I felt downright slothful only having to watch one piddling little movie for this writeup instead of the 10-12 episodes I’ve been packing in every three days lately. With my viewing of “The X-Files: Fight the Future,” I’m officially well past the halfway point of this odyssey. The brief respite from all-”X-Files,” all-the-time has allowed me some leisure to reflect on the experience thus far.
The good thing about steeping myself in five seasons of sci-fi television in five weeks? I actually feel like I get what’s going on. Absorbing the plot quickly without long hiatuses (and taking advantage of the surprisingly thorough Wikipedia entries for things like The Syndicate, Black Oil, and Colonists) helps the pieces of the puzzle come together more coherently. As much as I love “The X-Files,” in the back of my mind, I always assumed that Chris Carter didn’t really have much of a master plan. This time out, I’m surprised by how deliberate the myth feels. I notice the writers planting seeds and dropping hints in ways I didn’t before.
I’ve also really enjoyed indulging my Mulder and Scully shipper tendencies in all their silly, giggly glory. Since my deadlines don’t give me time to savor any individual episode, and I’m trying to watch with my critical viewer cap on, I didn’t expect to feel swept up by the drama of the show. I should have known better. I’m a nerd, and I get a powerful case of the flutters every time I see meaningful glance or an emotionally loaded moment pass between the leads. I’ve loved abandoning myself occasionally, gasping when Mulder and Scully have a tiff or hissing when Agent Diana Fowley comes on screen.
The downside to living in “X-Files” Land, population me? I’m kind of exhausted, I’ve hardly watched any other television, and I sometimes feel the tiniest bit twitchy. I’m not surprised to feel side effects as a result of living in a world of darkness, monsters, and conspiracy for so many hours every day. However, it’s a little embarrassing to nearly jump out of my skin every time someone sneaks up behind me during a scary episode. Even stranger, my dreams have taken on a distinctly “X-Files” flavor. Sometimes I find myself pursued by deadly sea monsters; at others I’m on the hunt for clues with Mulder and Scully. Sometimes, I just get a soothing narration in David Duchovny’s voice. It’s right odd.
But on to the show. As I said last time, Season 5 concludes with an episode called “The End.” It introduces two characters who later prove very important to the myth. We get a glimpse into Mulder’s past with the introduction of the aforementioned Diana Fowley. She’s not just a believer in the paranormal, she’s also Mulder’s ex and, to me at least, a suspicious weasel-woman. Fowley later got killed off in Season 7, and I’ve always wondered if Chris Carter had plans for her that couldn’t come to fruition since most fans deeply loathed her.
“The End” also introduces Gibson Praise, a young chess prodigy with phenomenal psychic powers. Mulder and Scully begin to suspect Gibson because he ducks just in time to avoid an assassin’s bullet during a chess tournament. They believe Gibson’s abilities could be proof of everything they’ve investigated, and that he contains genetic evidence of prehistoric alien astronauts who visited earth. They catch the shooter, but he’s scared and won’t talk about who sent him or why. Mulder and Scully want to give him immunity in return for telling his story. They know if something goes wrong it will bring unwanted attention to the X-Files, but the lure of certainty proves too great to resist. They gamble the future of the X-Files against proof, and in the end, they lose big.
Before they can get the information they need, the Syndicate kills the shooter in his jail cell and kidnaps Gibson from a safe house. Krycek and the Cigarette Smoking Man spirit Gibson away, burying the proof and bringing the wrath of the Justice Department down on Mulder and Scully’s heads. The X-Files get shut down for a second time. Just to make sure Mulder suffers sufficiently for his insolence, CSM sets fire to Mulder’s office, thus destroying not just the X-Files project, but the files themselves.
“The X-Files” film begins with Mulder and Scully as part of a team investigating a bomb threat in Dallas. Nobody finds a bomb in the threatened federal building but Mulder stumbles upon it next door. Scully gets the building evacuated but the bomb still goes off; back in D.C., the government needs someone to blame, and as per usual, our favorite black-sheep agents make excellent patsies. They found a few bodies in the wreckage from a FEMA quarantine facility in the bombed building. The FBI decides to use this as an excuse to punish Mulder and Scully by separating and reassigning them. Scully decides she’d rather quit the bureau than get shipped off to Omaha, and Mulder doubts he can continue his quest without her.
The agents embark on one last investigation before they’re split up. They want to figure out why the bodies of a couple of firemen and one little boy were found in a supposedly empty building. What they learn changes the landscape of the X-Files, both project and show, forever. The film reveals, largely through the final confession of the so-called Well Manicured Man, that the original inhabitants of the earth were aliens who abandoned it during the last ice age. One of their life forms is the black oil. They left it behind to be reactivated when the aliens eventually returned. The Syndicate formed as a response to the aliens’ renewed interest in the Earth. The aliens led them to believe that a virus carried by the black oil would turn humanity into a slave race. The Syndicate agreed to help prepare for colonization by working to create an alien-human hybrid.
In exchange for their cooperation, the Syndicate members’ descendants would be able to live, immune to the virus, as hybrids. Mulder’s father gave up Samantha as part of the hybrid program. At the same time, he hoped his son would fight to expose the truth. When a boy in Texas stumbles upon a long-buried black oil deposit, the Syndicate learns that they’d been double-crossed. The virus doesn’t just control people; it gestates inside them and rips them apart. The aliens don’t intend to use humanity as slaves. Instead, they want us for disposable incubators. The bodies from Dallas were what’s really left after alien viral infection.
The Syndicate used their access to the alien virus to work on a secret vaccine. The organization begins to fall apart when some members, like the Well Manicured Man, come to think that, armed with the weak vaccine, they could side with the anti-colonization alien rebels introduced in Season 5. Other members don’t want to risk what little advantage they have by making trouble. They kidnap Scully to punish Mulder, but with the help of the WMM, Mulder hunts her down at a cloning ship full of “Matrix”-style pods under the ice in Antarctica. He gives Scully the vaccine just in time, but it acts as a toxin and the whole system begins to self-destruct.
They escape just as the buried alien ship rises into sky with equal parts majesty and menace. Mulder looks on in awe, and you can tell his earlier doubts that plagued him through Season 5 have passed. Nothing helps a guy recommit to uncovering the truth about extraterrestrials like a face full of massive UFO. Continuing the motif of Scully always just missing instances of inarguable proof, she’s passed out on the snow, and doesn’t see the ship. However, after a few days as a viral incubator, she probably doesn’t need to see in order to believe.
I have to admit to feeling some apprehension when I sat down to watch the movie. It had been a couple of years since I’d seen it last, and though my memories were positive, they weren’t terribly specific. I dreaded the possibility that all my affection for the film came from fangirl loyalty and that I’d find it unwatchable. Happily, not so. There were a couple of moments that appealed primarily to the X-phile in me. In particular, I’d forgotten about the scene when Mulder and Scully very nearly almost smooch, so that one just about floored me all over again. More often, I noticed that it’s basically a well-paced sci-fi drama with a nice mix of action, tension, and humor. It’s rare that the characters in that kind of film have as much history and chemistry as Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny’s Scully and Mulder. The only apprehension I feel now is about whether, ten years in the future, that chemistry will still be going strong when the sequel debuts in July.