Tag Archives: David Duchovny

Revisiting The X-Files – Space

“It ranks right up there with getting a pony and learning to braid my own hair.

The episode opens with a newscast. A reporter, in an outfit that defines the early 90s professional ladies look, talks about the 1977 rover mission to Mars. We see closeup pictures of the red planet. One looks like a sculpted human face, but a NASA official denies it being evidence of an alien civilization. Later that night, that man dreams about being in orbit and wakes to see the Mars face form on his ceiling and rush towards him.


Yes, that’s really what happens.

Space is pretty much the low point of the season. Maybe even the series. It takes some great topics – space travel, alien civilizations, astral possession – and somehow makes them incredibly dull.

Mulder is contacted by the NASA communications commander, Michelle Generoo, who believes there’s a saboteur at work, preventing the space shuttle from launching. This threatens the entire space program, so him and Scully go to investigate. Mulder meets one of his childhood heroes, astronaut Captain Marcus Aurelius Belt (yes, that’s really his name) and is giddy as a schoolboy while Scully takes her skeptic role way overboard.

There are a number of major issues with this episode.

First, the special effects. They’re just terrible. At one point, the Mars face gets superimposed onto Captain Belt’s face and it’s laughably bad. This episode was intended to be a money saver so they used a lot of stock NASA footage of the space shuttle but never actually showed any of the astronauts in the space shuttle. The episode mainly took place in the communications command center and intercut stock footage and the result was quite dull.

Second, Scully. I know, she’s the skeptic, but in this episode she takes that skeptic role and runs so far with it that she becomes a total buzzkill. She’s so blasé about the whole idea of space travel. I don’t believe she never wanted to be an astronaut. She’s a scientist, how is space not interesting to her? Who can watch a space shuttle take off, from the command center no less, and not be moved? Is Scully a robot?

Third, the cardinal sin of X-Files, this episode is completely lacking in humor. There’s a distinct lack of witty repartee between Scully and Mulder. Without the give and take of its two leads, the X-Files magic just isn’t there.

Also, since Dahakha pointed it out, I can’t help but notice Mulder invades the personal space of so many women on the show. How did I not see it before? At one point he’s trying to calm down and get information from Generoo, and he rests his hands on either side of her waist as he talks to her.  Whyyyy?

In the end, it seemed that Captain belt had been possessed by Mars face during a previous trip to space, who was making him sabotage operations. And it did this because…? Mars face also:

  • appeared in a ceiling
  • appeared outside a car and caused it to crash
  • took over Belt’s face
  • broke the space shuttle

Mars face is watching you masturbate

The concept of being possessed by some astral force while exploring space is not a bad one, but the decision to have the Mars face represent this made it hard to take the episode seriously.

Revisiting The X-Files – Ice

“Before anyone passes judgment, may I remind you, we are in the Arctic.”

Cold open. Literally. It’s dark and blustery. A whining dog walks through a research station, passing bodies as it goes. A lumbering man with a gun turns on recording equipment and begins to speak – “We’re not who we are” then is attacked by another man. The ensuing struggle leaves them pointing guns at each other, in a standoff. Reaching a silent understanding, they slowly point their guns at their own heads. A quick cut to outside, and two shots are heard. It goes no further than this. Or does it?

After a few middling episodes, Ice offers a breath of fresh, cold air and is the first episode that really showed X-Files as something that could be great. Mulder and Scully are sent to investigate the disappearance of the Arctic Ice Core project team, who haven’t been heard from since the video recorded in the opening. Some scientists and a helicopter pilot are also along for the ride (one of whom is played by Felicity Huffman), meaning the agents will be trapped in the arctic with a group, rather than just each other.

From the start, paranoia is rampant. Doctor’s Da Silva and Hodge request everyone show ID so they all know everyone is who they say they are. These two are also immediately suspicious of Scully and Mulder, assuming they know more than they’re letting on because they work for the government.

X-Files season 1 - Ice

We start discovering what happened when a dog attacks the helicopter pilot, Bear. The dog shows symptoms similar to bubonic plague and Bear, in secret, discovers he has the same symptoms after he’s been bitten. He immediately becomes paranoid and aggressive and the doctors soon notice a worm wriggling around under his skin. When the worm is removed, he dies. Things devolve into chaos as the survivors wonder who else may be infected. Who’s not really who they are? The influence of The Thing is plain to see.

This is a really great Scully and Mulder episode, and a standout for Scully in particular. While everyone else is losing their heads, Scully is the only one who keeps a semblance of cool. She stays scientific and analytical, while everyone else engages in a witch hunt. As Mulder’s paranoia grows, we think he may be infected but really, that’s just Mulder. The pair get a couple great scenes together, as their trust in each other is tested but ultimately grows.

X-Files season 1 - Ice

One of the more dramatic scenes has Scully and Mulder pointing guns at each other after Mulder is found with the body of Dr. Murphy, a reflection of the scene from the intro. Mulder is the  one to lower his gun first, as Scully suggests that he may not be who he is. He’s locked away and its up to Scully to find a solution to their problems, which she does very quickly. It turns out the creatures causing the infection will not tolerate each other and will kill one another if a second specimen is introduced into the host.

Scully, unsure that Mulder really is the one infected, goes to talk to him alone.  The agents inspect each other for physical symptoms in a scene that’s slightly reminiscent of the examination scene from the pilot, but much less gratuitous. It comes down to Hodge and Da Silva vs. Scully and Mulder, each pair convinced the other is infected. But it’s Da Silva who, at the last minute, is discovered to be the one. The agents work together to hold her down and she’s given the last worm.

Aside from being one of the more well-written and thrilling episodes of The X-Files so far, I really like how Ice showed much more respect to Scully than she had gotten previously. Her scientific background comes into play when she realizes how to cure the infection, and her skepticism ensures she never gives in to the hysteria being experienced by the other characters. Scully finally gets to be the hero here.

Revisiting The X-Files – Season 1 episodes 3-7

My intention of reviewing every single X-Files episode might have been a bit ambitious. So rather than try to stretch the episodes I don’t have a whole lot to say about into whole posts, I’m going to combine a few.

Conduit

“I want to believe…” -Mulder

This episode is rather Mulder-centric as it deals with a young woman being abducted by aliens, a cause near and dear to his heart. The most interesting part of the episode is the titular conduit, the woman’s young brother who seems to be receiving messages from aliens. Mulder takes to the kid and projects on him a little bit before the woman is eventually returned, but refuses to say what happened to her.

X-Files - Conduit

The thing that stuck out to me most this episode, unfortunately, was an immensely creepy scene near the beginning while the agents are talking to the mother of the missing girl. Mulder sees a picture of the girl from when she was very young. Note to writers: don’t ever write a scene that involves a man stroking a picture of a child in a bathing suit. Just don’t. I know, the picture reminds him of his own sister, but this could have been communicated in 7000 other, better ways.

Other than this, the episode is decent.

Jersey Devil

“Unlike you Mulder, I’d like to have a life.” -Scully

As far as paranormal content goes, this is the first weak episode. It deals with a mountain man (who turns out to be a woman) who has been attacking people outside of Atlantic City. City officials don’t want to cooperate for fear of driving off tourists, making the case harder to solve, yada, yada, yada.

However, this episode does have some interesting Scully and Mulder content. This is our first glimpse of Mulder’s apparent porn habit, when Scully walks in on him reading a nudie magazine in their office. He is reading an article about alien abduction though, so at least it’s somewhat work related, I guess. Scully gets glimpses of a life outside the FBI as she visits some family and even goes on a date. As for Mulder though, it’s made abundantly clear that work is his entire life.

Shadows

“Psychokinesis? You mean how Carrie got even at the prom?” -Scully

This episode deals with a ghost who is sticking around the mortal plane to protect his secretary/daughter proxy and help her solve his murder. It’s not a particularly memorable episode. Not bad, but not great either.

This episode starts to feel a bit like Polkaroo. There is plenty of unexplained phenomena going on – Mulder gets to witness a man being suspended in mid-air, objects moving by themselves, and an office being trashed by unseen hands. Scully is always just outside the door when these things happen and walks in just as they stop. She’s got to maintain her skepticism somehow, I guess.

Ghost in the Machine

But there’s plenty of kooks out there. Data travelers, Electro wizards, techno anarchists. Anything’s possible.” -Wilczek

The series takes a bit of a break from the paranormal this week, as the villain ends up being a supercomputer with artificial intelligence. Sadly, it isn’t done very well. The episode comes off as low budget and the script is weak and lacking humour. Witty banter between Scully and Mulder is what makes this show so good, and its absence is palpable.

X-FIles Ghost in the Machine - Scully saves Mulder

So after a strong beginning, these episodes were a bit of a slump. Luckily, one of the best episodes of the season is up next.

Revisiting The X-Files – Pilot

With the recent announcement that Scully and Mulder will be returning for a 6 episode stint in the 10th season of the X-Files, it seems like a great time to  rewatch the series. The show has had an important place in my life, with it becoming somewhat of an obsession of mine at the end of grade school when it was first on. It spawned many all night watching marathons, inspired me to draw its stylized X on pretty much anything from school desks to my jeans with magic marker, caused me to dye my hair red for the first time, and may have influenced me into sneaking around industrial parks once or twice, in search of government conspiracies.

So grab a cup of coffee, maybe some sunflower seeds or a mushroom pizza, and let’s revisit The X-Files together.


The opening shot is dark. Fade into the lush British Colombia woods, a sight we’ll become quite familiar with over the next 5 seasons. A young woman scrambles through the forest, afraid. Running from something. The wind picks up and an unnaturally bright light appears over the horizon, framing the shape of a man approaching her. She looks up at him as the light overtakes the shot. The next morning the woman is found dead with two marks on her back and identified as one of the members of the class of ’89. It’s happening again.

Dana Scully with the Cigarette Smoking Man in the background

Cut to Washington and we see the first star of the show, Gillian Anderson as Agent Dana Scully, here to lay down some science and set hearts aflutter. I even love her in shoulder pads. Scully’s first scene tells us a lot. She’s eager, informed, well-spoken, proud. She’s not afraid to crack some jokes in front of her stuffed suit superiors, including CSM (Cigarette Smoking Man) who lurks silently on the sidelines, smoking as always. At her first meeting with David Duchovny’s Mulder the chemistry is instantaneous. Though I find the scripted dialogue of their first encounter a bit stilted, there’s a wonderful tension between the two actors which only approves throughout the episode. Once the nature of each of the agents is established – Scully is a skeptic, Mulder an enthusiastic believer in the paranormal – they’re off to the very plausible state of Oregon to investigate a death and possible alien abduction.

The actual story of this episode isn’t what most appeals to me. As is common with network television, the pilot is usually one of the weaker episodes of the series because it has to spend so much time setting up what’s to come. There’s unexplained phenomena, possible alien abduction, lost time, and hints of conspiracy at both local and very high levels.

Dana Scully and Fox Mulder talking in a motel room

The best thing about the episode is how quickly yet naturally it develops the relationship between Scully and Mulder that will drive the entire series. There’s a point midway through the episode where Scully goes to Mulder’s room, concerned that she has marks on her back similar to those found on the dead girl. Though the decision to show Scully in her bra during the pilot episode was gratuitous, it leads to a delightful moment between her and Mulder. After Scully’s brief moment of vulnerability and the trust she places in her new partner, Mulder offers some vulnerability of his own and opens up about why the x-files mean so much to him. When he was a child his younger sister was abducted, unassumingly by aliens and he’s been chasing the truth ever since. It’s a great way to both deliver some exposition and show how quickly the two agents begin to trust either other despite their different perspectives on the job at hand. It’s a great relationship, and one which will remain platonic for quite a while, much to the chagrin of shippers everywhere. Though honestly I was always more likely to ship Scully and Skinner. Or Scully and me. Or Mulder and me.

Once the case is wrapped up, the only physical evidence of abduction (or of anything) that remains is an implant of unknown origins found in the sinus cavity of one of the victims. The last shot shows CSM storing it among thousands of hidden evidence boxes deep within the Pentagon. Likely beside the Ark of the Covenant. It seems this conspiracy rabbit hole runs deep.