“I’m afraid. I’m afraid to believe.”
It’s the holidays and Dana Scully is entertaining her parents for dinner. Her dad, played by Don Davis of Twin Peaks fame, says it’s time for them to go. Though Scully and him have cute, Moby Dick-themed nicknames for each other, the relationship doesn’t seem like a comfortable one. It’s obvious Scully loves her father, but there seems to be a lot left unsaid between them. Hours later, Scully wakes up on her couch and sees her father sitting in the chair across from her, silently reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The phone rings, stealing her attention, and when she glances back, the chair is empty. It’s her mother on the phone. Scully’s father has died.
It’s been a while since I wrote one these. I originally planned to write something about every X-Files episode in advance of the new series starting next year, but realized I just don’t have much to say about a number of the episodes. So, I’m just going to focus on the most memorable ones.
Beyond the Sea is the best episode of season 1. It doesn’t have a ton of competition, since the series was still finding its feet, but it’s memorable for a number of reasons. Brad Dourif’s turn as Luther Lee Boggs is outstanding. It’s over the top but totally works and is consistently compelling. This is also the first episode that flips the script and shows Scully as the believer and Mulder as the skeptic. Boggs, who’s currently sitting on death row, claims he has psychic powers that can help S&M with their current case. Mulder thinks he’s full of it while Scully believes he may know something about not only their case, but also about her father. Most importantly, this is a great character episode where we get to learn a lot about Scully. Her path to the FBI was not one that her father supported and she worries that he wasn’t proud of her. She puts faith in Boggs because he says he can channel her father. And because everything he has to say about their current case proves correct.
There are a lot of nice touches that tell us more about Scully. There’s her discomfort at being called Dana by Mulder. How hard she tries to keep it together after her father’s death and how much harder it gets when sympathy is offered. Scully is a believer, just not in the paranormal. Her faith has more of a religious nature, which can come in conflict with her belief in science. She always wears a crucifix, and though the role of religion in Scully’s life isn’t examined too much in this episode, it will come into play in a number of future episodes.
The scenes between Scully and Boggs seem influenced by The Silence of the Lambs, with the serial killer delving into Scully’s past and into her head to tell her what she needs to hear. Gillian Anderson gets to flex her acting chops in this episode, as Scully runs the gamut between mourning for her father, undergoing a crisis of faith, and raging at Boggs when Mulder is shot.
In the end, Scully realizes she has more faith in herself than in Boggs, and that she doesn’t need him to know what her father would have said.