The X-Files #209: The Sixth Extinction

"Some truths are not for you."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Scully witnesses Biblical plagues in Africa while Mulder exhibits powerful ESP powers.

REVIEW: Ok, where were we? Oh yeah, alien script has made Mulder go mad, Lovecraft-style, and Scully's set up tent on the Ivory Coast to study a spaceship on which all of human biology and culture is encoded. The fact that this structure splits the leads up is probably the episode's greatest weakness. How much more interesting if Mulder is around to discover what Scully finds, or if she's the one racing to save his brain from frying? Instead, she talks to him in what sounds like a Gothic love letter which is more damning, 'ship-wise, than any onscreen kiss, and almost taints the kickass moment when she says she can't be denied access to Mulder as his... doctor. Thought it might be "wife" there, for a second. And despite their separation, the format is sustained with guest partners in each of their threads. Dr. Ngebe serves little purpose in Scully's, arriving on a rumor and acting as a sounding board. Since Scully epistologically narrates the episode, she's hardly required. Mulder gets help from Skinner and Kritschgau, which is fine, but you'd think a Bureau Chief would have something to do other than visit sick agents in hospital, much less track down two-season old whistle blowers with a tendency to remember their own history wrong (I'm nitpicking, I'm sure Kritschgau has amended his own version of events to make Mulder the scapegoat). Spending time setting up these various guests takes time away from the main story and lacks efficiency.

Scully's story is the visual jewel of the episode, give or take a sea of CG blood, with an African beach as backdrop, a cowboy archaeology atmosphere, ghostly tribesmen, undead fish and people, and a plague of locusts. Though Mulder "is the X-File", the explanation for it is likely in the text etched into the ancient spacecraft. Ancient? Isn't there a chance that the ship isn't that old and that its details on human biology and religion isn't the blueprint from which humanity rose, but simply a history written after the fact? The implication is the former, with the ship causing all sorts of trouble based on Biblical miracles and other myths. Did the so-called Wise Men of mytho-history, as per Chariots of the Gods, the founders of Earth's Great Religions, from Moses to Buddha, perform miracles thanks to this technology, and impart knowledge learned from the ship? Were they psychics in the same way Mulder is, unlocked and given this access by the mysterious script on the hull? The joke about the "African Internet" - simple gossip - raises some of those questions. Is the ghost tribesman Scully sees some kind of telepathic WiFi projection from the ship? That is all so intriguing, it's almost too bad she has to fly back to America. Or that we couldn't explore it more in lieu of the dull subplot about the mad scientist. I mean, really, couldn't Scully's FBI training have gotten her out of that one easily, no chair required?

Mulder has always been a little psychic; it's what's enabled him to jump to so many correct conclusions. Or so I've personally maintained. Here, he's both telepathic and precognitive, and according to Kritschgau, becoming "all brain", limiting his ability to move and speak, at least, until he benefits from some back room pharmacology. As Skinner and Kritschgau investigate Mulder's powers, enter Diana Fowley, working for the Cigarette Smoking Man and apparently unwilling for Mulder to get better and spill the beans. I suppose Skinner lets her walk all over him for fear of the Conspiracy (via Krycek) pushing the death button on him. Fowley makes me cringe, and I'm ready for her to meet some terrible fate. The scene in which she tells a non-responsive Mulder that she loves him and that they can be together now, is a melodramatic horror cliché right out of Misery or Fatal Attraction, not so much creepy as it is irksome and gross. It's no manipulation either. Mulder's telepathy basically turns him into a lie detector, which creates its own set of problems. Will his memories be erased, or will be be allowed to know everyone's secrets (Fowley's true allegiance, Skinner's blackmail, possibly even whatever feelings Scully is harboring for him)? If so, does that then eliminate any tension these secrets might foster? The alternative is a cheap deus ex machina. Which one is least offensive?

As far as setting us up for the season, the episode has one particularly interesting moment in Skinner's office when Scully returns from Africa. It paints the both of them as believers. It only took six seasons, but it seems they are now ready to accept aliens/the supernatural at face value. They've seen enough. This is meant to be David Duchovny's last season, so we must move others to his side of the belief divide, after all. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep this up in "standard" episodes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A well-directed season opener which asks some intriguing questions, even if you keep wanting the leads to be reunited.



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