X-Files: Cure for Mid-Winter Blahs

I am a fan of good sci-fi that the pop-culture embraces. I am all over shows and movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Terminator. I do not obsess over them at low level, but I enjoy good story lines that flow well and strong interaction between characters.

When X-Files first came on the air, all my work colleagues were religiously watching the program week in, week out. I never watched a single episode. When the first movie was released in 1998, I figured I would see why the show was so popular, and, well, I did not get it. The movie was too linked in with the story line which required you to watch the show to fully appreciate.

Fast forward to last year. In 2015, Fox announced a revival of the show. I get why they did that. It was the longest running sci-fi show ever (9 seasons, 203 episodes), it is the only show written since 1993 that is still in active syndication, and fans were screaming for some potential unanswered questions to be resolved.

Since X-Files is available on Netflix, I started to embark slowly on the journey to watch the shows last year. It was a futile attempt, there are just too many episodes. I got through the first two seasons after six months of watching. Then,  wifey found the following link:

How to Catch up on 9-Seasons of The X-Files (Plus the Movies) in Just 4 Days

The 4 days reduced the 200 plus episodes to around 70. Still ambitious, but much more manageable (and yes, impossible to do in four days!)

I embarked on this journey, skipping most of Day 1 as I had already watched the first two seasons.

What I Would recommend

If you are like me and never watched the x-Files, note there are two types of stories: standalone (these were the weekly monster/paranormal features) and what they call “mythology”.

The mythology is the ongoing storyline. To best appreciate it, one would need to watch all the mythology episodes in sequence.

The list does not necessarily contain the “greatest hits”.  In fact, some of the mythology episodes are weaker than the standalone episodes.  Even the standalone episodes in this list are not necessarily the best, but they represent something that may be of interest (for example, David Duchovny’s episode he wrote, comedic Christmas episode featuring Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner, an all black and white episode, etc).

My approach, doing it again, is to watch Day 1 in its entirety (as the first year did not have much mythology), but I would include the second episode “Deep Throat” as it introduces a key character. Day 1 will give you a taste of the standalone episodes.

After, if you want to save some time, watch the episodes labelled “mythology” in this list onward.  It will have a flow worthy of typical modern binge watching and the storylines will keep fresh as they can get complicated.  That said, most of this list relates to the mythology, so watching the episodes as listed does not break the flow.

You don’t have to watch seasons 7 – 9, but there are some plot lines that may be of interest if you enjoyed the show.  Seasons 7 -9 were  no way near as good as the previous ones.

I am going to revisit IMDB  to see the highest rated episodes that may be of interest not on the list. I have a strong appreciation now of the X-Files, so I am now interested in seeing some more monster of the week episodes. I will list my favorite standalones at the end of the blog that I watched from the list.

If the mythology does not interest you, just watch the last episode of season 9. It summarizes it well, but you will miss the fun nuances of the show.

What I Liked about the X-Files.

  • Seasons 1-6. Most fans agree. Season 6 should have been the end of the show.  Season 1 is slow filled mostly with standalone episodes, but the last episode is the first strong mythology episode.  Season 2 starts to ramp up the mythology, and once in Season 3, there is a very good rhythm to the show that hooks you.  The show was contracted to end at Season 5, but it was too popular to cancel (so I read), and Season 6 does end the main story line half way through the season.
  • Duchovny and Anderson are very good TV actors. They are both very expressive, despite playing stoic FBI agents. They have good dry and sarcastic humour. They have a lot of screen chemistry. In the show, Duchovny is the “believer” in UFOs, the supernatural, and the unexplained. Anderson is the scientist and skeptic. In real life, it is the reverse. Further, the two were known to not get along during the filming of the show and were bickering constantly. Ironically, they are best friends since the show ended.
  • Mulder and Scully’s characters are well represented when they are working together on a case. They challenge each other. They build each other. As the show continues, they learn to respect each other, and a solid friendship is formed. The actors really deliver the care for one another well, while maintaining “professional boundaries”. It sets up a very good question as to what are those boundaries between care for a colleague, friend, and someone you love.  It creates a great tension between the characters, and the show writes that very well.  One thing I noted,  Duchovny played a perfect gentleman, despite some of Mulder’s character aspects.
  • Chris Carter fought hard for the casting of the show. The show’s key characters were very well casted across the board and I liked that they were not the usual “Brad and Angelina”, as Fox network wanted.
  • I liked the fact they used Canadian actors. It may have saved them some coin, but it helped them support the stars of the show much more while giving exposure to some unknowns in the States. There are some nice guest appearances too, like Alex Trebek, and Callum Keith Rennie (who turned down the recurring role of Alex Krycek, too bad, he would have been perfect for it…btw the one who played him was Canadian too), Bruce Harwood, and the Cigarette Smoking man.
  • Despite the weaker seasons 7 – 9, it was nice to see the professional chemistry restored at the last episode of the series.
  • I did not mind the movie “I Want to Believe of 2008”. It was a stand alone and was not a typical X-Files feel to it, but it had a nice flow to it despite poor IMDB reviews. You don’t have to have watched the X-Files show to watch this movie, though there is one “mythology” spoiler that is subtle and it is helpful to know what the X-Files is about, though not essential.

Don’t Likes

  • The series was winding down to a conclusion in Season 5.  Chris Carter was set to do a series of X-Files movies, and the first bridged Season 5 to Season 6.  The filming schedules did have heavy demands on the actors, as we start to see in Season 6 more “solo” shows for Mulder and Scully, giving the actors time to rest. The chemistry between the two made the show work for me, separating the two made the show weaker.
  • The first X-Files movie should not have been a feature film. It should have been a two part episode. In fact, that is what it really was.
  • I liked the chemistry and some of the romantic tensions between Mulder and Scully, As the plot got resolved in season’s 5 – 6, so did some of those tensions. Once the tensions were lost, the actors had less challenge and direction, and it reflected in their performances (hard to elaborate without spoilers!).
  • One thing that surprised me about the show is that despite being a story around Mulder and his desire to find his sister (who he witnessed being abducted by aliens as a child), it had more emphasis on Scully as a result of her experience working with him. Her character goes through a lot, which had a physical and emotional price. That said, a stoic FBI agent evolving to a character that cries in just about every episode since season 6 became a little bit too much to watch. Not sure if Anderson had a special gift to cry on demand or not, but looked like it. It was a little over the top, surprising to me, and was really getting annoying to watch. It became too predictable a pattern.
  • Once Season 7 started, the actors looked bored with the roles. It really looked like they were going through the motions.  As mentioned, the show was more or less resolved, and the writing looked like it was clutching at straws to keep the plot going.
  • Duchovny pretty much left the show in Season 8. The Scully and Mulder relationship is what made the show tick. The writers introduced new characters, perhaps to set up the X-Files for the next nine years. Very difficult to do when the show was built around “Mulder’s mythology”. The actors were unfairly criticized as being poorly cast. I would argue that an actor is only as good as the script.
  • So many solid Canadian actors were killed off. Ryan Reynolds, Megan Follows, and Corner Gassers Brent Butt and Gabrielle Miller became the equivalent of the Star Trek men in red.

Favorite Standalones From the List

“Ice” (1×8): Mulder, Scully and a team of scientists try to figure out why an Arctic team wiped each other out–until the new team turns on each other, too.  This was the episode that really drew me in to the show and was the best monster feature to that point.

“Humbug” (2×20): Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate the death of a sideshow performer.  An episode that succeeded in creeping me out.

“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4): Mulder and Scully enlist a reluctant psychic, Clyde Bruckman (Peter Boyle), to help them catch a killer who may be able to see the future. The hour won an Emmy for Boyle’s guest role and for Darin Morgan’s script.  He was exceptional.

“Syzygy” (3×13): A rare planetary alignment causes people to act out of sorts…including Mulder and Scully. First episode I recall seeing the two act beyond stoicism and I was surprised to see their behaviour. Some satire in here too as there are some “horror movie” cliches in here..

“Pusher” (3×17): A man is seemingly able to take away people’s free will. The Pusher is a very strong character.

“Home” (4×2): The hour was so disturbing that Fox opted to not re-air it after its initial broadcast. Rightfully so, not for the weak of heart.

Small Potatoes” (4×20): After multiple babies are born with tails, Mulder and Scully struggle to find the cause.  There was a nice touch of humour here as well as the first time we concretly see any romance potential between Scully and Mulder.

“The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×5): The black-and-white hour has Mulder and Scully investigating a small town with a Frankenstein’s monster-esque creature.  Nice to see the show not take itself too seriously.

“Bad Blood” (5×12): When Mulder stakes a “vampire,” he and Scully have very different recollections about what really went down. The he said/she said delivery of this episode was very funny. The acting to deliver the stories was well done.

“The Rain King” (6×8): A man claims to be able to control the weather. Victoria Jackson was awesome, blending in some nice humour.


Now that I watched this list, time to start watching the Revival!

Do you agree disagree with my observations? Do you have a favorite episode that was either on or off this list?

Best James Bonds

A highly subjective category, and a much debated one.  After watching the films this year, this is how they rank in my eyes.

# 6 Pierce Brosnan. 


The mid-80s Bond needed a replacement, and it took almost a decade to revive the series. The series stalled due to many legal wranglings.  I remember when the film makers were deciding on who will be the next Bond, Pierce Brosnan was always on the top of their lists.  Brosnan had a lot of popularity for his look and suave coming out of his hit TV series Remington Steele.  It seemed to me that the film makers were looking to find a new “Roger Moore”.

When they announced that Brosnan won the role, I had a hard time imagining him playing Bond.  That said, as a true Bond fan, I went out to watch Goldeneye in 1995 and remember being bored to death. The movie felt long and slow.  Brosnan did not add anything different to the character, and if anything, you could have renamed James Bond to Stuart Little for all I cared, as the role became really shallow.

After re-watching Goldeneye, and finally getting around to watch his other movies, I found them entertaining as pure action movies.  To me, though, Bond is more than just the action. There should be something dark about his character that adds something to the movies. Fleming depicted him as a lonely,  and empty soul.

Brosnan did not bring this element to the character. He just brought a superhero who can do incredibly unbelievable acts. Further, his movies introduced CGI, which unfortunately for Brosnan, made his character that much less credible.

#5 Roger Moore. 


I found that Roger Moore was placed in a bad situation when he joined the series. At 46, was about 10 years too old for his “first” movie in 1973.  He was replacing an actor who was clearly bored with the role, but also defined it.  He was a very different person than Connery. He was known for a TV Series, The Saint, and he  morphed his adaptation of Simon Templar to the Bond series. This is not really the Bond as written by Ian Fleming, but Moore did bring a cool sophistication to the role, and his own brand of humour, but he did lack the overall toughness of his predecessors.

What I found interesting was to witness how the Bond misogyny changed from Connery to Moore.  Connery was a product of the 60s. If you ever watch Mad Men, you will see first hand how women were regarded by men during that era, and the James Bond character, being written in the late fifties, reflected that reality.  Connery’s character became more misogynistic with each film, as the womanizing were heavy selling features to the audience of the time.  The difference between Connery and Moore in this space is that I would have expected Moore to downplay it a bit more catering to an audience of the 80s. It actually became  his most dominant Bond character trait.

In looking at his movies, it was clear that the first two, which I thought had interesting plot lines for their era, Moore tried to hard to make his Bond different. To degree, he succeeded in changing the character, but it was not popular. At the time, the Man with the Golden Gun had the worst box office sales of all the Bond films, and the series was on the verge of being cancelled. When I watched his movies shortly after the Connery’s, you can see that it just does not work. To Eon’s credit, they brought in some really creative gadgetry and a most unforgettable villain (Jaws), that really helped re-establish the series and brought a different cool to it.

Though he got away with his age in the first couple of movies, by the time he did his last over a decade later at age 58, A View to A Kill, his age was apparent and ridiculous. He joked about his age, when working with Tanya Roberts on his last movie, stating that he was well older than her mother.  Point well taken.   He should have left the series after Moonraker in 1979, which, in itself, was too science-fictiony for James Bond.

That said, I would argue that some of the most memorable Bond moments and stunts came from his movies, and he is a class act in real life.

#4 George Lazenby.


Call him a one hit wonder. George was probably the most improbable Bond. Australian born, and a model, and very limited acting experience.  He was placed in an interesting position landing a very high profile job.

He got the role, in what can be argued as one that required the most acting range.  It is hard to evaluate someone on just one performance, but he had a strong script, he did a lot of his own stunts (unlike Connery), and  Eon was smart to cast Diana Rigg across from him, as she is an acclaimed actress who can almost  carry a movie by herself. They had a lot of chemistry, and I believe he did an excellent job given the opportunity presented to him.

It would have been easy to see him doing more films. His presence was very conducive to the late 60s, and he brought an authenticity and toughness that were important to the Bond role. I thought it was a good job by a rookie, though he really did not bring too much new to the character (perhaps by design).  I think he shot himself in the foot when he refused to sign on for seven more movies.  It could have helped him evolve as an actor.

He firmly is entrenched in the “where are they now” files.  I just did a quick scan on IMDB, and was shocked to see that he took part in a bunch of “Emmanuelle” flicks in the early 90s. Don’t think a career can sink any lower.

Bad decision George.

# 3 Timothy Dalton. 


I found Bond lost a lot of that original Connery toughness in the Roger Moore movies.  The Bond character was evolving more to the “playboy” as oppose to the hard nosed cold spy.  Moore was aging too, and the Bond movies formula was not as appealing to the 80s audiences.

In comes Timothy Dalton. He was more of a stage actor, and as such, he brought a very strong, cold, and hard edged Bond. This, to me, was who Bond was suppose to be.  Dalton’s intensity to the role was a shock after being use to the Roger Moore cool and wit.  I guess, as I have seen some stage actors when they go to big screen, they come across as a bit over the top, and Dalton could have been perceived that way.

For me, it was what the role needed.  Roger Moore was not a strong  and as “physical” an actor. Dalton was.   Interestingly, he was considered to be Bond before Roger Moore in the early 70s, but was too young.  I think, given the interesting plots of the Moore movies, it would have been cool to have seen him in those flicks.  Sadly for him, his third movie was held up in legal wranglings and after waiting for four years for them to resolve, he stepped down from the role.

I liked how Dalton took the character. The only thing I would have hoped for as a little more levity. He delivered a very heavy punch.

#2 Daniel Craig. 

Daniel Craig - New James Bond movie Casino Royale

The series needed a makeover, and badly, after the films of the 90s.  The first Daniel Craig movie was a prequel, and that allowed him to bring an almost new character to the series.  He brings out a coldness and sociopathic character to the screen. It is a much more modern, and real, take on the original Bond character.

I believe that he brings to the screen the James Bond that Ian Fleming originally thought. A man who is completely empty.  The character is never satisfied by any vice or addiction. He gambles, he womanizes, he drinks, all of these never satisfies. He also does not know how to express love when he is confronted with it.

The movies Casino Royale and Skyfall shed to light the Bond character very well, while at the same time being very strong movies.  Craig  hoped that his portrayal is less sexist. It does, and it gives a much more real picture as who Bond really is suppose to be.

Craig, like Connery after a few films, is getting fed up of the role. You saw that attitude in Connery’s later Bond flicks. I am hoping not to see that in the upcoming Spectre.

#1 Sean Connery. 


What can you say. He was the original. He was 60s-era tough. He had screen presence and he brought a humour and “cheekiness” to the role.  Being the first, all the other Bond’s had to measure up to the standard he set.

If you watch Dr. No, you will see what may be the closest take to Fleming’s orginal Bond character.  Box office success and the era shaped the character from there.  I would find it hard to argue that for the era, no other actor could have delivered the role as well as Connery. He was a true actor. He had charisma. He had qualities that most young men would have desired at that time to help build the Bond myth. I would also argue that the series would not have taken off like it did if wasn’t for Connery.

He also defined some “formulas” that were used by subsequent Bond actors. For example, the dry and silly wit, the martini’s, a very cheeky personality (watch his interactions with Q), and the delivery of the “Bond, James Bond” line.

I plan to show my top Bond movie list this week. There is no surprise that the Connery films are towards the top. The films were raw, so less dependent on effects, and props, and therefore more dependent on the characters to make them successful.

Agree with my list? Let me know what you think!



A tale of three and a half, singers

Rock bands frequently undergo changes to lineups.  Some of them, go through so many changes that they are far recognizable from their original lineup, but they are able to continue because the one or two key members that give the band its essence are still present.

Part of that essence is the sound that defines the band. Often, if a lead singer leaves, the band can recover if they replace them with someone who sounds similar.  Usually, the new lead singer needs to have a lot of charisma to win the fans back to the band.  No matter how good they sound like the original, fans will miss the original singer.  Sometimes works better for the band.  Genesis is a prime example. Phil Collins gave the band a new lease on life after Peter Gabriel.  Journey replaced Steve Perry with a vocalist who sounds similar and are experiencing a revival of sorts. AC/DC had continued success when Johnson took the helm.

Sometimes, a band has to redefine its sound in order to try to win back the fan base.  A different sound of vocals can inspire a different creative direction. At times, a different sound in vocals can force this direction.  Van Halen is an example. When they had Sammy Hagar, they changed their style to be more in line with Hagar’s. They did win a new fan base. Some old fans were screaming for David Lee Roth, some liked both.

I love concerts. This year, all the key acts I saw had a change in lead vocals somewhere along the way. Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Journey, Kool and the Gang, Kamelot, and Nightwish.

Kamelot opened for Nightwish. They  got a much younger lead singer that sounded identical to their previous singers.  His age and strength of voice easily won over the crowds. Nightwish is another story. Not only did they change singers, they did it three times, all in the same tour!  That is unheard of.

Nightwish is a symphonic metal band. The trademark of the style is a very dark, heavy, and fast sound usually fronted by an opera singer. Their original singer, Tarja Trunen, fit the mold perfectly. A few years ago, Nightwish fired her, disclosing the reasons in an open letter published on the internet.  They hired Swedish singer Annette Olzon to replace her.  It was pretty obvious that the new singer was vocally very different, more of an Abba/pop sound. The fans must have been shocked when they heard her for the first time in concert.  You can see for yourself in the video spliced below between the two singers. The song, Nemo, is the bands most “accessible” song during the Tarja era.  Accessible, in that it can be liked by most people no matter what musical interest they have.

Singer comparison: Nemo


Depending on how you stand musically, you can make a case for both singers on this song. That said, a lot of the older Nightwish material depended on the thick operatic tones, which Annette does not deliver.  To accommodate the new vocalist, Nightwish’s next two albums had more of a pop undertone which suited the new vocalists voice better while maintaining their overall tone and feel. Generally, it worked and fans accepted it. But despite the musical strength of the albums,  they craved the old style better.

I happened to see them live September 19 in Montreal. Almost a week later the band was in Denver and Annette Olzon was hospitalized. Most bands would cancel the show when a key member is unable to perform. Not Nightwish. Enter singer number two, Elize Ryd, the backup singer for opening act Kamelot!  With lyric sheet in hand for most of the evening, she took Annette’s place. Even though Elize fronts her own band and was touring with Kamelot, I am not sure how I would have reacted seeing this last minute substitution.

Singer 2: Note lyric sheet on second song

Instead of cancelling any shows or the tour, the next night, Nightwish fires Annette.  They call in Dutch singer Floor Janson, who hopped on a flight from the Netherlands to join the band in Seattle the following night.  Floor is a return to the Tarja era, and is completing the tour with Nightwish.  Nightwish shuffled the set list a bit to include some older material that they probably could not do with Annette.

Nemo: Floor Jansen

Floor will complete the tour with them, but who knows if she will stay on with Nightwish or  the musical direction of this band, but one thing is for sure, at this stage, it does not matter who sings for them!