This is my 2nd post for Blaugust.
I attended ConBravo last weekend, where I met a lot of cool people, attended interesting panels, and picked up a few new games and things. Here’s a video recap.
This is my 2nd post for Blaugust.
I attended ConBravo last weekend, where I met a lot of cool people, attended interesting panels, and picked up a few new games and things. Here’s a video recap.
“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:
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“Do you have any idea what liver and onions go for on Reticulon?”
The camera pans over a modest city skyline at dusk. A man walks out of a restaurant; the camera follows and slowly zooms in on him, occasionally cutting away to a storm drain across the street. As the man comes more into focus, the background colour bleeds away. A pair of yellow eyes are revealed within the storm drain, as the creepy-crawly music we’ll eventually hear a lot of ramps up. We follow the man into an office building, while the camera keeps cutting away to something unseen that seems to be stalking him. A screw on a small vent is shown being undone from the inside, as fingers squeeze out from under it. The man is suddenly and violently attacked by something inside his office. Pan back to the vent, which is being closed and screwed back in place by something unseen.
Ah, the first monster of the week episode. Now we’re in my wheelhouse. Though the mythology of The X-Files provides much of the backstory and driving force of the series, I’ve always enjoyed the standalone episodes, with their casts of odd and interesting characters, more. This is also the first episode written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, two of the more entertaining writers on the series.
After the opening credits, we get to see Scully having lunch with someone she used to work with at the FBI Academy. He manages to disparage her, Mulder, and their work all while asking for a favour. Smooth. The lack of point of entry in a rash of killings and liver extractions is stumping law enforcement and Agent Colton is determined to crack the case. With a little help from Scully, whom I’m sure he would give credit to, because he doesn’t seem like a self-serving jerk at all. Colton and Mulder get along about as well as expected, and Colton gets very salty when Mulder uncovers some actual evidence from the crime scene – elongated fingerprints from the vent. The fingerprints are common to crimes reaching back as far as 60 years, which also involved victims with missing livers. Looks like Mulder is proposing some spooky ideas again.
Scully presents a profile of the killer that, while it misses the killer’s true motivation, is pretty on the nose. She suggests they stake out past crime scenes because the killer is likely to return. Colton’s unit run with her plan, but not before snidely chuckling about her work on the x-files some more. They’re pretty hauty for a unit that didn’t have a single lead on the case before Scully got involved.
Mulder shows up unannounced to Scully’s stakeout location because she’s pretty much his only social connection at this point. I love Mulder, but he’s not a very FBI agent. Who sneaks around underground parking lots at night when they know armed agents are on a stakeout looking for a serial killer? Though Mulder insists Scully is wasting her time and that the killer will not come back here, they end up finding and detaining Eugene Victor Tooms, a member of animal control who was climbing around in the vents. At night. Without alerting security.
I savour it when Scully is right. One of the shortcomings of the whole series is that Scully almost never gets to be right about the big stuff. She’s this brilliant scientist, but whenever she states an informed scientific opinion like “No Mulder, it wasn’t aliens, they don’t exist” or “No Mulder, it’s impossible for this serial killer to be 100 years old” she usually ends up being proven wrong. In a show like The X-Files, the truth is stranger than fiction so the skeptic usually loses.
Doug Hutchinson does a great job with this character. He’s so diminutive and soft spoken, but still manages to be quite terrifying.
After passing a lie detector test, with the exception of the questions Mulder added which would place him at the crime scenes from 60 years ago, Colton’s unit lets Tooms go. And of course he immediately goes and rips out someone else’s liver, getting into their house by squeezing down the chimney.
S&M decide they’re going to solve this case, Colton’s narrow minded ideas be damned. While tracking down info on the killer, they find a detective who had worked the murder cases in the 60s who shows them a picture of Tooms looking exactly the same as he does now. The agents travel to Tooms’ apartment (the shot of them entering the premises is the one used in the intro credits) where they find a nest made of newspaper and bile (ick) as well as trophies from previous victims. Mulder’s theory is that Tooms is a mutant who feeds on livers in order to keep himself alive and un-aging through the years. As they leave, a hidden Tooms lifts Scully’s necklace (which Mulder had awkwardly called attention to in a previous scene). Looks like he’s found his next victim.
Here we get to see Scully’s apartment for the first time. All she wants is a nice, hot bath to ease away the tensions of the day but, no, she has to get attacked by a mutant, contortionist, liver eater. Mulder bursts in just in time to intervene, distracting Tooms from the overpowered Scully. She, in turn, saves Mulder from Tooms’ attack by handcuffing him to the faucet. Of course, everything we’ve seen from Tooms indicates he could squeeze out of those cuffs in the wink of an eye, but we’ll just ignore that. We’ll also ignore that the action scenes at this point in the series are really poorly done and a bit laughable.
Tooms is institutionalized and immediately goes about building a new nest. His intense gaze at the slot in his cell door indicates we may not have seen the last of him.
Daylight. The episode opens on a group of military police surrounding a house. They take down the door, spreading out through the house. Looks of shock appear on their faces as they find a man, shaking and covered in burns, huddled in a corner. He’s going to need a doctor.
Scully sits at a bar, wearing some terrible 90s eyeglasses and flipping through notes. Mulder appears and it almost looks like he’s going in for a kiss, which is a little weird. He stops short and offers to buy her a drink. Scully, ever the professional, refuses to drink at 2pm. Mulder goes on to tell her about a military pilot of experimental aircraft who had a psychotic breakdown, was taken in for hospitalization and hasn’t been heard from in 4 months. I love the sly amusement in Scully’s face and voice whenever she questions what Mulder is telling her. She clearly thinks he’s nuts.
This is the episode in which we first meet Deep Throat (kinda obvious from the title), the man who will become the agents’ contact and giver of sometimes reliable information, who warns Mulder off the case. This is the first episode that really opens up the X-Files mythology. Conspiracy is afoot and Mulder’s interest in this case gets rewarded by someone having his phone tapped.
No one wants to talk to anyone. That seems to be a theme of this episode. Military refuse to talk to Mulder and Scully about the missing pilot. Another pilot’s wife refuses to say anything about the military, and admonishes the wife of the missing pilot for bringing in outside forces. It’s the ‘ufo nuts’ who end up being the source of the best (and only) information, directing the agents to Ellens Air Force base.
This episode is full of UFOs, which Mulder thinks have been created by reverse-engineering alien technology. When nearing the air force base at night, Mulder and Scully see two points of light in the sky, moving in ways aircraft couldn’t possibly maneuver. They also find a couple stoners, one of which is a very young Seth Green, who end up providing more information than anyone.
Besides possible alien technology, this episode introduces the idea that the military is able to wipe people’s memories or re-wire their brains. The missing pilot comes home but his wife calls the agents for help, insisting that this man isn’t really her husband. He doesn’t know things he should know, and he doesn’t remember where he’s been for the last months. After this, the chilly reception the agents received from the military gets downright hostile, as men in black accost them, destroying photographs they had taken and telling them to gtfo.
Mulder doesn’t like being told what to do so he lies to Scully and runs off to explore the air base in secret. Good move, hot shot. He sees a UFO (not necessarily alien, but definitely unidentifiable) up close and then is immediately captured, strapped to a gurney, and injected with drugs, while Scully has to go rescue him. It’s actually a nice reversal of what tends to happen in future episodes. Scully gets captured a lot in the coming seasons. Scully lays the smack down (shut up, it’s the 90s) on airforce security personnel, holds him at gunpoint, and demands he bring her to the base to find Mulder. Before they can get into the base, Mulder is sent out, looking like a lost, drugged up puppy. He doesn’t remember anything.
You’d think being federal agents would afford Scully and Mulder some degree of safety or respect but this episode makes it clear that if they keep pursuing the alien / government conspiracy thing, they will never be safe. At least Mulder gets thrown a bone at the end when Deep Throat visits him and confirms that “they (aliens) have been here for a long, long time.”
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.
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.
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.