1×09: Space

“You never wanted to be an astronaut when you were a kid, Scully?” – Fox Mulder
“Guess I missed that phase.” – Dana Scully

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

The agents are contacted regarding a case of possible space shuttle sabotage. There’s a bit of a paranormal twist when it seems that a legendary astronaut could be possessed by something he encountered… where else? In space.

Radhika: Watching this episode again reminded me why I’ve refused to rewatch it before. Because the best word to describe it is an unfortunate one: Boring.

Here, we’re presented the story of Lieutenant Colonel Belt, a supervisor of the NASA space shuttle program, who keeps having flashbacks of an event that took place during one of his space missions. The nightmares involve a face seen in a land formation on Mars. It turns out that Belt, apparently possessed by some type of entity from space, is sabotaging the mission. Once the crisis is averted and Belt dies, Mulder theorizes that Belt was battling the entity within him, and was also responsible for bringing attention to the sabotage, making him a hero in the end.

Yawn. It’s not the most thrilling plot, and the terrible special effects used to depict the nightmare face from space don’t do a whole lot to help either.

The best part of the episode is probably the reveal of Mulder’s boyhood love of the space program, and Scully’s equal lack of enthusiasm. When Mulder’s positively gleeful about observing a shuttle launch from the control room, Scully responds rather sarcastically: “Yeah, it ranks up there with getting a pony and learning how to braid my own hair.” It’s probably the one of the few delightful moments in an otherwise snoreworthy episode. And truthfully, Scully’s response just does a nice job mirroring the viewer’s reaction to the whole mess of a plot.

Max: “Space” is a complete non-entity for me, given how utterly uneventful and of little consequence the episode is. It merely exists.

The episode could’ve been a somewhat interesting take on the unique effects of space travel on those who boldly take the journey skyward,but in the end, this episode wastes the talent of the superlative character actor Ed Lauter as Colonel Belt, and it is telling in this interview done for The AV Club, he doesn’t have anything substantial to say other than it was nice working in Vancouver with David and Gillian.

A bit of outside trivia to note, this episode was thrown together when the show needed to do an episode on the cheap, since several other episodes’ budgets overran, and Carter needed to fill a slot. This definitely shows up in the final product, which seems to not have had any work done to it outside of perhaps one or two rewrites. Ironically, while free stock NASA footage was used, the necessity of constructing a mission control set inflated the budget, making the episode one of the season’s costliest. You might want to work on that, Chris.

What really irks me though is the way NASA and NASA history is handled in the episode. In middle school I was quite obsessed with the golden age of the space program in the 1960s, and still know everything from lunar landing sites to backup crews and call signs, so this sure set off a ton of nerd alarms for me. While Gemini 8 (the mission Colonel Belt was supposed to be on) did in fact have to make an emergency landing in the Pacific, the flight did not have any spacewalks at all, and had to abort several hours into the mission when a thruster became jammed and sent the spacecraft into a deadly spin. Luckily, commander Neil Armstrong was able to get everything under control and then you know the rest of his story. I could go on about fly-by-wire and orbital burns, but best leave that to the interested. If you want to know more about the Apollo Guidance Computer, drop me a line.

That being said, “Space,” let’s not do this for a long while, okay?

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu


2 thoughts on “1×09: Space

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Season 1 | Apt. 42 Revisited

  2. Mixed feelings on this one. A lot of things here seemed little thought out, like how M&S are given complete access to the NASA facilities, how Colonel Belt seems to be in charge of everything without a serious command structure and backup, how M&S find compromising information after checking a few folders… However, the tension once the trouble with the shuttle started worked for me. I even enjoyed the special effects. I like the eerie atmosphere of this series, although it’s frustrating that we never seem to be able to go beyond the surface and find out more about the aliens and the conspiracies. It’s how it is, I guess.

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