7×20: Fight Club

“What I’m thinking, Mulder, is how familiar this seems. Playing Watson to your Sherlock. You dangling clues out in front of me one by one. It’s a game, and… and, as usual, you’re holding something back from me. You’re not telling me something about this case.” — Dana Scully

Mulder and Scully investigate a case of doppelgängers that seem to leave a wave of destruction in their path.

Fight Club

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And here we are: One of the most reviled episodes of The X-Files, ever, perhaps even worse than some real doozies like “The Field Where I Died” and “El Mundo Gira.” This is an episode I’ve refused to rewatch until I had to for this blog, and I’m not going to lie — I did a little multitasking while watching in an effort to suppress my feelings of rage. I’m happy to report that I was able to stay sane watching it thanks to this approach, but that doesn’t mean I like the episode any better.

The episode generally focuses on Betty Templeton and Lulu Pfeiffer, doppelgängers who seem to have disastrous effects on their surroundings when they’re in the same place at the same time: People fight, the earth quakes, all sorts of mayhem ensues. And it turns out the two women have also been sleeping with the same man, a wrestler named Bert Zupanic. A few facts emerge — the two women actually share the same father, a rage-filled guy in prison. And eventually, we learn that Zupanic also has a doppelgänger/twin — mayhem of course follows when all four doppelgängers are in the same place, and the episode ends on a mildly bemused chaotic note with both Mulder and Scully recovering from injuries resulting from their encounter with these violence-inducing duos. Continue reading

7×19: Hollywood A.D.

“You don’t fool me, Mulder. That bowl is your Holy Grail. Encoded in its ancient ceramic grooves are the words Jesus spake when he raised Lazarus from the dead– still capable of raising the dead 2,000 years later. Proof positive of the paranormal. You could no sooner destroy that than let the redhead die.” — Cigarette Smoking Pontiff

When our heroes get assigned to a case with mystical-slash-spiritual possibilities, their Assistant Director pairs them up with a college roommate looking for movie material.

Hollywood A.D.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: “Hollywood A.D.” is Duchovny’s second time around in the writer-slash-director’s chair, and while it doesn’t hold the same kind of magic that “The Unnatural” did last season, the peculiar way in which fact and fiction collide keeps me entertained throughout the episode.

What starts as a pretty typical case for the employees of the X-Files division becomes anything but when Walter Skinner foists his college pal Wayne Federman on Mulder and Scully. Federman, a writer-slash-producer in Hollywood, is jonesing for some real FBI flavor for his “Silence of the Lambs meets Greatest Story Ever Told type thing” that he has cooking. To this end, he tags along as our agents investigate the bombing of a crypt of a local DC church. The church’s leader, Cardinal O’Fallon, is a powerful man with Vatican-size ambitions, and takes Mulder and Federman on a tour of the wreckage. The moment they find a body allegedly of famed counterculture icon Micah Hoffman and the remains of some apocryphal relics (including a bowl that apparently has an etching of Christ’s voice), things begin to get (in Federman’s words) a little fahkakte. Continue reading

Scoring a Quest: The Music of The X-Files

The Post-Modern Prometheus

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

We’ve talked at length about the characters, the spooky themes and the lighting that made The X-Files a memorable TV series. But there was another important element — the music. The X-Files probably wouldn’t be the show it was without Mark Snow’s score. While the theme song — which grew popular enough to get remixed multiple times and featured on the likes of the Pure Moods compilations — has gone on to become one of the most famous in TV history, the rest of composer Mark Snow’s work also helped put the show on the map. Even though the majority of the music on The X-Files wasn’t exactly typical melodic fare for everyday consumption, it played a huge role in establishing the series’ tone.

IN THE BEGINNING

There was a heavy emphasis on spookiness from day one: The music was often in a minor key when it was melodic enough to have a key, while atonal and percussive at other times, building up feelings of suspense and paranoia. Synthesizers, which remained an important component of Mark Snow’s work, sounded even more obviously synth-like in the early seasons: This is evident in much of the Pilot, as well as other first season episodes like “Conduit.” The score was often chilling, occasionally representative of the monsters on screen — as heard in tracks like one from “Squeeze,” titled “Slimed” on The X-Files Vol. 1 compilation released in 2011.

But there were also times where the music, while still haunting, could feel almost warm and organic: Even in that first season, which can sound so dated now, we started to hear snippets of recognizable melodies. For example, a track originally titled “Lamenta” (on The Truth and the Light compilation) from the episode “Roland” is a simple one, mainly made up of a piano melody before an extra layer of string-like synths kicks in. Continue reading

7×18: Brand X

“Tobacco beetle. It’s an herbivore. It eats tobacco. Hence it’s name.” — Dr. Peter Voss
“I understand that, but maybe these don’t.” — Fox Mulder

When a witness who was supposed to testify against the Morley cigarette company dies horrifically, Mulder and Scully are called in by Skinner to investigate.

Brand X

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And now we’re back to the more standard Monster of the Week episodes with “Brand X,” an episode that is fairly average in the grand scheme of things, but at least has a few gross-out moments perfectly suitable for The X-Files (and terrifying to me as I hate bugs). In this episode, the agents are up against the antics of Morley, the very cigarette company favored by our favorite cigarette-smoking villain — a nice little touch of continuity in a standalone episode.

A witness and former employee of Morley plans on testifying against the company until he develops a cough and is found the next morning with his flesh eaten away. Skinner, who was tasked with protecting the man, calls Mulder and Scully in for help. We learn that Morley had been trying to engineer a “healthier cigarette,” but the tobacco used is inhabited by a beetle whose eggs survive cigarette manufacturing and end up released in the smoke of cigarettes. Three out of four human test subjects died as a result, and the lone survivor — chain smoker Darryl Weaver — expects an unlimited supply of the cigarettes for his silence. So Weaver is essentially the culprit spreading the beetles around, killing people. Continue reading

7×17: all things

“I don’t think you can know. I mean, how many different lives would we be leading if we made different choices. We… We don’t know.” — Fox Mulder
“What if there was only one choice and all the other ones were wrong? And there were signs along the way to pay attention to.” — Dana Scully
“Mmm. And all the… choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn, and… we wouldn’t be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot. That says a lot, a lot, a lot. That’s probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour.” — Fox Mulder

Spurred on by one of Mulder’s investigations, Scully is confronted with possibilities she’s usually dismissed.

all things

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: Last season, David got his chance at writing and directing an episode of The X-Files with the wonderful outing “The Unnatural.” Here, it is Gillian’s turn, and I wish we could say we were as pleased with what she brought to the table, but sadly, there are a lot of issues with “all things,” an episode that throughout my life as a fan of the program I’ve wanted desperately to like. Typically, I have a kind of fascination with ideas that would be stereotypically derided as a New Age hodgepodge (at the very least, they give us a novel way of looking at the cold hard reality in front of us), but Gillian’s execution of those ideas leaves a lot to be desired.

“all things” begins as two separate cases that Mulder has asked Scully to lend her expertise and assistance to (the autopsy of a woman and the unmasking of the makers of crop circles in England), that invariably end up as a single “case” through which Scully is forced to confront choices she’s made in the past, choices that affect how she will carry herself in the present and into the future.

By happenstance, the autopsy results get mixed up with the x-rays of one Dr. Daniel Waterston, the man who was once one of Scully’s teachers in medical school, and whom she carried on an affair with that broke up his marriage. Continue reading

7×16: Chimera

“I gotta hand it to you, Sheriff. You put the service back in ‘Protect and Serve.’” — Fox Mulder

Mulder goes to investigate when a woman goes missing in a small Vermont town, while Scully tries to tolerate an awkward stakeout.

Chimera

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: I have to admit that before I settled down to watch this episode, I could barely remember what it was about. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover a reasonable Monster of the Week episode with some genuinely enjoyable dialogue. Yes, “Chimera” still has a touch of “X-Files Lite,” as I’ve said about much of this season, but while it may not stick with you for long after watching it, there are a number of redeemable elements that make it an enjoyable enough hour of television.

Mulder and Scully are investigating a case involving a woman who might be killing prostitutes, but Mulder gets called off to go investigate the disappearance of a woman in Vermont instead. The woman, Martha Crittendon, is the daughter of a federal judge. Mulder ends up staying in the house of the local sheriff and his homemaker wife Ellen. Martha eventually turns up dead and after some time, Jenny Uphouse — a woman from the “wrong side of the tracks” — does too. Continue reading

7×15: En Ami

“So, you want to use me to clear the slate… to make you a respectable person. It won’t work.” — Dana Scully
“How many people in the world are dying of cancer? And here we are wasting time with the past.” — Cigarette Smoking Man

When a boy is cured of his cancer under mysterious circumstances, the CSM makes promises to Scully about the technology involved while Mulder tries to extricate her from choices he thinks she will regret.

En Ami

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: “En Ami” is a bright spot in a season that is sorely lacking in positive attributes, and it still hits (mostly) all the right notes. Written by the CSM himself William B. Davis and directed (for the final time in the series) by Rob Bowman, this outing is a seductive and sinuous sojourn for Scully and the Smoking Man, his overtures of trust and the possibility of something tangible the psychological bedrock of forty-odd minutes of genuinely good television.

Our heroes are put on the scent of Jason McPeck, a young boy who claims to have his cancer cured by angels after his parents have refused medical treatment on religious grounds. A conspicuously placed newspaper later, and Scully finds herself in the company of the Cigarette Smoking Man, entreating her to go on a trip with him to acquire the details of the technology used to cure Jason before colleagues (remnants of Syndicate apparatchiks) intervene to stop him. Taking detours to an allegedly 118-year-old woman and a bit of restaurant espionage, their journey comes to head on the water as Scully meets up with a nervous informant nicknamed Cobra, who gives her a CD before getting his head blown off by a CSM assassin. Continue reading