Saturday, November 14, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E19 "The Unnatural"

[ S6:E18 "Milagro" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E20 "Three of a Kind" ]

Well, The X-Files is 0 for 2 this season (3 if you count the Bermuda Triangle) on broaching subjects of classic alien lore. Like Dreamland brought the show to Area 51 to questionable results, this episode takes on the Roswell crash - and I think I preferred it when this series took the high road, when Deep Throat scoffed in The Erlenmeyer Flask that Roswell was just a smoke screen. This is also the second episode this season that has switched out the phrase "The Truth Is Out There" in the opening credits, for frivolous reasons. The last one was Triangle's simple rendering of the phrase in German; this episode opts for a pun, "In The Big Inning" (giving you a sense for the mood of the rest of the episode). It is, indeed, largely a period episode, drawing many parallels to last season's Travelers, since Mulder once again seeks out Arthur Dales (although finding his brother with the same name instead), and is regaled with a history lesson in his apartment. Scully appears only in a couple of short scenes with Mulder (although shippers will just die for them). Like Travelers, this episode also junctions with the series' mythology, although it's treated almost as an afterthought. As last week's Milagro was a love letter to the art of writing, this episode, written and directed by David Duchovny (who hasn't had a co-writing credit since the third season, and never a directing credit on this show), is a love letter to baseball.

If it were just about baseball, I could write it off as a boring episode - because I'm not really into baseball (or sports in general). But it kind of bugs me that it tries to be a mythology episode, too, because it treats the mythology so flippantly. And it's a rather poor episode to feature such an important development in the show's mythology - the first time we get to see an alien shape-shifting into human form (and vice-versa). David Duchovny's first co-writing credit on this show was for the episode Colony, and Brian Thompson is back in this episode as the Alien Bounty Hunter. It's nice to see him again, since he hasn't had anything to do, really, on this show since The Red and the Black (and nothing substantial since the season 4 opener, Herrenvolk). And we finally get to see his true (alien) face (now that post-movie, aliens have been introduced on this show) - although the alien effects in this episode are kind of hokey. (Then again, maybe it's because in some of those scenes the aliens are acting goofy). Because this episode really isn't about a conspiracy of aliens hiding themselves among human civilization - it's about one particular alien's love of baseball (playing for "The Roswell Grays"), to the point that he's willing to risk the secrecy of "the project" to play ball. And I have a real hard time getting excited about it.

Memorable quotes:

Scully: Have you ever entertained the idea of trying to find life on this planet?
Mulder: I've seen the life on this planet, Scully, and that is exactly why I'm looking elsewhere.

Mulder: This cuts to the very heart of the mystery of what I've been doing with my life for the past ten years.
Arthur Dales: Baseball is the key to life. If you just understood baseball better, all your other questions - the aliens, the conspiracies - they would all, in their way, be answered by the baseball gods.

(I've quoted these passages out of sequence in order to prove a point - this about sums up the reason for my frustration with this episode: Alien conspiracies? Let's talk about baseball!)

Mulder: Let me get this straight, a free-spirited alien fell in love with baseball, and ran away from the other non-fun-having aliens, and made himself black, because that would prevent him from getting to the majors, where his unspeakable secret might be discovered by an obtrusive press and public.

(There. That's what the episode's about. And it's as ridiculous as it sounds. Now I've saved you the time of having to watch it yourself).

Mulder: Okay, so is Ex a man who is metaphorically an alien, or an alien who is metaphorically a man, or a something in between that is literally an alien-human hybrid?

(I've been asking this question of the mythology for six years' worth of episodes now).

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