Friday, January 29, 2016

1204 - The Ugh-Files

My nostalgia for the X-Files led me to watch the opener for Season 10.  When the X-Files premiered way back in 1993, I was not a fan.  I missed a couple of seasons before I finally caught on.  The pilot episode, when I eventually did watch it, is what I consider to be one of the finest science-fiction shows ever broadcast.  While made with few special effects, this episode was trendsetting in its depiction of alien abduction and the psychological strain of belief in the malignance of hostile extraterrestrials.  Alien abductee Billy Miles becomes one of the most memorable tragic heroes in UFO lore. 

Of course, if you start strong, there's the danger that the rest of the run will all be downhill from there.  For every episode that reveled in the macabre oddity of Fluke Man, Eugene Victor Tooms, Alex Krycek or Duane Barry, there's an episode where Mulder gets trapped in cyberspace, or Scully faces off against a pitiful computer-graphics special effect, or there's a regenerating alien hybrid supersoldier who gets defeated by common magnets.  

The demise of the X-Files was 9-11.  That day, America changed, and the contrived conspiracies of alien invasions failed to measure against the real threats pinpointed by Homeland Security.  It's hard to justify how the FBI would allow two of their more talented and experienced agents to go hunting for little green men when angry brown and white men were busy loading explosives onto airliners and into federal buildings.  

I ended up watching every episode of the X-Files.  I even own all the shows on disc.  I've watched every minute of Season 9, renowned for how tired the cast and crew had become with the production of the show.  I don't recommend it.  

So, the new Season 10 revivication of the X-Files simply goes to great lengths to tell us everything that had gone wrong with the previous seasons.  It's a terrible start to a franchise that deserves better treatment.  Common narrative wisdom suggests, "Show, don't tell", meaning that the characters should drive the story rather rely than bald exposition.  Yet the season 10 opener is all exposition.  The most exciting thing the characters do is ride in a limousine.  Their lines of dialogue are completely interchangeable.  If the episode had been read aloud by Steven Hawking, it would have been impossible to tell Scully apart from Mulder.  What a wreck.  

The second episode fares little better.  While there was some interesting gratuitous gore, the plot involved putting children in mortal danger, something the X-Files has done many times before, and apart from the  Billy Miles incident in the first season, never with any realistic emotional consequence.  Scenes of mis-shapen children utterly crippled by freakish mutations barely register with Scully and Mulder.  They together drop into a completely self-absorbed fantasy sequence whereby they imagine their own child (who was given up for adoption) to be an extraterrestrial being.  Don't they have psychological testing at the FBI?  Are these the agents you'd send to investigate a laboratory that is accused of genetic experimentation on children?  

Season 10 disconnects from reality.  Maybe it's fun to go back to 1993. Mulder and Scully have never seemed to have left.  In my opinion, they did leave something behind in the '90's: heart and soul.  While the X-Files posited that the Earth was being invaded by aggressive clones, it is Scully and Mulder who have become clones of one another: snarling, bickering, petty, nearing retirement and both willing at any provocation to explain nearly anything in excruciating detail until the blessed release granted by commercial breaks.  

Billy Miles should have stayed in the flying saucer; he was better off there. 

EDIT:  I am reminded that I should try to end JSVB blog posts with more positivity.  So I will praise the X-Files Season 10 for this:  as much of a disaster as this is to watch, it's still leagues better than the Muppets reboot.