Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E12 "War of the Coprophages"

[ S3:E11 "Revelations" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E13 "Syzygy" ]

You can say a lot of things about Darin Morgan's episodes - indeed, a lot has been said - but "they're forgettable" isn't one of them. Even the one I didn't like so much - Humbug - is still pretty memorable. This is the one with killer cockroaches. Interestingly, it's the most straightforward of Darin Morgan's episodes - while still instilled with lots of situational humor, and an intuitive grasp of the lead characters. That may be why it's fans' least favorite of the bunch, but I like it - better than Humbug, at least. Misdirection - which was popular in Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose - is definitely a recurring theme: the episode opens with a man - presumably some kind of scientist - giving a reverent speech about the wonders of the cockroach, only to reveal that he is an exterminator. But in this episode, the roaches get their revenge.

There's a particular feel about this episode that sets it apart - not just due to Darin Morgan's writing. It feels as though this is an example of how the agents spend their weekends. Mulder is out staring at the stars, while waiting out the fumigation of his apartment, and - dedicated to his work as he is - gets roped into the middle of a case involving a series of roach-related deaths in a Massachusetts town. Scully hangs out at home, periodically giving Mulder tips by telephone. At first, he seems to be looking for any excuse to bring her out on the case, but she's so quick to come up with easy explanations for all the phenomena Mulder is encountering, that it eliminates the need to go to that trouble. That is, until things escalate to the point that she wants to join the case - but by then, Mulder has become smitten with a hot, young entomologist, and could care less if Scully shows up.

More so than Darin Morgan's other episodes, this one goes for the gross-out factor - not just the bugs themselves, but them burrowing into one guy's skin, and even one death that occurs on the toilet (I have to admit, to this day, when I'm sitting on the toilet, I periodically think about - not roaches - but what Scully says in this episode about the possibility that straining too hard can cause a brain aneurysm...). But when the episode stoops to cheap tactics like simulating a cockroach crawling across your television screen, or a couple of shitty puns (literally), I have to check out. On the other hand, there are some fascinating theories posed, like explaining UFOs as bioluminescent insect swarms, or the idea that intelligent lifeforms could send robotic probes disguised as insects to explore other planets. This isn't Darin Morgan's best episode, but it's good for a viewing.

Memorable quotes:

Exterminator: Compared to the roach, we are gods, and must therefore act accordingly. (Stomps on cockroach).

Mulder: Did you ever look up into the night sky and feel certain that, not only was something up there, was looking down on you at that exact same moment, and was just as curious about you as you are about it?
Scully: Mulder, I think the only thing more fortuitous than the emergence of life on this planet is that through purely random laws of biological evolution, an intelligence as complex as ours ever emanated from it. The very idea of intelligent alien life is not only astronomically improbable, but at its most basic level, downright anti-Darwinian.

Sheriff: Killer bees were a genetic experiment gone awry, let loose on an unsuspecting populace. Who's to say the government hasn't created a new breed of killer cockroaches?

Mulder: Did you know that the federal government under the guise of the Department of Agriculture has been conducting secret experiments up here?
Scully: Mulder, you're not thinking about trespassing onto government property again, are you? I know that you've done it in the past, but I don't think that this case warrants -
Mulder: It's too late, I'm already inside.

(Darin Morgan is totally lampooning mythology episodes here - even the visuals are in on the joke, as Mulder scales a chest-high fence and picks a lock, as if robbing a suburban home instead of sneaking into the military installations and other places of real danger that he frequently infiltrates).

Mulder: I hate insects.
Scully: You know, lots of people are afraid of insects, Mulder. It's a natural, instinctive -
Mulder: No, no, no, I'm not afraid of them - I hate them. One day back when I was a kid, I was climbing this tree when I noticed this leaf walking towards me. It took me forever to realize that it was no leaf.
Scully: A praying mantis?
Mulder: Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany, and as a result I screamed - not a girly scream, but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis's head resembles an alien's head? The mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day, but instead of being astounded, I was...repulsed.

Scully: Have you seen any cockroaches yourself?
Panicked Citizen: No, but they're everywhere.

(A textbook symptom of mass hysteria).

Mulder: Where are you?
Scully (looking at a map): I'm at a convenience store on the outskirts of, uh...civilization.

Dr. Eckerle: How do I know that you're not a cockroach?
Mulder: I assure you, Dr. Eckerle, I'm just as human as you are - if not more so.

Mulder: The development of our cerebral cortex has been the greatest achievement of the evolutionary processes. Big deal. While allowing us the thrills of intellect and the pangs of self-consciousness, it is all too often overruled by our inner, instinctive brain - the one that tells us to react, not reflect, to run rather than ruminate. Maybe we have gone as far as we can go, and the next advance - whatever that may be - will be made by beings we create ourselves, using our own technology. Lifeforms we can design and program not to be ultimately governed and constricted by the rules of survival. Or perhaps that step forward has already been achieved on another planet, by organisms that had a billion years headstart on us. If these beings ever visited us, would we recognize what we were seeing? And upon catching sight of us, would they react in anything but horror at seeing such mindless, primitive, hideous creatures?

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