Archive for October, 2015

The X-Files

While Drozbot might question the encroachment of Halloween here in the UK, and maybe even lend a sympathetic ear to an English Heritage call to carve turnips instead of pumpkins, we simply can’t resist a good spooky story.

Back in the 1990s the X-Files held dominance as far as small screen scares were concerned. The show took many of its thematic cues from David Lynch’s earlier Twin Peaks (1990), but pushed the formula into uncharted supernatural, UFO and esoteric territory. While the conspiracy/close encounter elements now make Lost seem like a straight forward tale of dead folk in limbo, the horror biased episodes have better weathered the intervening years.

Cast your eyes across the web and you’ll find a vast array of click bait articles all purporting to tell you exactly what the scariest episodes of the series were. Trawl through their tops 10s, compare and contrast the various hit lists and there are actually six that rank as more terrifying than any of the others.

In reverse order, Die Hand Die Verletzt and Irresistible occupy the bottom tier of fear – the first dealing with a modern-day coven, the latter with a serial killer. The next layer houses the combined in-bred body horror of Home – a recent article of which can be found at the New York Times – alongside Grotesque, a dark tale of artistic possession. Finally, though, it’s The Host and Squeeze/Tooms that head up this disturbing sextet. Both are in the mould of the show’s ‘monster of the week’ format, but the sheer oddity of the sewer-dwelling mutant fluke and the skeletal dislocation of Mr Tooms, linger on in the mind years after their first airing.

It’s an amazing 23 years since The X-File’s premiere. That’s a long time, and two mediocre films, for the hardcore fans to tolerate until the final fruition of an announcement made at Comicon back in 2013. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will be reuniting for a new mini-series scheduled to be broadcast in 2016. Sadly, the trailer seems to indicate a continuation of the conspiracy theme but, hopefully, there may be scope for at least one standalone episode that matches the quality of those listed above.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The live Sci-Fi experience has been a quintessential part of fan communities since the dawn of geek culture. Presumed outsiders unified by a common cause, and proving that the power of ‘we are many, they are few’ can outweigh mass detractors. So much so that you can hardly catch your breath between the succession of global conventions nowadays – a welcome byproduct that makes it increasingly difficult for organisers to cut-through a nightmare of scheduling.

In the UK, over the past few years, we’ve seen a series of new and interesting approaches to filmic Sci-Fi that have pushed the disjointed cinematic experience into a much more interactive and social space.

For over a decade now this site has been supportive of SciFi London and their annual programme of features, 48 hour film-making challenges, talks, awards and their concerted integration into existing fan mainstays such as Eastercon and Wolrdcon.

Interestingly, Bletchley Park, as part of their geek friendly rebranding exercise, helmed by the skillful creatives at Rose, seems to have taken SciFi London as inspiration for their very British Station X experience in 2014. While it doesn’t look like the event will be rescheduled this November, hats off to the team for unifying those interested in military and computer history with fans of Quatermas and its peers.

The past month, however, has proven to be one of those odd clusters of quality that happen once in a blue moon. First, Secret Cinema’s well-timed screening of The Empire Strikes Back brought a level of tribute band fervour to the anbitious experience they held in London. This was then followed by a screening of George Lucas’ THX1138, reimagined with a live soundtrack performed by Asian Dub Foundation. Drozbot caught up with the latter at Cambridge Corn Exchange and was blown away by the live timing of the band, the fluteboxing of Nathan Lee and just how ahead of its time this 1971 film actually was.

A branching out of experiences for fans and a chance to meet, greet and re-engage with classics in communal spaces. If you, or anyone you know, are involved with an upcoming event – perhaps the next SciFi Weekender in March – do drop us a line and we’ll happily help with promotion.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Frank Quietly

Back in 2002, Pandemic released a game as part of the backwash of franchise titles that poured out after Star Wars Episode One (1999). It was an mediocre affair that did highlight the emergent strengths of that particular development house, but it was more notable to us here because it introduced a host of fresh characters, vehicles and locations to the franchise. So much so, there was a real sense that George Lucas had thrown his big book of continuity out the window as soon as the cash cow had been delivered by the nerf herders.

While franchises can be useful in generating enough cash to at least fund the odd gem, the truth of the matter is a whole pile of garbage is stacked beneath these rare pieces of artistic genius.

Massive expectations are already surging around the upcoming Force Awakens, and we’ve already dwelt upon the nadirs of Star Wars here on Drozbot. So let’s keep the optimism Cloud City high and look at those instances where the promise of 1977 prevails.

It’s true that J.J. Abrams’ reboot is going to wipe all of the narrative continuation of the post film novel series, but there are still some great stories told within this particular part of the canon. Pleasingly, the definitive tales among them can be found in The Thrawn Trilogy which also appear as an audio book and a Dark Horse comic omnibus. That said, for pure visuals that capture the utilitarian brutality of the original film, point your eyes towards Frank Quietly – in full Geof Darrow mode – and My Padwan (pictured above).

Animation is another area where the franchise has seen some excellent output, and there’s been a lot of encouraging talk around the recent Rebels series. But it’s Gendy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars that still epitomises the mantra of less being so much more.

Finally, unlike the average game output from Pandemic, there have been a run of superlative titles bearing the Star Wars name: Rogue Squadron, the Lego series, Knights of the Old Republic plus Bungie’s ongoing MMO, X-Wing and Tie Fighter and even the epic battles of Empire at War. Plus there’s been positive feedback surrounding the beta test of Dice’s latest installment in the critically acclaimed Battlefront series.

So, not to labour a point, but the 40th anniversary is just two years away and the expectation is that the upcoming reboot can readdress a host of fan grievances. Will this Christmas supply a new hope for all Star Wars die-hards, Drozbot included? Watch this space.

Tags: , , , , , ,