Dec 03, 2013
W. Blaine Dowler
Podcast, podcasts, X-Files The X-Files
The seventh episode of the X-Files Retrospective podcast is now available here for your listening pleasure. Intro and outro music attribution is below.
Outside Poolside by Lasswell is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial (3.0).
December 19, 2013 @ 12:53 pm
Over time, I have come to appreciate Season 1. It tries to hit the themes of popular culture- like when it suggests another possible explanation for the Challenger disaster(SPACE), or the spiritual myth that a ghost could come back from the dead to help us find his killer(SHADOWS). It also pays homage to nearly all of the popular monster movies, from the THING (in ICE) to POLTERGEIST (in SHADOWS). They also resonate with their own versions of popular scary characters, like the nod Hannibal Lector in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS with Luther Boggs in BEYOND THE SEA, and the obvious Jack Nicholson tribute character John Barnett in YOUNG AT HEART.
On initial reflection, these episodes feel shallow, contrived, and methodical, tackling many themes we have seen before on television and in the theaters. And, as the characters deepen, the show really takes off in later seasons, where nearly every episode is unique, original, and thought provoking. However, watching these Season One episodes now, nearly 10 years later, I see the point. They were under pressure to create an audience, and the studio was pushing for more mainstream stories that the public could be counted on to respond to. I now like that within the initial framework of the common themes in pop culture, they were still able to weave their own unique path of these two great heroes facing off against foes both on earth and above. Some of the twists they created even in the first season are impressive, and it seems clear that the writing team was working with the purse holders to establish a base that they could jump off of.
That being said, this episode, a take off of HAL 9000 from 2001, is fun, diverting, and not terribly deep. The idea of sentient AI, probably better handled in the evil sense with the TERMINATOR, is a hard one to make scary, as shown in the suspense-less horror movie by the same name, GHOST IN THE MACHINE, released a month after this episode aired. In this episode of the X-FILES, a computer is trying to stay alive by terminating anyone trying to stop it. It has a fun mystery to it, because I enjoy a good ‘locked room’ dilemma. Mulder and Scully are brought in to help a friend because it seems no human being could have easily committed the crime.
But it turns out that having Mulder shut the computer down with a floppy disk carries less suspense than when it’s against something more imposing. Although it works when Deep Throat comes in to add some depth to the seriousness, he continues to remind us that our own government will tend to stop at nothing to capture some of these possible strategic ‘advantages’.
Finally, I liked that when Scully was put in danger in the ventilation shaft, we are left to imagine how she stopped the fans and found the stamina to still show up to stop the bad guy. It helps to round her out as a force of her own, someone who can take care of herself. Previously in SQUEEZE, she defended herself noticeably against Tooms, and here she was able to beat the machine’s designs to defeat her.
This is a fun, fairly forgettable episode of this great series. It continues to pose the interesting idea of what constitutes an X-File. It also allows Mulder and Scully to lightly engage in banter about “believing”, and what the means. It ends up meaning a great deal to both of them.
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