring down the monarchy for good and all. And they’ve all played the personal morality card. Every one of them. Which means, in my book, that everybody’s private life is now up for grabs. And I mean everybody’s!

– Sir Bruce Bullerby sums it up

The second part of the House of Cards trilogy has some fairly interesting subject matter. While Francis Urquharts Machiavellian rise to power was enough to ground the first four-part serial, it does occasionally feel like To Play The King has just a bit too much going on. Of course, Andrew Davies’ tight scripting ensures that all the necessary subplots are tidied up before we reach the end credits of the final episode, but things do occasionally feel just a little bit too packed. Still, it’s hard to blame a television show for having too much substance, and there’s a compelling issue at the heart of To Play The King, as novelist Michael Dodds takes the opportunity to explore Britain’s constitutional monarchy, and the possibility of friction that a proactive King might present.

A crowning accomplishment for the BBC?

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