The X-Files #125: The Post-Modern Prometheus

"You can't plant a seed in a barren field."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: The Frankenstein pastiche.

REVIEW: Is it me or it's just been "offbeat" episodes since the season openers? I generally like these, but guys, space them out! The Emmies certainly did like this one and it garnered a lot of nominations in more technical categories, but I'm a little cold towards it. While doing at atmospheric, black and white, throwback horror episode is a nice idea, Chris Carter's effort here is a pile of mixed metaphors. It starts life as a comic book that becomes a B-movie that wants to be Frankenstein's Monster, but is really too '50s for that. The cars and locations (like J.J.'s Diner - does Leslie Knope know about this?) are from the latter era, but the spell is broken by Jerry Springer's television intrusions and some scenes turning into Cher music videos. If this is Carter's attempt at postmodernism (tying in with the title's joke), it's just not refined or focused enough.

It can still be enjoyed as a kooky comedy filled with Frankenstein references, mind you. Dr. Pollidori (a name borrowed from the OTHER guy staying with Byron and the Shelley's that fateful summer) is played by Seinfeld's John O'Hurley, a properly melodramatic mad scientist whose family motto seems to be "because I can". His arch delivery is one of the better things about the episode, usually pronounced to the tune of thunder and lightning crashing outside. He engineers a finale where the townspeople bring their own torches. The monster, of course, turns out to be more benign, a cross between the Elephant Man and Young Frankenstein's monster. Carter pushes the comedy to its straining point at the very end when Mutato rocks hard at an almost-private Cher concert while his two-faced, papier maché babies are paraded on the Springer show. Isn't this Carter's SECOND rape culture comedy? People in this universe sure don't mind getting impregnated by monsters without their consent.

The suggestion is, in fact, that the town has a remarkable number of birth defects, and people looking alike despite coming from different families. At the end, we discover these people were likely genetically crossbred with barnyard animals. You've got pigs and chickens and goats... all in some quest to make Mutato a "bride". And okay, Pollidori is a geneticist; he works on flies. But this was all done by his father, a farmer who taught himself genetics by looking at his son's notes. So it's all very outrageous. I'm just not sure I find it funny. Being the third X-Files comedy in a row isn't doing it any favors either.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A slick formal experiment, but a ridiculous comedy that's not especially clever. I fear that like the "not sure I believe in that stuff anymore" Mulder, the show may be becoming a bit aimless.


snell said...

Yeah, I was never as fond of this episode as many others were, either. Comedy really wasn't Carter's metier, and he pushed way too hard to be Gilligan or D. Morgan when that wasn't in his skill set.

googum said...

Thanks to the Cher song, I'm not positive I've ever finished this episode. Tried again the other day, no dice.

Andrew said...

I wonder if this season's string of offbeat episodes might have been an attempt to balance all the grimdark of last season and Millennium.

Siskoid said...

Swinging pendulums, and all that.


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