Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The X-Files - S7:E1 "The Sixth Extinction"

[ S6:E22 "Biogenesis" <<< Season 7 >>> S7:E2 "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati" ]

Spoiler Warning: This season premiere mythology episode picks up right from the last season's finale, so expect spoilers!

As the seventh season begins, Scully is still over in Africa studying the artifacts, hoping to understand them in time to save Mulder, who is still locked up in the psychiatric ward back home, suffering from debilitating madness. To remove any lingering doubt as to the miraculous powers of the washed up UFO in the minds of anyone in the vicinity, some unusual phenomena begin to occur. First, Scully is repeatedly visited by a vanishing apparition that her colleague refers to in superstitious terms. (Seeing Scully suspiciously stalk the camp while wielding a machete is a sight that is delightful to behold). Then a series of Biblical plagues descends on the beachfront camp, involving a swarm of locusts, boiling oceans, a sea of blood, and uncanny resurrections. The symbols, translated from the exterior etchings of the UFO, contain passages from all kinds of religious texts and traditions - not just the Bible, but also the Quran, with pagan religions, and ancient Sumeria also represented. Scully describes it as "science and mysticism conjoined", and recognizes that the words themselves are "imbued with power".

When Dr. Barnes shows up to help, it raises a number of questions. I held off on commenting on him in my review for the last episode, because I figured we'd learn more about his motivations in this or the next episode. I have a hard time believing he'd resort to murder just to discredit the mysticism involved in this groundbreaking discovery. And yet, he turns up in this episode, a full believer. Granted, he could have been won over by the artifacts' strange properties - he did acquire one of them. But I still feel like he must have some ulterior motive - a hidden agenda. Does he have some connection with Krycek (who killed Dr. Sandoz in the last episode) and/or the Smoking Man? He gets killed by the end of this episode, so I'm not sure there'll be any more resolution to that plot thread...

Meanwhile, Mulder is struggling with his sanity back at the hospital. It's really heartbreaking to see him in this condition - David Duchovny plays it very well. In spite of his being compromised, Skinner tries to help, and Mulder leads him to recruit Kritschgau - further lending these episodes the feeling of being a revolving door for guest stars from some of the series' all-time greatest mythology episodes! We don't exactly get a proper resolution to the contradiction between Kritschgau's claims of government hoaxes and the fact (that we and Mulder have since learned) that there really are aliens out there, but it's still nice to see Kritschgau again. He's a good character. I like him. Anyway, he's seen the condition Mulder's in before - in a CIA study on ESP. He believes it's a form of remote viewing, in which the brain is working harder than the body, and he knows a drug that can slow it down.

I'd just like to take a moment here to remark on my excitement at seeing remote vision become a plot point on The X-Files - as it's long been a pet paranormal phenomenon of mine. I was probably first introduced to it via the John Darnton novel Neanderthal, about some anthropologists who get caught up in a lingering struggle between two warring factions of prehistoric hominids (one species of which possesses natural remote viewing capabilities) that they encounter in a remote jungle. I latched onto the idea as an optimistic solution to most of man's self-bred conflicts (as a practical application of the idiom, "to walk a mile in someone else's shoes"), at least until I disavowed it as illogical after studying Thomas Nagel (who speculates on the answer to the question "what is it like to be a bat?") in college. Still, it's exciting to see the concept in discussion here.

We'll have to wait until next week for the conclusion to this story thread - which as yet remains elusive. Scully comes home to finally visit Mulder in the hospital again, albeit without (yet) a cure to his madness. Skinner and Kritschgau's efforts to help him, by the way, failed largely on account of Fowley's interference, which she follows up with a completely lukewarm confession of love to Mulder (I don't even hate Fowley the way I love to hate Krycek, for example - I just utterly dislike her). It remains to be seen how or in what capacity the Smoking Man is involved with the discovery of the UFO - the "authorities" have remained unusually silent so far (which I could chalk up to the UFO turning up in Africa, as well as the recent disintegration of the Syndicate). There's also the question of the aliens' ultimate agenda, and what they intend to do about this perceivable security breach - the cliffhanger, although not as thrilling as the one in the last episode, apparently reveals the disappearance of the beached UFO (and thus all the evidence, presumably, as well as any hope of understanding Mulder's condition). And the significance of the vanishing man Scully keeps hallucinating? I hope some answers are forthcoming in the next episode.

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Scully: In the source of every illness lies its cure.

Dr. Barnes: I know what we've got. This craft that's come ashore. Its extraterrestrial origins.
Scully: You don't even believe in that.
Dr. Barnes: Nor do you. But here we are.

Skinner: What just happened?
Kritschgau: I think he responded to a question that...I didn't ask.

Kritschgau: I don't believe in aliens, Agent Mulder. I think you know that.

Scully: I mean, it's's the most beautiful, intricate work of art.
Dr. Ngebe: It is the Word of God.
Dr. Barnes: You're wrong. There is no God. What's out there on the only what we call God. What we call creation. The spark that ignited the fire that cooked the old primordial soup. Made animate from inanimate. Made us.

Scully: It has power.
Dr. Barnes: It is power. The ultimate power.

Vanishing Man: Some truths are not for you.

(I don't know if this is actually what's going on, but this scene toys with a compelling idea - that Scully's stubborn skepticism in the face of all the evidence paraded before her may in fact be the result of some paranormal force blocking the truth from her mind. Toward what end, I couldn't say, but it's a more satisfying explanation than that Scully is just that block-headed).

Scully: He's not dying.
Skinner: I'm afraid it's true.
Scully: He's not dying. He is more alive than he's ever been. He's more alive than his body can withstand. And what's causing it may be extraterrestrial in origin.

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