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

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


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.


THE X-FILES RANKED: 209 – Miracle Man (0 votes)

Sarah Blair begins the ultimate X-Files countdown of all 209 episodes, starting from the very bottom to the top as voted by you, with Season 1 Episode 18, ‘Miracle Man’…


Here we have it, the one and only episode of The X-Files to come through with zero votes. To be quite honest, I thought there would have been more episodes to surface empty-handed. I most definitely never would have guessed the one to obtain this dubious honor would be ‘Miracle Man.’

Certainly, there are many endeavors over the course of the show that didn’t quite pan out the way Chris Carter and crew might have liked. Not all of them can be winners. With a breakneck production schedule, as well as monetary and network challenges, honestly, it’s a wonder The X-Files was able to pull off as many spectacular episodes that it did. But out of all of them, I feel like ‘Miracle Man’ is deserving of at least one vote.

As episode 18 of the first season, this marks the first ever writing collaboration between the show’s creator Chris Carter and producer Howard Gordon. In this standalone, agents Mulder and Scully travel to a small town in Tennessee to investigate a death in a popular tent ministry. The son of the minister is said to have the power to heal the sick, but his gift of life seems to have turned into the touch of death. Upon a re-watch, it seems there are a lot of ideas trying to be dealt with in a short amount of time. And isn’t that somewhat typical for the episodes penned by Carter? A great man with big ideas and not enough time and space to flesh them out properly. There’s the overarching theme of faith, along with Samuel’s struggle with his gift, and Mulder’s search and longing for his sister thrown in for good measure. All topics which could have been singled out and honed in on to craft a more memorable viewing experience.


One of only four episodes in the series directed by Michael Lange, it’s relatively straightforward, focusing mostly on the story rather than any spectacular visual effects. Not to mention, there was the giant hurdle of trying to make-over several Vancouver locations meant to represent Tennessee, and the fact that the Canadian actors all had a different idea of what a Southern American accent sounds like. (Side note: As a girl born and raised in Tennessee, I can tell you not one of them came close to sounding like a true Tennessean, but I applaud the effort.)

The moments where Mulder clings to the idea of discovering more about what might have become of his sister, and Scully rushing in to prevent him from having the wool pulled over his eyes are strong in establishing the foundation of each character and the relationship between them as partners and friends. Overall, this is where I believe the episode obtains most of its value.

Is ‘Miracle Man’ an outstanding or memorable episode? Not particularly. But it doesn’t entirely lack merit, and it deserves at least one point—if only for participation.

Memorable Quotes:

Sheriff Daniels: “99% of the people in this world are fools, and the rest of us are in danger of contagion.”


Mulder: “I think I saw some of these same people at Woodstock.”

Scully: “Mulder, you weren’t at Woodstock.”

Mulder: “I saw the movie.”


Scully: “You’ve got that look on your face, Mulder.”

Mulder: “What look is that?”

Scully: “The kind when you’ve forgotten your keys and you’re trying to figure out how to get back in the house.”

Our blog team also decided to rank the show based on their own lists, so here’s what they picked in 209th place:

Tony: “BABYLON. For years it would probably have been ‘Fearful Symmetry’, but this was just absolute indefensible guff. Rampantly pretentious, borderline offensive in its approach to racial politics, and nonsensical while trying to be profound – Mulder’s acid trip is just about the worst idea the show ever did, and this show did invisible elephants and space ghosts. This episode can fuck the fuck off until the end of time.”

Andrew: “BABYLON. Shallow, terrible, terrible dialogue, terrible characterization, just terrible on absolutely every single front. No mystery here. Just Chris Carter at his absolute worst. This episode makes ‘Fight Club’ look like a Marx brothers’ masterpiece. Warning: The Mulder dance sequence may induce vomiting.”

Paige: “3. It’s an easy target — an early ep without Scully. But there’s just nothing remotely likeable about this one. It utilizes dozens of standard vampire conventions with the added hubris of casting David Duchovny’s then-girlfriend so Mulder can get some.”

Carl: “FIGHT CLUB. Mulder gets sucked into a storm drain and misses part of the action during this episode, and to be honest I was somewhat envious. It’s a screechingly unfunny, tonally incoherent mishmash of an X-File with nothing to recommend about it. Doppelgängers are clearly something that interest Carter, but he found much better ways to incorporate them into other episodes.”

Sarah: “THE TRUTH 1 &2. A ridiculous and unfulfilling finale as far as series finales go. It’s the one and only episode on the show I’ve taken a solemn vow to never watch again. I’d like to live in my little bubble and pretend it doesn’t even exist. It was a great relief when we got the second film and a much more satisfying ending.”

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

REVIEW – The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘All Choked Up’

Tony Black looks at the thirteenth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘All Choked Up’…


Written by Lois H. Gresh

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

Sometimes you get an X-Files story that just doesn’t feel like The X-Files, and Secret Agendas serves one up here in ‘All Choked Up’ from Lois H. Gresh. There’s just something as a bit too pulpy and on the nose about Gresh’s story that feels off in terms of Chris Carter’s series, and while it’s nice to see Scully once again get the focus (indeed in first person as well), her inner monologue didn’t always sound like you’d imagine Scully would; moreover, certain interactions between our leads with characters such as Skinner (who feels too wily & playful) and the Cigarette Smoking Man (who comes across too cartoonish) just don’t track. Dare I say it, the whole story feels very much like an X-File written by someone who hasn’t seen much of The X-Files.

Whether or not that’s true, it’s hard to judge, and I wouldn’t serve to presume. Gresh writes straight up, pulls no punches, and there’s nothing especially wrong with her prose, it’s her story that for me was full of problems. For example, Mulder & Scully talk throughout about the ‘Syndicate’ as if it’s common knowledge as a name like they’re talking about ‘SPECTRE’, say – they just didn’t do that in the show, it wasn’t a reference point. Also, a sub-basement for secret, clandestine experiments… right under FBI headquarters? Accessible only by secret codes? Really? Even for this show, that’s a silly stretch. It also leads to a really cartoonish fight with the Smoking Man which is entirely out of a different

It also leads to a really cartoonish fight with the Smoking Man which is entirely out of a different series and didn’t sit well at all. What’s a shame is that the central mystery–involving a piece of AI technology which may be crushing people inside clothing they wear–is quite clever and unique, but it’s dealt with in a jarring manner. Ironically, it doesn’t have enough time to breathe.

‘All Choked Up’ is probably my least favorite tale in Secret Agendas because it simply doesn’t feel personal and befitting to Mulder and Scully, that it could have been ported into various different shows and tweaked a slightly different way. It lacks that focus, that tonal accuracy, the character voices aren’t always there, Scully’s POV doesn’t seem to have much point, and there are one or two plot holes that stood out (why, Skinner, did you care so much about Curlie?). While I admire the attempt, this one falls short.

Rating: 4/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

REVIEW: The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Kanashibari’

Tony Black looks at the twelfth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Kanashibari’…


Written by Ryan Cady

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

Now here’s an urban myth I’ve heard of before – the Kanashibari, a terrifying Japanese folk tale of an old hag who haunts the dreams of people in what would be referred to as night terrors. Ryan Cady captures the concept of such a creature well in ‘Kanashibari’, the twelfth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas, clouding the very notion of what reality means in terms of the dream world and how potentially said unconscious can hurt us in the real world. In that sense it beats similarities with Season 2’s ‘Sleepless’, but tonally and in terms of atmosphere shares as much in common with Ringu and other Japanese horror tales. Cady manages to craft a solid tale which remains, to a degree, open to interpretation.

You see it’s never quite clear whether we’re dealing here with a genuinely supernatural occurrence, a terrifyingly described ‘Old Hag’ with a shock of hair and white face which creeps onto and attacks you while you sleep, or a chemically induced series of hallucinations tapping into that fear response within REM sleep, and Cady does a very good job of letting Scully have as strong an explanation for what’s happening here as Mulder himself does, he quick to leap to the fact a spiritual evil presence is lurking beyond the dream world.

Whether or not the Kanashibari is real, Cady manages to craft some genuinely unsettling moments for Mulder & Scully as they are assailed by terrifying dreams, in strongest written parts of the story; the whole piece is less effective when dabbling in the supporting Japanese father/son difficulties in Los Angeles, though Cady nicely suggests the City of Angels isn’t quite as glorious as it seems, given how Scully reacts to the heat in November. It has nice incidental touches.

What ‘Kanashibari’ also has going for it is, arguably, the best final scene in Secret Agendas, as Ryan Cady weaves a wonderful little stinger at the end, just when you think everything has been relatively wrapped up in a neat little bow. It leaves you going ‘ooooh’ in the best tradition of The X-Files, in a way not every story in this anthology has done. It deserves applause for that and some evocative writing along the way.

Look out for our exclusive interview with Ryan Cady about his story later this week.

Rating: 7/10

You can follow Tony @Mr_AJ_Black on Twitter.

REVIEW: The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘An Eye for An Eye’

Tony Black looks at the eleventh story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘An Eye for an Eye’…


Written by George Ivanoff

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

Hands down, this is the weirdest and creepiest story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas. No question. ‘An Eye for an Eye’ is short, sharp, punchy and really really strange from George Ivanoff, revolving around something we take for granted on a daily basis – our precious two eyes. Set during the first season much like the last story, Ivanoff begins in media res with Mulder right in the middle of an incredibly unnerving situation as some kind of bizarre creature made up of eyes begins sucking his eyeball out of his socket, before snapping us back in time to how the agents came to face such a truly weird creature, amongst the weirdest The X-Files has ever given us.

Ivanoff’s writing is to the point but really engaging throughout, reading fast and fun, and he manages to nail Mulder’s headlong exuberance to believe the weirdest explanation in contrast to Scully’s measured response, as they begin investigating people from wildly different backgrounds who’ve had one of their eyes sucked out of their heads, before forgetting how it happened in the first place.

It’s a quick tale which is more interested in getting us to the climax than dwelling on the investigation, with Ivanoff’s writing being heavily dialogue-based as Mulder & Scully meet the victims (but he does get in a nice homosexual couple, and a welcome touch given this is set mid-90’s) and then find the perp, but it’s the encounter Mulder specifically has when they do come face to face with the monster here that makes the story; it’s disturbing, very weird, and suggests historical child abuse may be a causal factor, plus it’s all tied in with Biblical & religious overtones, which you can imagine given the title. The ending is icky & trippy and would really give you the shivers if you saw it on screen, which any good X-File should do.

Another fine story here from Secret Agendas, which rockets along from George Ivanoff and delivers a supremely creepy and strange villain, good character interactions, sprightly plotting and a memorable climax. ‘An Eye for an Eye’ may also make you wonder if you should ever wear glasses ever again!

Check in later this week for an exclusive interview with George Ivanoff about his story!

Rating: 8/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black

REVIEW: The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Stryzga’

Tony Black looks at the tenth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Stryzga’…


Written by Lauren A. Forry

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

So far in The X-Files: Secret Agendas we’ve had a range of stories that attempt to get under the skin of Mulder & Scully, while both weaving in mytharc elements and more often than not, deliberate connections to X-Files events of the past. ‘Stryzga’, from writer Lauren A. Forry, is the first one to truly get the mixture right for my money, and for all of these tales–most of which have been great thus far–this one feels like an X-File of old we might see on TV the most.

Set during the first season of the show, it takes place just after the bleak ending of ‘Darkness Falls’ where, you’ll remember, Mulder & Scully only just got out of woods alive (literally). Forry intentionally chooses to play on that fact as she weaves a story that sends the duo back into the woods, in a way that feels worthy and un-intrusive.

You have a solid gribbly in the mix for this story too, as the titular Stryzga is a Slavic monster of legend which appears to have killed a Polish national in a former nature reserve, and Mulder delivers one of his classic projector lectures to Scully whilst throughout the story projecting his own concern about whether she should be back on field duty so soon, after she came off the tree bug attack in ‘Darkness Falls’ in a much worse way than he; it didn’t necessarily need any focus, as we took them both being fine for granted come the next episode, but Forry plays this beat naturally enough for it to *be* natural and provide a central level of depth to their burgeoning partnership which gives the story ever so slightly more weight.

Beyond that, it’s a damn fine monster of the week story, essentially, with a few twists and turns along the way in terms of questioning man’s abhorrent treatment of nature and some creepy secrets involving children and bizarre radiation tests. Crucially, Scully always provides a scientific explanation or attempt at one when Mulder is off theorising about two hearted monsters with double teeth, in precisely the way the show would do. It builds to a relatively swift but satisfying conclusion that ends on a comic beat but with the door still open.

It’s among the more traditional stories in this anthology but that really works to its benefit – with fine writing from Lauren A. Forry, who nails characterisation as well as story, it’s not the most out there or inventive of the volume but it could well be among my favorites.

Rating: 8/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black

REVIEW: The X Files Origins

Matthew, son of Carl, Sweeney makes his reviewing debut for The X-Cast blog by taking a look at The X-Files: Origins…

Hi, my name is Matthew and I’ve been watching The X-Files for a while now with my dad. I started reading The X-Files Origins comics a few months ago. I am 9 years old.

These comics are 2 in 1, which is great. On one side is Scully’s story and, if you flip over, on the other side is Mulder’s. By the way, these stories are about an event in their childhood.

Scully’s Story


Her story is about the murder of her Sunday school teacher. She wants to find out who the killer was but is her father involved? I thought it was interesting because I never knew what was going to happen next. Was her father going to betray the Navy or was he going to help the Navy?


I admire Corin Howell’s artwork and Monica Kubina’s colours because they made the pictures look well designed.

I would give Scully’s story 5 files out of 5.

Mulder’s Story


Mulder’s story is about him and his friends sneaking into the woods trying to find a UFO. But is Eric’s dad involved?

I thought it was a good story but it wasn’t as good as Scully’s. As I said before, I appreciate the beautiful designs of the pictures. For Mulder’s story the art and colours are by Chris Fenoglio.

I would give Mulder’s story 4 and a half files out of 5.



I thought it was a very good comic overall but I preferred Scully’s story because it was more exciting. I believe other children would like these stories because they are interesting. I would like more of these fantastic tales. I hope the new books coming soon about young Mulder and Scully are as good as these comics.

Matthew is watching selected episodes of The X-Files for the first time. So far, his favorite episode is ‘Ghost In The Machine’ and his favorite character is Dana Scully.

REVIEW – The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘A Scandal in Moreauvia, or The Adventure of the Empty Heart’

Tony Black looks at the ninth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘A Scandal in Moreauvia, or The Adventure of the Empty Heart’…


Written by Nancy Holder

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

In the ninth story of The X-Files: Secret Agendas, writer Nancy Holder takes a big big risk by bringing back one of the show’s most reviled characters: Inspector Phoebe Green! ‘A Scandal in Moreauvia, or The Adventure of the Empty Heart’ is without doubt not just a curio but one of the most entertaining stories in this anthology, primarily because it really strives to do something different. Holder not only takes Mulder & Scully out of their comfort zone but even out of their country, placing them in England for the kind of tale it’s a shame, if understandable, the TV series never actually did – connect Mulder back with an even greater tether to his 19th century inspiration, Sherlock Holmes, and touch again on his British Oxford education roots. It doesn’t quite stick the landing, but Holder’s story stands out in several unique ways.

Firstly, she really nails these characters, perhaps more than any other writer has quite done yet in this anthology. Holder gets that blend of dogged determination mixed with dry sarcasm in Mulder down pat, as she does the continued exasperation of Scully, who serves as the perspective for this story. Holder really plays up on the visible dislike Scully had for Phoebe during ‘Fire’, which this can be considered a semi-sequel to; with the comparison being much more on the nose to Sherlock and Irene Adler, down to the cod-Dr Moreau, 19th century literature title, the myriad of Holmes references, and of course a major chunk of the story taking place on Dartmoor. Phoebe is as slippery and annoying as she was when Amanda Pays played her, but that just means she’s written well, and arguably the first half of the story as Phoebe leads Mulder into a particularly paranormal case is the strongest.

Holder perhaps falls down by trying too hard to connect this back to the mytharc, which oddly enough has been a recurring problem in many of the stories in Secret Agendas. She makes a point of setting this early in Season 3, tethering it pointedly to the ‘Anasazi’ trilogy and trying to connect the thematic element of the story to Mulder’s brush with death in the boxcar and his ‘rebirth’, but it feels enormously forced in many places. The whole discovery Mulder & Scully make smacks of Fight the Future too and, oddly, almost doesn’t seem to fit their Sherlockian surroundings. It’s almost as if Holder had a different kind of story in mind and wanted to wrong foot us, when perhaps the original narrative might have been more rewarding. It’s a shame, as the promise of the story doesn’t quite pay off.

Regardless, ‘A Scandal in Moreauvia’ beyond its narrative problems and fan service is among the strongest penned in the Secret Agendas anthology, and just for the fact she gets away with bringing Phoebe Green back, Nancy Holder deserves a round of applause!

Rating: 7/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black

REVIEW: The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Border Time’

Tony Black looks at the eighth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Border Time’…


Written by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Kate Corcino

Edited by Jonathan Maberry

The eighth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas plays it straighter than many of the other tales in the anthology, which have in some places attempted to mix up the storytelling with X-Files which think outside the box. ‘Border Time’ is a very solid, standard kind of story which would have fitted perfectly well as a mid-season episode. Co-written by Bryan Michael Schmidt & Kate Corcino, and set roughly around the third season of the series, it balances a rather traditional investigation for Mulder & Scully as a dead young woman turns up mutilated on the US side of the Mexican border, with an attempt to get under the skin of Mulder’s obsession and lightly throw in some mytharc along the way. It’s only partially successful, unfortunately.

The main problem is that the repeated references to Samantha and Mulder’s personalizing of cases just doesn’t feel earned. He did this more than once in episodes such as ‘Oubliette’ or of course ‘Paper Hearts’, but in both cases the writing was either subtle or Samantha’s abduction directly connected to the story – here it feels like a reference point being forced, and given Schmidt & Corcino don’t tell the story from Mulder’s perspective & inner monologue, it often feels like the writer pointing and going “look, like this like Samantha, look!”. It becomes jarring after a while.

Equally not really clicking is the mytharc link to what otherwise seems to be an organized murder operation, and again the inclusion of a fan-favourite mythology character only serves to highlight how much he doesn’t fit tonally with everything that has preceded his appearance. It feels an odd & unsatisfying twist the story didn’t need, again mainly there to underline the attempts to connect to Samantha.

It’s unfortunate because ‘Border Time’ does have some good moments and character interactions, with Schmidt & Corcino getting the voices and actions of Mulder & Scully down well. They touch on the whole aspect of border patrols, illegal workers and the plight of young women being prey to abuse in the area, and supporting characters such as Lupo are well drawn as the investigation deepens – it’s purely from a narrative perspective where it goes wrong and trying to shoehorn an emotional connection to Mulder’s psychology into the story.

Rating: 6/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black

REVIEW: The X-Files Season 10 (comic) – ‘Monica & John’

Tony Black reviews issue #18 of The X-Files: Season 10 comic run, ‘Monica & John’…


Written by Joe Harris

Art by Matthew Dow Smith

Joe Harris addresses a very open, dangling thread in The X-Files Season 10 with ‘Monica & John’, a one-shot which calls back to the opening story, ‘Believers’, and serves to answer the question: what happened to Agents John Doggett & Monica Reyes, of course the mainstays of the last two seasons of the show before the revival. Much like they were sidelined for the actual season 10, Harris understandably chose to do the same in the comic to place the focus on Mulder & Scully, but it feels at the expense of two key characters in the latter half of the show’s mythos. It’s very likely Harris planned it this way all along, but it’s at the same time a long time coming.

With only a few pages to spare, Harris spins a story which brings Doggett & Reyes back into the fold in unusual circumstances, with at the outset the twist that Doggett appears to have been Reyes’ captor for eighteen long months. In the end, the revelations concern the strange Deacons from ‘Believers’, the alien hooded beings who seemed to be involved in the new conspiracy, and this just serves to deepen the enigma of the new mytharc and in time-honored X-Files fashion, pose more questions than it answers.


Why were Doggett & Reyes being held? What connection does it have to the Deacon monitoring star patterns & presaging his own death? This merely establishes the complication and gets the Agents back in the FBI radar by the end, and thanks to some grimy panels and good drawing of the captured, harried Doggett & Reyes by Matthew Dow Smith, you do feel that sense of atmosphere to an otherwise brief piece which doesn’t have time to do much but catch us up.

Oddly it also lacks any presence of Mulder, but that’s perhaps a conscious choice so the focus can zero in more on the missing Agents, and the way Scully nicely reacts to seeing Doggett reminds us she was always the one with the bond with him, and Reyes, not really Mulder. It’s just a shame ‘Monica & John’ just seems to come out of nowhere, with no reminders since the opening story that anyone at the FBI was concerned they’ve been gone, and it’s all too brief to really feel much more like a minisode filling in gaps.

Rating: 6/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.