Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E4 "Dreamland"

[ S6:E3 "Triangle" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E5 "Dreamland II" ]

If ever there was an advantage to moving production to the southwestern U.S., it was having a chance to do a proper story about Area 51. Although I kind of liked the Smoking Man's dismissive reference to it back in Apocrypha. By the time the movie Independence Day had come out in 1996, Area 51 was part of the pop culture lexicon, and so, obviously not a good place to store the military's top secrets (especially ones involving extraterrestrial technology). And, unfortunately, this episode has less in common with the suspenseful infiltration of top secret government installations à la Deep Throat, E.B.E., The Erlenmeyer Flask, Memento Mori, Redux (etc.), than it has with the comedy-infused flavor of Small Potatoes, which also involved David Duchovny in a body-swapping role. That this is not just the angle they take for an Area 51 episode, but that they extend it into a two-parter without even synching it with the show's mythology in any substantial way, really says it all about the direction this show is heading in. Also, that the show is now examining viewer-friendly Area 51 in lieu of any number of unnamed military installations with more genuine secrets to hide, is further proof of its evolution toward a less serious tone, and its pandering embrace of mainstream popular culture.

I'm excited that the show has extended past five seasons, but in these latest episodes, I'm getting the feeling that the stars and the creator(s) both are getting tired with the format. The characters are growing exceedingly into caricatures, and Chris Carter seems more bent on mucking with the formula - giving the actors episodes like Syzygy, The Post-Modern Prometheus, and Triangle, in which they can let loose and have fun at the show's expense - than finishing the gritty alien conspiracy story that he originally set out to tell. It's like Darin Morgan has cast a twisted legacy on the show's remaining writers - the humor and deconstruction becoming the show's central pillar, instead of an occasional respite from its usual, darker tone. The fact that David Duchovny sounds like he's getting bored of playing Fox Mulder (according to interviews I've read from around this time), and the knowledge that he will eventually (though not just yet) leave the show before its end, just contributes to this feeling that the show has lost its focus. Maybe the show should have ended in its fifth season, and continued intermittently from there as a film franchise (as may have been discussed at some point in time).

Anyhow, the basic thrust of the episode is that Mulder drags Scully out to the ET Highway in Nevada (to the expected frustration of A.D. Kersh) to meet up with an informant that has contacted him who works at Area 51. They are stopped, however, by a convoy, prior to witnessing a military UFO (probably not unlike the ones the military had in the episode Deep Throat) that passes over them, inexplicably subjecting them to some kind of spacetime warping anomaly that causes Mulder to switch bodies with an Area 51 employee named Morris Fletcher (Michael McKean). But unlike Small Potatoes, in which David Duchovny got to act out a stranger inhabiting Mulder's body, the two actors follow their characters, so that we see who they really are, and not who the other characters see them as. (It's a little confusing, but makes enough sense in the context of the episode).

So, Morris - ostensibly a government grunt bored with his life and in the midst of a mid-life crisis - gets to hang out with Scully and try on the bachelor life, while Mulder gets a taste of the [dysfunctional] married life (wasn't Scully the one pining for a normal life just prior to the swap?), and an opportunity to "infiltrate" Area 51, provided he doesn't blow his cover. The risk to his life is even greater when the other employees find out there's a leak, and begin to suspect Morris (whose body is currently inhabited by Mulder). Although, Mulder seems more intent on righting the situation, and providing Scully with scientific proof that he is who he says he is (that she doesn't initially take Mulder (as Morris) at his word is a wonder, after spending a day being exasperated by Morris (as Mulder)'s frustratingly (humorously, to the audience) out-of-character behavior), than discovering much of anything that is going on inside Area 51.

To be continued... (Because one episode of this ridiculousness apparently wasn't enough).

Memorable quotes (there are a number of lines in this episode that are funny mainly due to situational cues based on the body-swapping premise, that lose a lot of their impact taken out of context):

Morris Fletcher: I got a top secret for you: there's no such thing as flying saucers.

Morris (as Mulder): Are you out of your pretty little mind?
Scully: Am I out of my mind? Mulder, you are out of your mind!

Howard Grodin: Antigravity systems utilize bends in space and time for propulsion. A sudden shift in a craft's trajectory could create the kind of distortion we're witnessing right here - a lizard and a rock existing in the same time and space.

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