X marks the spot…
While idly flicking past channels the other day I chanced upon Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Sculley. The memories flooded back.
It would be safe to say The X-Files were a phenomenon when Star TV launched the series in India. Right from its first few episodes about alien conspiracies to the infinitely more entertaining journeys chronicling the strangest cases of the X-Files themselves, I was hooked, cooked and booked.
To me, a student and practitioner of the scientific method, the hook lay in the subtle way the creators validated their far-fetched ideas with science. Higher intellectuals could argue till Armageddon about the correctness of the science and the claims, but to a 15-year old, learning those concepts became easier, nay, glamorous once they were thrown around in reference to aliens, stretching humans and pretty FBI agents.
I, my brother and Dad, a more hardcore practitioner of the scientific method, would wait impatiently for our weekly episode to begin. His intent was different. He would sit through each episode and systematically pulverize the premise, characters and concepts, punctuating each salvo with a dismissive grunt. After a while it became funny and he stopped ribbing us when that happened. I guess he was a little worried we might end up like those hopeless UFO watchers with crazed eyes and incoherent mutterings in our sleep about Area 51 and Roswell, as our professional and personal lives shrank to the size of atoms.
Thankfully, none of that happened. The X Files actually galvanized me into learning a bit more of the science I studied. To go beyond the textbook and validate with experiences where possible. Agents Mulder and Scully were my inspiration to obtain better grades in an education system over-leveraged on rote learning.
Jokes apart, I loved the way their relationship remained platonic. There was always the healthiest respect for each other, through the concern, the arguments and the banter. Scully played the perfect foil and her feelings for Mulder stopped just short of those of a girlfriend or wife. The occasional sexual tension would quickly diffuse without leaving a jarring aftertaste or appearing completely out-of-sync with the story.
Two episodes I remember vividly and can watch them any number of times are “D.P.O” and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”.
DPO marks the debut of a young and intense Giovanni Ribisi, who holds the power to command lightning and electricity through his ever-consuming rage. With rage being the central theme of the episode, it made for the most disturbing X-File I have seen because of the violent imagery, Ribisi’s menacing act and the pounding metal soundtrack (very unexpected and uncharacteristic). In fact the theme for the episode is Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot”. The song booms into your senses and heightens the sense of terror, doom and rage as Darren Peter Oswald lays waste to those who cross him. Additional star power manifests in the form of Jack Black who plays DPOs slacker friend.
“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is about a psychic who can correctly predict the future, albeit reluctantly. Clyde Bruckman, the unwilling psychic is played by a wry Peter Boyle (who many will now recognize as Raymond’s dad in Everybody Loves Raymond). This episode was sadly humorous as Clyde is forced to predict the actions of a purported serial killer, the dangers the agents will face during the investigation, take punts on Mulder and Scully’s deaths, and eventually describe his own demise. Which he does, correctly. The episode is punctuated with gallows humour, a very inventive non-linear narration and a poignant ending when Scully, who has developed an affection for this strange man over the course of the investigation, has to deal with his predicted death by hiding her sadness under the professionalism of an FBI Agent.
These two episodes aired back to back and I would recommend them to anyone who still hasn’t been immersed in the X-Files mythology.
All good things must end and David Duchovny made the wise decision to quit when ahead. However the creators should have taken a hint too. Robert Patrick was totally inadequate as a substitute and it all died an unfortunate death.
Syfy channel now promise to air back to back episodes every Sunday and I can’t wait. I’ll probably ask Dad to join in over the phone :)