X-cellent sets of Aliens & Amazons
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© 2001 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine
X stands for more than just adult entertainment these days. It's also the beginning of two of tv's long lasting smash hits: X-Files and Xena. Both series have another thing in common-- they've recently had some of their best episodes chronicled on cardboard. We're going to examine both those sets and ask the favorite trivia question of professional couch potatoes everywhere: Have either series jumped the shark?
What's that you murmur? You don't know what Jumping the Shark means? Fear not. (Serious TV fanatics may have bigger heads from that knowledge, but they also suffer bigger waist lines.) Jumping the Shark refers to the Happy Days episode where the series took a sudden nose dive. The writers had run out of good ideas and in desperation for something new, they had the gang travel to Hawaii where The Fonz jumped his motorcycle over a live shark. The series never recovered from that stupid episode. Ever since then, TV-o-holics refer to the point where a television series goes dramatically downhill as Jumping the Shark.
A special website is dedicated to tracking this phenomena. (www.jumpingtheshark.com). Current and former fans go there to vote if they think various shows have reached that downhill point or not. Here's the results for X-files: 342 voters say it has never jumped and that it's still a great show. However, more voters agree that it has jumped, and only disagree about when the downward spiral began. 111 say it happened with they released the X-files movie. 62 say the series went South after it literally moved that direction from Vancouver to LA. 56 say it was when Mulder and Scully kissed. 38 think it was after Scully got knocked up (by aliens). 33 claim it was after Alex Krychek croaked. 31 believe it was after Terminator 2 replaced Mulder. 15 say it was the last half of the fifth Season while 14 think it was after Mulder left (end of Season 7).
I voted for the end of Season 7. Once Mulder was abducted, the series not only jumped the shark, it fell in and was eaten alive. The new set by Inkworks showcases what are (to me) the last two good seasons-- 6 & 7. Looking over this new set, I was impressed with just how good many of the shows actually were. The classic episode where Mulder swaps bodies with Michael McKean (formally Lenny of Laverne & Shirly fame). The nerve racking episode where Mulder is kidnapped by a deranged suspect who has to keep driving West or else his head explodes. The funny yet frightening episode where Mulder and Scully go undercover in a planned community plagued by disappearing residents.
There were a few stinkers, to be sure. Like the one where Mulder winds up on a ship in the Bermuda Triangle and goes back into time to confront Nazis. But overall, they're some of the best episodes of the 9 seasons so far. The quality of the photos is generally good with only a few grainy images scattered throughout. Some of the profile cards seem a little wasted on insignificant characters, but other than that, there is very little padding in this set.
There are 90 cards in the base set, three The Truth Is Revealed cards (1:11 packs) and six Inside the Syndicate cards (1:17 packs). There are also six Autograph redemption cards and two Pieceworks cards. (PW-1 features Mulder's t-shirt, PW-2, Scully's sweater). Those who signed were A6-Brian Thompson (the alien Bounty Hunter), A7-Don S. Williams (the 1st Elder), A8-John Neville (the Well-Manicured Man), A9-Gillian Anderson (Scully), A10-Dean Haglund (Lone Gunman Langly) and A11-Michael McKean (Morris Fletcher, AKA Lenny).
Long time X-files collectors will note that this is the first series where Scully has signed. That card alone currently fetches $275. Inkworks doesn't state the odds of finding autograph cards, but the word on the street is that it averages one every other box. Inkworks doesn't put the actual signed card in the box either, but instead, a redemption card. Oddly enough, these say the winner only has until December 31st 2001 to get the card exchanged. I'm betting Inkworks will extend that date and avoid any protests of sci-fi card geeks setting themselves ablaze in disappointment.
If you thought X-files was complicated, you should check out Xena: Warrior Princess sometime. The series jumps around from Earth to God-ville (Valhalla), from past to present, and has multiple characters who look like the leading lady, Lucy Lawless. But the series is an ongoing hit with fans, propelled by the fantasy of a Celtic women who can kick the butts of men and gods alike.
Has this series jumped the shark? Voters seem split. 144 say it's as good as always. About the same amount claim the death of Joxer, too many camp episodes, and an irritating sidekick (Gabrielle) have taken their toll. Another big controversy is whether Xena and Gabrielle do more than make war together. They say they love each other, but it's unclear exactly what form that love takes. (Producers may remember Ellen, where most voters said it was Ellen's "coming out" episode that plunged her show into the shark pit.) That mystery currently remains in perpetual lesbo limbo.
Applause goes to Rittenhouse Archives for assembling yet another clear collection of photos. The 72 base card set profiles Season 6. It also offers 9 God of War cards (1:4 packs), 9 Busting Loose cards (1:8 packs), and 9 Wet, Wicked & Wild cards (1:20 packs). Even tougher are the 2 Forever Gabrielle cards (1:480 packs), 10 "From the Archives" costume cards (1 per box) and 15 different autograph cards (1 per box).
Those who signed were A07-Hudson Leick, A08-Adrienne Wilkinson, A09-Kathryn Morris, A10-Michael Hurst, A11-Alexandra Tydings, A12-Renee O'Connor, A13-Ted Raimi, A14-Lucy Lawless, A15-Ebonie Smith, A16-Paris Jefferson, A17-Meighan Desmond, A18-Jennifer Ward-Lealand, A19-Danielle Cormack, A20-Karl Urban and A21-Willa O'Neill. Most of the 10 different costume cards are available as different varieties, making ten different turn into more like 18 different. R7 (Alti's costume) is a binder exclusive, so that will set you back another $45 postpaid. (Being a completist can cost more than mere sanity.) For those so inclined, they can view the actual numbers of each card manufactured at the company site (www.scifihobby.com).
Although fans can debate whether Xena or X-files have passed their prime, at least their card sets have not. These are both fine additions to the hobby. The only shark they can be accused of approaching is the loan shark. (And you may be approaching him plenty if you're a true completist of either series!)
Till next time, Happy Holidays!
The Non-Sports Trading Card Article Index