X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

The X-Files: Cold Cases review & podcast

The X-Files: Cold Cases was released on July 18 2017. It is an audio drama adaptation of the first half of the Season 10” comics of Joe Harris (2013-2014). Not an audio book reading of prose, but an audio drama, featuring a cast of actors and audio effects that make it as if it were an audio recording of a theatre play or the sound track of a movie. Like the radio dramas popular up to the 1950s-1060s (the most famous of which would be Orson Welles’ 1938 adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, which genuinely generated panic that an alien invasion was going on!). There had been a previous attempt at doing X-Files audio dramas, by Broken Sea Audio Productions in 2009-2010, however it was unofficial and did not feature anyone from the original cast.


Hear Carl Sweeney and myself discuss X-Files, EatTheCorn and Cold Cases
in (quite fittingly!) an audio format, in The X-Cast podcast: here!


Cold Cases was produced by Amazon’s Audible, adapted by Dirk Maggs (also interviewed by the X-Cast here), directed by William Dufris, and featuring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood from the original series. Chris Carter gets a “written by” credit, although we know his involvement with the comics was very minimal; Joe Harris’s involvement in this was non-existent, as Audible must have just gotten the license to exploit X-Files products directly by the owner, FOX, and not by IDW comics (with some odd results, such as Harris not being invited on-stage at the Cold Cases panel in the San Diego Comic Con).

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It totals about 4 hours in length, broken down into chapters, each being a story arc from the comics that spanned from one to five issues. Here is the story, along with the detailed series of “Lowdown” articles analyzing each issue as it was coming out here at EatTheCorn — and thus there are no spoilers for future issues in each Lowdown:

  • Episode 1: Believers (1:10:13): Lowdown #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
  • Episode 2: Hosts (00:37:55): Lowdown #6 #7
  • Episode 3: Being for the Benefit of Mr. X (00:24:56): Lowdown #8
  • Episode 4: More Musings of the Cigarette-Smoking Man (00:23:21): Lowdown #10
  • Episode 5: Pilgrims (01:27:53): Lowdown #11 #12 #13 #14 #15

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Some remarks on Cold Cases:

The story: This is a page-per-page adaptation of the comics, surprisingly very faithful to the source material. There is plenty I loved, as my Lowdowns show, and although not perfect in many aspects this is a superior continuation to the one we got in the 2016 Event Series. However, experiencing 15 months’ worth of comics issues along with the awarding re-reading sessions and analysis that came with it adapted into a condensed 4 hours is very odd; I would say the medium does not invite one to ponder the meticulous mysteries in Harris’s new mythology and explore the connections with past mythology. That being said, it is difficult to imagine how one would receive this audio drama if he/she wouldn’t have read the comics; my imagination is certainly shaped by what I saw on the printed/tablet page.

Canonicity: Cold Cases follows the post-I Want To Believe “Season 10/Season 11” comics continuity of the Joe Harris comics that started in 2013, when there was no certainty that there would be more (live) X-Files, and are thus at complete odds with the continuity established by the 2016 Event Series (itself unofficially dubbed “season 10”). There is no attempt to reconcile continuities. As pointed out by others as well, it’s unfortunate and an odd starting point for an audio adaptation, but one has to deal with it.

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Differences with the comics: Some things are added in the audio that are good (better links and flow between episodes, things missing from the Event Series like FBI training for reinstatement, a particular rape scene in #13 was removed, some reordering in the scenes so as not to have much back and forth in the timeline) and some are…less good (some of the obligatory exposition, like some of the Lone Gunmen not remembering Scully had a child, more ambiguity as to who William’s father is, the CSM constantly being called “Spender” and all the Elders like Well-Manicured Man being called that in-universe, a very talky Mr. X…).

On the audio drama itself: There’s some excellent stuff here: W.B.Davis’ and Pileggi’s performances in particular are top-notch; there was extensive work on the sound design and sound effects (particularly Hosts; but the voices of all the shapeshifters and Black Oil-possessed people do sound silly); there’s even some moody background music, although you have to pump the volume up (and not using Mark Snow’s music is a missed opportunity); and although nearly all actors did their recordings separate the editing is well done. And then there’s some…less good stuff: Duchovny in particular was not into this, and Anderson is at times into it and at times not; as a result, some scenes that are supposed to have urgency fall flat (the climax to Pilgrims, for instance); and not all of the original cast is back and for substantial roles (Krycek, X, Deep Throat) this takes you out of the story.

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Overall: It’s an interesting product, but one can’t shake the feeling that it’s a marketing product, a tie-in to a tie-in merchandise. The choice to adapt these comics in particular with very little changes is odd, though. There was no attempt to reconcile these comics with the live series continuity; there was no attempt to rewrite parts of it so that the Season 10+11 story would be a more cohesive whole (given that the Season 11 comics were cut short and several threads were left hanging, e.g. Krycek and the Acolytes); there was no attempt to flesh out the scenes between Mulder and Scully and give more material to Anderson and Duchovny given this unique opportunity (Joe Harris is a big, big fan of the mythology characters and of Mulder but his scenes where Mulder and Scully interacted were lacking in depth and feeling).

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Next: Cold Cases will continue with Stolen Lives, to be released on October 3 2017, which will cover the second half of Harris’s Season 10 (#16-25 and also #9: Chitter, which was skipped in Cold Cases). The recordings for both halves were done together around Autumn 2016, however Audible is releasing these separately. In order to wrap up the story, they would have to go back to recording and adapt the Season 11 comics, which ends the story in a satisfactory way. Given that Cold Cases became an Audible best seller in the first days of its release (!), that might just happen!

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