The X-Files #20: Darkness Falls

"That's a lot of flannel to scarf down, even for Bigfoot."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully investigate ancient super-insects that might have devoured a logging crew in the woods.

REVIEW: While the episode makes good use of locations available in British Columbia - those scenes in the clear-cut field speak more loudly than any ecological message the writers might have tried to make (and they don't really try) - there's no denying Darkness Falls is more than a little derivative of past episodes. It's theme of Nature's revenge was JUST used in the previous episode, Shapes, and the plot resembles Ice's on a number of levels (cut off from vehicles and communications, Mulder, Scully and a couple of people who may or may not be trusted are under threat from a squirming critter from the depths of the Earth who has recently killed a cabin full of people). If it had achieved as much as Ice had, that wouldn't be such a problem. Unfortunately...

I just don't buy the threat, you know? There's just no way near-microscopic mites can lift a lumberjack up in the air and cocoon him up a tree, for one thing. But the episode is just too inconsistent with its premise and keeps pulling the viewer out of the experience. The bugs only swarm in darkness, we're told, but the night exteriors are about as brightly lit as the interior of the cabin. I'd forgive that as a television necessity, but then the last man to die gets swarmed in front of his jeep's bright headlights! They came out of an old tree that shouldn't have been cut down and now pose enough of a danger that the government is going to firebomb the forest, but there was also an incident in 1934... whatever happened with that? Before the generator fails, why don't they build a fire to keep the bugs at bay? The monsters definitely exceeded the production's ability to dramatize them.

I suppose the episode's redeeming value lies in the fact that the heroes very nearly die. They don't defeat the monster, far from it, and get swarmed themselves. We know they won't die, but the implication is that they easily could have. They wake up in a quarantine unit recovering from their wounds, looking much the worse for wear - Scully doesn't even wake up! We're used to downbeat endings by now, but the scale of the failure is usually something like "we may never know the truth". Darkness Falls crushes them, and Mulder can't even muster his usual enthusiasm for defending the unknown species that's about to be wiped off the face of the Earth.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Oh, all the fun stuff government doctors could be doing to Scully and Mulder while they're recovering from insect bites...

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Not without its moments, but the monster just doesn't work.



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