« Administrivia | Main | Taking My Money - By Strategy »

October 17, 2004

Conspiracy Done Right

I always maintained that the one thing I never liked about the X-Files was the -- interminable -- government conspiracy plot. I loved the weaving of Fortean phenomena into an otherwise pedestrian police procedural plot. I vastly enjoyed the episodes where they placed tongue firmly in cheek and took themselves not one whit seriously (Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose with Peter Boyle being a marvellously understated example, Bad Blood a less understated, hilarious one). I'll even admit to enjoying the appearances of William B. Davis, the 'cigarette smoking man', who was otherwise unnamed throughout most of the series.

But the constant side stories of government projects, Area 51, alien-human hybrids and super soldiers undermined the fun of the show. I'm pretty sure Chris Carter, the creator, intended this thread all along, but as it came to dominate more and more episodes, I lost more and more interest, until I was watching mainly out of inertia. The suggestion that the sinister cigarette smoking man shot Kennedy, and then that he might be Mulder's father ("Luke, I am your father!), left me shaking my head. I'm still planning to see the second movie if it ever gets made, but I think the series died a deserved death.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that I'm not really averse to government conspiracy stories. Last night was a NOVA meeting (and also our Halloween party, as this is the second and last meeting of October), and Bob, our show coordinator, showed the last two episodes of season one of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The entire season has been one long story arc, though it wasn't always apparent, especially in the beginning.

Players such as The Laughing Man, an uber-hacker who quotes J. D. Salinger, a host of sentient tanks called tachikoma and a diplomat infatuated with an android seem unrelated. But all come to play a part in the larger story.

I'm not reviewing GitSAC or handing out spoilers. I just wanted to note that this season is how a conspiracy story should be done. It is intricate, consistent, does not talk down to the audience, and manages to contain a surprise or two. Moreover, by the end of the story, the players have not so much won as they have held back the tide for one more day. Much more satisfying than simply sweeping the slate clean.

Also notable from this weekend's meeting, my friend Tom managed to find DVD images of the original editions of the first three Star Wars movies (V, VI and VII) from the Laserdisc releases. So now I can show Kelly the DVD boxed set edition where Greedo-shoots-first-but-Han-is-quick-enough-to-duck-and-shoot-back, ridiculous as it is, then I can show her the original, where Han simply shoots Greedo sucker-punch style. It makes for a much different character, believe me.

After the meeting, there was talk of seeing a movie or going out to get some food. I'd eaten freely of the Halloween junk food, so when they decided to go to the Raccoon Lodge for afters, I took a pass and went home early. I'd been there once before, and it's farther away from home than the meeting place, so I decided to just get my rest. Maybe we'll get to see something next meeting, in November.

Posted by dpwakefield at October 17, 2004 08:24 AM