CSI: Paranormal

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

The X-Files, even from the very beginning, had one fatal flaw: the self-contained “monster of the week” episodes were always more satisfying than the episodes dealing with the core plotline. The episodes dealing with The Truth were extremely disciplined, each taking care to remain consistent with the show’s UFO cosmology whilst revealing it at a carefully controlled rate, whilst the writers took the monster-of-the-week stories much less seriously – and as a result, had a lot more fun with them. By which I don’t mean they were all comedic – there was the really terrifying one about the stretchy man who lives in a nest that didn’t seem to have much with the show’s mythology – but they were much more varied in tone and far less predictable than the core episodes, which tended to follow a strict pattern of “Mulder and Scully discover more information about the secret conspiracy to colonise Earth with alien-human hybrids, the conspiracy chase them a bit, Mulder whines about his sister, Scully has her rationalist worldview challenged, by the end of the episode all the evidence has mysteriously disappeared and they’re back to square one”.

In fact, Agent Scully’s notoriously unshakable scepticism was much easier to accept in the one-shot episodes. Her refusal to believe in the aliens became faintly ridiculous over the progression of the core episodes, considering what she had seen, but just because you believe in aliens doesn’t necessarily mean you have to believe in psychics, magic, or demonic possession, and there were a few phenomenon-of-the-week episodes where Scully’s insistence that nothing paranormal was occurring actually turned out to be completely correct. By the same coin, Mulder’s insistence on jumping to conclusions was the character flaw it was supposed to be in the monster-of-the-weeks, where he’d often completely misdiagnose the situation. In other words, the off-plot episodes of The X-Files were those where the character dynamics actually worked the way they were intended to work, whilst in the core plot episodes they got all screwed up.

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Star Trek: the Awesome Generation

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

I have to admit that I was mildly concerned about the new Trek movie. While I’ve never been immersed enough in the franchise to actually buy any DVDs or read any of the spin-off novels or study Klingon, I’ll happily watch it if it happens to be on TV – provided we’re not talking Enterprise or one of the Voyager episodes that doesn’t quite reach “so bad it’s good” territory and remains mired in “just bad” – and I’ll go along to see the films in the cinema.

The problem is, the whole Trek idea has seemed somewhat sickly of late, with both the movies and TV series running out of ideas. I personally hold the opinion that the biggest mistake Paramount made with the series was cancelling The Next Generation. Let’s leave Deep Space 9 out of the discussion for now, because what we tend to forget when we wear our gold-pressed latinum-framed rose-tinted sunglasses and gaze fondly back at DS9 was that it was never actually permitted to be the flagship show of the series; for pretty much the entire run it was being produced simultaneously with The Next Generation and Voyager. Perhaps, if it had been allowed to step up and take the place of The Next Generation, then DS9 would have taken the franchise down a very different path from the one it eventually chose.

Continue reading “Star Trek: the Awesome Generation”