Tag Archives: Christmas Carol

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas 6×8: I just gave myself chills.


The romance is the first thing to go.

I have had a revelation. It only took thirteen years and several cups of coffee.

“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is essentially the story of what happens when Mulder tries to romance Scully in his own strange, Mulderish way. Back in the day, I used to think he’s merely lonely and wanting for company, but he plans this evening. This isn’t a spur of the moment outing brought on by boredom. And then he tries to impress Scully with the spooky atmosphere of his story the way that normal men take their dates to scary movies in hopes that their ready arms will look more masculine and appealing when their date has no place else to run to. Why else take her on a scary Christmas Eve rendezvous traditionally taken by lovers?

Notice the way writer and director Chris Carter chooses to shoot both characters from the back as Mulder weaves his winter’s tale in the dark car. No sooner does he start discussing the story of Maurice and Lyda than Mulder and Scully are framed in a rather romantic looking portrait. Oh, yes. Brooding hero Maurice is Mulder and Lyda of the sublime beauty is Scully. Perhaps as a Christmas present to the fans, Chris Carter doesn’t even attempt to be subtle about it. Thank you, Chris.

Mulder: His name was Maurice. He was a… a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went. They were likened to two angels descended from heaven whom the gods could not protect from the horrors being visited upon this cold, grey earth.

Yeah, methinks Mulder was trying to get his mack on. Well, sorta. I’m not trying to say that Mulder was about to put the moves on Scully. But does he know what he’s saying when he tells her the story of Maurice and Lyda? Oh yeah. He’s acting the teenage boy here, no doubt about it, and that’s the backdrop for our story at hand. Any excuse to bring television legends Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin into The X-Files family is just fine. They’re supposed to steal the show here and indeed they do.

Actually, Ed Asner was originally intended for the role of Clyde Bruckman in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4), but glory be, Peter Boyle owned that character and we still get to relish Ed Asner’s charm in the role of Maurice. See? Everyone wins.

Already Season 6 has set itself apart with an impressive list of guest stars. Bryan Cranston before he was famous in “Drive” (6×1), Michael McKean and Nora Dunn in “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5), Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin here, next up will be Bruce Campbell in “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) closely followed by Victoria Jackson in “Rain King” (6×7), and it won’t end there.

To what do we owe the pleasure? It has to be the move to L.A. Now there are all sorts of actors willing to share screen time with Mulder and Scully who wouldn’t have been available for the trek to Vancouver. And I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Season 6 was the heyday of a television phenomenon. Who doesn’t want to be a part of history? It’d be like turning down a guest spot on Star Trek.

Whatever the sentimental loss over the built-in atmosphere of Vancouver and the original production crew that turned The X-Files into the legend it became, we can’t deny that the move to L.A. has not only brought great side benefits like impressive actors, the production quality hasn’t suffered in the least. The set of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is absolutely stunning; it’s a character unto itself. This is especially important because ninety percent of the action happens in this one place with only four actors involved, the smallest cast of any episode of the series. The cast is so small and the action so relegated to one spot that it feels very much like a stage play. And if going off with the family to watch a staged performance isn’t Christmas, I don’t know what is.

If I’m to be honest (there’s no need to be but it’s Christmas so why not?), I never much cared for this episode before this rewatch. Not to say that I didn’t like it, but I always felt that something was missing, that it was a little soulless, perhaps. I didn’t see that it had a point. And it doesn’t, really. It’s a festive frolic, a Christmas card to the fans, and that’s all it’s meant to be. And why not? Episodes previously had acknowledged the Christmas season, “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), “Christmas Carol” (5×5), but neither of those had ever acknowledged the audience on the other side of the television screen. Now The X-Files has reached its zenith and is understandably a little self-conscious about its legion of fans, enough that rather than scare them it deems it better to send a little Christmas spirit their way. An episode like this couldn’t have been attempted in any season previous except possibly Season 5; it’s too meta for a show that doesn’t know its own power.

There’s another element of this episode that The X-Files never would have attempted before it was an official piece of pop culture history. Back in the not so distant day, a Shipper had to hunt for little romantic gems in an episode. A brief hand-hold here, a golden moment of banter there… it was a game looking for these affirmations of the Shipper faith since it wasn’t as though the writers were putting them there on purpose. We had to take what we could get. Now, however, the game has changed completely and after the events of the movie, Chris Carter & Co. could no longer believably ignore either the mounting anticipation of their audience or the romantic tension that they inadvertently created between their two lead characters. So, what to do, what to do? They had no choice, really, but to officially script the MSR* subtext into the series. Now Shippers no longer have to hunt for sustenance like wild animals, it’s being fed to us in golden bowls like house pets.

If that sounds like a complaint, please know that it’s not. As I said, I don’t see how the show could have believably evolved any other way. What could Chris Carter have done? Turned back the clock and pretended that millions of people had never seen that scene outside of Mulder’s apartment? Or worse, should he have taken character development back a few seasons in order to halt the progression of this budding romance between his leads? Never. Looking back it was inevitable that the romantic undertone of the series would become more overt. And however people may complain that it made The X-Files look silly, it would have looked a heck of a lot sillier if they had stubbornly ignored the obvious. As it is I believe the writers did an excellent job of utilizing the MSR subtext without relying on it. “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” works because it’s funny. If you happen to understand the layer of meaning just beneath the surface then so much the better.

I must admit, though, that watching this episode when it originally aired was my first “Danger, Will Robinson” moment. Why? I’m glad you asked.

First there was “Triangle” (6×3), a lighthearted tale meant to cleanse the palette after the high emotional tension of “The Beginning” (6×2) and to reward the fans whose hopes were thwarted during that infamous hallway scene in Fight the Future. It was incredibly well done and almost universally praised. Do you see a problem there? No? I didn’t think so.

Directly after that was “Dreamland”. Sure, two lighthearted episodes in a row is unheard of on The X-Files but production order gets switched around sometimes and besides, “Triangle” wasn’t really a comedy. Ah, but then we have “Dreamland II” which of course must follow part 1. We can’t find fault with that, can we? It just so happens that having three of these episodes in a row is the way things played out.

But now we’re at “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” and a disturbing pattern begins to emerge. Yes, I’ve already said that I appreciate that the show was willing and able to do something fun for Christmas for once. I’m all for it. And yet… part of me is starting to worry. No, nothing has been bad by any means. This string of episodes has been fabulous! Still, my spidey sense is atingle: where are the X-Files? At what point does the show become too self-conscious?

Verdict:

A quick word of caution about this episode: the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek. Yes, that seems obvious and why would I warn you about that? But I fear that the pop psychology invoked here, the witty observations of Maurice and Lyda that Chris Carter never intended to be taken as gospel truth, has been accepted a little too literally over the years. Read the fanfic, don’t let it corrupt you.

Yes, Mulder is prone to a self-centered form of tunnel vision. But a narcissist? Hardly that. And while Scully may enjoy a good intellectual tête-à-tête with Mulder, who would believe that she’s spent so many years with him risking life and limb merely for the right to say “I told you so?” Part of the point of this episode is that Maurice and Lyda misread Mulder and Scully, assuming that they’re much lonelier and less balanced than they actually are.

However, if you want to take away anything about the psychology of the characters please note that Scully does admit she really wanted to be out there hunting things she doesn’t even believe in with Mulder. Yet again Chris Carter sets up the tension between Scully’s overt desire for normality and her unacknowledged desire to travel a bumpier road with Mulder. For some reason, Scully has a hard time understanding herself and why she’d rather suffer with Mulder than live out her life in peace with anyone else.

A-

P.S. Speaking of Christmas, I suppose you already know what day it is. So allow me to wish a very Merry Christmas to you and yours! A huge thank you to all of you who follow along because you make this a blast. See you in the new year!

Armchair Psychology:

How can Mulder possibly be surprised that Scully doesn’t believe in ghosts? Wasn’t he there for the events of “Shadows” (1×5)?

Did anyone else catch the moment where Mulder pauses during the telling of his gothic tale to wiggle his eyebrows?

I love that telltale heart moment.

The shot where you can see Scully’s face through that hole in Maurice’s head still impresses me. I wonder how much that cost…

So, Chris Carter knows exactly what Mulder and Scully gave each other for Christmas and he refuses to tell. Scrooge.

*MSR – Mulder/Scully Romance

Best Quotes:

Scully: I see. The dark, gothic manor the, uh, omnipresent low fog hugging the thicket of overgrowth… Wait… is that a hound I hear baying out on the moors?
Mulder: No. Actually that was a left cheek sneak. {Editor’s Note: I JUST got that. Sometimes I wonder about myself.}

———————-

Maurice: You drink? Take drugs?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Get high?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Are you overcome by the impulse to make everyone believe you?

———————-

Maurice: My specialty is in what I call soul prospectors, a cross axial classification I’ve codified by extensive interaction with visitors like yourself. I’ve found you all tend to fall into pretty much the same category.
Mulder: And what category is that?
Maurice: Narcissistic, overzealous, self-righteous egomaniac.
Mulder: Wow, that’s a category?
Maurice: You kindly think of yourself as single-minded but you’re prone to obsessive compulsiveness, workaholism, antisocialism. Fertile fields for the descent into… total wacko breakdown.
Mulder: I don’t think that pegs me exactly.
Maurice: Oh, really? Waving a gun around my house? Huh? Raving like a lunatic about some imaginary brick wall? You’ve probably convinced yourself you’ve seen aliens. You know why you think you see the things you do?
Mulder: Because I have seen them?
Maurice: ‘Cause you’re a lonely man. A lonely man, chasing paramasturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance and which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. You probably consider yourself passionate, serious, misunderstood. Am I right?
Mulder: Paramasturbatory?
Maurice: Most people would rather stick their fingers in a wall socket than spend a minute with you.
Mulder: All right, now just, uh… Just back off for a second.
Maurice: You spend every Christmas this way? Alone?
Mulder: I’m not alone.
Maurice: More self-delusion.
Mulder: No, I came here with my partner. She’s somewhere in the house.
Maurice: Behind a brick wall? How’d you get her to come with you? Steal her car keys?
Mulder: [Guilty silence]

——————–

Scully: Not that, uh, my only joy in life is proving you wrong.
Mulder: When have you proved me wrong?
Scully: Well… Why else would you want me out there with you?
Mulder: You didn’t want to be there? Oh, that’s, um… That’s self-righteous and… narcissistic of me to say, isn’t it?
Scully: No, I mean… Maybe I did want to be out there with you.

Season 5 Wrap Up – Do you think it’s too soon to get my own 1-900 number?


"A Howler? But this isn't Harry Potter..."

Season 5 is The X-Files at the height of its powers.

I couldn’t possibly tick off all of the memorable moments: Mulder and Scully dancing in “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), Mulder nearly eating Scully’s hand off in “Redux II” (5×3), Scully jonesing for buck teeth in “Bad Blood” (5×12), Stephen King joining the party in “Chinga” (5×10), Scully hunting for bimbos in “Kill Switch” (5×11). I’m teary-eyed with nostalgia just thinking about it all.

No. Really. I am.

However, I don’t want to drench you all with my gushing. So before I get too carried away, let me lay out the one main negative, if you can call it that, which Season 5 has.

Frankly, there are fewer significant mythology events than in seasons past. As far as revelations go, compare it to Season 3 where there was both a fresh answer and a fresh mystery every mythology episode then it comes up lacking. Episodes like “Christmas Carol”/”Emily”, “Patient X”/”The Red and the Black” and even my beloved “Redux”/”Redux II” were more like character studies disguised as mytharc than they were plot progressors.

Not that the plot of the mythology stayed stagnant, oh no. Krycek returned from the hallowed halls of a Russian concentration camp only to become Well-Manicured Man’s errand boy. Cigarette-Smoking Man’s fellow conspirators attempt to have him assassinated and fail only to bring him back when they fail at yet another assassination. Scully finds out she’s barren and discovers she has a child only to lose her and return to childlessness. Mulder went from belief in extra-terrestrials, to disbelief, and back again. But all this amounts to is shuffling.

Where’s the sense of deepening mystery? It’s there. It just comes in the form of new faces rather than old favorites.

The Alien Rebels: Who are they? Why are they fighting against the colonists and killing innocent abductees in the process? Most importantly, how is it that they look like The Alien Bounty Hunter after an attack by angry Silly Putty?

Jeffrey Spender: CSM is his deadbeat father. It may be too little too late to turn that relationship around, but CSM’s sure trying by secretly pulling strings in order that Jeffrey can more quickly advance at the F.B.I… at Mulder’s expense. Jeffrey isn’t quite a villain, but he’s not shaping up to be Mulder’s best friend either. It’s doubtful he has any idea who CSM really is. What will he do when he finds out?

Cassandra Spender: Currently MIA. If CSM is her baby daddy, that automatically lends credence to her tall tales of (benevolent?) alien abductors. But what’s his angle in all this? And was he ever married to the woman? It’s not easy picturing them together at the family table.

Gibson Praise: The Official Key to Everything. Gibson’s “more human than human” mind hasn’t saved him from the machinations of the Syndicate. Mulder’s proof has been snatched from his grasp yet again, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this munchkin.

Diana Fowley: We haven’t seen the last of her either. She drops out of nowhere, mainly to stir the pot between Mulder and Scully. Could she serve another, slightly less nefarious purpose as well?

See? It isn’t all fun and games. There are actual developments occurring as well. But Chris Carter can’t give too much away when major excitement has to be reserved for the upcoming feature film. Instead, he’s maneuvering his pawns into place so that they’ll be in the right position for the movie and then for the season beyond it. Mulder has to believe in aliens again or how can he chase them? CSM has to come back from the dead or what will the film do for a villain? Scully has to be childless or, what’s she going to do? Stick the kid in daycare while she dallies across the big screen with Mulder for two hours?

Trouble is, he has to create something intriguing enough to make you run to your local theater, present something in said theater that will satisfy long-time viewers and attract fresh meat, then bring it all home for the new season opener in such a way that both the previous season’s finale and the stand-alone movie both make sense. I get anxious just thinking about it.

I won’t yet speak for the movie or the seasons to come, but in regards to Season 5, all I can say is that I’m truly and well satisfied. Nearly every episode is a fun-filled adventure. There is the occasional, expected hiccup (“Shizogeny”, I’m looking at you.), but overall it’s hour after hour of solid television – that is when it isn’t being hour after hour of amazing television.

But Enough About Trivialities:

If you haven’t already read, and if you’ve read you’ve probably read it so many times your eyes are strained with rolling, I have a theory that Mulder Scully-crushed Season 5. Her cancer is gone, the clouds have broken, Mulder’s interactions/reactions to his partner have been noticeably tinged with boyish admiration. Sure, one or two of those sentimental moments I could write off as Shipper fantasy. But four, five and six? I see a trend.

So, what say you?

And last but not least, the Awards…

“The Well-Intentioned Misstep”

Emily

“Underappreciated and Underwatched”

The Pine Bluff Variant

AND

Folie à Deux

“Please, sir, I want some more”

Detour

“The Riskiest Experiment”

Travelers

“Best Cameo Performance”

Unusual Suspects

“Biggest Disappointment”

Kitsunegari

“The Mini Summer Blockbuster”

Kill Switch

“Pure, Unadulterated Television Joy”

The Post-Modern Prometheus

All Souls 5×17: I’m immune to your mockery.


All the captions I think of feel somehow sacreligious…

Ah, the Enigmatic Dr. Scully. It turns out that on the sly, or in between commercial breaks, however you choose to see it, the formerly lapsed Catholic has been attending church almost on the regular since the events of “Redux II” (5×3).

Why do I suspect Mulder knows nothing about this development?

But why doth our lovely doctor look so solemn on Easter Sunday of all days? Could it be there’s a little Catholic Guilt weighing her down.

More than it is a spiritual follow up to “Revelations” (3×11), “All Souls” is an emotional follow up to “Emily” (5×7). Scully is questioning the decision she made at the end of “Emily” not to fight to save her own daughter, but to allow her to die a relatively peaceful death rather than live in potential agony only to have certain death to look forward to. Scully feels very sure at that moment of a decision that I on the other side of the television screen still have qualms about, but now it seems that her conviction has grown thin. I wonder how she’d feel if she knew about that little green vial Mulder kept hidden from her…

Scully now wonders whether it was really God’s will that she allow Emily or the young disabled girl to die, whether she was working as His instrument or not. And more than that, she’s having a Job moment; Scully can’t understand why God has allowed these girls and herself to be in such a painful position in the first place, why the innocent sometimes reap the reward of the guilty.

It’s a question older than the Book of Psalms and one that writers Spotnitz and Shiban wisely don’t attempt to answer. Instead, they choose to reaffirm Scully’s faith that reasons exist even if she doesn’t know what they are.

Yet despite it’s worthy motives, “All Souls” falls somewhat flat. Maybe if more time had been spent elaborating on the implications, spiritual and otherwise, of the apocryphal legend of the Nephilim. Or maybe if there weren’t quite so many red herrings leaving the viewer even more unsure of what just happened than Scully herself. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s a little boring and a tad confusing. Even Gillian Anderson’s valiantly acted angst fails to completely pull me in to the story.

Speaking of which, I think I’ve officially had my quota of Sad-Eyed Scully for one season.

I always thought that up until Season 8, Season 4 was Scully’s angstiest season but it appears I always thought wrong. I can think of 3 episodes in Season 4 where Scully faced some sort of emotional crossroad: “Never Again” (4×13), “Memento Mori” (4×15) and “Elegy” (4×22). Season 5 is already at 4: “Redux II”, “Christmas Carol” (5×5), “Emily” and “All Souls”. This isn’t even counting the emotional slap in the face she’ll receive in “The End” (5×20)…

I realize that Scully’s lovely when she’s somber but would it have been possible to have an episode centered around her faith that left her cheerful rather than crying in a confessional booth?

Maybe because I have a tendency to skip both “Revelations” and “All Souls” on my usual rewatches, I never appreciated how exactly the director referenced the previous episode’s shots of Scully in the confessional – just in case we missed the fact that both episodes center around Scully’s Catholicism. “All Souls” even ends exactly like “Revelations” with Scully beautifully lit in a confessional booth giving us a pithy statement about faith. It’s not quite as compelling the second time around, but the continuity is noted and appreciated.

And the Verdict is…

Amazing how Mulder flat out refuses to believe there’s anything spiritual going on when it comes to Christianity. Vampires? Sure. Werewolves? Why not. Jesus? You must be kidding.

I’m sorry, but Mulder, my dearest Mulder, is a right and proper jerk this episode. Didn’t he learn anything from the ending of “Revelations” when he realized that he’d been wrong to write off those involved in the case as religious wackos and that he’d alienated his partner through his insensitivity?

Judging between the two episodes, and a couple of earlier ones, I think Mulder’s problem is that when he’s skeptical, which isn’t often, he has the undiplomatic habit of scoffing at other people’s credulity. It’s not pretty. Scully, for all she may raise an eyebrow at Mulder’s theories, usually respects the man if not the idea. Mulder has a way of dismissing both the message and the messenger.

He doesn’t say, “Willikers, Scully, we both know that stranger things have happened but I just don’t think this is the case here and here’s why.” Oh no. Instead he makes quips about psychotic believers convinced they’re hearing from a non-existent God – a category that Scully is uncomfortably forced to conclude she falls into.

No doubt about it, Mulder has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the church. Praise be, he’ll later redeem himself (no pun intended) in “Signs & Wonders” (7×9) after “Orison” (7×7) softens him up a bit.

B

Apocrypha

I’ve seen “All Souls” probably 6 or 7 times but I only just figured out that the Seraphim is a separate entity from the demon caseworker – a clear reflection of my level of interest in this episode.

I’m not Catholic so I’m no expert, but why were Dara’s parents having her baptized on a dark and stormy night 6 years down the road rather than immediately or thereabouts after she was adopted? Like baptizing an infant, wouldn’t they have wanted some insurance for her soul sooner instead of later?

Scully goes to church on Easter Sunday, stops at the family’s house and learns about their daughter, then goes to the pathologist’s office on the same day. That’s one busy little bee.

Mulder doesn’t even show up until 14 minutes into the episode not counting commercial interference. And once he shows up I’d rather he weren’t there.

Best Quotes:

Scully: As much as I have my faith, Father, I am a scientist, trained to weigh evidence. But science only teaches us how… not why…

——————

Mulder: Look, Scully, I know you don’t… really want my help on this, but can I offer my… professional opinion? You got a bona fide super-crazy religious wacko on your hands.

——————

Mulder: I know people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones blah blah blah, but that guy is paranoid!

Emily 5×7: Now, are you two the parents?


A Toy Story.

Emily just isn’t that interesting. Yeah, I said it. “Emily” the episode isn’t much better.

To start with, one of these days I’m going to make a top 5 list of worst opening monologues. This one is an obvious contender for the prize. Usually, they leave me rolling my eyes but this one actually makes me gag a little. For some reason, all that shifting sand reminds me of the hourglass from the opening of Days of our Lives. Worse, Scully’s reading sounds like the Dear Diary entry of a 13-year-old.

I don’t buy this new version of Scully who’s all alone in life with no one to understand her. Scully may be a little distant, a little protective of herself, but is she really that pathetic? She had a close, if sometimes volatile relationship with her sister. Her mother may be very different from her but she seems to understand her almost better than she does herself. I don’t think I even need to go into the depth of her relationship with Mulder. No, I don’t think there’s any valid explanation for this turn in characterization accept that it makes a nice backdrop for gaining and losing the unconditional love of a child. Whether or not being able to raise Emily would have truly left Scully any less isolated we’ll never actually know.

Emily, the enigmatic child of the enigmatic doctor who was never meant to be, actually has her origins explained more clearly than one would dare hope for The X-Files. Not that the writers didn’t dance around the answers for as long as they could hold out the note.

We had this conversation back in the comments section of “Memento Mori” (4×15) before, but sometimes The X-Files has this habit of resorting to hilariously obtuse dialogue. To quote MScully:

“Generic example with made up but probably not too far from accurate dialogue:
[Scully has just discovered something earth-shattering that she must share with Mulder immediately!]
Scully: Mulder, I’ve found something. Something unbelievable. Something I’m still trying to understand. Something I just can’t quite believe…
Mulder: What is it, Scully?

For real! What is it! If you discovered something that profound, wouldn’t you just call him up and SAY it?”

In hindsight, that’s almost prophetic because in this episode we have:

Scully: Then why are you here?
Mulder: Because I know something that I haven’t said, something that they’ll use against you to jeopardize your custody of Emily. No matter how much you love this little girl, she was a miracle that was never meant to be, Scully.

Oh, out with it, man!

But silly dialogue aside and in all seriousness, both “Christmas Carol” (5×5) and “Emily” suffer a bit from the same syndrome as “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s hard to accept a one-off character as being a major part of our central characters’ lives. The relationship between Scully and her “daughter” Emily is so complicated that it leans more toward awkward than touching. How does Scully feel about suddenly becoming a mother? How should she feel? And how are we as the audience supposed to feel about the situation?

“I felt in the end that I was a little low energy, a little too melancholy. It was hard to find the right attitude for Scully in dealing with a child that’s apparently hers; to find the right flavor of relationship to her and this disease she’s going through, all mixed up with the aspect of the paranormal. Another trouble was that she had no history with this child so I couldn’t play the kind of attachment I would feel if my own daughter, Piper, were going through the same thing.” – Gillian Anderson (Meisler, Andy (1999). Resist or Serve: The Official Guide to the X-Files Volume 4. Harper Prism. pp. 70–71.)

I hate to say it, but that vagueness shows. Honestly, in a real way it works because how else could Scully feel except uncertain about how she should feel? The situation is too impossible for anything more concrete. The only thing that’s certain is that Scully wants justice for this little girl. Not that this is unusual for Scully whose fighting spirit shows up whenever she sees someone in need of an advocate. But it’s personal this time. She wants to protect her baby… and Mulder wants to protect his… and I mean that in the most platonic way possible. Sort of.

Mulder, who was reduced to a cameo appearance last episode, is making up for it by inserting himself everywhere this time around. He’s holding evil clones at gunpoint, flirting with old women, and ruining science experiments. And while his compassion for Emily is on his sleeve the whole time, he makes it clear that his first priority is making sure that Scully’s alright. Even his efforts to get help for Emily feel more like efforts to get Scully what she wants: a life with her little girl. What we have here is a follow up to the guilt we first saw from him over Scully’s barren condition in “Memento Mori”.

I agree with him. While she’s fighting a deadly disease is probably not the proper time to tell your closest friend that you have a vial of her ova in your pocket. Neither was when she was on her death bed. And why would you ruin the joy of her miraculous recovery by bringing up sterility in conversation? Poor Mulder found himself stuck with this secret.

…Or so he thinks. Scully already figured out that she’s barren and why (my puzzlement over that is below). So why Mulder doesn’t decide to tell her now that there’s hope, that he has her ova chilling out in his fridge is beyond me. Maybe once Emily dies, the moment has passed yet again.

Speaking of death, I’m not sure how I feel about Mulder and Scully’s choices at the end of this one. It harkens back to Melissa Scully’s argument for taking Scully off the respirator in “One Breath” (2×8), that sometimes we go to far by artificially preserving a life that should end, but what about preserving a life that could be painful? Is that the same thing?

It’s doubtful the mysterious green substance Mulder found would have ultimately saved Emily. The effect would probably only have lasted till the next dose was due. And then what would Mulder and Scully have done? Chased down more Bounty Hunters till they got their hands on some more? But it’s still interesting to think of the “What Ifs.” Maybe Mulder wondered what if Scully could have held her child a little longer.

But just like in “Memento Mori”, Mulder is still keeping secrets, still trying to protect Scully from heartache to the best of his meager ability. Once again, Mulder’s left holding the vial.

And the Verdict is…

I hate this episode a lot less than I let on. In fact, I don’t hate it at all, I just wouldn’t turn it on “just because.”

What with the advent of William, the tragedy of Emily has been all but forgotten. Maybe if this two-episode arc had been more monumental, the story of Emily and her potential identical sisters would have been revisited. But despite this episode’s best intentions and a solid performance from Gillian Anderson, this is a plot lacking in emotional investment. There’s something too surreal about Emily’s existence for it to pack a power punch.

To its credit, “Emily” is livelier than the melancholy “Christmas Carol”, though not by much. The climax is barely distinguishable from the rest of the story, but the music cue changes, so there you go.

B

Nags:

Mulder acts like the fact that Scully has never given birth is proof of conspiracy, but objectively, that wouldn’t prove that Scully hadn’t at one time given/sold her ova willingly.

How in the heck does Frohike know what hormones pregnant women have in abundance? I know the Lone Gunmen are almost an encyclopedic resource when it comes to some subjects, but that’s just too much. That sounds like a line that would have originally given to Scully before a script rearrangement.

There are so many issues with these elderly women carrying babies to term. Merely doping them with hormones wouldn’t be enough to combat their frailty, or the large number of risks involved when older women give birth, assuming they’re even giving birth since the babies seem to be growing outside the womb. And on that note, since they’re ultimately going into test tubes, why not just raise them from the beginning in a petrie dish? Why use the women at all?

So, Scully knew that she was barren because of her abduction, but she didn’t realize they had extracted her ova? It doesn’t make sense that the doctors figured out she couldn’t have children without investigating why. We’re not talking about a woman who was actively trying to conceive children so this isn’t a condition they would randomly stumble upon, they would have had to check her out.

Heres and Theres:

What if you were raised to believe you were a normal human child and then later found out what you were? How were the other clones and hybrids that we met in “Colony” (2×16) and “Herrenvolk” (4×1) raised?

Sorry. We’ve already done the moving fetus thing. I didn’t jump this time, I was only counting the seconds till Mulder did.

We haven’t seen the Bounty Hunter in a while and we still don’t get to see him in his true form. Now there are at least two of them.

Best Quotes:

Frohike: [On the Phone] Are you in adoption services, Mulder?
Mulder: No, I’m at the maternity ward.
Frohike: Any… fetching young mothers in there?
Mulder: Yeah, I think you might have a shot here, Frohike. You know anything about pharmaceuticals?
Frohike: Medicinal or… recreational?

———————

Scully: Who were the men who would create a life whose only hope is to die?
Mulder: I don’t know. But that you found her and you had a chance to love her… maybe she was meant for that too.

Christmas Carol 5×5: She must’ve dialed 1-800-The-Great-Beyond.


Visions of Sugar Plums??

A rare glimpse into Scully’s life outside of the X-Files confirms that she’s just as reserved off the job as she is professionally. Can we blame her? The Scully family table, seen again for the second time since “Gethsemene” (4×24), isn’t exactly the warmest place in the world. You could cut the underlying tensions with the proverbial butcher’s knife.

It’s Christmas time in X-Files land. You know what that means: Ghosts.

Well, maybe not a physical one exactly.

I’ve never given much credence to the “Scully as Latent Psychic” interpretation of The X-Files, but I must say, the woman does see/hear an awful lot of dead people. First she has a vision of her father right after his death in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), then she dreams of Mulder barely back from the dead in “The Blessing Way” (3×1), next she sees dead strangers in “Elegy” (4×22), and now in “Christmas Carol”, she’s receiving phone calls from beyond the grave care of a deceased sister who was creepier alive than she is dead.

At this rate, I’d say Scully averages about one dead vision per season. We could also count her hospital visions in “One Breath” (2×8), but then she was already half dead herself. Even so, I can’t help but think of “One Breath” when I watch this two-episode arc, not only because Melissa Scully makes a return appearance, but because they’re both lessons in death, or more specifically, conversations on whether or not it’s more humane to preserve life or allow it to end. Oh, and then there are all the “Baby Dana” flashbacks…

Speaking of “Baby Dana”, it would seem that even as a child Scully was the type to keep her thoughts to herself, at least that’s the picture that’s painted for us here. There’s a trend that started in Season 4 with Scully’s cancer where Scully is progressively characterized as isolated and even somewhat anti-social. Oh, she’s not lacking in social graces the was Mulder is, but we get the feeling as time passes that she’s a little trapped in her own head.

I’m not sure what brought this characterization on, exactly, except that it created more drama during her cancer arc for Scully to keep her emotions to herself and then it continued from there. If you look at Season 1, particularly in episodes like “Squeeze” (1×2), “The Jersey Devil” (1×4) and “Lazarus” (1×14), we get the impression that Scully likes and is liked by people. Over the course of this current two-parter, the Scully we meet acts like she’s never had a friend in the world.

So then what about Mulder? It looks like there are aspects of herself that Scully is still unwilling to share. I’m not so sure that makes her isolated and alone so much as it makes her a normal human being. How could you possibly fully explain the workings of your own heart to another living soul? We’re too complicated for that, but I digress.

Scully reverts back a little to her old ways with Mulder, wanting to reach out to him but hanging up the phone instead. Is she too proud to admit she needs help and support? Does she not want to sound crazier than he does? Probably both, but we’ll never know exactly. Scully’s relationship with Mulder is hardly the focus of this episode.

And so to the crux of the matter: I can honestly say that in my teenage naïveté I didn’t originally see the twist coming at the end, and I should have. But I must say that I believe I stifled a groan at Scully’s microwave pack of Instant Motherhood intruding into my X-Files world.

Not that the topic of Scully and motherhood is completely sudden. Ever since a carefully crafted conversation on a public bench in “Home” (4×3) the topic has been up for discussion, even more so since Mulder literally stumbled upon the secret of Scully’s infertility in “Memento Mori” (4×15).  Now that Scully’s cancer plot is behind us, it’s only right that we watch her deal with the emotional aftermath and her fertility is as good a place as any to start.

And yet… even after all these years I’m still not sold on the idea of Scully becoming a mother out of the clear blue sky. We’re not even talking about an ooey, gooey little baby that she has to accept, but a fully formed child well into her developmental years. And Emily is so lacking in interest and personality… Can Scully really feel such an instant, strong connection to a stranger? Can we as the audience feel connected enough to the child to believe that she is Scully’s? Can we even enjoy them together? I can only speak for myself when I say that later on, watching Scully’s motherhood being just as suddenly stripped away only adds to my sense that it didn’t belong to begin with.

Verdict:

This one is a bit of a Christmas fantasy of sorts. Who hasn’t wished that they could hear a lost loved one’s voice on the line one last time? Who hasn’t been afraid they’d forget the nuances, the timber of that voice before too much time had passed? For exploring that idea alone I’ll give this episode the most credit.

Okay, so “Christmas Carol” is not one of my favorite episodes of Season 5. It’s a little… subdued for my taste since, if you’ve read my reviews at all, I’m a sucker for an exciting, adventuresome X-File. Give me a romp in the deep, dark woods anytime. In comparison, this sleepy little story doesn’t make my finger twitch over the rewind button.

But another part of me is quite proud that this show can vary itself so drastically from week to week. We just went from a black and white fantasy horror fest to a quiet, contemplative and incredibly contained mystery in a mere 7 days. If that’s not good television I don’t know what is.

There’s one thing that still nags at me: Where are all the other little Emilys? Surely the Syndicate, responsible for clones upon drones, didn’t stop at one little Uber Scully.

B

Flotsam and Jetsam:

Wait, when did Scully learn she can’t have kids and more than that, when did she find out that her abduction was the cause? Mulder knew as of “Memento Mori” , but he doesn’t tell Scully about that little discovery of his until “Emily” (5×7) and even then he doesn’t explain in detail until Season 7. Sure, her doctors could have told her there was something wrong, but how did she know it was a result of her abduction and that her sterility wasn’t brought about by her cancer treatments?

I know I’m cold-hearted, but Scully giving Emily her cross so easily always irked me.

This has to be one of Gillian Anderson’s best looking episodes ever. Well, except for that jacked up weave they put on her head.

It’s comforting to know Bill Scully, Jr. was always a punk, even in childhood.

It’s amazing how streamlined the adoption process was made for Scully. Then there’s the fact that the things Scully confesses to the caseworker would have gotten her name scratched off of any respectable list. Ah, the miracle of creative license.

“Danny” still makes an appearance at this late date.

Best Quotes:

Mini Scully: This has got to be it! It’s got to be “Hotel California!”

———————–

Bill Scully, Jr.: You really think Melissa had a baby?
Scully: Yes. I do.
Bill Scully, Jr.: She called you from beyond the grave to tell you that? Sounds like something that partner of yours would say.

———————–

Tara Scully: Oh! Oh, that was a good one!
Bill Scully, Jr.: What? Is he kicking?
Tara Scully: Oh, he’s kicking! He’s kick-boxing! Well you had boys and girls, so which one kicked more?
Margaret Scully: Oh, I had some pretty tough little girls.

———————–

Scully: I don’t believe in fate. I think we have to choose our own path.
Melissa Scully: Well, just don’t mistake the path with what’s really important in life.
Scully: Which is what?
Melissa Scully: The people you’re gonna meet along the way. You don’t know who you’re gonna meet when you join the F.B.I. You don’t know how your life is gonna change… or how you are gonna change the life of others.