Dod Kalm 2×19: I think I hear the wolf at the door.


Row, row, row your boat.

This isn’t the greatest episode but it’s certainly not the worst.

But there’s one main issue that we need to get out of the way: the gripe that most fans seem to have with “Dod Kalm” is the less than believable makeup job done on David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to “age” them. I have to say, though, that this is something that’s never bothered me. For one thing, this took place in the early 90s and we have to cut the effects department some slack. The shark in Jaws is hokey too but that doesn’t stop it from being a classic, does it? But the most important reason that I think this is a non-issue is that Mulder and Scully aren’t really ageing in this episode. As Scully mentions, they’re essentially turning into human pillars of salt. So if the result is that they don’t look older so much as messed up, so much the better.

Once again Mulder sends Scully on an inexplicable errand. And once again, she’s both frustrated and intrigued by it. But I would like to note, as Nina did so humorously in her guest post recently, that Mulder is the superior agent here. Scully can and does protest and rebel when she wants to do, but technically, she should do what he asks her. He’s in charge of the X-Files division. Notice he says “my office.”

It’s a neat twist on the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. More importantly, it’s yet another case of Mulder being wrong, which I love all too dearly. There was no time warp, no wormhole. There was an explainable, if improbable, more basic scientific answer to the conundrum.

A mysterious, crotchety, over-confident ship’s captain approaches Mulder and Scully like a device out of a 19th century epic novel. It’s quite satisfying to watch Trondheim descend into madness and become the very thing he hated in Olafsson. He starts out reasonable enough, if not necessarily a man you want to take to dinner. Then we can understand, though not condone, that he takes out his vengeance on Olafsson, murderer of his young first mate. Why would he want to share a dwindling water supply with him? Of course it’s only downhill from there. And let me tell you, watching Trondheim scoop water out of that abomination of a toilet… I die a little inside.

One thing I never noticed before was Mulder listening in as Trondheim urges Scully to give up on Mulder and agree to split the clean (operative term here) water between themselves. Mulder hears and Scully knows that he does. Mulder himself urges her just as forcefully to save herself later on in the episode. We see her eyes flicker for half a second, but again Scully proves her loyalty as she’d rather go down with her partner than survive at his expense.

Delayed though it is, we get to learn something about what effect Scully’s near death experience had on her. It’s indicated at the end of “One Breath” (2×8) that Scully heard and remembered what Mulder said to her while she was in her coma. What she says in this episode would lead us to believe that she also remembers the vision she had of her father as well. Her final journal entry/monologue is quietly powerful, if rather depressing.

In those last moments, or what they believe are there last moments, Mulder and Scully’s characters shine. Mulder will be playfully sarcastic to the end of his days, Scully reserved and unflappable. Well, at least until the “Redux II” (5×3)…

…And the Verdict is:

I’m starting to think I need to create a whole new tag category for underrated episodes. I’m noticing quite a lot of them this rewatch and “Dod Kalm” fits the bill to a T. Is it genius? No. But it’s thoughtful, dark, eerie and claustrophobic, and isn’t that what an X-File is supposed to be?

Similarly to “Fresh Bones” (2×15), another episode driven largely by dark visuals, the most satisfying thing about it is seeing the villain get his hard-earned reward. Trondheim coveted water and water he received. That’s probably the best moment of the episode.

Speaking of visuals, the use of flashlights is phenomenal. Once again, Rob Bowman delivers as a director. Honestly, if not for makeup issues I think this would be considered one of the most nicely filmed episodes in the series.

B

Questions:

This is a ship that not long ago was full of men, men who needed sustenance. Yet all Scully can find in the kitchen is one sorry sardine can?

Wouldn’t salty sardine juice only dehydrate them and kill them faster? Same with the Jack Daniels Captain Barclay was holding onto for dear life.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Feeling any better?
Mulder: No. You’re lucky you inherited your father’s legs.
Scully: What?
Mulder: Sea legs.

——————

Scully: Mulder, what do you know about free radicals?
Mulder: Is this a quiz?

——————

Mulder: You know, I always thought when I got older I’d maybe take a cruise somewhere. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind. The service on this ship is terrible, Scully.

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15 responses to “Dod Kalm 2×19: I think I hear the wolf at the door.

  1. This episode had a really cool premise, but it ultimately, in my mind, is overshadowed by the Season 6 episode ‘Triangle’, at least so far as the Mulder-and-Scully-stranded-on-a-boat subgenre is concerned.

    ‘Død Kalm’ itself is an episode with a lot going for it, including some of the best narration we’ve heard so far. I also loved that Scully’s observations and notes are what ended up saving her and Mulder; how cool.

    I just wished there was a little more on the resolution side of things, but it is an X-File, so I suppose that’s par for the course.

  2. I agree with Tom. ‘Triangle’ is the bomb. Just for the tracking shots alone.

  3. I enjoyed that episode. Good point noticing the makeup thing, we were in mid 90’s back then ! They may not be the best, but they were OK to me. Plus, as you mentionned it too, they are not “ageing” per-say.

    I would also like to say i loved the music from Mark Snow, his musics using some sorts of pipe noises as percussions were really appropriate.

    on a 1 to 10 scale, i’d give this episode a 6-7.

  4. This ep reminds me of the old Star Trek show where Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty become old due to some weird type of radiation. I always thought that they did a good job on the makeup (and that was in the 1960s!!).

  5. Carol Mincey

    WEll said. I love it when Mulder said to scully after showed him the drink she created from the sardine juice. He sort of made a sceeeemmmm!

  6. Carol Mincey

    I am an actor. I always thought they did a superb job as actors. David and Gillian both had great movements depicting elderly people. The makeup never bothered me.

  7. Emily Michelle

    I don’t know, stage makeup wasn’t exactly in its infancy in the 1990s. If it had been filmed in the 1890s, I’d buy that excuse. (And also would have been astounded at TV shows existing in the 1890s.) But I feel like good old-person makeup was not outside the realm of possibility at the time. However, your explanation of they’re not so much getting old as getting messed up makes a lot of sense. 🙂

    I’ve always rather liked this episode. It reminds me a bit of Ice and all its M&S-trapped-somewhere-and-trying-not-to-die brethren. Good interactions between M&S, and the Scully’s journal bit is rather powerful.

  8. In terms of “character study” for M & S “Dod Kalm” gets an A from me. I always like it when they have conversations about their own thoughts and the like.

  9. I kind of hate this episode too. The most amusing part is when they find that commander grasping the bottle of Jack Daniels. His voice reminded me of Billy Bob Thornton on “Sling Blade”. I was half expecting him to say “french fried taters, mmm hmm.”

  10. I thought the episode was great! Very atmospheric and compelling. I didn’t have a problem with the makeup either – it seemed no worse than more recent ageing makeups. However, this might have something to do with the fact I’m watching a slightly grainy video of the ep, which probably hides a multitude of sins, and that my focus on the visuals is patchy as I’m working at the same time….

    Loved the Mulder/Scully dynamic here. I’m really enjoying this stage of the show. As I mentioned in another comment, I’m only really watching right through from the beginning now, my previous fandom of the show having been based really on series 5/6/7. So it’s a joy to see the show I love from later emerging, as well the earlier series having their own unique joys to experience.

  11. Pingback: Medusa 8×13: Hot, sticky and crawling in the dark. | Musings of an X-Phile

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