THE X-CAST BLOG: Announcement

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Hi, X-Casters and X-Philes!

You may or may not know this, but The X-Cast is actually part of a podcast network called Black Hole Media, started by our own Assistant Director Tony Black as a home for his other podcasts, some of which no longer run regularly.

Well now it has a shiny new website, and that means The X-Cast Blog is going to look shinier too, just in a new home, alongside all the other film/TV/media writing Tony and other writers do or have been doing. Which means we’re abandoning this blog and moving here, effective immediately:

http://www.blackholemedia.online/category/x-cast-blog/

This blog won’t be going anywhere. Plenty of the articles & features will still be available to read as Tony begins the process of moving many of them steadily across to the new site (trust me, it takes ages!), and the site isn’t 100% finished yet, but from Monday you can expect X-Cast articles that are new to only be on that space.

Besides that – nothing changes! Our tournament continues apace, we have the A-Z project, the Ranked project, Sarah’s Blair Watch project, the final few Secret Agendas reviews/interviews (before we move onto the other anthologies), and the comic book reviews will be coming back soon too. This plus loads of other stuff, some of which we haven’t even thought of yet!

So yeah, stay tuned, we hope you join us at our new home and remember…

The Truth is In Here…

http://www.blackholemedia.online/category/x-cast-blog/

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Agua Mala vs Small Potatoes / My Struggle II vs Irresistible

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The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 20th/21st

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AGUA MALA vs SMALL POTATOES

Tony: “SMALL POTATOES – by a country mile.”

Carl: “Yeah, don’t think there’s much else to add. SMALL POTATOES is heading to round 2 (and beyond)…”

Sarah: “SMALL POTATOES is gonna coldcock every competitor for sure.”

Paige: “Small Potatoes doesn’t need the force to pull out a victory on this one.”

Baz: “SMALL POTATOES is the comedy masterpiece of season four, AGUA MALA is okay, but one of the weaker episodes of the very strong season six. It might get a few votes but not many.”

MY STRUGGLE II vs IRRESISTIBLE

Tony: “IRRESISTIBLE – no one forgets Donnie Pfaster but a lot of people are keen to forget the  S10 finale!”

Sarah: “Donnie Pfaster traumatized me for life. I can’t buy shampoo or clean out my hair brush without thinking of him. IRRESISTIBLE is truly frightening. It’s going far in this tournament.”

Carl: “IRRESISTIBLE will win, for sure. Like you say – once seen, never forgotten.”

Baz: “Donnie Pfaster will always be one of The X Files’s most memorable non-monster human serial killers. MY STRUGGLE II is a struggle for many reasons (pun intended :slightly_smiling_face: ) A great story rushed at a thousand miles per hour and a frustrating cliff-hanger, I can’t see it getting many votes. IRRESISTIBLE for the win!”

Paige: “And Donnie Pfaster is an indelible X-File baddie. It’s too Irresistible not to vote for that ep. We’ll see just how strong our revival contingent is on this vote, but I firmly believe Irresistible will prevail.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

THE BLAIR WATCH PROJECT #2 – ‘Requiem’

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Sarah Blair continues her ‘Blair Watch Project, by starting with The X-Files S7 finale, ‘Requiem’…

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If you’ve been keeping up-to-date on the blog or my Twitter feed, or basically anywhere, you know ‘Requiem’ was an episode I was not looking forward to watching. Honestly, in my head all I could remember was Skinner screaming for Mulder in the woods. It was traumatizing. I didn’t want to live through that again.

That being said, HOLEY BUCKETS THIS EPISODE. I don’t even know where to begin, so maybe I’ll just start with the beginning? It was exciting to get back to Bellefleur, the town where The X-Files kicked off its run. So much of the ‘Pilot’ episode came flashing back. It was like having coffee with an old pal I hadn’t had a chance to hang out with in awhile. Billy was up and about, walking and talking. And Theresa got a fabulous new haircut and had a baby. The X was still on the road!

It was a reunion of sorts, and I mean that as a compliment. Everything that was great about the ‘Pilot’ was great about ‘Requiem,’ with the bonus of the best parts of the mythology tossed in for good measure; we got the toxic alien blood, the shape-shifting bounty hunter alien clone dude, and the creeptastic quintessential X-Files moment where we see the dead sheriff in the trunk and realize what’s REALLY going on.

We also got to revisit the scene where Scully came into Mulder’s hotel room. And every Shipper unabashedly REJOICED as she climbed into bed and they snuggled up together, exactly the way we’d been hoping for all those years. (Non-shippers, go grab some iced tea and relax. This is our moment, mkay?)

Then, in proper X-Files form, just as everything was coming together… it all fell apart. Lucky for all of us, X-Caster Carl who is endlessly more profound than I am pointed out that Mulder finally gets what he’s always wanted—a prolonged alien encounter. Scully gets the baby she was hoping for. But it comes at the price of them being separated.

ANGST GALORE!!!

This episode truly encapsulates all of the things that make The X-Files, THE X-FILES. It pains me to know that kids these days won’t know the agony of waiting an ENTIRE SUMMER to find out what happens next. How will they build any character?!

Ah, well, hope to see you again on Friday, 9 p.m. EST for the next installment of the Blair Watch Project: The Season 8 premiere, ‘Within.’

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahlblair.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose vs Quagmire / Invocation vs The Erlenmeyer Flask

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The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 19th/20th

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CLYDE BRUCKMAN’S FINAL REPOSE vs QUAGMIRE

Tony: “CLYDE BRUCKMAN – probably the toughest tie this round, or one of them. Loathe as I am to lose Quagmire, Repose is my odds on favourite to win the tournament so it should conquer.”

Carl: “Well this is similar to the Jose Chung v Detour match, which ended up around 60-40 in Chung’s favour, if I recall correctly. A couple of questions come to mind:
1) Is Quagmire more popular with the fans than Detour?
2) Is Clyde Bruckman less popular with the fans than Jose Chung?

I’m not sure, but if the answer to those two questions turns out to be ‘yes’, then we could be looking at an upset here. I don’t think that’s what will happen, but I want to give Sarah a bit of hope. I expect a narrow win for CLYDE BRUCKMAN.”

Sarah: “You guys are too kind. We all know what’s going to happen here.

Paige: “I think Clyde Bruckman should pull off the win, but I’m expecting another nail-biter.”

Baz: “CLYDE BRUCKMAN’S FINAL REPOSE has so many great comic moments I can’t see it not winning (and personally I think it should). Ah poor QUAGMIRE though…it’s not quite as good (sorry @sarahlblair) and I can’t see it having as many fans as Bruckman, but it is still good enough that it deserves round two (much like Detour). It will be close though…”

INVOCATION vs THE ERLENMEYER FLASK

Tony: “FLASK – hands down the strongest finale and while Invocation is a decent one, it’s nowhere near as loved or remembered as Flask.”

Baz: “THE ERLENMEYER FLASK easily. I agree, one of the strongest finales and a great way to cap off the first season.”

Andrew: “THE ERLENMEYER FLASK is one of the best finales of the entire series. It really sets up the mythology and I think most fans find it particularly memorable for Deep Throat’s death. INVOCATION is an underrated episode, IMO, and one of the better S8 stand-alone episodes.”

Baz: “I agree. It’s not particularly memorable eighth season episode, I can’t see INVOCATION getting many votes, even though it’s a decent episode in its own right.”

Carl: “Invocation is fine, can’t see it getting anywhere near the mighty FLASK. Prediction: Flask wins by 81% to 19%.”

Paige: “FLASK in a blowout.”

Sarah: “FLASK will take the win as easily as Scully took that alien embryo.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

INTERVIEW: Lucy A. Snyder on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Along the Scenic Route’

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A short interview with author Lucy A. Snyder on her contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

LUCY A. SNYDER: The short answer is that editor Jonathan Maberry asked me if I wanted to write a story for the anthology. Because I’ve been an X-Files fan since the series premiered, I was very happy to join the project. I first knew Jonathan Maberry from the Horror Writer’s Association; a few years ago, he was co-editing a zombie anthology that unfortunately never found a home. I had submitted a story to that which he had accepted, so he knew my work and figured I’d be able to write the kind of story he wanted to see. (He also contacted me about writing poetry for Scary Out There, a YA anthology that was recently published by Simon & Schuster)

TX-C: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

LAS: I saw the series premiere back in 1993 and was instantly hooked. I loved the dark, cross-genre nature of the show — it mixed up science fiction, horror, mystery and conspiracy thriller elements. It reminded me of other shows I’d loved, such as The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. And I loved the characters, too. As much as I enjoy the genres the show explored, if I hadn’t connected with the characters, I wouldn’t have kept watching.

TX-C: What informed the decision to frame a lot of the story around Susie Rainwater?

LAS: I approached this story as if I were writing an episode in the 3rd season (my favorite season). Episodes of the show often employ multiple viewpoints to reveal story and provide clues to the viewer. Mulder and Scully often know far less than the viewer at the end of any given episode as a result. I normally stick to just one viewpoint character in a short story, but if I wanted the story to have the cinematic feel of an authentic episode, I knew I needed at least viewpoint characters. Obviously, either Mulder or Scully needed to provide the agents’ point of view.

So in planning the story, I had to figure out which other character would best show the reader more about the supernatural mystery than the agents could witness. Who would have the most at stake in the story? Who would be very close to the supernatural events? Who could act as a witness to those events without understanding them in a way that would neatly resolve the mystery for the reader? I quickly realized that young Susie Rainwater was that character, and so a fair bit of the story needed to be shown through her perspective.

TX-C: Native American legends and disrespect toward them is key to the mystery – did you always want to explore these concepts similar to X-Files episodes like ‘Shapes’ or ‘Teso Dos Bichos’?

LAS: I would say that Native American legends are certainly an important element, but whether they’re the key or not is up to the reader’s interpretation of what happens in the tale. When I was brainstorming the story, I did have those legends in mind, and I was thinking of the X-Files episodes that explore them.

TX-C: This is set immediately after Season 3’s ‘The List’, which Mulder & Scully reference – any reason why that episode specifically?

TAS: Since I knew I wanted to write something that would fit with Season 3, my initial bit of homework was to re-watch that whole season. “The List” takes place in Florida, and the episode after is “2Shy”, which is in Cleveland. Mulder and Scully are shown to be traveling by car, and that would be a long road trip of at least a thousand miles. A lot could happen on a trip like that, so wasn’t it likely that they could encounter another mystery along the way? Especially if Mulder chose the scenic route instead of the interstate? That’s the start of my story: they stop for food and then get embroiled in strange events in a small town.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

TAS: I am not a believer, but the paranormal fascinates me nonetheless. It’s entirely plot-worthy.

Many thanks to Lucy for her time. You can follow her on Twitter @LucyASnyder.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow @Mr_AJ_Black.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Dreamland vs D.P.O / Excelsis Dei vs Three Words

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The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 18th/19th

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DREAMLAND vs D.P.O

Tony: “DREAMLAND – can’t see this not winning, especially given part 2 is gone. Part 1 is the stronger episode of the two as well.”

Carl: “Agree, win for DREAMLAND in prospect. Side note: I prefer Dreamland II because it doesn’t rely on Scully being slow on the uptake.”

Sarah: “Both of these episodes have extremely strong guest stars. As much as I’m a fan of Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black, I feel like DREAMLAND has the stronger writing and more compelling story, and Michael McKean will take home the win.”

Paige: “Dreamland 1 is far superior to the second part, D.P.O. will get struck down.”

Baz: “As for DPO and DREAMLAND, I absolutely love the latter, if nothing more than seeing Mulder dancing in the reflection of the wardrobe mirror as Morris Fletcher. DPO is a good episode, but DREAMLAND is a comedy classic and it will absolutely win.”

Andrew: “I think the fact it’s got Michael McKean and it’s a shippy, comedic episode will get DREAMLAND the win.”

EXCELSIS DEI vs THREE WORDS

Tony: “THREE WORDS – I’ll give you three words: fuck Excelsis Dei.”

Carl: “Ha! Let’s do three-word responses. Mythology episode victory.”

Sarah: “Alien colonization wins.”

Paige: “There’s no way Three Words doesn’t win. Excelsis Dei is a solid episode that fits right into the early X-Files wheelhouse.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

THE X-FILES RANKED – 208: The List – (1 vote)

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Tony Black continues the ultimate X-Files countdown of all 209 episodes, as voted by you, with Season 3 Episode 5, ‘The List’…

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In what certainly came as a surprise to me, the lowest rated episode of The X-Files Season 3 has turned out to be ‘The List’; indeed this is the second worst X-File ever made with just one vote from a solitary fan. How can this be? Chris Carter’s second attempt at both writing and directing, after Season 2’s much more celebrated ‘Duane Barry’, has its flaws but does it really warrant such a low ranking? Is it worse than, say, ‘Teso Dos Bichos’ from Season 3, or even perhaps ‘The Walk’? Does it not have more to say, more to offer, than begets a place in the dreaded bottom ten? For me, the answer is without question yes.

Now that’s not me saying I consider this a favorite. I don’t. I wouldn’t put ‘The List’ anywhere near my top 25, probably not even my top 50. Yet I believe it has merit, in the story of Napoleon ‘Neech’ Manley, a murderer on Death Row who swears as he is electrocuted that he will exact vengeance, Biblically, on five men who wronged him in life, from beyond the grave. So begins a series of grisly and violent murders which Mulder & Scully arrive in smoky Florida to investigate, of principally prison guards within the penitentiary system being ran by harsh Warden Brodeur. Scully suspects a conspiracy, while Mulder becomes convinced Neech found a way to reincarnate his soul beyond death.

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‘The List’ is a dark episode. It’s violent, in places quite savagely so – see the haunting moment when Brodeur beats to death, in silhouette largely, Bokeem Woodbine’s snitch Roque. It has rotting heads being eaten by maggots, corpses decaying in attics, and it drips with hot, sweaty Floridian atmosphere. The prison set goes a lot way to enhancing this sense of atmosphere – it took 10 days to build and sent the budget way over what was planned, but it remains one of the show’s most vivid production design creations (indeed it was re-used for ‘Teso Dos Bichos’, the S3 finale ‘Talitha Cumi’ and was later rented out to other Vancouver productions). The maggots were real too!

Carter’s story here is perhaps a little soapy and histrionic in places, with the twists and turns lost under a slightly sleazy gaze, but the concepts inherent in his script are fascinating; the education of Neech, reading books about transmigration of the soul (into in this case, an ominous fly); the commentary about the defects of a corrupt prison system, not to mention the undercurrent of race relations between the black prisoners, white guards and the almost colonial approach by Brodeur, played as ever to a vicious tee by the late, lamented J.T. Walsh. There’s enough subtext behind the melodrama to make this creepy, gloomy and in places really quite gripping – and I love how the episode ends with both Mulder knowing he hasn’t quite figured everything out, before some sublime comeuppance.

It’s a shame ‘The List’ is this low because, for me, there’s a lot to like, and a lot of other X-Files which don’t match the standard shown here. It doesn’t match some of Carter’s other writer/director efforts, but Neech and his death list have always stuck in my mind. One you may want to give another look.

Our blog team also decided to rank the show based on their own lists, so here’s what they picked in 208th place:

Tony: “FEARFUL SYMMETRY: utter utter nonsense from beginning to end. Alien animal abduction is fine but not when it’s tied into a horrendously preachy plot about activism, replete with a teeth-gratingly annoying guest performance from Jayne Atkinson. The moment the invisible elephant appeared is the moment I shouted BOLLOCKS. Complete shite.”

Andrew: “TESO DOS BICHOS: Just a boring episode. Terrible idea, poor execution, and just… boring.”

Carl: “FIRST PERSON SHOOTER. Asinine, juvenile nonsense. Calibrated to appeal to adolescent horndogs, badly damaging the integrity of the characters of Mulder & The Lone Gunmen as it goes. Feints at being a satire, but lacks any teeth or conviction. Boring, but punctuated by some unintentional hilarity. Given as Tony has lowered the tone by swearing, I’ll join in: First Person Shooter is a bag of wank.”

Paige: “SHAPES. The show often tackled real issues, with differing degrees of success. I feel they felt short here on the Native American front and not only that, the ep bored me to tears.”

Sarah: “JUMP THE SHARK. This is one where my personal feelings overrule my critical opinion. The Lone Gunmen were icons of the show. They deserved much better.”

Do you agree with this episode ranking? Let us know what you would put in this spot on Facebook, Twitter or via comments below!

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas vs Genderbender / The Unnatural vs Max

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The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 17th/18th

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THE GHOSTS WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS vs GENDERBENDER

Tony: “GHOSTS – absolute slam dunk here, even though Genderbender isn’t a terrible episode.”

Sam: “I’m not even going to dignify this with an answer.”

Carl: “Yep, big win coming for the festive favourite.”

Sarah: “No brainer.”

Andrew: “I like both of these episodes, though GHOSTS comes out on top. It’s an annual X-Mas tradition for me!”

Baz: “GHOSTS for an easy win. Does anyone really like GENDERBENDER? it’s not terrible but it’s not great either.”

THE UNNATURAL vs MAX

Tony: “THE UNNATURAL – shipper moments galore and it’s probably the better episode, but Max is a cracking tale & I’ll be sad to see it vanish.”

Sarah: “(Vanish–nicely played Tony). THE UNNATURAL- A fantastic performance by Jesse L. Martin, with the addition of a compelling story and break from the standard episode format, I think this one will go far. Max certainly isn’t without merit, though!”

Carl: “I also expect THE UNNATURAL to go through – a lotta love out there for Duchovny’s baseball fable.”

Paige: “I’m not a huge Unnatural fan, but it has a really nice touch. It’s a shame Max has to go out in the first round, it’s an amazing episode that feels and looks like a feature film.”

Baz: “With the first two choices? I think THE UNNATURAL will win for its unique concept and great performances. I kind of prefer MAX, which is a good if not great conclusion to the season four two-parter, but I can’t see it winning.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.

REVIEW – The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Along the Scenic Route’

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Tony Black looks at the fourteenth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Along the Scenic Route’…

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Written by Lucy A. Snyder

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

The penultimate story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas is more of an aside from Lucy A. Snyder than a full-on case itself, as ‘Along the Scenic Route’ which Mulder & Scully take on their way back from events of the episode, ‘The List’ (placing this roughly around early Season Three), sees them stumbling in on problems in a small-town possessed it appears by strange visions with fatalistic results. Snyder from the outset presents this more as a consequence of Mulder & Scully constantly being drawn to the paranormal and has some fun playing up on the idea for once they’re not actually desperate to hang around and investigate.

Events spiral mostly around Susie Rainwater, a young girl suffering intense headaches, as the townsfolk in Tilton are seeing strange angels or devils or snakes across town, which could be hallucinogenic manifestations based on mold spores harvested from the Rainwater farm, but which could also connect back to Native American legends of sacred ground. Snyder’s story to an extent shares some DNA with ‘Teso Dos Bichos’ (don’t worry, it’s better!) or in some ways ‘Shapes’, that idea of the ignorant white man looking to stamp all over ancient tradition and culture. That lies at the heart of the story and while the pantomime thuggery of said white man is a little on the nose for The X-Files, the ambiguity behind what could be causing this is welcome.

It’s really Scully who cooks up most of the theory in this one, the scientific theory, for what may be going on, while Mulder doesn’t particularly leap to too many conclusions; Snyder just leaves dangling a few possibilities as to what the cause might be, and it’s not the kind of story which has a Mulder theory that ties everything up in a little bow. It becomes clear that Susie may be the primary catalyst for the weirdness but, again, the specific reasons are left open to debate. Snyder characterizes well along the way – she captures Scully’s scientific rigor & Mulder’s louche wit well, while Susie’s childlike approach, when written in her POV, helps alleviate some of the cliched elements of the story.

A simple, well-told and decently written tale, ‘Along the Scenic Route’, wedging itself within X-Files continuity without falling into the trap of needing too heavily to connect back to the overarching mythos or tap into the lead characters psychology. Lucy A. Snyder simply tells a solid, interesting and open-ended short story effectively, and that makes it a welcome addition to Secret Agendas.

Look out for an exclusive interview this week with Lucy A. Snyder about her story.

Rating: 7/10

You can follow Tony @Mr_AJ_Black on Twitter.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man vs Memento Mori / The Calusari vs Schizogeny

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The X-Cast blog team are going to share their daily predictions about the Episode Tournament fixtures coming up, talking about who they think will win (not crucially who *should* win – that’s up to you!).

January 16th/17th

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MUSINGS OF A CIGARETTE-SMOKING MAN vs MEMENTO MORI

Tony: “MEMENTO MORI – this is a good tie! I think the shipper moments in MM will carry the day but Musings is the stronger, more interesting episode. Would be sad to lose it this early.”

Carl: “Yes, exactly. I think MEMENTO MORI will win. I hope Musings gets a lot of support, but we’ll see.”

Sarah: “Gotta admit, I’m not looking forward to this match. A beautiful introspective Scully episode vs a clever and interesting insight on CSM, both are worthy in completely different ways. I’m thinking recent news of Gillian Anderson dating Peter Morgan might swing the angry Gillovny vote in favor of MUSINGS and it’ll pull through to the next round.”

Baz: “See, i think MUSINGS has a lot of fans and a story centred around the Cigarette Smoking Man is always a winner. I think it will win, but not by much. MEMENTO MORI is a great episode but as it centres around Scully’s cancer, it’s also a little grim and might put people off.”

Paige: “I think Memento Mori will take the day because of the boffo performances.”

THE CALUSARI vs SCHIZOGENY

Tony: “THE CALUSARI – snooze fests all round but the sheer meh of Schizogeny should give The Calusari a win.”

Sarah: “I haven’t been able to watch THE CALUSARI since my son was born. Utterly terrifying. But those trees in SCHIZOGENY along with the fear of being locked inside a basement are forever etched into my mind, and I think it’ll make that one memorable enough to pull ahead with the win.”

Carl: “The Calusari is the only episode to be rated ’18’ in the U.K. Whatever wins probably won’t go any further. Honestly not sure – I’ll predict a win for SCHIZOGENY.”

Paige: “Calusari is a definite creep-fest. Counting on that to edge Schizogeny, but they’re both pretty close in my book.”

Make sure you’re following our tournament with the hashtag #TheXFilesEpisodeTournament on Twitter.