“This is a perfect example of man’s imperialism over the animal kingdom – this craven impulse to turn animals into objects for our own selfish pleasure.” – Kyle Lang
Mulder and Scully investigate what looks like a stampede in rural Idaho that resulted in the death of an elephant. Problem is, witnesses didn’t see any elephant do the damage.
Max: First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room (and use up a cliche pun in the process), this is a pretty bad episode. Issue episodes haven’t really been one of the show’s strengths, and this is far too evident in this attempt at dealing with the plight of wildlife and their treatment by human hands.
After witnessing the death of Ganesha, the elephant from a local zoo, our agents question the two people most in charge of the day-to-day there, a wrangler with a sordid track record of abuse named Ed Meecham, and Willa Ambrose, a recent hire whose mission has been to make the zoo a more humane environment for the animals. All parties involved are befuddled as to how the elephant was able to escape her cage, but Ed places the blame on the Wild Again Organization, a group intent on liberating every creature in captivity.
Kyle Lang, the leader of the local chapter of the WAO denies any involvement in the incident, and tells Mulder and Scully that Ambrose has been too involved in trying to maintain custody of a gorilla named Sophie, since the Malawi government has been petitioning for her return. A shady looking associate of Lang though raises Scully’s suspicion, as does a night vision camera.
Willa, on the other hand, treats and takes care of Sophie like a daughter. Like the famous Koko, Sophie too knows sign language, and eventually communicates to Mulder her fear of losing her unborn child to the “flying light.” Mulder takes this to mean a UFO, and here is where we go into WTF territory. Eventually, it is surmised that a group of aliens are abducting pregnant animals from the zoo and taking their offspring in some kind of cosmic Noah’s Ark. This sadly is what happens to Sophie and her child, and in perhaps the only moving scene in the episode, we see Willa race toward Sophie in a field as she watches her die.
It says something that not even The Lone Gunmen (well, two of them at least) can bring something to an episode. It is all so slapdash and barely put together. Written by freelancer Steve De Jarnatt, it seems like he got the images of the cold open in his head, and couldn’t follow through crafting an interesting case around it. “Fearful Symmetry” seems like a story that could’ve been on any generic science fiction show of the 1990s. Hell, it probably could’ve been done better on Star Trek: The Next Generation had that show still been on the air during this time. And the UFO angle feels like trying to paint oneself out of a corner, much like what probably happened in last season’s “GenderBender.”
And after the incredible highs of the “Colony”/”End Game” two-parter, this was quite a crash back down to terra firma.
Radhika: Ouch. Everything Max had to say is true, even if it is a bit harsh. I tried rewatching this episode with an open mind, recalling that I’d never had much of a favorable opinion of it to begin with, and it was hard. It’s part afterschool special (an issue that seems to come up in a lot of the show’s worst episodes), with excessively preachy bits about animal cruelty… and I say this as an animal lover.
The UFO angle is terrible, which is a real shame after the further exploration of alien-human hybrids in “Colony”/”End Game.” The difference in quality really highlights how stupid alien stories can be when they’re not written properly. And as we know, not every episode needs alien plots (or even something truly paranormal – a la “Irresistible”) to be a good one.
That said, there is maybe a little moment I enjoyed, because it slightly foreshadowed some of Scully’s irritation in the hilarious season five episode, “Bad Blood.” The part I’m referring to is when Scully winds up inside an elephant carcass, all for the sake of carrying out an autopsy, declaring that it isn’t in her job description. It’s almost like poor Scully’s giving a shoutout to the viewers during the episode, acknowledging the painful experience we’re all going through.