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Space: Above and Beyond – Stardust (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.

Stardust was the second episode of Space: Above and Beyond to air on a Friday, as had originally been planned.

Of course, it was too late to help the show. By this point in its run, Space: Above and Beyond was a dead show walking. Stardust seems to wryly acknowledge as much. It opens with an inmate on death row, watching the clock tick down to midnight. The show is essentially about sacrifices made by the already-dead, and it’s hard not to get a sense that it captured the mood of the staff on the show as well. A wry wink at the audience, like all the introspective reflection in the earlier episodes.

Cold wars...

Cold wars…

It is also interesting how Stardust positions itself as a possible companion piece to The X-Files. The X-Files casts a pretty significant shadow over Space: Above and Beyond. It was very much an attempt by Fox to capitalise on the success of The X-Files as a genre show. It drafted in two of the most reliable executive producers working on The X-Files. The first two episodes were directed by a veteran of The X-Files. David Duchovny had popped by R & R as something of a goodwill ambassador.

Space: Above and Beyond had played with these comparisons before. The Farthest Man From Home had teased a conspiracy narrative about alien and government cover-ups. Level of Necessity featured a riff on Mulder, with a tall dark-haired paranormal investigator wandering into the show. Stardust makes the connection more explicit, riffing on some of the themes that The X-Files had pushed to the fore at the end of its second season and into the third, exploring links between Native Americans and extraterrestrials.

The honoured dead...

The honoured dead…

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The X-Files – Little Green Men (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.

“We wanted to believe,” Mulder’s opening monologue explains. In a way, The X-Files works best as a profound meditation on faith. Not just Scully’s traditional religious faith, but Mulder’s belief that the world must make sense – even a crazy conspiratorial sort of sense. While Scully is a practising Roman Catholic, Mulder’s officer poster proclaims “I want to believe.” It’s a show about faith in humanity. A show about two people with unshakeable faith in each other.

“Trust no one,” a dying Deep Throat advised Scully in The Erlenmeyer Flask, words impossible to live by. Unsurprisingly, while treated as a mantra and motto for the show, the agents seem to freely ignore that last warning. Mulder and Scully trust each other. Mulder trusts the Lone Gunmen, and Senator Matheson, along with just about everything he reads or is told that reinforces his faith. It’s telling that – despite his cynicism about the government and her religious faith – the show casts Scully (rather than Mulder) in the role of skeptic.

His darkest hour...

His darkest hour…

Little Green Men is effectively a second pilot for the show. While set in the new status quo established during the closing scene of The Erlenmeyer Flask, the episode is very much structured as a “jumping on” point for those who might want to start watching the series. After all, the first season had been a cult hit, but hadn’t quite set the world on fire. Offering an introduction to those attracted by the growing buzz surrounding the show over the summer hiatus makes sense.

And so Little Green Men is built around Mulder’s crisis of faith and his attempts to vindicate that faith, offering a thoughtful examination of a man who wants to believe. While Little Green Men doesn’t offer any large steps forward in the show’s mythology or story arcs, it is a moving and introspective piece.

Samantha gets carried away...

Samantha gets carried away…

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