Invocation 8×6: I wish I could believe that.


That’ll leave a mark.

I pop this DVD in the player, ‘cause I’m old school like that, and immediately I start having flashbacks to “The Calusari” (2×21). I know my memory is fuzzy, but wasn’t “Invocation” yet another story about a child ghost haunting his brother that started with a kid with a bad attitude at a carnival?

Not quite, Salome’s memory. Not quite.

The X-Files must be feeling old school just like me because even if this isn’t a rehash of “The Calusari”, it is a nod to the early seasons of the show. Not only are we back to the classic Creepy Kid trope, but even the cinematography looks grayish and faded like it used to. The thing is, we don’t have Mulder and Scully anymore.

Mulder isn’t mentioned in this episode and he wasn’t mentioned in the preceding “Roadrunners” (8×5) either. This conspicuous silence means 1013 wants us to focus on the partnership in front of us. It means that they don’t plan on Scully doing anything to further the search for her constant and touchstone any time soon. I imagine it also means that they know they only have David Duchovny for eleven episodes and they don’t want to tease us so much that we won’t wait until he shows up again for the last half of the season. But look at my cynicism showing.

So far, the past several episodes have focused on how Scully is coping with the unwelcome intrusion of Doggett into her life. “Invocation” takes a look at things more from Doggett’s perspective, and it gives him the beginnings of a backstory. Doggett was just starting to seem admirable after coming to Scully’s rescue not once but twice, and after so calmly and kindly ignoring her repeated rejections of him. For some reason that isn’t fully explained in this episode, he takes a step backward and shows us an insensitive and pushy side of his character. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what that’s all about. All we know for now is that he’s lost someone close to him, likely that sweet looking little boy whose picture he keeps pulling out of his wallet.

Up until this point, Doggett has remained fairly open minded for a man who’s never been exposed to the types of phenomenon hidden in the X-Files case files. In “Patience” (8×4) he initially doubts Scully’s theory but comes around. And in “Roadrunners” he made the connection between the current case and previous cases himself. Heck, he and the holy slug met face to face. Now, he’s immovably stubborn in the face of undeniable evidence with frightening implications.

Scully, still in “I am Fox Mulder” mode, is convinced that Billy Underwood’s return is supernatural even before the full medical report comes in. Usually, she would be the one citing possible medical precedents and protesting impossibilities. But the writers seem to think X-Files cases can’t be solved unless there’s a clear Believer-Skeptic dynamic. The problem with the Believer-Skeptic dynamic is that it’s synonymous with the Mulder-Scully dynamic. And the problem with the Mulder-Scully dynamic is that it’s gone. Ergo, forcing a Believer-Skeptic dynamic on Scully and Doggett only highlights the fact that it’s not the Mulder-Scully dynamic and can never be.

Scully may not be the knee-jerk skeptic that she was, but she’s still a scientist. She’ll first go to the most logical answer and the most common solution, because that’s what doctors do. And she’ll want proof. Doggett is a no nonsense guy who’s at the same time pretty intuitive. He may not be a believer, but so far he hasn’t denied something weird when he’s seen it. There could have been a way for them to solve cases with two perspectives that are both practical in different ways. I think a completely new dynamic for the two of them was in order. But what do I know.

Anywho, like I said, Doggett gets stubborn here. In his defense, Scully’s had nearly eight years to come to grips with experiencing the unknowable, to learn to admit that some things will never be explained. Doggett’s got to wrap his head around it fast so that the show can move forward.

Now Scully knows how Mulder feels.

My only complaint, and it may be an unfair one, is that there’s no break in the unrelenting seriousness of this episode. Perhaps the subject matter won’t permit it. Usually, Mulder and Scully’s banter guarantees a certain amount of enjoyment in even the darkest of cases. Ah hah. There’s another reason why the Believer-Skeptic dynamic isn’t as effective between Scully and Doggett. They don’t have bouncy banter to buoy their discussions.


It’s a point of focus that Doggett isn’t interested in why Billy’s back, what happened to him or how he ended up in his current condition. Doggett’s looking for justice for Billy, and probably vicariously for someone else. It’s nice to know that this pretty unflappable guy has buttons that can be pushed, buttons that center around the disappearance of a child. “Invocation” could have worked for Mulder and Scully, but it was uniquely designed for Doggett to baptize him into the realm of the unexplained and to give us some insight into his perspective.

So far I’ve had fair to fairly good responses to writer David Amann’s work. But I think that this was his best writing on The X-Files. Admittedly, I’m only just fully understanding the plot, that the Billy that returned is not the Billy that left, but a “force” that uses the memory of Billy Underwood to ensure justice for him and to present his brother from falling to the same fate. This explains why “Billy” is so menacing. If the real Billy came back to protect the brother he loved, would he stare him down like that?

A similar “force” surrounds Doggett. And maybe that same “force” will ensure justice for him as well.



If I were those parents, I’d be much more frightened than relieved.

Sooo, when she started singing “All the Pretty Little Horses”, who else wanted Scully to launch into a chorus of “Joy to the World”?

As a skeptic, Scully was able to back her skepticism up with science. Doggett doesn’t seem to have an argument other than, “No.”

It stands to wonder if Josh would have been taken at all if Billy hadn’t show back up.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: I don’t believe it.

Scully: Okay, the clothes, the age and condition of the bones, the location of the grave. There is no doubt that that is Billy Underwood’s skeleton that is in that grave.

Doggett: We spent time with this boy. Doctors took Billy’s blood. You examined him yourself. Now, I can’t accept it. I can’t believe we’re asking them to.

Scully: I know, but the forensic evidence is going to come out, and what then? What if I’m right?

Doggett: Well, what then, Agent Scully? What we do? We move on, let it go, case closed?

Scully: Look, I know where you are with this. I have been there. I know what you’re feeling, that you’ve failed and that you have to explain this somehow. And maybe you can.

Doggett: Not if that’s Billy’s body, I can’t.

Scully: But maybe that’s explanation enough, that that’s not Billy’s brother lying in that grave too. That that man who did this is never going to be able to do it again. Isn’t that what you wanted, Agent Doggett?

Doggett: Agent Scully, don’t ask me to believe that this is some kind of justice from beyond the grave.

Scully: All I’m saying is that maybe you succeeded… whether you’re willing to see that or not.


18 responses to “Invocation 8×6: I wish I could believe that.

  1. So many excellent points. It’s like you pulled them out of my head before I could even form the thought.

    “The problem with the Believer-Skeptic dynamic is that it’s synonymous with the Mulder-Scully dynamic. And the problem with the Mulder-Scully dynamic is that it’s gone. Ergo, forcing a Believer-Skeptic dynamic on Scully and Doggett only highlights the fact that it’s not the Mulder-Scully dynamic and can never be.”
    “As a skeptic, Scully was able to back her skepticism up with science. Doggett doesn’t seem to have an argument other than, “No.”
    “There could have been a way for them to solve cases with two perspectives that are both practical in different ways. I think a completely new dynamic for the two of them was in order. But what do I know.”

    I’ve actually never minded the last two seasons as much as everyone else, and I really like Doggett. But, there is definitely something lacking from them – more than just Mulder’s character – and I was never able to pinpoint what, exactly. You nailed them – these are those things. Individual questionable decisions that, alone, may be overlooked. But when combined with continuity errors and a missing main character snowball into big problems for the viewer.
    Great review.

    • It’s so hard to figure out why Seasons 8 & 9 didn’t quite cut it even though the stories, in general, improved greatly. It’s easy to say it was because we didn’t have Mulder and Scully, but we had Mulder and Scully Season 7 and Season 7 was seriously lackluster.

      I’m starting to wonder if there was any way they could have successfully handled a new partnership for Scully concurrently with an all-consuming search for Mulder. I’m starting to think there wasn’t. They may have painted themselves into a corner with the abduction storyline and combined with DD’s absence, they had certain parameters they had to work within. Scully had to search for Mulder but she couldn’t search too often or find him too quickly. Scully had to investigate the X-Files or we wouldn’t have a show, but she can’t investigate all of them solo and she still has to be searching for Mulder and she has to protect her baby.

      I think the pregnancy storyline turned into a major soap opera… but we’ll get there.

      Woo! Okay. Enough brainstorming. Need coffee.

  2. I found myself getting frustrated with Doggett and his stubbornness/unwillingness to believe and I wasn’t quite sure why. You cleared it up for me. Scully was frustrating, too, but not in the same way when she was the skeptic because she was just trying to prove it scientifically. Doggett just says no. He also seems to be losing sight of the bigger picture because he is so focused on smaller things. I guess that’s because of his backstory with his son.

    It’s quite clear that Mulder will be “forgotten” for the time being. He’s like the giant elephant in the room. Truly the heart of the show was the M/S dynamic. Of course the stories were important. The characters couldn’t save the bad episodes, but at least you could always count on the M/S interactions to be the bright spots. You can’t recreate that. I wish they would stop trying and just embrace the differences. Let the show evolve naturally.

    I feel like this is the x files but in some strange, parallel universe. Everything is almost the same, but not quite and it makes me feel off.

    • “Giant elephant in the room” is the perfect description of the Mulder situation. If they mention him without doing anything about him, I’ll get annoyed. If they don’t mention him and act like he doesn’t matter, I’ll get annoyed. I get annoyed this season.

      And you’re right. The M/S dynamic has always been their failsafe. They can’t rely on it now so I think that sparked their writing game. In many ways, Season 8 is a return to form.

      Sometimes it becomes something akin to a close up look at The X-Files’ DNA, but sometimes you don’t want the DNA you want the human form it constitutes.

  3. Okay, just finished re-watching this episode. It’s just as haunting the third time around as it was the first two (ps: Seasons 8 and 9 (aside from Roadrunners) have probably the only episodes I’ve only seen twice before this re-watch). It’s great because it’s got that gritty feeling of the X-Files of old, but it is so darn dark. And having become someone who talks to drug dealers, murders, rapists, and such on a daily basis, this episode haunts me even more; I can only imagine what the bad guy’s ultimate goal was with these boys and why Ronnie was so afraid of him. Uhhggggggg!!!!! Freakn’ sex offenders!!! (I will spare you the rant I go on every week at boards).

    Anyway, this episode does have one bright spot for me: it has the first of many Terminator 2 references we get this season. Don’t tell me having Robert Patrick run after Ronnie’s car like that wasn’t intentional. All the Terminator references of this season may strike some as hints of the self-indulgence of Season 7, but I bloody love them. T-2 is my favorite Terminator movie.

    PS: The score of this episode reminds me of Sailor Moon. I can’t be the only one…

    • Okay, wait. Sailor Moon is another great love. I binge watch almost every year. I’m trying to remember what I heard… I may have to go back and watch just to check.

      I think the in jokes are cute. They’re more like Season 6: more self-referential than self-indulgent.

      And I don’t envy you…

  4. It’s so strong that at one point, I think the composer is actually playing a Sailor Moon song.

  5. Pingback: Badlaa 8×12: Well, that’s just wrong. | Musings of an X-Phile

  6. Pingback: Season 8 Wrap Up – Can’t we just go home and start this all over again tomorrow? | Musings of an X-Phile

  7. Some really in-depth analysis there and you high-lite many of this season’s strengths and weaknesses.

    In many ways I feel it would have been better for the show if Mulder had simply been fired. I mean the threat of Kirsch seemed rather real. It could have been smarter, not to mention entertaining with something like a game of cat-and-mouse playing out between the two, with Mr. K finally closing in. I never did like that return to the pilot at the end of s.7; tacked on indeed. The contrivance warrants an investigation in itself.

    That way we could have had that ‘Mulder in Hawaii’ spin-off which we all greatly deserved.

    I kinda’ liked Doggett’s blue-collar defiance with his “I don’t believe it” simplicity. Scully on the other hand and I’m like shup-bich-there-dope-in-your-coffee? I totally respect her respecting Mulder’s memory in Patience with unprecedented open-mindedness but then she continues to jettison her entire scientific career and I lose patience myself. To re-quote Doggett: “Now, I can’t accept it. I can’t believe we’re asking them to.”

    This episode seemed to come across much better with a re-watch and it really is a good one. Serious as hell indeed, but I felt the desire for cold bricks after too much goofing off in the last season. The story-line of the abused becoming the abuser(well, kind of-nearly) was refreshing too as it’s often quite true and not often represented on television in a realistic way. Okay, so the X-Files isn’t exactly social-realism, but you get what I mean. I’ve always liked that the show pushes different perspectives.

    I remember really enjoying s.8 at this point and then Via Negativa muddied the waters. Then Salvage polluted them. I’m still in denial about what transpired in Badlaa. I digress.

  8. Very good episode and I’m enjoying season 8 still.
    For me the X-Files got a reboot in the ass this season and I’m not that sad yet about DD leaving.

    I guess it’s refreshing to see the show take a different direction and have another character for one of the protagonists to play off of. In this case it’s GA but it might have been interesting for the reverse as well.

    Creepy and well acted/written X-file.

  9. I didn’t mind this episode as it showed Doggett actually showing interest in what actually happened and the explanation for the paranormal phenomena in the case, especially the part where he is bothered and Scully comes and reassures him that they did what they could in catching the kidnapper (unlike in an earlier episode–can’t remember the name of it–when Doggett was focused more on catching the killer and did not care for unexplained events).

    The only thing that bothered me was that although these cases DO in fact usually end up having ambiguous endings, it didn’t really attempt to give an explanation for what exactly Billy was or why he kept reappearing.

  10. Proper scary old school X Files story. Genuinely spooky.

    As for Scully-as-Mulder, did you also notice that she did a Mulder-like turn and leave the room without any explanation to follow up a hunch kinda thing?

  11. This was creepy! What an awesome episode.

  12. I really like this episode, a lot. It is one of the best of season 8. It’s the kind of spooky ghost story which has been needed to be told for a long time, and it’s done good. It also has a powerful pathos which made me cry a few times in the episode. The score also really added to the episode and brought out the emotions felt by the parents. It also reminds me of the early seasons of The X Files which is a good thing, where episodes like this were on a weekly basis. The direction of season 8 back into the dark was long overdue and I’m relishing it here, even with Doggett as Scully’s partner.

    Speaking of Doggett, I feel the backstory with his son is too similar to Mulder’s back story with Samantha. The writers’ were saying Doggett is nothing like Mulder, true, then why give him a similar tragic back story? But saying that, I like the way it was revealed in the episode.


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