21 July 2017

The X-Files: Cold Cases (Audiobook Review)

Title: The X-Files: Cold Cases
Author: Joe Harris
Adapted to audio by: Chris Maggs
Published by: Audible Audio, Unabridged Audiobook
Publication date: July 18, 2017

Starring: Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi, Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, and William B. Davis

Source: I pre-ordered this book on Audible.

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), 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.

How long have I been waiting for this! How many times have I checked my calendar, counting the days before I could download this audiobook to my tablet! But it's finally here, and last Tuesday, I sat down, and I listened to the whole thing in one sitting. I just gobbled down this audiobook like it was a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, with whipped cream and strawberries on top.

Jumping back into your fandom like

The X-files: Cold Cases is an audiodrama that is based on X-Files: Season 10 - a series of comic books that were written by author Joe Harris, under the creative supervision of the series creator Chris Carter. It stars most of the original cast, including the actors playing the Lone Gunmen. 

WARNING: Some spoilers for pretty much the whole show, and the feature film, I Want to Believe. 

In Cold Cases, we meet Dana Scully and Fox Mulder living and working under fake names, as they are still hiding from their enemies, presumably after the events of season nine finale. The two of them are pulled back into the limelight, however, after a cyberattack on the FBI database. It seems that whoever was responsible for the attack was targeting FBI agents that were connected to the X-files, an infamous project outside of the FBI mainstream. Soon after the attack, Scully is abducted by a mysterious group of shapeshifters that call themselves the Acolytes, and Mulder gets a visit from an old foe, who was thought dead. 

There have been so many reincarnations and adaptations of this cult classic TV-show. We're talking about books, novelisations, comics books, games, and movies. But this is the first time that The X-Files has been adapted into audiodrama, and I was both excited and nervous to see how it would work out. There are elements of these stories that are dependent on the visual medium, like the special effects, and those small, quiet moments between Scully and Mulder that can only be shown on-screen. So it was interesting to see how The X-Files would fit in this format.  

This turned out to be an amazing audiodrama that exceeded my expectations, and left me craving more. Four hours is just not enough, damn it! What is it with the new X-Files seasons being so short? 

This audioplay is a non-stop, four-hour thrill ride. It's fast-paced, and there's never a dull moment between all the action. The story is thrilling and unpredictable. It's dark, violent, and scary. But it's also chock-full of the dry, deadpan humour  that the show has always been known for.  

The performances from the original cast are excellent. You don't get a feeling that these are just actors reading lines into a microphone; they're all giving one hundred percent in their performances, just as they would if this was another season of the show. I would say that the star here is David Duchovny. You can hear that he's having fun playing Mulder again.  

Even Gillian Anderson, I feel, has more energy here than she did in season ten. She brought back that witty, and cocky Scully we remember from the earlier seasons. Mitch Pileggi as Deputy Director Skinner, and William B. Davis as Cancerman are great as well, and it was so great hearing their voices again. Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, and Bruce Harwood are hilarious and adorable as The Lone Gunmen, although Frohike's creep factor has been dialed-up for some reason. 

As for the rest of the cast, most of them are doing a very good job. Their performances are emotional and life-like. There are. however, some rough patches. For instance, the Russian and the Arabic accents are laughable. They're so cartoony the aren't even offensive. But the most disappointing part is that neither Robert Patrick nor Nicholas Lea came to reprise their roles as John Doggett, and Alex Krycek respectively. The actors who got to portray these characters are good, it's just that both Patrick and Lea have very distinct voices, and hearing someone else voice their characters is just not the same. I can never buy anyone other than Nicholas Lea being pummelled by David Duchovny. 

Cold Cases is an audioplay that consists of five episodes: four mythology episodes, and one monster of the week. The latter is a welcome return to a classic episode from season two, and it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling, while also being pretty gross, and disturbing. It would have been right up there with some of the better monster of the week episodes, if it weren't so short (about thirty minutes). But in this format, it works very well.

The meat of this audioplay, however, is the mythology. And let me tell you right now that this mythology is so much better than the one we got in season ten. The X-Files has always had a very complex mytharc that, not only involved cool science, and juicy conspiracies, but also asked questions about family, spirituality, government control, and life beyond our Solar System. Most importantly, the mythology has always been driven by exciting stories, and strong well-developed characters. 

While I liked the mythology in season ten quite a bit (more than most other fans), I still felt that it was disconnected from the original mytharc, and that it was lacking something. Now, having listened to Cold Cases, I realise how poorly developed the season ten mytharc is. 

The reason the mythology in Cold Cases works is because it's a continuation of the original mythology. Harris always takes us back to the original mythology by bringing back old characters - alive or dead - and making them relevant again. He takes the plot lines of the first nine seasons of the show, and he builds upon them. For instance, black oil plays a major part in this story, as well as Skyland Mountain - the iconic sight where Scully was abducted in season two. 

But it isn't just a display of intertextuality, where the writer invokes our nostalgia and plays on our heart strings by showing us something that we know and love (I'm looking at you, J.J. Abrams). Harris brings back all the familiar iconography of the original show, and uses flashbacks to connect his own story to the original mythology but he does it to expand the established mytharc, and to challenge our beloved characters, and to push them in new directions. The story connects so much better with the first nine seasons than the season ten mytharc.

Another thing that makes this story work is that it focuses solely on the original characters. There are a few supporting characters, like Assistant Director Morales, but they all serve a purpose, and their role in the story is limited to a bare minimum. Harris understands that The X-Files doesn't need new, cool characters, especially if he won't have the time to flesh them out to make them interesting. 

The story ends on a cliffhanger (because of course it does). But cliffhangers on The X-Files are never just a way to make the audience come back the next week, or the next season. Each time the credits roll just when Cancerman is about to say something menacing, or when the monster is about to reveal itself, we are reminded of the ambiguity and the uncertainty that plagues Scully and Mulder's work. There are no definite answers; there is no closure, as each new ending is just a beginning of some bigger, more complex story. On the X-files, finding an answer to one question, always means creating more questions. And the ending of Cold Cases captures that ambiguity perfectly. 

Of course, not everything is perfect, and there are few goofs and inconsistencies scattered throughout the story. For instance, in one dramatic scene, Scully encounters a woman who starts speaking German. "I don't speak German!" says Scully. While we know, from the season four episode, "Unruhe", that Scully does, in fact, speak a little German.

It's also unclear as to how Scully and Mulder went from being pardoned by the FBI in I Want to Believe to once again hiding from the world, and going so far as to change their identities. Something big must have happened in that time period, and it sure would have been nice to know, what.

As another reviewer on Goodreads said, if you're new to The X-Files, this audiodrama is not the best introduction to this complex and confusing world. But if you're familiar with the show and know your way around this universe, I can't recommend this book enough. 

I've got to say, the creative team behind The X-Files is spoiling us. Now, I want more audioplays. A whole podcast with nothing but X-Files mysteries would be so cool. 

Plot: 4 stars
Story: 5 stars 
Characters: 5 stars 
Performances: 5 stars 

Total: 5 stars 

That was my review of X-Files: Cold Cases. I have one more book review for you, guys, before I start my new series of book reviews, titled Before They Were Blockbusters.

No comments:

Post a Comment