The X-Files #131: Kill Switch

"It's not a program anymore, it's wildlife loose on the net."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: An A.I. tries to kill its creators in an episode penned by William Gibson.

REVIEW: I haven't exactly been enthusiastic about "ghost in the machine"-type stories, but Kill Switch must easily be the best of lot. No surprise, it was written by the master of cyberpunk himself, William Gibson. So while it's still an odd fit in the X-Files universe, it's still an effective techno-thriller, with gorgeous explosions and cracking dialog. Unlike other A.I. stories that wanted to marry the supernatural to technology, or were otherwise proven to be a hallucination, Kill Switch is all tech, and further understands how things work. Given how cool the straight-up conspiracy story is in the first act, it's kind of too bad the episode had to go so far into science fiction as to give us convincing VR and people uploading their brain waves to the Internet.

I do enjoy the A.I. quite a bit. It's really clever! And a show-off. The way it engineers its creator's murder is convoluted and inventive, and its hyper-surveillance of everyone else isn't SF anymore. Even when it uses brute force, it's fun. Even the bits I think go a little too far are entertaining. Mulder's VR experience, for example, includes sexy nurses (another reference to him being a bit of a pervert), gnarly amputation effects, and Scully kicking serious ass. Esther/Invisigoth uploads herself to the net, and leaves a corpse breathing out smoke. Cool image no matter how silly I find the notion. Esther is pretty cool rocker chick/hacker that might have made a good recurring character, especially given her take-down of the fawning Lone Gunmen ("brain donors", heh). Alas. Her breakdown and confession were a bit over the top, but otherwise, a solid and striking character.

Now, Esther's a pretty angry character, but it's Scully who seems the most irritable throughout this episode. That's often how they get humor out of her. It works here, though it almost gets them all exploded. Still, Scully gets some good (non-VR) moments, like eying Esther's gun while handcuffed to a steering wheel - nice tension with a comic release at the end. Unfortunately, there's not much more substance to it.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium (and a bit more) - A fun and even exciting episode, but I can't help but think of it as largely irrelevant. It's the kind of story you'd think would spawn more, and be referenced occasionally, but it's highly doubtful it will.



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