8 Female TV Characters that Changed Sci-Fi

I heard recently that considering all the madness happening in the world right now, investing so much time and energy in television and movies seems fruitless. I disagree. I think art mirrors society and vice-versa, and the response to the rise of women in sci-fi and fantasy is a testament to just how much more social progress must be made.

This past Sunday, the BBC announced that Doctor Who‘s Thirteenth iteration of the classic time-traveling alien would be played by a woman, Jodie Whittaker.

Cue the outrage––from men and women alike.

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These are the nicer comments.

But it’s funny that these same die-hard fans seem to conveniently forget about all the women in their favorite franchises that helped shape the success of those franchises. And they seem to ignore that just as men love to see themselves reflected onscreen, perhaps women might too (shocker!).

For reference, here are just a few women who contributed positively to the genre nerds hold so dear. Some are main protagonists, like Thirteen will be, and some are not. The point is that they are dynamic, influential, and prove that making a character male doesn’t deem it more relevant or special to the sci-fi/fantasy canon.

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Review: “X” Marks a Solid Premiere

SPOILERS AHEAD! Read at your own risk…

It’s finally here, Philes! Around 16 million people tuned into The X-Files Season 10 premiere on Sunday, January 24th–despite the fact that it began 24 minutes late due to the football game. The long-awaited return of this sci-fi classic continued to blow up Fox ratings on Monday the 25th with the second of the two-part premiere (it rated higher than all the episodes of its 8PM timeslot predecessor, Gotham, put together!). The numbers should say it all, really.

And yet, apparently, they don’t quite. While most fans are flocking to Twitter and Tumblr to pour out their love for the new episodes, critics aren’t as enthused. Many consider the first episode, “My Struggle,” to be rushed, confusing, and full of conspiracy-related jargon. The Entertainment Weekly recap essentially called it a failure. Vanity Fair essentially assured viewers that “it gets better.”

I skimmed a couple of these reviews before I watched “My Struggle,” and I wish I hadn’t. I did not make the same mistake with last night’s episode, “Founder’s Mutation.” Regardless, I will try to present my ideas here with the least outside influence as possible. Here’s my two cents: It may be new. It may even be a little jarring. But especially after last night’s episode, it is The X-Files through and through.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.42.32 PM.pngPart of what makes “My Struggle” quintessentially X-Files (which critics took issue with, ironically enough), is that it does not dip its toes in the metaphorical water–it dives right in. Whether you’re a longtime fan or just starting out, the new X-Files takes you immediately on a wild ride without holding back. Lots of speeches made by Mulder about government conspiracies, lots of assumptions and little references about the show’s history–and, as critics pointed out–the episode leaves you with more questions than you had going in.

But isn’t that always what The X-Files does? How many episodes in the original run made you lean back and say, “Wow. I really understand 100% of what’s going on with this alien mythology. Thanks, Chris Carter!” That’s just the thing. Carter, the show’s creator, is notorious for leaving us hanging in many aspects. Are aliens on our side, or against us? Do they even exist at all? To what extent can we trust our government? Frankly, I don’t expect any of these questions to be answered fully in this new season. Why should any fan? That’s part of the fun of the show. It keeps you guessing.

Despite this, the show put forth a couple of established answers they were teeter-tottering on before, which was great to see. For example, we see clearly in “My Struggle” that Walter Skinner is entirely on the side of Mulder and Scully and the discovery of the truth. In the original series, his stance was often very ambiguous til the end, and one might have wondered if time apart from the duo would have turned him to the dark side (read: the FBI’s side) once more. That’s not the case. “There were so many times I wanted to pick up the phone and call you, and I couldn’t,” he laments to Mulder. We also see established very early on that Mulder and Scully have slipped back into their roles as Believer and Skeptic, respectively–though of course there’s always room for development there.

“My Struggle” was also criticized for being too plotty–which I would counter with five simple words: we’ve only got 6 episodes. While “My Struggle” probably isn’t an Emmy-worthy episode on its own–it is necessary to establish the tone and mythology of the season to come. This new season exists, as Carter and Gillian Anderson have reiterated, in a post-9/11 world in which everything we take as fact about the government, about America, about the world is up for debate. In “My Struggle,” we’re introduced to Sveta, an alien abductee, who sets up a series of questions Mulder and Scully will have to attempt to answer this season. Mulder’s beliefs, his trajectory of understanding what his government is hiding, come into question. What does Mulder want to believe in? Is the government deliberately hiding the existence of aliens, or their misuse of alien technology? And how does this all relate to the world we live in today, with its conflicts and wars and inconsistencies? At the end of the episode, Scully vows that she and Mulder have to “get these sons of bitches” who are hurting victims like Sveta, Mulder’s sister Samantha, and, of course, Scully herself. We have a motivation for them both to return to the X-Files despite all they’ve been through investigating them. And that, to me, is a great place to start, especially with such a limited number of episodes.

We’re led from “My Struggle” into “Founder’s Mutation,” an episode which to many critics increases in quality exponentially from the first. I wouldn’t say it it necessarily improved on quality, writing, or acting–those factors were strong in both episodes to me. However, “Founder’s Mutation” represents the true essence of the show: a bit of camp, a decent amount of gore, and engaging from beginning to end. The episode, unlike the first, is fast-paced and has a very “original series” feel, in that it’s a case-of-the-week episode with undertones of the overall mythology of the season. It’s also confirmed that Skinner is 100% Team X-Files (he outright lies to one of his colleagues to cover Mulder and Scully’s tracks followed by an enthusiastic, “Welcome back, you two”).

Perhaps the most important component of “Founder’s Mutation”–that which seemed to resonate most with fans–is the personal aspect. In probably some of the most moving scenes on the show to date, Scully and Mulder, in their respective imaginations, explore what it would have been like to parent William had Scully not given him up for his safety.

What I love about these scenes is that they aren’t just simply an expression of, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” on behalf of William’s parents. Rather, they illustrate Scully and Mulder’s separate fears for their son, as well as their separate interpretations of the kind of child he is. Scully, obviously, spent more time with William before she gave him away (Mulder, if you recall, was in hiding). Her made-up memories of William as a child, then, illustrate simple, human things–taking him to school, holding his hand. Despite his “alien” side, Scully, in the short time she raised him, saw him only as her baby boy. Mulder, on the other hand, holds his son close and talks to him about the extraterrestrial, the supernatural. He imagines himself launching a toy rocket with him–always thinking outside of human comprehension.

And when their daydreams take a turn for the worse, we see how they reflect their respective characters. Scully is afraid for William ever having to reconcile his humanity with his extra-terrestrial side. imMulder, on the other hand, fears the one thing he’s been fighting for decades–the secrecy of his government–would take William away from him. In a sequence eerily similar to that of Samantha Mulder’s abduction through her brother’s eyes, we see this fear, this guilt for not keeping William safe, manifest itself.

What a brilliant and moving insight into each character and where they stand in terms of their child together–it’s definitely something I wish had been explored in 2008’s I Want to Believe, that was only touched upon very briefly. Bravo!

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.10.35 PMA general critique of both episodes seems to center around the Mulder/Scully dynamic. Fans have expressed their annoyance over Twitter and other social media outlets that the pair’s relationship isn’t quite resolved and feels forced. I’d disagree with this as well. While I’d say the fans probably know more about “MSR” than even the actors do, perhaps it’s best to take a step back before we make too many judgments. Seven years have passed between the last time we saw this couple (in I Want to Believe) and now. Realistically, lot can change for any relationship in that amount of time. Furthermore, we found these two a bit rocky in I Want to Believe to begin with. To me, the logical trajectory would be that Mulder and Scully spend some time ]truly finding their roots again, within themselves and with each other. Remember in the early seasons of the original, when just Mulder’s hand on Scully’s shoulder was enough for fans to analyze? We have that dynamic again–except this time, there’s years of history and emotions attached. I see nothing wrong with that.

Others say, particularly in regard to the second episode, that Mulder and Scully slip all too quickly back into their old rapport. Again, it’s important to keep in mind the time frame. We don’t have 24 episodes to flesh out Mulder and Scully’s dynamic like we did before. So, we are given their fundamental friendship and trust in each other–which will never truly go away. Isn’t that better than starting out the show with them despising each other? There’s resentment and tension, sure (the scene where Scully storms back to her car in “My Struggle” is so tense, I was squirming in my seat as I watched)–but all that will drive new changes in their relationship. I don’t think this season is the death of Mulder/Scully. Conversely, I think it’s a new, exciting chapter to carry the necessary character drama through the season.

I’ve only watched the first two episodes once through, but in short, I’m optimistic about this revival series. Of course it’s different–seven years since I Want to Believe have changed our characters, our actors, our writers, our world. But in my opinion, these first two episodes alone feel so much more like The X-Files than did the choppy, disjointed I Want to Believe. It’s a new age for the show, and anyone who’s expecting what plays on their Season 4 DVDs word-for-word has another thing coming.

I, for one, can’t wait for more.

X-FEELS (or, Things I Want to See in the X-Files Revival)

Now that I’ve finally got a job (yay!), updates on this blog may be fewer and farther between compared to this summer. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped fangirling. In fact, I’m probably doing more of that than I have in ages. Why, you ask? Because The X-Files is coming back. And now that I finished the series (as of mid-October. I’m not sure if it’s sad or impressive that I watched nine seasons in such a short time), I’m not sure if my fangirl heart can take it.

In case you’re one of the few nerds out there who hasn’t heard, there will be brand-spankin’-new episodes of The X-Files on your TV screen starting January 24th. It’s airing on its original mother network, FOX, who ordered six episodes of what they’re calling “Season 10.” It’s not a reboot, which I was surprised to find, but a continuation of Mulder and Scully’s adventures since we last saw them in 2008’s I Want to Believe. (That movie warrants a separate post altogether. Yikes.)

Now that I’ve watched–and become thoroughly obsessed with–the original series, I have a few expectations and ideal scenarios. Here’s what I’d like to see out of the revival.

  1. “This is the most I’ve cared about a straight fictional couple in years.” -Me, probably two-ish months ago
    Mulder and Scully. Scully and Mulder. You can’t have one of them without the other. They’re kind of like peanut butter and jelly. A very dysfunctional version of peanut butter and jelly, I might add. I’ll be honest. When I first started watching the show, I was very appreciative of Mulder & Scully’s platonic, best-friends dynamic. I went in wary of dynamics like that of Booth and Brennan on Bones wherein, because the leads are one male and one female, the result is naturally lots and lots of copulation. And probably a baby.

    But for some reason, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully’s relationship seemed to transcend my annoyance with the male/female lead tropes in TV. They care so deeply for each other, understand each other so well, that they work as partners, friends, and lovers. The terminology doesn’t matter. The two are simply made for each other. What irks me is that allegedly, Scully leaves Mulder after diagnosing him with depression in the revival. Character-wise, this doesn’t make sense to me. Both Mulder and Scully have backgrounds in psychology; thus they have a deep understanding of what depression is, and that emotional support is key. If anything, I’m hoping it pans out that Mulder was just too stubborn to let Scully help him–or perhaps not ready to accept the help Scully may have tried to give. As someone with a personal connection to the disease, I’m interested in how this pans out–and hoping that depression is portrayed in an effective manner.

    The point is, I’d love for Mulder and Scully to at least find peace within themselves and each other at the end of this run–even if it means breaking them up romantically. A lot of MSR fans aren’t particularly thrilled about this prospect, but honestly, I’m setting the bar pretty low. I just want them to be happy. I hope they resolve their issues with communication and sharing their feelings (I mean, come on. It’s been 20 years. Get your shit together, the two of you).

  2. Needs moar Walter Skinner.
    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I adore Skinner’s character. I love his transformation from a morally gray character who we weren’t sure we could trust, to the only other person our main protagonists can rely on. Also, I’m kind of a big fan of Mitch Pileggi in general. He’s a sweetheart to his fans and seems like an all-around cool dude. Anyway, we do know he’s returned for the revival, so I’m looking for some more background on him in the last decade or so. How’s he doing? Is he spearheading the X Files still? Is he single? I want to know these things.
  3. “What the fuck is magnetite?”: A Study in William Scully
    Okay, so that’s not his last name anymore, but it should be because he’s the weird supernatural product of one Mulder and one Scully (and possibly some alien intervention thrown in there…three-way?). His storyline was written out as quickly as it was written in, but he clearly left his parents with mental/emotional scars. Also, seriously, what actually did happen to him with the magnetite injection? I’m chalking it up to lazy writing that the revival can now rectify. Also, the kid’s, what, fifteen years old now?
  4. The truth is STILL out there.
    Frankly, I was entirely underwhelmed by the supposedly big “reveal” of the government’s/Smoking Man’s secrets in the final episode, “The Truth.” I felt as though nine seasons should have led up to more of a Big Moment. But clearly, if the show is being revived, there’s a lot more underneath the surface there, and I’m really hoping the show explores it this time around. Explaining nine seasons of conspiracy with “Something Bad Will Happen in 2012” was a bit dissatisfying–and now that it’s 2015, I’m very curious as to how the show will handle the apocalypse that never happened. Give me something to chew on, Smoking Man! (Not tobacco. Please not tobacco.)
  5. “Mulder, it’s me.”
    If we don’t get some of those classic quotes in these coming episodes, I’m gonna be a little sad. Part of what makes The X-Files a cult classic is that it’s a staple of the ’90s/early 2000s. Half of the communication between Mulder and Scully is via (very large) cell phone–it was the first TV show to incorporate such technology regularly. In the preview clips we’ve seen so far, Scully finally has an updated-looking phone, which calls back to the technological journey the show has traveled over the years. But I do hope the show retains some of its classic elements. Obviously Scully won’t need to announce herself to Mulder now that Caller ID is a thing…but maybe a “Mulder, it’s me” here and there would be nice. While this is a great opportunity for the show to expand and become current again, I hope the new material references the staples we all know and love.

    My favorite overused line in X-Files, ever. Credited to the Doggett Man himself.
    My favorite overused line in X-Files, ever. Credited to the Doggett Man himself.

    On that note–upon finding out Annabeth Gish is reprising her role as Monica Reyes, I beamed at the thought of even the mention of what Agents Doggett and Reyes have been up to lately. Most people aren’t the biggest fans of the pair, but I personally love them. They bring a different element to solving cases, as well as a different type of relationship to contrast with that of Mulder & Scully. I consider Doggett & Reyes components of the “original” that I’d like to see called back to.

I want to believe this show will be a success (yeah…I went there). And I’m trying to go in with a positive outlook–especially since many Philes have waited decades for this while I’ve only had to wait a couple of months! All in all, I think this will be a great opportunity for fans, old and new, to come together.