The X Files

Wednesday, December 6, 2000 by

Well we finally got that episode of The X Files almost a year after its original transmission in the States and the predictable question is, was it worth it? For this viewer the answer is a resounding yes. In the same week that Coronation Street attempted to not so much push back the envelope of British television but lick it gently, Chris Carter served up a classic X Files episode that will surely rank as one of the best ever produced.

Back where it belongs on BBC2, the current season of The X Files has seen a welcome return to form. This coincides neatly with a departure from the long running alien conspiracy story arc and an equally welcome return to the stand alone episodes that cemented The X Files elevated position in the pantheon of classic cult television. This is truly where The X Files excel – stories such as kids moving faster than the speed of light, brain eating genetic freaks – tales that stretch not only the imagination but credulity itself.

So, here was the episode that contained Frank Black (from Carter’s aborted “darker” X Files series, Millennium), millennial death cults, zombies, the millennium itself, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the kiss that X Philes the world over had been eagerly anticipating – quite a list of ingredients. So, did Carter over egg the pudding?

No. This was a beautifully crafted episode, one that had clearly been pored over script wise. Tying in Frank Black and Millennium was a masterstroke and the scenes shared by Fox, Dana and Frank were wonderfully played. No grandstanding or posturing but simply a meeting of minds, co-operation rather than confrontation. These scenes worked and the empathy between all three was evident but not overpowering. Thanks to the scheduling dummies at Scottish Television, I can’t really say how well the Millennium angle worked but, to quote Walter Skinner, I’m certain that there was closure.

The plot involved four former FBI agents rising from the dead to fulfill their self proclaimed roles as the Four Horsemen (thus bringing about Armageddon) traded on a beautiful twist done with that sublime ’50s B-movie freehand style that Carter does so well. But on this occasion there was a lightness of touch directorially speaking and, clearly, the work of Terence Davies was paid due homage stylistically. The constant movement of the camera was breathtaking and the sense of propulsion (both plot-wise and visually) was joyous. Even the scenes in which nothing happened visually, there was an innate sense of movement that held the imagination in fevered anticipation.

To have the millennial death cult consisting of dead FBI agents was a quirky touch that Kinky Friedman would have approved of. Sometimes, you can see so many oblique references to great, unsung American cultural icons that it’s hard to concentrate on the story at hand but, thankfully, this season has seen a reduction in this sometimes cloying habit – though, when I finally do get round to watching Millennium, I pray that the Pixies (the group from whence Frank Black draws his name) are to be heard regularly!

However, the one moment that fans worldwide waited for, the kiss, was handled intelligently and fitted seamlessly into the storyline. After all, what could more natural at New Year – albeit after saving mankind from Armageddon – than to kiss your colleague? If you’ll pardon the rather obvious pun, this was a sticky moment for the writers.

Rather than make the kiss a focal point of the story, they chose to use it as a natural conclusion to the episode rather than a dénouement or a grand climax (ouch!). Neither a grand statement nor a pivotal life affirming moment, it was just a simple kiss. One not of passion, unrequited love or sinfulness but a lingering moment of tenderness that was conveyed to the viewer with subtlety and a sense of genuine affection, rather than affectation. Indeed you almost felt as if you were intruding, so private and charming was this scene. After all the bedbugs and ballyhoo surrounding the kiss, to watch it feeling as if one was almost a voyeur was sheer, unadulterated genius. More by luck than judgement perhaps, but beautiful nonetheless.

This episode contained all that is good and great about The X Files. To the above add in the wonderful, imaginative score, the fantastic lighting and crisp, taut direction and the end result is a slice of genius – an ensemble piece where everything works with a dynamic synergy that imbues the viewer with a sense of awe and wonderment at the finished product. Long may The X Files be out there.


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