“Our friend from the C.I.A. is about as unbelievable as his story… as is everything about this case. I mean, whatever happened to ‘trust no one,’ Mulder?” – Dana Scully
“Oh, I changed it to “trust everyone.” I didn’t tell you?” – Fox Mulder
Our agents are tipped off to the deaths of identical looking doctors around the country. Little do they know what the path they set off on will uncover.
Max: Oh boy. This one folks is what you might call a “doozy.” “Colony” is the first part of a pair of episodes that are some of the absolutely best the series ever produced. Frequently acclaimed by audiences and critics alike and ranked commensurate to this esteem, these episodes represent a lot of what people think of when they think of The X-Files.
We start this one in media res, with Mulder being brought in from the Arctic cold on a stretcher, barely clinging to life. Scully is not far behind, and pleads with the doctor on staff that the cold is the only thing keeping him alive. Mulder begins to flatline, and we are off to the races. At the time of this writing, so many programs have started episodes in this fashion, showing us afterward how we got that point at the episode’s beginning, that it’s become somewhat of a lazy writer’s crutch. Here, it works because of the quality of the writing and how it immediately it sets up the stakes involved.
Those stakes start when our heroes begin to investigate the deaths of doctors that look completely identical. Problem is, they don’t appear to be related; and further still, there seems to be no record of their existence until their deaths. They learn of a classified ad placed in a newspaper soliciting information about an individual who looks exactly like these doctors. Soon, Mulder is approached by a man named Ambrose Chapel, supposedly of the CIA, who claims that these men (all nicknamed Gregor) are the result of genetic tests by the Soviet Union and infiltrated into American society as sleeper agents. However, someone is in the process of hunting down these doctors, and they must be stopped.
Along the way, a local FBI agent in Syracuse is found dead after Mulder called him for assistance, and Skinner calls Mulder on the carpet, admonishing him for starting an unauthorized investigation that cost the agent his life. Problem is, there seems to be no clear cause of death. There is a clue though; his blood seems to have coagulated inside of his body, and investigating further, Scully stumbles upon some kind of biological lab in Maryland. What she discovers are remnants that appear to be fetuses, destroyed by Chapel himself. Moreover, she comes face to face with the last four living Gregors, who plead with her to protect them from the individual hunting them down.
That individual, who apparently came to Earth in a crashed UFO, is the very one that has been disguising himself as Chapel, and who killed the FBI agent in Syracuse. Enter who we call the Alien Bounty Hunter, a wonderful invention cooked up by Chris Carter and David Duchovny. Played with cold affectless precision by Brian Thompson, the ABH is an extraterrestrial with the ability to change his shape to appear as anyone he chooses. Even at this early stage, the character is immediately an indelible presence on the show, clutching a menacing weapon which he uses to dispatch his victims, and cemented by the nightmarish visual of when he takes on Mulder’s form and approaches Scully in her motel room (going there after a sequence of intense paranoia), with the actual Mulder on her cell phone. The tension is enormously palpable, and the look of absolutely dread on Scully’s face is incredible. In the back of her mind (and ours too probably) are the events of her abduction at the hands of Duane Barry, and the smash to the “To Be Continued” card proves to be an excruciating cliffhanger. Imagine having to wait a whole week to find out what happens! Torture!
I would be remiss though to not mention the other huge piece of the mythology puzzle that drops onto the table in this episode, the apparent return of Samantha Mulder. At first known to the audience as a mysterious woman assisting one of the Gregors, she then introduces herself back into the lives of her parents (our first time we get to meet Mr. and Mrs. Mulder, by the way), and more importantly, her brother Fox. After what was probably the second longest night of the Mulder family (after Samantha’s abduction), Samantha tells Mulder that after her abduction she was brought up by one of the Gregors, and explains to Mulder that Scully is in danger from the ABH (that cell phone call he made came a little too late). One thing I come back to in this episode is how broken the Mulder family became after Samantha’s abudction. Mr. Mulder is all closed off and distant, and Mrs. Mulder continually is overwhelmed by her experiences. It’s no wonder that this gave Mulder the drive to find out what happened to his sister, after seeing the wreckage of the aftermath.
With Scully’s life in the balance, “Colony” has laid extremely fertile groundwork.
Radhika: What an excellent, well-paced episode, especially after the promising, but slightly lackluster “Fresh Bones.” The suspense, the result of a solid script, good direction and well-timed music, is palpable throughout, and the series’ overarching motto, “Trust no one,” is really applicable to just about every scene here.
Max already covered a lot, so I’ll just go over a few things here, focusing on the apparent return of Samantha Mulder. We often see Mulder as the one willing to believe just about anything (with a few exceptions), while Scully balks at just about everything, but this is one situation where Mulder seems even more desperate than usual to believe everything without even pausing to think about any possible fraud. This seems to fit a general pattern with other cases that either remind him of his sister or actually have something to do with her disappearance.
While “Samantha” doesn’t actually seem to be a particularly bad person, in fact even providing helpful tips about the Alien Bounty Hunter and prompting Mulder to warn Scully, she says too many things that come in a supposedly perfect little package. I’m referring to her mention of how hypno regression therapy brought back memories of abductions and tests. All a little too convenient, isn’t it?
That said, you can’t help but feel sorry for Mulder a bit because it would be nice if his sister’s reappearance works out to be just what it is. As Max pointed out, our introduction to Mulder’s parents shows us that the family never quite recovered (with the parents even splitting up) — understandably so — after Samantha’s disappearance. When we met Scully’s family in previous episodes, we met a fairly average, loving and tight-knit unit. But here, the awkward handshake between William Mulder and his son indicates a cold distance, which also contributes to the slight lone wolf image Mulder has developed when he doesn’t have Scully by his side.
But that’s enough character profiling. It’s just exciting to watch the series’ mythology build up, pre-messiness, at this point, and the next part is going to make it even better!