Colin Polonowski has reviewed the Region 2 release of The X Files: Deadalive. A combination of two episodes from the shows eighth season, this DVD is something of a missed opportunity. Does the lack of a widescreen transfer really matter?
Fans be warned – this review will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen past the end of the seventh season proceed with caution!
For years, fans of the X Files had to make do with occasional releases of some of the key episodes in the form of feature-length VHS edits. These would take two or three episodes and would edit them together in such a way that they would appear to be one longer story. More recently we’ve had the VHS, and now DVD boxsets but these single-story releases have continued at a reduced pace. The latest is Deadalive which combines the episodes ‘This is not happening’ and ‘Deadalive’ – both of which formed part of the eighth season.
The last episode of season seven saw lead man Fox Mulder (Duchovny) get abducted by aliens. Replacing Mulder for much of the following season we have new FBI Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick) taking over Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) old role as the sceptic – having now seen so much that is unexplained she has come to believe as Mulder did in the existence of paranormal phenomenon.
Deadalive is a major episode in the shows eighth season – having resigned herself to believing Mulder is gone for good, Scully is distraught to discover that he may be alive as one of the women abducted at the same time is discovered barely alive following a UFO sighting. As non-X-Files fans will be all too aware, the arc-based nature of the series makes it very difficult for occasional viewers to follow the ongoing plot strands. Deadalive has the unfortunate added difficulty in that is follows on directly from the episodes at the start of the season (“Requiem” was released only on VHS) and in some ways feels very much like the second part of a two-part story. However, there’s enough here for you to pick up on what’s been going on if you persevere for the first thirty-forty minutes.
Season eight of the series certainly has managed to recapture some of the shine that was lost in the previous few seasons. The new dynamic introduced by the addition of Robert Patrick as a principle cast member has allowed the writing team to come up with some fresh new takes on what was becoming a very tired formula. For those who abandoned the show when it all became a bit too po-faced, Deadalive is a nice reminder of what things should be like and is a good example of what recent episodes have had to offer.
Oh dear, it was all sounding so good wasn’t it. Anyone who has seen our news updates on this disc will be aware that we haven’t got a widescreen transfer – even following the confirmation that this was the case I was still hoping against hope that there was still a chance for a widescreen release. There wasn’t.
One of the key areas where the DVD could have improved over VHS would have been to include a widescreen transfer – there’s no excuse not to as by just turning on the Pan & Scan flag Fox could have catered for both markets. Instead we’re forced to watch a cropped (not even Pan & Scanned as far as I can tell) transfer that loses forty percent of the total picture. In terms of quality, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Infinitely superior to VHS, the DVD is still lacking a certain something. While for the most part its sharp and well defined, there is quite a high level of noticeable grain which if not totally distracting still detracts from the picture score even more. The good news is that it’s several steps up the ladder from the season 1 and 2 boxsets with none of the picture issues from them being present. This bodes well for later season boxsets.
The sound is presented in the original Dolby Surround. The two-channel track is pretty impressive in that it manages to surround the viewer almost as well as a basic 5.1 channel track. There is plenty of (obviously mono) surround action and the front soundstage is wide and active. There is a little in the way of low-frequency noise to make use of your sub, but nothing hugely noticeable. The dialogue is nice and clear. I did get the feeling that the music was a little out of proportion at times, but this was down to the original mix more than the DVD transfer.
The extras are fairly limited – we have two parts of a profile of new character John Doggett. The first is more of a trailer/introduction to the main feature while the second part runs for about five minutes and features a little more including interviews with Robert Patrick, Mitch Pileggi and X Files director Tony Wharmby. There is little here to attract you back after the initial viewing – however I will say that it does help to bring occasional viewers back into the story more easily than just watching the episode itself.
Why oh why have Fox taken such a promising concept and completely missed the boat. We’re well aware of their ability to produce some stunning discs, but unfortunately this isn’t one of them. Of course with the main choice being between this DVD and the simultaneous VHS release, this is certainly the one to go for due to the minimal difference in price.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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