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X-Position: An X-Men Podcast #9: Days of Future Past, Parts 1 & 2

With their previous adventure offering a rare, decisive ending that didn't propel our heroes headlong into their next conflict for a change, X-MEN uses this act break to try something completely different: a time jump, as part 1 opens without warning in the distant, bleak future of 2055. Of course, the episode's title gives long-time comics devotees some idea of what to expect. "Days of Future Past" serves as the series' first direct adaptation, employing not just common characters and plot points, but lifting its story and namesake right out of the source material. The production team will go to this well on several more occasions in seasons ahead -- to varying degrees of success -- but their placement of "Days" doesn't coast on reputation alone. Though it is considered an all-time great, this story was ripe for the picking even so early in the run. Given the heavy emphasis on human-mutant relations and ever-present threat of the Sentinels, it stands as a logical extension of the ideas this first season has been most interested in getting across. Already, the X-Men have battled these mutant-hunting robots at home, abroad, and now, in the far-off future. The Sentinels' specter of oppression seems inescapable, hammering home just how high the stakes have become in the fight for trust and acceptance.

Of course, like any effective adaptation, this teleplay takes some liberal departures from the original story in consideration of its audience, medium, and priorities. For the sake of simplicity (already a challenge for any tale centered around time travel as a plot device), absent are a number of characters not yet introduced within the universe of X-MEN: TAS. Notably, protagonist Kitty Pryde is nowhere to be seen, swapped out for Bishop as the mutant on a mission from the future. The specific motive, however, remains firmly intact, as made abundantly clear in part 2: prevent the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly at the hands of Mystique and her Brotherhood to avert a nightmarish future under dominion by the Sentinels. Popular then-rookie X-Man Bishop was always going to find his way into the show sooner rather than later, and appending his introduction to a classic comics saga lends the character a certain gravitas he might have otherwise lacked as a random walk-on guest (we're looking at you, Colossus). While this necessitates changes to Bishop's own backstory, the time travel conceit alone provides a logical rationale for his inclusion. What he brings to the lore isn't entirely discarded, as the mystery of a traitor within the X-Men's ranks is incorporated and woven into Mystique's plan. It serves as an interesting addendum to the source narrative -- not only does Mystique seek to murder Senator Kelly, she means to frame the X-Men in the process. It's a strong example of the show's finesse in weaving together unrelated, disparate plot elements, separated by more than a decade of publications (not to mention efficiently concluding a subplot that would persist throughout the comics for years to come, namely in the form of Bishop's distrust of Gambit and efforts to identify the traitor). All of it coalesces on arguably the most brilliant cliffhanger the series would ever deliver. For all the production team knew, this 13-episode season was going to be their only shot at bringing the X-Men to life on Saturday mornings. With their penultimate story ending on a twist DESPERATELY in need of resolution, the stage is set for a monumental, can't-miss finale.

X-TRA: The reappearance of Mystique in this 2-parter allows for the opportunity to do a little continuity patchwork. Comics fans disappointed by Rogue's apparent lack of history with Mystique during their encounter in "Come the Apocalypse" were placated by the confirmation that the duo's familial relationship from the comics is maintained within the series after all. The explanation for Rogue failing to recognize her own foster mother? Rogue simply knew her in a different guise, with Mystique's natural appearance either previously unrevealed to Rogue OR a byproduct of Apocalypse's handiwork.


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