"I don't speak Nazi!"
REVIEW: An off-beat episode already? Chris Carter's tribute to Frankenstein left me cold, and I'm afraid his Wizard of Oz does much the same, largely, in this case, because the connection is tenuous. The Bermuda Triangle acts as the tornado, and a Nazi-jacked cruise liner is Oz, with its denizens looking like people from Mulder/Dorothy's life. Every other connection is problematic at best. If the Lone Gunmen are meant to be the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion (and Skinner, Toto), why weren't they in the fantasy reality in those roles (or in the case of the Gunmen, ANY roles)? Mulder's "I love you" to Scully is meant to be a reference to the movie, but puzzles more than amuses. And while black-and-white-to-color isn't part of the palette, Carter still springs for letterbox format which, on the DVD, is zoomed in, giving the episode a blurry look, and me, annoying Babylon 5 flashbacks. And what does it really add? And THEN, there's the other conceit, that each act appear to be a long continuous shot. It's cleverly done, and does give many scenes momentum, but what does that have to do with any of the episode's themes? Carter is cramming all the stuff he's ever wanted to do in the same episode.
All these conceits pretty much ensure that there's no ambiguity as to what's really happening. There's no time travel here, and really no reason to think the Germans will get the atomic bomb if Mulder fails. It's all in his head, and that's quite clear. The villains in his life are Nazis - with Skinner only playing the part of the Nazi - and Scully is a brash O.S.S. agent who punches him when he kisses her (part wish fulfillment, part expected reaction), and so on. Otherwise, I was left scratching my head. Why is Kersh represented as a Jamaican engineer, and his assistant a lounge singer? There was an opportunity here to say something about each character, but there's very little to it except a physical resemblance. If at least Scully's "real world" thread were real, but no, that's also part of Mulder's delusion (not that he remembers it later). Or some parts of it art. Certainly, the part where she and the Lone Gunmen find the deserted Queen Anne (unless calling it a "ghost ship" is her explanation, but that's not a very Scully thing to say, is it?).
In one reality, like the other, character and plot inconsistencies abound, justified by the dream-like nature of the episode. Scully walks in on Kersh's meeting with the Cigarette-Smoking Man? Damning evidence that's likely all in Mulder's head. The Lone Gunmen showing up at the FBI offices? Skinner moaning about his pension? Scully threatening Spender into helping her? Or even going to him at all? Everything's off. Even in the WWII reality - where Mulder, a non-German speaker, is apparently imagining real German - the plot frequently fails to make sense. Nazis start killing men who could be the scientist they're looking for to force Mulder into giving them that scientist so they can extract secrets from him. At the very end, Mulder jumps in the water to "get back to his own time", but the ship isn't in the Triangle anymore (or is it? I lost track). I sometimes think this fantasy episode was crafted just so Mulder and Scully could share a non-canon kiss. Please, tell me I'm wrong.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's not boring, and I certainly like its stylistic flourishes, but the story is a right mess that can't decide whether or not it's an imaginary tale depending on what element you inspect. The DVD coding error makes it even more frustrating in that format. I know this is a favorite of fans and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, but I simply can't get behind it.