Reviews selected from TV Zone #130

Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10)
• Horror and humour meshing well again in the X-Files
Star Trek: Voyager steps out from its storytelling quagmire
• Experience a Beautiful Death in the latest Doctor Who novel
• and theX-Men get re-animated on video

BRAND X Rating: 8
Episode: G18 First aired: 16 May 2000 (Fox, US)
• 16 July (Sky One, UK)
Reviewed by
Gareth Wigmore
Up in smoke

Brand XNow, this is more like it, The X-Files back to form. Brand X finds a magical combination of being simultaneously derivative and inventive, a combination that I admire, especially when it comes with a mix of wry humour and genuine Horror.

The Horror really comes from the idea, which is classic Doomwatch territory about genetic modification of tobacco leading to tobacco beetles laying eggs that are small enough to be breathed in from cigarette smoke – which means, in good old Alien fashion, that they can hatch inside the body and pour out en masse. We all know that passive smoking can kill, so the metaphorical level on which Brand X works is not subtle, but it still rocks.

There’s lots of things to enjoy here, from the unusually interesting use of Skinner to the jokey cliff-hanger. A freshness surrounds the whole episode, presumably a result of the writing – it isn’t from the Gilligan-Spotnitz-Shiban stable, which has seemed terribly old and flabby this season, or, even worse, from Chris Carter’s own pen. All the new characters are engaging, especially the weak tobacco boss and the nicotine-stained villain of the piece.

Not since Terms of Endearment last year has The X-Files married Horror and humour so well. After so many episodes that have teased and frustrated us, and left us asking, “Why? How? Who?” to have so neat a conclusion based on all-too plausible a premise seems like a rare luxury. The sooner writers Steven Maeda and Greg Walker are commissioned again, the better.

MUSE Rating: 8
Episode: F22 First aired: 26 April 2000 (UPN, US) Reviewed by
Dan Ranger
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

Janeway: true or false?I must admit that I wasn’t looking forward to this one. The idea of B’Elanna being trapped on a planet where someone writes plays about her just seemed that Voyager was once more slipping into the storytelling quagmire into which most of this season has gone.

Not taken into account was that this was one of script supremo Joe Menosky’s shows (always well thought out) and director Mike Vejar would really be pushing the boat out. What is most refreshing about Muse is its viewpoint. The episode cleverly steps out of the Voyager narrative, and comments in the manner of a Greek chorus. This puts an amusing spin on the interperated character relationships (particularly when the imitation Janeway and Chakotay kiss, and B’Elanna exclaims “You can’t do that!”) and the level of self reference will make any media student gleeful.

Roxann Dawson once more puts so much into her portrayal of B’Elanna when she’s given a script to hang her character off, and here she gives a masterful performance, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since her last decent slice of screen time in Barge of the Dead. And when all seems lost for our heroine, I can genuinely say that I have never been so pleased to see Harry Kim before.

Muse flaunts a clever script, peppered with well-rounded characters and concepts, and a very touching ending to boot. Sublime.

selected from TV Zone #130
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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