Tag Archives: Ghost in the Machine

F. Emasculata 2×22: This is Smokey and the Bandit.


Hey, Mister…

“F. Emasculata” is famous for being one of the grossest, if not the grossest episode that The X-Files has ever done. It even outdoes “The Host” (2×2). Whatever synapses are misfiring in my brain, I actually love this episode for its gratuitous distaste. I scrunch up my mouth and watch through my fingers every time.

This episode relies largely on the distrust of Big Pharma that was pervasive in the ‘90s. Who are we kidding? It still is. Somehow, it’s easy to believe that a big, faceless corporation would be willing to subject the human race to anything to build its empire. We Americans in particular are distrustful of any large concentration of power and money. I’m only touching on this lightly, but it’s exactly that collective fear that is at the heart of the mythology; there’s a small group of men hoarding their power and saving themselves at the expense of the little guy.

I have to say I had forgotten how much overlap there was in early seasons between the overarching mythology and minor, mini conspiracies perpetrated by the Federal Government. CSM is back for the first time since “One Breath” (2×8) not because extraterrestrials are involved but to give the goings on in this episode a diabolical edge. Enjoyable as it is to see him, I’m not so sure his presence serves the plot. Scully later reiterates everything he says but in a less sinister fashion and with more conviction. Regardless, once again the government is running secret tests on innocent civilians only this time they have a partner.

Those who have been following for a while know that I refer to these types of episodes as “Half-Caff” X-Files. They’re not paranormal or supernatural, instead there’s a science or technology that the government is trying desperately to control. “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) was the first of its species. I enjoy these types because they tend to be a little more scientific. “F. Emasculata” is not. The science of the disease is never explained. Why should it have been? The thrill isn’t in discovering its cause it’s in watching those horrible boils explode.

Speaking of a lack of science, how can Scully possibly be as stupid as she’s presented??? She’s a doctor. She knows that germs can be spread in a multitude of ways, yet in the face of a contagion whose method of communication is unknown, she opens up a sealed body bag with only a pair of gloves and a cheap mask. If it’s bad enough that the bodies are being incinerated, it’s bad enough that you should put on a containment suit, woman. And then she takes off her mask!! I’m incredulous, that’s what I am. If we’re going to be perfectly honest, it’s because of Scully’s recklessness that Dr. Osbourne dies.

Maybe to make up for the sheer lunacy of her actions in that scene, we later get a glimpse of Heroic Scully. Why does Scully keep from Mulder that she might be dying? Either that’s too heavy a conversation to have over the phone and/or she knows Mulder would stop what he’s doing and go to her rather than put his full effort into stopping this thing. Even if Scully’s stupid, she is sweet.

On a last film school-related note, much of this episode is filmed in shadow. I know, I know. That’s pretty much every episode of The X-Files. But even more so here, when CSM first appears on the scene, he’s filmed almost entirely in the dark except for his eyes. At other moments, actors are lit from a single light source such as the fire from the incinerator or a slot through a cell door creating a heightened sense of tension and drawing our minds away from any holes the story might have. It’s no surprise that we have Rob Bowman to thank for this.

Conclusion:

How much should people know? Does the public have a right to know everything? Does knowledge always help, or can it sometimes endanger? “You can’t protect the public by lying to it.” Oh, Mulder, you know better. At least Scully is able to talk some sense into him. This means CSM was right too, for once. Could he be right when it comes to the mythology as well?? If you take it as a whole, “F. Emasculata” is arguing for full disclosure, only I’ll give it credit for acknowledging the risk involved.

Now, while I thoroughly enjoy this episode I’ll be the first to tell you that the whole premise is faulty. Mulder claims Pink Pharmaceuticals conducted this secret experiment to avoid having to go through years of FDA trials and get their drug on the market faster. The whole point of FDA trials, first of all, is that they are a line of defense between manufacturers and the American public that can’t be circumvented; you have to show proof of all your collected data. Ergo, a secret experiment is useless when it comes to getting FDA approval. But what really gets me is that I don’t know what Mulder’s on about since there’s no drug being tested at all! So what would they get approved? They’re spreading a disease just to see what it will do, to understand the science behind it (which vaguely reminds me of the Tuskegee Experiments). It’s not a stretch to conclude that they’re creating a problem so that they’ll have a jump on the competition in learning how to solve it and eventually earn themselves revenue. But there are some serious variables involved before that can happen, as the events of this episode bear out.

I bet you think after all that griping I’m about to downgrade this episode. How could I do that when I enjoy it so much? So the plot has some pitfalls. Whatever excuse they need to bring me those boils a-poppin’ is just fine.

A-

Questions:

Wouldn’t Pink or the government have warned the U.S. Marshalls that there’s a contagion? These escaped men pose a threat to their testing as they’re outside of the focus group and unmonitored. The situation is tumbling out of control, something they don’t want because that would only draw more attention to what they’re doing. You would think that they’d make more of an effort to contain the situation by preventing others from being infected, if only so that no one would catch on to what’s actually happening.

Comments:

It’s interesting to see Dean Norris (U.S. Marshall) in his younger days before Breaking Bad, a series he stars in that’s written and created by fellow X-Files alum Vince Gilligan. Plug.

Best Quotes:

Scully: According to the briefing, prisoners escaped by hiding in a laundry cart.
Mulder: I don’t think the guards are watching enough prison movies.

——————–

Smoking Man: In 1988 there was an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Sacramento California. The truth would have caused panic. Panic would have cost lives. We control the disease by controlling the information.
Mulder: You can’t protect the public by lying to them.
Smoking Man: It’s done every day.
Mulder: I won’t be a party to it. [To Skinner] What about you?
Smoking Man: You’re already a party to it. How many people are being infected while you stand here not doing your job? Ten? Twenty? What’s the truth, Agent Mulder?

——————–

Mulder: What about you? Where do you stand?
Skinner: I stand right on the line that you keep crossing.

——————-

Skinner: Agent Mulder, I’m saying this as a friend. Watch your back. This is just the beginning.

Season 1 Wrap Up: The FBI’s most unwanted.


“This must be the place.”

…And the Verdict is:

B

It’s alive!

Sure, things started off a little slow and clunky, but that’s what happens when a snowball rolls downhill.

Up until now, when I’ve had a rewatch or when I’ve gone back and watched Season 1 episodes individually, all I noticed was how different the show was in the beginning versus later seasons. The unfulfilled episode endings, hokey special effects, bad ties… it’s hard to forget that you’re watching early 90’s television. But this time around, I’m struck by how consistent the show actually was, particularly in Mulder and Scully’s characterizations. Even through Season 7, the creators stuck to the original plan, they just got better at executing it. From beginning to, well, almost end, we have two paranormal investigators who use science as their guide and regularly give their bosses the stink eye.

The conspiracy is different, sure. But that’s only because it didn’t exist. Instead, there are a number of small conspiracies presumably organized by the same shadowy group of men. There’s no connectivity between episodes like “Deep Throat” (1×1) and “Conduit” (1×3) for instance. Miraculously, though, all the seeds planted at the end of the season in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) bring forth fruit before the end of the series. No, you can’t quite call it a mythology episode but it certainly serves as a prologue to what comes later.

My personal highlights were enjoying “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and “E.B.E.” (1×16) for the first time. GITM still ranks at the lower end of the spectrum but it’s not the lost cause I had written it off as before. I dare say I might even enjoy it more the next go-around. “E.B.E.” is a gem long misunderstood by my adolescent mind. Thank heavens I’m a big girl now. It’s particularly gratifying since part of the point of this endeavor is to eke out every last bit of pleasure from this show that I can. Now I have to more episodes to add to my anytime rewatch list.

Even more importantly, I’m getting a kick out of trying to track Mulder and Scully’s relationship timeline from beginning to end. As far as Season 1 goes, they click in the beginning, they gel in the middle, and they downright congeal at the end. By the beginning of Season 2 Mulder just about gives her the, “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope” speech.

So now for a question I’ve been dying to get to. Somewhere inbetween the “Pilot” (1×79) and the closing of the X-Files in “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” Mulder and Scully become better than partners they become “Mulder & Scully.” Now, I’m not hinting at any Shipper Shenanigans, but I’ve always wondered whether there was a “moment” that could be picked out or if, as I’m prone to think, it was a natural evolution that occurred before the audience even picked up on it. To be honest, I’m still not sure. But if there is a “moment” that can be pointed out, then there are several contenders for that honor.

  1. “Pilot” (1×79): Mulder and Scully bond in the rain and Scully laughs maniacally. Why not? She must be losing her mind since she’s starting to believe her crazy partner.
  2. Squeeze” (1×2): Scully stands up for Mulder against some J. Edgar Hooverish bullies while Mulder first hints that he may be feeling some (platonic!) affection for Scully. Scully makes a fateful decision to follow him up the stairs.
  3. Beyond the Sea” (1×12): Mulder doesn’t just hint, he calls her Dana. Dana decides she can open up and be vulnerable with Fox. At this point, they’re so in tune with each other that they even sit in sync.
  4. “E.B.E.” (1x)16: Mulder now realizes that the only person he can trust is Scully, and he tells her so without any regard for her personal space.
  5. Tooms” (1×20): Root beer.

My personal opinion? The “Pilot” is where they become partners, “Squeeze” is where they become comrades, “Beyond the Sea” is where they become friends, “E.B.E.” is where they become allies, and “Tooms” is when they become “Mulder & Scully.”

That’s my take on it… this time around. But I’d love to hear some other opinions. Is it possible to pinpoint when Mulder and Scully became something special? If not, why not? If so, are any of the options I listed viable? Was there a moment I didn’t list that you want to smack me over the virtual head for missing? Let me know!

P.S. BBC America is airing Fight the Future right this very moment, 8pm ET. I smell a run up to XF3!

EBE 1×16: Don’t stop swimming.


Exit. Stage Right.

I’m going to step out into precarious territory here and say that I think Fox Mulder is a naturally trusting fellow. Don’t believe me? Well, he certainly trusts Deep Throat without question. He lets Jerry and Phoebe back into his life in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and “Fire” (1×11) respectively. And most of all, in the “Pilot” (1×79), he’s skeptical of his skeptical partner and yet he reaches out to her anyway… in hope. What hope? Hope that he can trust her.

This is all a part of Mulder’s tendency to naturally give trust based on his instincts. And once he believes in a person he’s reluctant to throw that trust away unless given a significant reason to do so. He does that with Skinner in “Redux II” (5×2), Diana Fowley in multiple episodes. And here we see him live out the same pattern with Deep Throat. Has Deep Throat ever given him any hard reason to trust him? As Scully points out: not really. But since he hasn’t given any particular reason to distrust him either, Mulder is inclined to think the best of him.

The man is a sensitive soul at heart. There’s a reason he’s downright gullible sometimes. He wants to believe, not only in aliens and the paranormal, but in people too. Unfortunately, this idealism doesn’t serve him well and he grows progressively cynical and distrustful as time marches on. Still, even as of Season 6 he’s reluctant to suspect anyone he has a history or relationship with. That’s my theory and I’m stickin’ to it.

Regardless, as usual, Mulder’s gut instincts are right. Deep Throat is on his side. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t mislead him for the sake of his own agenda. As Mulder eventually learns, the only one he can count on, the only one who doesn’t have their own agenda tied up in a musty closet somewhere, is Scully. It’s not that Scully is the only one he would trust, rather, as the mythology spreads out, she’s the only one he can trust. All other options and allegiances are taken from him. There’s food for thought. Chew on that cud.

Whatever the reason he trusts Scully, if we were ever unsure before now we know that Mulder truly does rely on her. He even switches from saying “me” to “us” by the end of the episode. How does he put it? Deep Throat “tried to deceive us.” They’re a team on this. Finally. Now Scully is in on the conspiracy for the first time whereas before she was clueless on the outskirts. I mentioned before that there is a moment in Beyond the Sea that could possibly be considered the moment when Mulder and Scully become Mulder and Scully. Well, this is the second contender.

Scully, on her part, finally admits that it’s Mulder’s passion she admires. And truthfully, their relationship follows the outline of this exchange for much of the rest of their partnership. Scully knows the world is out to get Mulder and she’s trying to keep the world at bay. Mulder wants to jump off the deep end and Scully desperately tries to rein him in for his own good. He wants to believe too much, she’s too reluctant to believe… world without end, amen.

One thing I never appreciated properly before when it comes to “EBE” is its subtlety. Take the interchange of the cup back sliding back and forth on the interrogation table between Scully and the truck driver. A lesser show would have put too much emphasis on it with close ups on the actors’ drawn out, exaggerated reactions and such. The X-Files just lets it sit there for you to notice it or not. Same thing when Scully receives the bugged pen. Never, ever had I caught that bit about the pen at the rent-a-car agency. Not only that, I didn’t even catch it during the re-watch for the review. I was enjoying myself so much that halfway through I rewound the episode to the beginning to savor it even more and that’s when I caught it. How sad is that? Feel free at this point to dismiss all the rest of my reviews as obviously my powers of observation encountered kryptonite somewhere along the way.

However, I don’t need any particular powers of observation for this next part. Not enough can be said about the introduction of the Lone Gunmen and the way it’s underplayed. Once again, there are no exaggerated, lingering close-ups. I could almost wish we had more time to watch the characters respond to one another, but in the end I prefer it this way. It’s funny to think that Morgan and Wong initially thought that they had somehow missed the mark in the depiction of these three amigos. Thankfully, nothing could be further from reality. They are a nerd’s joy and a geek’s delight. And so is this entire episode.

And the Verdict is…

I really, really enjoyed watching “EBE” this time around. Maybe it’s the beauty of hindsight, who knows? Being aware of what happens at the end of the series certainly makes the beginning more poignant, not to mention it makes me feel like a bit of a wise old owl superciliously dropping knowing nods in the characters’ directions. Whatever the more primitive psychological reason, the acting and directing here points to the extreme possibility of this turning into a dang good series. If there’s any disappointment in this episode it’s that it didn’t have time to develop both the characters’ relationships and the conspiracy. We really don’t learn much about the government conspiracy except that it exists. Oh, and that Scully seems to have started believing in it too, minus the part about aliens, of course. One can’t have it all.

We finally see the mythology start to blink its sleepy eyes. It’s not quite awake yet, but it’s peeking!

A

P.S. If that’s not enough, check out the obscene amount of quotable moments I felt compelled to tag onto the end of this review.

Little Nags:

Roswell being lumped in with the Tuskeegee experiments? Really, Mulder??

The spaceship parts are supposed to be making this truck heavy, right? After all, little green men don’t weigh 2 tons. That’s why we say they’re “little.” And if the truck is overloaded with spaceship pieces, how is Mulder shoving these boxes around like they’re full of Styrofoam popcorn? Moreover, if those are car part decoys, where are the alien gizmos?

When did Mulder learn where Scully lives? For that matter, how did he know where she lived during “Squeeze” (1×3)?? I can’t exactly see them hanging out with each other on the weekends at this point. Maybe he picked her up on the way to the airport before or something.

How did the grandmotherly covert agent fit the pen properly with the bugging device without knowing what pen Scully would use ahead of time? It hardly looks like the expensive type of pen that you’d keep your eye on.

General Observations:

Scully doesn’t use nearly enough creamer in her coffee.

Did Mulder and Scully spend their own personal money on those extra plane tickets? Talk about conviction for a cause.

After Mulder’s touching declaration of blind trust does Deep Throat feel guilty? We hope so.

Aliens abduct humans out of their beds yet they can’t abduct one of their own out of a truck before the government gets to him?

Did anyone else notice that at the beginning of their interview of the truck driver Mulder had his leg up on the table? He really has always been like that.

Mulder totally saw that $20 bill thing coming.

This is the second time that Mulder and Scully have been blinded eyewitnesses to an alien abduction. Of course, this is the first time an alien is the abductee…

Best Quotes:

Scully: From the trucker’s description, the shape he fired on could conceivably have been a mountain lion.
Mulder: Conceivably.
Scully: The National Weather Service last night reported atmospheric conditions in this area that were possibly conducive to lightning.
Mulder: Possibly.
Scully: It is feasible that the truck was struck by lightning, creating the electrical failure.
Mulder: It’s feasible.
Scully: And you know, there’s a marsh over there. The lights the driver saw may have been swamp gas.
Mulder: Swamp gas?
Scully: It’s a natural phenomenon in which phospine and methane rising from decaying organic matter ignite, creating globes of blue flame.
Mulder: Happens to me when I eat Dodger Dogs.

————-

Byers: Vladmir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian Social Democrats? He’s being put into power by the most heinous and evil force of the 20th century.
Mulder: Barney?

————-

Deep Throat: Mulder, if the shark stops swimming it will die. Don’t stop swimming.

————-

Langly: Is this your skeptical partner?
Frohike: She’s hot.
Byers: You don’t believe that the CIA, threatened by a loss of power and funding, because of the collapse of the cold war, wouldn’t dream of having the old enemy back?
Scully: I think you give the government too much credit. I mean, the government can’t control the deficit or manage crime. What makes you think they can plan and execute such an elaborate conspiracy?
Frohike: She is hot.
Mulder: Settle down, Frohike.

————

Scully: Those were the most paranoid people I have ever met. I don’t know how you could think that what they say is even remotely plausible.
Mulder: I think it’s remotely plausible that someone might think you’re hot.

————

Byers: That’s why we like you, Mulder. You’re ideas are weirder than ours.

————

Scully: Please, will you just hear me? I have never met anyone so passionate and dedicated to a belief as you. It’s so intense that sometimes it’s blinding. But there are others who are watching you, who know what I know, and where as I can respect and admire your passion, they will use it against you. Mulder, the truth is out there… but so are lies.

———–

Deep Throat: You’re awfully quiet, Mr. Mulder.
Mulder: I’m wondering which lie to believe.

Young at Heart 1×15: I’d say that’s going a little out of your way.


We are Siamese if you please.

This is another example of one of my favorite MOTW sub-types, a Half-Caff X-File. Like “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) before it and “Soft Light” (2×23) after it, Young at Heart depicts a government conspiracy to control an unspeakably valuable yet potentially mankind-destroying science.  No paranormal activity, just extreme science gone horribly awry. We’ve already had two similar episodes this season with the previously mentioned “Ghost in the Machine” and even “Ice” (1×7) to a certain extent. But with “Young at Heart”, it would seem that Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish. (And in case this episode doesn’t make that clear enough he later writes and directs “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) just to make sure we get it.)

Season 1 spends a lot of time delving into Mulder and Scully’s past. Scully just had a go with “Lazarus” (1×14) so now, tit for tat, it’s Mulder’s turn again. One element of Mulder’s history that tends to get lost as the seasons go on is that he once held a lofty position as the FBI’s resident Boy of Promise. Mulder banished himself into the nether regions of the basement, but not before he proved he was an investigative genius. It’s during Season 1 that we see the memory of Mulder as a profiling Ace still alive and well in the Bureau’s collective consciousness. Now through his former superior, we learn just how great Mulder really was. Well, he still is great only no one but Scully knows it anymore.

His fairly recent fall from grace still seems to affect Mulder emotionally in this first year, whereas later, he’s jaded and indifferent. We see his resignation to his fate in “Squeeze” (1×2), we glimpse hurt feelings for a moment in “Lazarus” but in “Young at Heart” he has to face his former glorious past head-on. He barely flinches.

Mulder himself bears some resemblance to Dr. Ridley, a brilliant man who bucks the establishment because he single-mindedly believes in his cause. Called names by his peers, he shrugs off their disdain with self-righteousness as his armor.

Mulder’s guilt over the Barnett case? We never hear from it again. We were led to believe that part of the reason Mulder shrugs off the rules so easily in the present is that playing by the rules caused him to be responsible for two deaths, and that these deaths continue to haunt him. I suppose they eventually saw fit to haunt him no longer. Like Scully’s godson et al., these histories of Mulder’s and Scully’s fall by the wayside after Season 1.

And the Verdict is…

One of the great things about Season 1, as it progresses, is that Mulder and Scully start feeling more like a team, with Scully playing the clueless tag-a-long less often. In the very first scene after the teaser, Mulder and Scully even walk shoulder to shoulder, or more accurately, shoulder on top of shoulder. They just can’t help themselves. They don’t even know what personal space is when it comes to each other. I know I sound as repetitive as Toucan Sam but I still don’t think this is sexual. It’s just that they are inexplicably, spiritually drawn to one another.

If that weren’t enough, one by one, the writers pick off their former allies and friends. The few people at the Bureau with any admiration left for Mulder are falling by the wayside. Jerry was offed back in “Ghost in the Machine”. True, he was Jerry the Jerk, but he had to have a certain amount of respect for Mulder’s abilities to want to consult him and steal his work, right? Now Reggie, who is a mentor to Mulder, is gone just as we get to liking him. And as we shall soon see, Deep Throat’s days among the reliable are numbered as well. It won’t take too much longer before Scully is the only friend Mulder has left.

Besides being able to enjoy their now tangible camaraderie, “Young at Heart” makes for a decent episode even looking back into the abyss of Season 1 awkwardness. My one disappointment is that John Barnett was a lot more intimidating in profile and in flashback than he was in the final act. At least the ending is happily foreboding.

B

Perplexities:

Why does the defense attorney ask Mulder why he didn’t shoot? That seems an oddly placed question… unless of course you’re a writer and you want Mulder to admit in front of a crowded courtroom that people are dead and it’s his own fault.

How did Barnett snag a job fixing the piano at the cello recital? That was awfully short notice and he wouldn’t be able to fake that skill set easily.

How did Dr. Ridley figure out that Scully was looking for him, and more than that, where she lived?

Why is it that Barnett is getting younger while Ridley merely stays the same age?

Wouldn’t Barnett notice that Mulder’s at the recital too and realize it’s a set-up? It’s not like Mulder was there incognito. Truth be told, he does look back after Mulder when he’s onstage tuning the piano.

Here and There:

Mulder and Scully are such cute little youngins and they have no idea what’s coming 3, 4 and 5 seasons down the road. Am I the only one with the overwhelming urge to pinch their television cheeks?

The segue into the courtroom scene? Hilariously bad.

Agent Henderson could’ve been a fun recurring character a la Agent Pendrell.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, I know what you did wasn’t by the book….
Mulder: Tells you a lot about the book, doesn’t it?

Fire 1×11: It’s a technique I refined in my relationship with you.


Me? Jealous? In your dreams.

And so, we come to “Fire”, a.k.a. When Mulder Lost His Mojo. What is it Scully writes about the arsonist? “He will often act out of impulse, satisfying sexual urges or insecurities with destructive behavior…” Who else does that remind us of?

Cecil L’Ively isn’t the only character starting fires in this episode. Phoebe Green is little more than his female counterpart, with the same sad lack of character exploration. We see a lot of Phoebe Green but we never see her in depth. She was originally supposed to be a recurring character and I suspect the lack of insight into her character is part of the reason she isn’t a successfully engaging presence in this episode. For an Inspector with Scotland Yard her skills as an investigator are strangely underutilized. Mulder and Scully do all the legwork.

She is naturally clever, though, and perceptive. For instance, she’s half right about Scully’s feelings toward her. Scully doesn’t hate her but she’s certainly not on Scully’s list of favorite people. That’s understandable considering that prank she pulls in the car. Phoebe nearly caused Scully to have a coronary merely to play sex games with Mulder. And Scully is nothing if not perceptive herself. She knows what Phoebe came for.

I’m going to walk the shipper plank here for a moment by saying that I don’t think Scully was jealous of Phoebe Green at all in this episode. Outside of the cassette tape incident, Scully comes off amused at rather than irritated with Mulder’s love life. She shows no signs of anger, hurt, or resentment. Impatience? Well, I’d be impatient too if my partner was making whoopee while I was trying to crack a case. Her reaction, however, remains professional and friendly. If she sometimes looks as though she feels she’s the third-wheel that’s only because she is. But, truthfully, Scully acted more jealous of Jerry in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) than she does of this leggy brunette.

I realize I’m most likely entirely alone in the fandom with this line of thought, but I just don’t see Scully pining after Mulder at this point. Not only that, but if Scully had a more selfish motive such as winning Mulder’s affections, the writers couldn’t have played her off against Phoebe in the way that they did. Just like Phoebe’s parallels with L’Ively, the differences between her character and Scully’s are pointedly marked out. Mulder notes it himself with that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it comment about not usually having his theories accepted so readily. Scully challenges Mulder intellectually, Phoebe sexually. Scully investigates the case to be a friend to Mulder while Phoebe brings this case to Mulder only as an excuse to seduce him. Scully comes to Mulder’s side when he’s at his worst, Phoebe ignores Mulder once he fails.

Scully doesn’t have an ulterior motive, her only intentions are to help Mulder and solve the case. This wouldn’t hold true unless she was not interested in him sexually. If we were unsure, there’s always that scene of black silk boxer shorts fame. Mulder doesn’t have to cover himself up until Phoebe walks in the room. Why? Scully isn’t a sexual threat. She’s certainly not out to make Mulder a conquest. Phoebe may be his lover, but Scully is his friend.

Is Mulder aware of the dynamics of the situation? Yes. There is a wonderfully classic Mulder and Scully interchange when Scully admits that she’s still been looking into the case, “For [her] own edification, of course.” Mulder’s slightly ironic nod of acknowledgment lets us know that he knows that she knows what everyone knows…

And the Verdict is…

If later episodes make anything clear it’s that Mulder needs Scully and Scully enjoys being needed. She instinctively knows that Mulder needs her; we see it as early as “Squeeze” (1×2). This is why she doesn’t drop this case when Mulder lets her off the hook/gives himself a chance to mack on Phoebe.

Unlike Phoebe Green and even Diana Fowley later on, Scully has no ulterior motive. Her partner is in over his head emotionally and psychologically and she has to help him. She always has to help Mulder. It’s almost compulsive. Even in “Never Again” (4×13), when she’s in rebellion, she still does exactly what he asks her to do. (By way of an aside, as a general rule, the only time their relationship is ever in serious jeopardy is when Scully feels that Mulder might not need her or trust her, that he doesn’t really rely on her. See “Wetwired” (3×23), FTF, etc.)

It seems like Scully’s efforts throughout the series are focused on keeping Mulder just this side of sanity. She’ll yet at him if she has to, spy on him, investigate behind his back, whatever she has to do to make sure he’s OK. She remains ever aware that he’s a danger to himself.

After all, she’s right and he definitely needs her on this one. Now we know that the brilliant Agent Mulder can’t hold his own when it comes to women. He does indeed unfold before us like a flower. Next, it’ll be Scully’s turn in “Lazarus” (1×14).  Tit for tat and all that.

While this is another episode where the audience more or less knows the answer to the mystery ahead of time, it more or less works. Not, however, because of the plot, but because of the inter-personal dynamics. By George, we may actually be interested in these characters’ personal lives.

Originally, Mulder and Scully were supposed to have an exchange at the end of this episode that went like this:

Scully: Well, never let it be said that you wouldn’t walk through fire for a woman, Mulder.
Mulder: And never let it be said that I wouldn’t do it for you again, Scully.

I feel no hesitation in calling this cut one of Chris Carter’s best editing decisions. First of all, when did Mulder walk through fire for Scully in this episode? Secondly, the growth of their relationship is established without this pretty present wrapped in a red ribbon. After all, if Phoebe is an example of Mulder’s relationships with women, how could he not value Scully’s calm integrity? Moreover, the Ship, which was merely a canoe at this point, would’ve taken on water and sunk from an overabundance of syrupy goodness. No need to spell it out. Scully is Mulder’s Girl Friday. All is right with the world.

B+

Head Scratchers:

Mulder, Scully, and Phoebe all know Cecil L’Ively as “the driver.” Yet, once she takes the Marsdens back to their house, Phoebe (and Mulder too, for that matter) thinks that when Scully refers to “the driver” that she’s talking about the missing man and not Cecil L’Ively. Hmmm.

Is Cecil L’Ively a mutant or a magician? We can’t be sure. Maybe he’s like Clyde Bruckman and obsessed over fire to the point where he could start one. After all, he can only ignite the fire. He still needs an accelerant.

Random Thoughts:

Cassette tapes, remember those?

Phoebe’s feelings aren’t hurt! She’s playing you, G-man!! What a dolt.

L’Ively lusts after the wives, he kills the husbands and then he leaves it at that? There’s no indication that he pursues the women afterward. I suppose it’s enough to get rid of the competition.

Mulder’s office has finally reached its permanent form.

Phoebe and Mulder plan to run the trap all by themselves? I take it back up was overrated in the 90s. It’s not like the guy is dangerous or anything. And I don’t believe for one second she expected the arsonist to show. How would they catch him while kissing, with one eye open? The woman didn’t just book a room, she booked a suite for goodness’ sake.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, you just keep unfolding like a flower.

—————-

Scully: So, Sherlock, is the game afoot?
Mulder: I’m afraid so Watson.

Space 1×8: I guess I missed that phase.


Space's one and only thumbs up.

Space: The Final Frontier. Is it officially the worst episode of Season 1? I do believe it has been so declared. The worst episode of the series? Debatable. If there are any worse, it’s not because of production or plot, that’s for sure. Ironically, this looks like one of the cheapest episodes, yet it was the most expensive episode produced in Season 1. Even Mulder grinning like a fanboy can’t save its reputation.

The intention to create a loving homage to the space program is there. Unfortunately, like the space program, the magic is gone. NASA interests the American public now even less than it did then, when Challenger was still fresh in the public memory. Colonel Belt was right, a space walk really is like a walk around the block. Public sentiment doesn’t completely explain the failure of this episode though. Remember that little Apollo 13 movie that came out two years later?

Like Ghost in the Machine (1×6) and Shadows (1×5) before it, the audience has the gist of the solution long before Mulder and Scully get a whiff of it. That seems to make for boring television. Mulder never even has to put two and two together; Colonel Belt spells it out for him. Why make a character waste his perfectly valid, perfectly expensive Oxford degree?

In five sentences or less, Colonel Belt went to space and brought back a stowaway. This alien tag-a-long becomes a sort of Dennis the Menace. It wrecks havoc in an attempt, we assume, to prevent its home planet from being invaded by aliens (read: man). Its plans are thwarted when Colonel Belt realizes it somehow lives through him and leaks out information about the sabotage. He defeats it once and for all by leaping into space (read: irony) and falling to his death.

Now that I’ve spared you the trouble of watching, watch it anyway.

And the Verdict is…

Space isn’t for the casual viewer, mind you, it’s for the X-Phile who wants and needs to see every episode of this show to feel that their life is complete. This is not, I repeat, not the episode that you watch with friends to prove how cool a series The X-Files was.

Are there any redeeming moments? Of course! Well… they don’t quite redeem the episode, but they’re not bad. Watching Mulder nearly squeal with girlish delight is fun in an awkward way. Colonel Belt’s death was poetic, even if we never got around to actually liking the man. Sadly, I can’t think of a third moment. Maybe by the tenth time I watch it.

Truly, this is a poor man’s Apollo 13. A poor, deaf, dumb and blind man.

D-

Nagging Questions:

The astronauts have thirty minutes of reserve oxygen so Generoo feels she has no choice but to bring them down. How exactly did she plan to get them back to earth in thirty minutes? More importantly, how did she get them back in less than fifteen?

From the news report at the beginning of the episode, it would seem that this alien face and finding evidence of water on Mars are linked. But why does a specter need water?

General Observations:

Colonel Marcus Aurelius Belt? Really, Chris Carter? I bet I know which teenager read Meditations in between classes.

The alien looks less like a “sculptured human face” and more like a bloated chimpanzee. That’s intelligent life?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I have to admit, I fulfilled one of my boyhood fantasies.

Scully: Yeah, it ranks right up there with getting a pony and learning how to braid my own hair.

Ghost in the Machine 1×6: I taught him everything he knows.


Believe the badge.

“Ghost in the Machine” is the granddaddy of government cover-up: Half-Caff X-Files. I say Half-Caff because they aren’t paranormal and neither are they, well, normal. These are the cases that explore the realm of science fiction rather than horror. They are not lesser than, by any means. Only they aren’t a part of the mytharc and they aren’t MOTW episodes either. Usually, these types of episodes focus on the dangers of technology, biotech or otherwise. In this case, it’s artificial intelligence.

Dear Reader, may I draw your attention to the glance Mulder gives Scully when Jerry mentions that they were former partners. He looks for the world as though Scully had met a past lover of his, as though she wouldn’t want to know there had ever been anyone before her. On her part, Scully drops her friendly smile. Mulder and Scully may not be romantic, or even overly attached at this point, but they are most definitely territorial. Mulder even tries to downplay his “previous relationship” by saying they merely “worked together.” You can’t hide your sordid past forever, Mulder.

Jerry’s entrance is where Mulder’s demonstrable loyalty to his friends, even when they don’t deserve it, becomes evident. He may not make attachments easily, but once he does he’s loath to let go. He shows these same feelings toward Diana Fowley multiple times and even toward Skinner in “Redux II” (5×2) when Scully has him pegged as a traitor. To an extent, this aspect of his personality is what allows Phoebe Green to take advantage of him again in “Fire” (1×11), though that time he walks into her web willingly. It’s akin to his fascination with outcast females, no doubt tied to the loss of Samantha. He’d rather not lose again.

There’s something nostalgic about the scene where Scully tries to get Mulder to seek help. The character dynamics here hold true pretty much to the end of the series, which is a feat. Scully argues the irrationality of Mulder’s premise, Mulder sticks to it anyway. Scully tries to get Mulder to take a reasonable course of action, Mulder ignores her and goes off without any real explanation. Good times.

Unlike “Shadows” (1×5) before it, at least we can say we now know more about our two favorite agents.

And the Verdict is…

This one is largely ignored by the fandom and generally panned, but without its precedent, we wouldn’t have had episodes like “F. Emasculata” (2×22), “Wetwired” (3×23), and the some kind of awesome “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18). We’ll call it a government cover-up and not a conspiracy so as not to confuse it with the series mythology, which it’s only tied to by a very loose shoestring. Little grey-green men aren’t so much as hinted at.

There is a lot more meat here than I remembered eating the first 4 or so times I watched it. I would now go so far as to say it’s underrated. True, the visuals and electronics are dated, that can’t be helped. Also, the “villain”, the AI is sadly lacking in personality. The series missed an opportunity to create a truly frightening sentient computer, an error they later rectified in “Kill Switch” (5×11).

But there are a few golden moments hiding in this episode. How about Scully kicking butt and taking names? What fun when she walks in all bruised and beaten up, ready to shoot. She, of course, does the improper thing and sides with Mulder over the government. Pull a gun on her partner, will you? We haven’t seen Scully like this since “Deep Throat” (1×1).

Speaking of Deep Throat, Deep Throat himself makes a welcome return, proving that if dangerous technology exists the government will try to buy it and hide it. After all, you can’t trust the government. You can only trust Mulder and Scully.

C

General Observations

Mulder and Scully had to pay $8.50 for that rinky-dink lunch? Psh.

Apparently, TPTB don’t bother reprimanding these two agents at this stage of the game. They escaped censure in Deep Throat and it appears that the Department of Defense won’t be taking revenge on them either.

Nagging Questions:

What are Phone Freaks, Data Travelers, and Techno Anarchists? The times, they have a-changed.

What’s with all the strips of paper in the air conditioning shaft? It looks more like a garbage disposal.

More importantly, Scully shooting bullets inside the shaft seems equally as suicidal as her throwing herself directly into the fan.

Best Quotes:

Scully: How come you two went your separate ways?
Mulder: I’m a pain in the a** to work with.
Scully: Seriously.
Mulder: I’m not a pain in the a**?