“He’s not dying. He is more alive than he has ever been. He’s more alive than his body can withstand and what’s causing it may be extraterrestrial in origin.” – Dana Scully
Scully continues to search for answers in Africa while Skinner struggles back in DC to help with and to understand Mulder’s condition.
Max: Did I mention how much I do not like the seventh season? Well I’m sure you loyal readers are going to get quite an earful out of me for the next two months or so as Radhika and I plow through some incredibly rough terrain. “Biogenesis” accumulated quite a bit of goodwill (particularly the tension and interesting new avenues of exploration) which sadly is absolutely squandered here. “The Sixth Extinction” is a hot mess of tonal inconsistencies and bad ham-fisted writing that sets the season on a course for disaster. You know the expression that it is good to put your best foot forward? I don’t think Chris Carter and company took that to heart here. You kinda have to think exactly what happened over the hiatus. What happened to The X-Files, and what is this program that is pretending to take its place?
When we last left our heroes, Mulder was swinging from rage to catatonia after encountering a rubbing taken from an extraterrestrial artifact, while Scully went to Cote d’Ivoire (where the artifact originated) and encountered an enormous alien craft crashed on a beach. Perhaps the only good thing about this episode is that Scully seems to accept and is ready to accept that the artifacts and the craft are of extraterrestrial origin. I mean how can she not, the writers would have to insult the intelligence of Scully’s character by making her rationalize away direct evidence in a fit of deep denial.
Along with another researcher named Amina Ngebe, Scully begins to decode the incredible amount of writings on the craft. What the two women discover is everything from bits of the Koran to an apparent mapping of the complete human genome. They are assisted by Dr. Barnes from the previous episode, who puts away his own skepticism only to be driven by madness, a supposed effect of his proximity to the spacecraft.
Meanwhile, Skinner does the best he can to help out his fallen charge back home. Mulder, in a brief moment of clarity, is able to communicate to his AD that he requires the expertise of former DoD employee Michael Kritschgau to help him unlock the mysteries of his condition. Kritschgau, now disgraced and living in squalor after helping Mulder out during the “Gethsemane” trilogy, reluctantly accepts. He explains to Skinner all about a secret CIA project using genetic therapies to induce remote viewing abilities in subjects of the study.
Kritschgau asserts that it is just biological abnormalities, but Mulder knows that it has alien origins, and goes about proving it through a series of tests like those Mulder performed on Gibson Praise. A bit of progress is made, and this is all well and good, until Diana Fowley shows up to stymie any lines of investigation that aren’t beneficial to her real employer.
Voice-over monologues aren’t necessarily the series’ strong suit, bordering on the extremely maudlin, and boy do we have some whoppers here, with Scully relaying her findings to Mulder in a letter of some sort. I’m all for down for some epistolary action, but when did Scully think that Mulder would ever get a chance to read it? While watching, I literally facepalmed when she spoke of Mulder’s “beautiful mind” and waxing poetic about the building blocks of DNA. It is this kind of Hallmark gobbledygook that I think does the series in once, later this season, the Mulder and Scully relationship begins the process of crossing over into the realm of the decidedly romantic. And don’t get me started on Fowley’s declarations of love for Mulder. I think I threw up in my mouth a little when that happened.
Aside from that, one item I thought was a bit interesting is how that in the episode, the men were the victims of madness and biblical-level plague, while the women were the apparent beacons of strength. Dr. Barnes went straight up cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs in Africa (killing his driver and being paranoid around Scully), and we are already well acquainted with Mulder’s condition.
I don’t know, this episode is just plain bad. At the end of it, Mulder is still on the verge of death, and while he now has Scully with him, all of her work in Africa just seemed like a useless detour with no real insight into how old pagan stories etched onto a extraterrestrial craft could help return Mulder’s brain back to normal. It is all a big case of “So what?,” because at this stage in the mythology, there really isn’t a formidable antagonizing force anymore. I’d say stick a fork in this, but there is one episode left of this trilogy. Joy.
Radhika: The death of the Syndicate indicated that a major chapter of The X-Files mythology was over. So it’s understandable that the series needed to start veering into a different direction with the sixth season finale/seventh season premiere. The problem is that after “Biogenesis,” a fairly tight episode especially compared to this one, a lot of the interesting ideas fall apart. And what we get instead is a jumble of randomness that could work in another story, but is just pretty messy here.
While I don’t feel the level of vitriol for this episode that Max does, I definitely rolled my eyes plenty watching it again. I don’t mind that Scully’s writing to Mulder, because I figured it was her way of keeping a journal (and potentially keeping herself sane) — and having someone to address it to made it all easier. But the maudlin purple prose from the Unabridged Chris Carter English Dictionary feels even more idiotic than usual here. I think the higher quality episodes can make a Phile more forgiving of Carter’s indulgent ways, but a messy one like this just makes all the bad stuff even more apparent.
There are a lot of threads introduced that are just kind of dropped partway — specifically the appearance of a mysterious African man who shows up in the beginning, then again partway through the episode before vanishing. This isn’t exactly resolved in the follow-up episode, so I still have no idea why that guy was there. There is some freaky plague-style, end-of-days stuff surrounding these appearances: A swarm of insects, boiling seawater, the ocean turning blood red and dead fish coming back to life. But what does this make the man? I’m also pretty sure Mark Snow’s random African-sounding chant motif pops up during one of the appearances, so we’re getting some really literal music to add insult to injury.
But on the bright side, Scully looks really pretty in Africa? I’m being completely serious here: We see her in clothes that aren’t black, her hair is a little wavy and she manages to seem laidback and business-like at once. Much as I love badass, high-heeled, black-suited Scully, more of this Scully please!
Now onto Scully’s nemesis: Here’s another bit of random. Yes, Diana Fowley declares her love for Mulder. We’ve been told they were involved in the past. But she again seems like someone who’s just inserted into the narrative for the sake of it, which is really no different than how her appearance felt in season five’s “The End.” There’s always a lot of talk going on with her or about her, but there’s very little going on to really make us feel she loves Mulder. We’ve never really properly gotten to know this character: She just appears to say annoying things and make us wonder why she’s there.
Hell, I even wondered why Kritschgau was there. Any post-movie fan was going to be confused at a guy who had a brief appearance a couple of seasons ago, plus I feel like any random person could have played his role here.
A few things I liked: Seeing Scully off on a quest/adventure, even though it makes no sense. The back-and-forth scenes at one point that involve Barnes hitting/killing people while also getting hit himself (by Scully) — it seems to turn into an almost comical running gag, and frankly, I needed something to latch onto and laugh at by that point. And I really love that both Scully and Skinner are willing to acknowledge that there’s some extraterrestrial crazy happening here. If nothing else, at least our characters have grown a little and stopped acting like skeptics just for the sake of it. Too bad it took Mulder losing his mind to make them believe.