Monday, August 14, 2017

Thoughts: The X-Files Cold Cases

The X-Files: Cold Cases

by Joe Harris
-- An Audible original audio drama

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

The series that had a generation looking to the sky gets a breathtaking audio reprise in an original full-cast dramatization featuring actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returning to voice FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Based upon the graphic novels by Joe Harris - with creative direction from series creator Chris Carter - and adapted specifically for the audio format by aural auteur Dirk Maggs (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alien: Out of the Shadows), and directed by William Dufris of AudioComics, Cold Cases marks yet another thrilling addition to the pantheon of X-Files stories.  Featuring a mind-blowing and otherworldly soundscape of liquefying aliens, hissing creatures, and humming spacecraft, listeners get to experience the duo's investigations like never before.

Set after the events of The X-Files: I Want to Believe and providing additional backstory to the incidents that pulled Mulder and Scully out of reclusion prior to 2016's miniseries revival, a database breach at FBI headquarters allows an unknown group to access and capitalize on those investigations left unsolved - dubbed cold cases - by the secret department once known as The X-Files.  As friends and foes of the agency long thought gone begin to inexplicably reappear, former agents Mulder and Scully come out of anonymity to face a growing conspiracy that involves not only their former department, but the US government and forces not of this world.

Here, fans are treated once again to Mulder and Scully's irreplicable chemistry as only the series' leads could deliver, Duchovny's deadpan and cynical aloofness finding its natural counterpoint in Anderson's unwavering intelligence and rigidity.  Appearances from series regulars and the actors who made them fan favorites round out this must-listen arc: the gruff, no-BS righteousness of Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi); the distinctive click-puff of the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis); and the stooge-like hijinks of three beloved conspiracy theorists called the Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood).

Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, find your "I Want to Believe" poster. Break out that makeshift alien stiletto. Grab a pack of Morley cigarettes. The truth is out there. You just have to listen.

Since the above summary blurb--copied and pasted straight from this book's Audible page--mentions most of the main characters, I'm not to going to make any lists.  Anyone who is familiar with The X-Files is familiar with such characters as The Cigarette Smoking Man, The Lone Gunmen, or even the briefly present X, Deep Throat, and Alex Krycek.  On top of that, we've even got a lot of new voices as well.

To be totally honest, I was super excited to jump into this book the moment I saw it.  I was a big fan of The X-Files during its prime, and even now after listening to four hours of audio book, I have an itching to dig out the series and start watching everything from the beginning.  However, it's hard to deny that The X-Files has always been a very visual, very atmospheric television show.  And it definitely shows, the difference between the visually stunning effects of the T.V. series, versus this audio-only audio drama.

As the audio progressed, I found myself really wanting to see everything that was going on.  Because, then our characters wouldn't feel the need to, very awkwardly, narrate and describe everything they see and every action that was taken.  There are at least two points at the beginning of the book wherein Agent Scully, in very stilted detail, tells the listener what's going on: "Ow, my arm!  You shot me in the arm."  "The lights... they're so bright, and colorful, and they keep getting brighter.  Now they're pulsing.  Now they're getting brighter still."  So the quotes are not taken exactly from book, but they sound kind of like that.  I think there might have even been a point where she narrates what she's doing since we can't see what's going on.  Simply put, in real life, or even in television, this kind of dialogue would have been quite unnatural.

Fortunately, this excessive telling seemed to die down as each "episode" progressed, and the guy who wrote the script maybe figured out that there were better ways for listeners to infer actions and such without the dialogue being so strangely deliberate.  And also, both of our main narrators, Duchovny and Anderson, sounded like they were getting back into their roles as Mulder and Scully.

In that first episode, it actually almost sounded like Duchovny was robotic, exasperated, and maybe a little too loud, too deliberate in delivering his lines.  A couple episodes later, it seemed like he was finally enjoying himself as Agent Fox Mulder once again rather than just playing a role.

The sound effects, and even some of the guest voices almost came off comical, truth be told.  The sound of a door slamming, or a group of people chanting, or even someone being tied up or tackled, all came off a bit too loud and too forced.  I may or may not have rolled my eyes or snorted a few times when the events were supposed to be pretty serious.  Even the sound of someone being strangled came off a little comical.

Basically, the sound effects could use some work.

If I had to be honest, listening to this audio drama was like listening to a series of X-Files extras--like a filler episode to rehash everything that's happened since the beginning of The X-Files series.  Don't get me wrong--it was still quite entertaining, especially being able to re-familiarize with the voices of beloved characters/actors, such as Mulder, Scully, and Skinner.  But I'm not entirely certain that this audio drama really brought much more to the table if we're looking to revive the epic hit television series as an audio drama series.

The X-Files: Cold Cases comprises five different episodes, formatted and outlined very similarly to how the television episodes had always been.  Each new setting--location and time--is narrated to us, and that all-too-familiar X-Files theme music is included at the beginning and end of each episode.  The entire group of episodes in this audio drama plays in line with Chris Carter's creation, with the ongoing government/alien conspiracy, and one random not-quite-government created paranormal X-File, which brings 'The Fluke Man' back into action.  And, of course, each episode ended on a rather open note with no real conclusion.

There was even one episode called "More Musings of The Cigarette Smoking Man" in which our CSM spends his time reminiscing about his past--granted there's a perfectly good reason for this episode, but it still felt like an info-dump kind of filler episode.

On a side note:  One of my favorite scenes would have to have been Scully's re-investigation of The Fluke Man case, looking at the rapid cell division under a microscope, and then turning to find that the bottom half of The Fluke Man was stepping off the autopsy table now that it was thawed out.  This particular scene was a fun narration of each and every happening as Scully speaks into a recording about her actions and findings.

If I were to be honest with myself, I've always felt that, once a series (television or book) has run its course, sometimes its best to just let it go.  The X-Files was always a cult hit, with millions of fans and viewers, so it's no surprise that people will continue to revive it, time and time again, in the form of fanfiction novels, a new movie, references... in this case, it would be a fanfiction graphic novel.  And, don't get me wrong, I'm always excited to see something new with The X-Files.

There was a time when I used to get excited about getting my hands on any and all X-Files paraphernalia I could get to.  I had books about "The Makings of...," and posters, and even recorded television specials for more of "The Makings of..."

Even though I had (and probably still have) misgivings about a revival of the series as an audio drama (there will be another release in a couple months), I don't think I will ever tire of the fun banter between Mulder and Scully, or an investigation with the paranormal.  These two are a unique, very beloved pairing, and truly became the reason why I always came back to another episode each week.  Truth be told, the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson was always best conveyed with little actions and intimate looks on television, so our actors will have to up the ante on their banter to continue that chemistry as an audio drama.

I hate to do so much comparing and contrasting, but it's going to happen.  And yet, I'm totally looking forward to the next Audible drama with the full cast present.

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