Tag Archives: 4-D

Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through.


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Unbreak my heart.

“Working on a demanding show like The X-Files can take its physical toll on a person. I kept at it pretty regularly for the entire nine seasons,” Chris continues. “All I can say is on the last season of the show, I was writing or re-writing a lot and I would take a nap every day. As the season went on, it became two naps a day. Those nine years caught up with me pretty fast.” – LAX-Files, pg. 220

I would love to officially close out this rewatch of Season 9 and say that it was wonderful, tragically underestimated and that it exceeded my expectations. I would love to be able to conclude that our two new leads stole the show in every sense of the expression, that in the history of The X-Files, Season 9 was a new creation; old things had passed away, all things had become new.

But I can’t. I’d be lying. A new creation was what we needed, but it’s not what we got.

I don’t want this to turn into a diatribe on Season 9, and I also don’t want to expend any more mental energy on Season 9 than I have to for the sake of completion. So we’ll focus on a few main things that I think might have made the season better.

We needed a new mythology.

Because, no. Tacking on the Super Soldiers to the old mythology did not suffice.

I listed a series of questions in the review for “One Son” (6×12) that the Syndicate mythology still had left to answer when it ostensibly ended. But as of Season 6, the mythology had already grown way past anything the 1013 staff had originally hoped for and lasted well past what they had originally envisioned. It had grown large and unwieldy and Chris Carter decided to scrap it and do something new rather than dig a deeper hole and make it even more confusing. Um, that was the goal, anyway.

He did something “new” in “Biogenesis” (6×22) with alien gods, but it was still directly related to the mythology we were already familiar with. Then, with Mulder bowing out in Season 8, the Super Soldiers were introduced so that the new team, Doggett and Reyes, would have something fresh and scary to go up against. But the mystery of the Super Soldiers was tied to the mystery of the alien gods – was tied to the mystery of the Syndicate – was tied to the era of Mulder and Scully. We don’t have to play a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with it, either. The Super Soldiers went directly after Mulder and Scully’s baby and are working for the alien colonists that Mulder and Scully are working against. You can’t think of the Super Soldiers without thinking of the history of Mulder and Scully.

By the time we get to Season 9, not only are we more confused than ever by the connections between the conspiracies, but Doggett and Reyes aren’t on their own turf, they’re still effectively playing in Mulder and Scully’s sandbox. They’ve inherited a through-line so convoluted that:

“I looked at what many people had written about the mythology,” Spotnitz said, “and I was alarmed at how many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the show and had followed it religiously had drawn false conclusions and false connections between things… It was an amazingly complicated, sometimes convoluted conspiracy. I’m just astonished people stuck with it for as long as they did.”

But when I say that we needed a new mythology, I don’t just mean a plot that was brand new for Doggett and Reyes and for the audience. I mean we needed a new mythology because this one’s plot was a complete failure. The most interesting thing about it was how hard it bombed.

Please, no more alien gods. No more alien babies. No more god-like alien baby messiahs. And for the love of all that is Scully, if you’re going to write in a miracle child, don’t erase him like you wrote him on a whiteboard. No takesies backsies!

We needed the leads to star in their own show.

I think the plan to attach the fans to Doggett and Reyes by bonding them to Mulder and Scully, while it may have been the only plan available in Season 8, backfired. They became in effect, sidekicks; the less interesting sequel to a massive summer blockbuster.

I do believe they could have stood on their own as characters and that they had their own chemistry as a partnership. Yes, they started off as a reheated rehash of the Skeptic-Believer dynamic, which as I explain in the review for “Daemonicus” (9×3), probably should have stayed unique to Mulder and Scully. But they did prove in episodes like “4-D” (9×5), “John Doe” (9×7), and  “Audrey Pauley” (9×13) that they could hold their own and had the potential to build a unique dynamic. They needed cases that were suited to their strengths as a partnership rather than Mulder and Scully’s strengths. They needed to be free of Scully as the third wheel and free from the shadow of MSR. And they needed a quest all their own.

With Mulder and Scully, they had their marching orders from the Pilot (1×79). We knew why they were here and what they were doing. And while they were waylaid by Monster of the Week pitstops, we knew they were searching for something bigger in the X-Files and that these cases were merely detours or the chance to pick up small pieces of a larger puzzle. And both agents had not only a larger truth to prove or disprove, but they had personal reasons for being invested in their work; Mulder because of his sister and Scully because of her science.

Doggett and Reyes are never given their own mission or personal impetus to investigate the X-Files – No, Doggett’s crush on Scully doesn’t count as a personal impetus, nor does Reyes’ interest in Doggett.

Their fight against the Super Soldiers is an inherited fight. The closest thing Doggett has to a connection with the conspiracy is that an old, somewhat distant friend turned out to be a Super Soldier. Reyes? That her boss and former lover is nebulously aware of a conspiracy that he’s not directly a part of. If we’re being honest, the only reason they’re here is because they’ve become friends with Mulder and Scully. Considering what’s on the line, I don’t think that’s enough.

It was touched on in “Empedolces” (8×17), the idea that Doggett might be here because he wants to prove that there was nothing in the X-Files that could have helped his son. Unfortunately, this was never fully developed as a concept. Reyes’ reasons for investigating are even less developed. She gets “feelings” about cases and has a background in Religion. That makes the X-Files her dream assignment.

A genuine quest all their own, and motivations that carried real emotional weight – those two things could have made a world of difference.

We didn’t need Scully.

We didn’t need Scully or the little uber Scully. They should have run off with Mulder.

Not only did her presence force episodes to take precious time away from developing Doggett and Reyes as characters, her presence also inevitably invited comparison, conscious or not, to the time when Mulder and Scully used to investigate the X-Files. That inevitable comparison inevitably came out in Mulder and Scully’s favor, to the detriment of Doggett and Reyes’ budding partnership.

In fact, episodes like “Trust No 1” (9×8) and “Providence” (9×11) downright turned Doggett and Reyes into Scully’s sidekicks. They became supporting players in the continuing saga of Mulder and Scully instead of leads in their own, less melodramatic drama.

And even when the story had nothing to do with Scully, the script had to make room for her, whether she was useful to the plot or not. Most of the time, she wasn’t.

She spends the majority of the season doe eyes tearily wet with thoughts of Mulder. Either that or she’s crying out, “My baby! My baby!” O Scully, Scully. Wherefore art thou, Scully? What happened to the feisty redhead I once knew? The enigmatic doctor? The lofty example of female intelligence?

Just like that, the legacy of television’s favorite duo is cheapened into a tale of star crossed lovers and their accursed love child.

There has to be an end, Scully.

“If you ask me, we should have ended it two years ago,” Anderson said when the news was announced. “They couldn’t have found two better actors than Robert and Annabeth to take over, but the show was about Mulder and Scully.”

It was about Mulder and Scully and, unfortunately, it never stopped being about Mulder and Scully even when Mulder and Scully were gone. “The Truth” (9×19/20) only confirmed that fact. I second Gillian’s feelings – Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish did an excellent job. The failure of the show wasn’t Doggett and Reyes’ fault. The failure had everything to do with business, the logistics of network television, and most of all, the writing.

In order for Season 9 to have worked, we needed a clean break with the past. We needed two new heroes on a new quest with new perspectives, new dynamics and new enemies. Instead, we got Doggett, Reyes, Skinner, Follmer, Frohike, Langly and Byers playing the dwarves to Scully’s Snow White. (I would have included Kersh, but that’s not seven anymore, is it?)

What we needed, really, was a spinoff. Now, I know very well that wouldn’t have happened, but in an ideal world and all that.

It was just a shame to see this iconic, legendary show that provided so much joy over the years end its run on a low note. Then again… without a proper death, resurrection means nothing. I’m so glad I can look back and say this wasn’t really the end.

On that note of hope, here are the final set of awards for the series proper:

Give it Another Shot

Sunshine Days

Gave it Another Shot

Improbable

No More Shots

Provenance

Best Shot

Audrey Pauley

Long Shot

Underneath

Shoot Me

Jump the Shark

Shoot the TV

William

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Audrey Pauley 9×13: You’re not giving up, are you?


“Audrey Pauley” is one of the few Season 9 episodes that I have a distinct memory of. Okay, wait. It’s one of the few Season 9 episodes that I have a distinct memory of liking.

Steven Maeda seems to have a knack for writing for Doggett and Reyes. He gave us “4-D” (9×5) earlier this season, which I also thought was sci-fi of the less paranormal sort that seemed to suit our new leads just fine. It also showed us a deep connection between these two characters, heavily iced with flirting, that made their partnership that much more interesting to watch.

He’s done it again here, with a case that carries a lot of real world weight and some intense flirting. Whoa, Reyes. Why not just invite yourself in? It would take fewer words.

But the really real truth is that Reyes is at her best as a character when she’s playing off of Doggett. As I discussed ad nauseam in the review for “Hellbound” (9×4), she isn’t given much by way of her own backstory or personal motivation outside of her history with Doggett and desire to help him.

That said, what we finally see in her character for the first time in this episode is that she’s actually a decent investigator. She solves this mystery. She doesn’t get away with feeling her way to the truth.

Doggett also solves the case on his end and he does it without having to turn into a believer like Mulder or Reyes. Doggett’s just a guy who refuses to give up on his loved one and turns every stone over looking for a miracle or at least a way to help her. There’s nothing about his response to the situation that requires him to suddenly wholeheartedly believe in the paranormal. But he’s emotional and vulnerable and desperate, which makes him open to the truth when he hears it from Audrey Pauley. He doesn’t have to completely understand or make sense of it, but he knows something’s up and that’s enough for him to hold on.

Yep. The characterization is strong with this one.

The plot, though…

The concept is memorable, I will say that. There’s something truly frightening about the idea of seeing a loved one brain dead or in a coma or vegetative state. It’s almost worse than outright death in that you don’t know whether or not they’re suffering and the weight of the responsibility for their welfare is a heavy one. This isn’t just a nightmare for Reyes, it’s a nightmare for Doggett who wants to do right by Reyes and is horrified at the fear that in listening to the doctors he might actually be doing her harm.

And again, I think theoretical or reality based stories like this are the best vehicles for Reyes and Doggett. But again, the script feels a little rushed. Or maybe there wasn’t enough time to sharpen the more obscure edges of the plot and emphasize Doggett and Reyes’ budding romance.

Audrey Pauley is a simple-minded woman who is also a savant of some kind since she can build an exact scale replica of the hospital she lives and works at. Audrey has a quiet corner of her mind where she likes to go that looks an awful lot like the hospital dollhouse that looks an awful lot like the hospital itself. One day, brain dead patients started taking refuge in Audrey’s mind and she didn’t know how to get their souls out of her mental dollhouse and back to their bodies. But then, she was killed by a villainous doctor and Reyes, who had been brain dead, was able to jump out of Audrey’s mind and back into her own body.

Say what now?

Issues of accuracy in the depiction of brain death and organ transplantation aside, how and why did Audrey manage to trap these people’s souls in her own mind? And I’m still not sure I understand why if Reyes had jumped into the abyss while Audrey was still alive she would have died, but once Audrey was dying/dead she jumped and lived. Audrey was both keeping them alive and somehow keeping them from living again?

On top of that, while I really enjoyed the villainous doctor, why was he a villain? Was it just that he wanted to harvest organs for transplant? From what little I know, the doctors (always plural) in charge of declaring a patient brain dead are never those involved in donation and transplantation; it’s a conflict of interest. But for the sake of argument, he thought these patients would die anyway so he wanted to speed up the process of their death in order to save others instead? If so, why did he choose Reyes who wasn’t severely injured? Was there money changing hands somewhere for these organs?

I don’t know, but it seems to me he’s just a sadist. He kills with too much aplomb to be anything else. Maybe he just gets a thrill out of secretly killing helpless people.

Either way, that’s not nearly as important as receiving confirmation that Doggett’s over his Scully crush. Good riddance.

Verdict:

When this first aired, I remember being more than a tad resentful that a story like this wasn’t used for Mulder and Scully in lackluster Season 7. I knew the 1013 writing staff had it in them. Where had all the cowboys gone?

But even as much as I enjoy this one, it’s a sad reminder that the Doggett and Reyes’ relationship is moving fast for a reason. It’s time to wrap this show up and we’ll never know whether truly memorable television could have been made out of this partnership. I still say they had potential, perhaps not for magic, but for something interesting to watch. They have a real connection in their scenes together, not that I’m sold on a second romance in the basement office. It’s getting a little hot and heavy down there.

B+

P.S. If someone knows of a fanfic that substitutes Mulder and Scully for Doggett and Reyes in this ep, holla at your girl.

Valley of the Dollhouse:

That electrical death looks awfully painful. God forbid taking someone off of life support would result in such a thing.

The actress who plays Audrey Pauley, Tracey Ellis, also starred in “Oubliette” (3×8).

It’s Will’s mom from The Fresh Prince!

Dr. Scully’s reaction to Reyes waking up from brain death is awfully subdued. A few misdiagnoses aside, such a thing has never happened. Reyes’ brain should be studied for science.

Total resurrection is another story, however.

If they were going to harvest Reyes’ heart, they wouldn’t take her off life support. They’d want her heart beating when they performed the procedure. You know, in case you were planning to perform a transplant yourself.

The doctor stayed in the room with Audrey after he killed her for far too long.

Best Quotes:

Reyes: So, big plans for the weekend?
Doggett: Oh, huge. Microwave pizza, satellite TV.
Reyes: Wow. Thanks for making my life sound exciting. Maybe we both need pets. They say people with pets live longer.
Doggett: I was thinking about getting a cat.
Reyes: There’s dog people and there’s cat people. You are a dog person, John.
Doggett: How do you figure?
Reyes: You’re faithful, you’re dependable, you’re without guile, you’re very comfortable to be around. So why a cat?
Doggett: Low maintenance. They don’t expect much from you, so you can’t disappoint ’em.
Reyes: I don’t see you ever disappointing anyone, John.

4-D 9×5: Who eats polish sausage with plates?


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I got your back.

This… this is the direction Season 9 needed to go with Doggett and Reyes. I can only think that had the show continued, they would have quickly recognized what they were good at and perfected it. “4-D” is like a rough sketch of what could have been.

In some ways it reminds me of “Monday” (6×15), though I realize it deals with the “space” rather than the “time” part of the space-time continuum. Still, there’s that element of trying to escape a reality one mistakenly finds oneself in, a reality that isn’t right.

Here’s another reality that isn’t right for you: Doggett and Reyes flirting.

Now, look. I’m as relieved as the next person to see them finally look like they’re enjoying themselves. I want to know they’re glad to be working together. And I know I’m the one who in the review just previous complained that these characters needed to find a way to lighten their investigations up. But can we let the UST lie where it died in Season 8?

I realize it was necessary to reaffirm the closeness of the pair in order to pave the way for this episode’s emotional impact. But they didn’t have to go there. Frankly, if you’re trying to avoid comparisons to Mulder and Scully, creating romantic tension between Doggett and Reyes is a mistake. When I say this is the direction they needed to go, this part isn’t what I mean.

All that said, I am glad to see them relaxed and they do have a connection and chemistry. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish give great performances here.

It’s impressive that they stand out considering the swelling cast of characters Season 9 has to accommodate for. Skinner and Scully are shoehorned into the investigation. And why does Follmer appear to be directing Skinner when they share the same title of “Assistant Director”?

Practical adaptations aside, this is my favorite work from writer Steve Maeda since “Brand X” (7×19). He showed us in “Redrum” (8×3) that he’s interested in telling tales about misadventures in time and space, but I think this X-File has more potential for both horror and genuine emotional impact than “Redrum” did. For one thing, he gives us a rather nasty villain to chew on.

Erwin Lukesh is a regular Norman Bates and is clearly modeled after the iconic killer, right down to his icky issues with Mommy Dearest. I mean, they sleep in the same bed. By the way, I LOVE his mother. She actually feels like a woman with no insight into her selfish, overbearing ways. And I LOVE that director Tony Wharmby so often chooses to let us hear that nagging voice without actually seeing her. Surely it’s no coincidence that Lukesh rips out women’s tongues.

Lukesh himself isn’t half bad either. I mean, you know a man’s a sadistic killer when he has cans of Boost in his fridge. Echoes of “Pusher” (3×17) anyone? And the way he savors his kills and feeds human tongue to his unsuspecting mother like he’s Hannibal Lector is properly disturbing. But I think he was robbed of a little of his glory. If he didn’t have to share so much screen time he could have been developed more as an evil maniac. I think he had it in ‘em.

The only thing that bothers me a little, well, besides the flirtation and the lack of character space… okay, so this is the third thing that bothers me… is that Reyes brainstorms her way through this inter-dimensional problem a little too easily. She basically sits at Doggett’s bedside and has a revelation and, last I checked, her background is in Religion, not Physics like Scully. Yes, the episode is running out of time and needs to explain the problem so that Reyes can take action to resolve it, but reducing the explanation to a quantum leap of exposition is anticlimactic.

That said, I still think the sci-fi route appears a better fit for Doggett and Reyes than the paranormal, however Doggett may tease her about going all Star Trek on him. These aren’t a couple of wide-eyed kids like Mulder and Scully were back in the day. Doggett’s a soldier and his brawn combined with Reyes’ emotional sensitivity and tenderness could have led to some interesting case resolutions. Even Doggett believes Reyes’ ideas after a while and his character is more likely to respond well to extreme science than ghosties and beasties.

Now all the two of them need is personal motivation to investigate the X-Files. Because, no. Doggett’s crush on Scully and Reyes’ crush on Doggett doesn’t count.

Verdict:

I don’t know that Doggett and Reyes have ever really felt close until this episode. I knew Reyes cared about Doggett, but it didn’t seem much like the feeling was mutual. It’s kind of amazing that Doggett is able to emote so well considering he’s paralyzed but for a finger. I can only imagine the long hours Robert Patrick had to lie unmoving in that hospital bed, poor man. He pulled it off, though. So hats off, sir.

Of course, I suppose this all means that somewhere in another reality Doggett and Reyes are both dead or nearly so.

Sad face.

B

Too Much Star Trek:

Okay… one last bother. Lukesh dies way too easily for such a Master Villain. Why didn’t he just hop realities with Reyes in tow? If it were that easy, Doggett would have killed him in the teaser, am I right?

And Reyes shaving Doggett on only their second real case together? Mulder and Scully took seven years and never got to that base.

The slow reveal of Reyes’ face after the teaser… makes you wonder if you’re about to see her scarred up. It’s a nice touch of tension.

I think my favorite shot, and there’s some great visual imagery here, is the shot of Marion Lukesh’s eye as her son leaves their bed in the middle of the night… As her son leaves their bed in the middle of the night… As her son leaves their bed…

Scully greeting Reyes with, “Monica, I’m so sorry,” is a subtle way of telling us that Doggett is more important to Reyes than to anyone else here.

I enjoyed the bit of continuity here – Scully sharing with Reyes the emotional impact that the events of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) had on her.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: [On screen] MISSED A SPOT
Reyes: Did not. Anyway, that’s what you get for hiring cheap help.