Saturday, January 20, 2018

REVIEW: The X-Files: Cold Cases (audio drama) written by Joe Harris and Chris Carter, adapted for audio by Dirk Maggs, starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson

This audio drama is based on X-Files graphic novels (I'm not sure which ones) and structured like a collection of X-Files episodes, complete with most of the original voice actors, the X-Files theme song, and narration outlining the location and time. Most of the episodes are alien or black oil episodes, as Mulder and Scully go back to the FBI and look into incidents involving amnesia-causing bright lights, appearances from people who supposedly died a long time ago, and potential threats against Scully's son. However, the second one is more of a "random monster" episode, featuring the Flukeman, a creature from Mulder and Scully's past.

This had been on my wishlist for a while, but I never felt like spending a credit on it back when I had an Audible subscription. When I heard recently that it was on sale, I snatched it up. Even if it wasn't great, I figured that it'd be worth it for the nostalgia alone.

And boy was there a lot of nostalgia. It went beyond hearing so many of the original actors (there were only one or two characters who I think were voiced by other people). I know the title was Cold Cases and all, but it still seemed a bit too closely tied to things from the original series - almost everything that happened involved something supernatural or extraterrestrial that fans of the original series would probably remember. I found myself wishing that the authors had been more willing to work something new into the story.

One big issue for me was that I was never a fan of the X-Files story arcs that dealt primarily with aliens. One-shot stories that dealt with aliens were okay, and I really enjoyed the "random monster" episodes, but the episodes where black oil became more and more important or when Scully got abducted just didn't work as well for me. Unfortunately Cold Cases was almost exclusively focused on this sort of thing. It also didn't help that I've never been a fan of the Mulder and Scully romantic pairing. I was mostly able to forget about this, except for the occasional moment where one or the other of them said or did something that reminded me.

The one aspect of this audio drama that absolutely won me over was the casting. It was wonderful to hear so many people I remembered from what used to be my top favorite show. Gillian Anderson, in particular, did a fabulous job. David Duchovny...less so. I thought he sounded a bit bored at the beginning, particularly during a part where he found Skinner potentially trying to kill himself - none of the emotions I would have expected Mulder to be feeling were conveyed in Duchovny's voice. Thankfully he got better as the drama progressed.

The audio drama format resulted in occasional awkward moments, as the characters described what they were seeing during moments that would usually have relied on visuals in the original TV series. Basically: "Excuse me while I describe aloud everything that I'm currently seeing, since the audience can't see these mysterious lights themselves."

Other awkward moments included those times where characters briefly explained references to events and characters from the original series, so that newbies and fans who hadn't seen those episodes in ages could keep up. Although it made the dialogue more than a bit strange, I admit to appreciating those explanations, since the last time I saw much of the original series was over 10 or 15 years ago. Even then, I found myself checking fan wikis multiple times in order to get my bearings.

I don't think I'd ever recommend this to people who weren't already fans of The X-Files, and it didn't really have anything in the way of new content for fans, but the nostalgia of it worked for me. I imagine I'll re-listen to this at some point just to hear everyone again, even though the stories themselves were only so-so.

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