Thursday, November 12, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E16 "Alpha"

[ S6:E15 "Arcadia" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E17 "Trevor" ]

From the pen of Jeffrey "The Rain King" Bell, we get this almost-classic X-File, which serves as sort of the dog version of season 3's Teso dos Bichos. A canine cryptid - supposed to be extinct - shipped from China gets loose in California, and goes on a rampage. We see it as a wolf with glowing, red eyes (say what you will, but given all the humanoid killers this show has featured, it's nice to have one that's an animal for a change). Andrew Robinson (who was the good guy, Larry, in the original Hellraiser) plays a temperamental cryptozoologist, and Melinda Culea plays an otherkin wolf spirit who is a bit of a shut-in, and draws Mulder to the case after meeting him on the internet. Apart from Scully's jealous vendetta, I'd say that her portrayal is fairly sensitive (I may be biased as a fellow antisocial loner, but misanthropy isn't automatically a negative trait in my mind), given the stigma that otherkin have in mainstream culture - despite being a social outcast (which is not necessarily uncharacteristic).

In a meeting of the minds between Mulder and his dog-loving friend, the latter says, "I'm just going by the facts," and it's more proof that the characters of The X-Files simply live in a world where this kind of stuff (a murderous dog with apparent human intelligence and possible shape-shifting abilities) is real. Scully could be less block-headed when it comes to her skepticism and scientific rationalism. I hate it when writers write her as being not just doubtful, but derisive of alternative explanations (and those who hold them). Instead of this attitude: "you believe this? Then you are a subhuman and I am so above entertaining your ridiculous theories," I have only to think of her enthusiasm in the pilot episode when she wasn't afraid to tell Mulder he was crazy, but was still intrigued enough by his crazy theories to go out and investigate them. Truly, the thrill is gone. Of course, in this case, it may be exacerbated by jealousy - but seeing Scully get jealous over Mulder giving any other woman attention isn't much more satisfying. These are some of the worst qualities of these characters. What do we need this kind of idiotic drama for anyway? Need the writers be reminded of the fact that this is not what this show is supposed to be about?

Mulder doesn't get off in this episode, either. I'm noticing a distinct change in his personality, in line with the series' recent change towards a more comedic tone. He's always fired off quips, but he used to be more serious, more critical of the squares who invariably scoff at his wild theories. Now, the humor is more self-conscious, with more of an emphasis on jokes and wacky behavior. Like a man with more confidence in his reputation than his character, he walks on screen like he's getting up on stage to do stand-up comedy. But it's a more low-brow sort of humor - not the kind that suited The X-Files' original reputation as a smart, serious genre enthusiast's television show. Throw the whole Mulder-Scully romance thing on top of that, and I guess that's the casualty of popularity for you - a dumbing down of principles in order to cater to the lowest common denominator...

All that having been said, it's perfectly decent, as far as run-of-the-mill monster-of-the-week episodes go - and it definitely feels more old-school than the majority of the episodes in this season. Plus, I must admit I'm touched by the fact that it features the restoration of Mulder's beloved I Want To Believe poster, that was destroyed at the end of The End.

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: Cryptozoologist?
Officer Cahn: Yeah, they deal with animals thought to be extinct, animals --
Mulder: Animals that aren't supposed to exist, like Sasquatch, or the Ogopogo, the Abominable Snowman...
Scully: Don't mind him, he'll go on forever.

(It would have been funnier if he did actually go on much longer, and list a whole lot more cryptids: Bigfoot, el Chupacabra, the Loch Ness monster, the Jersey Devil, Mothman, the Fiji Mermaid, etc.)

Karin Berquist: Dog eats dog catcher. Story's all over the news this morning. It's sort of uplifting.

Scully: Don't underestimate a woman. They can be tricksters, too.

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