Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10: The X-Files Season Two

"We really became the best show on television."
-David Duchovny on The X-Files Season Two, The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide To The X-Files (p.57)-

As Chris Carter noted in The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide To The X-Files, "The show's only as scary as it is believable. Everything has to take place within the realm of extreme possibility." (p.33). This is precisely why The X-Files (1993-2002) was so very, very good. Real life scenarios have some of the most bizarre events, happenings and even monsters, but somehow The X-Files makes you believe or at least want to believe in the extraordinary by bringing those ideas down to our earthly reality. Between Fox Mulder's true believing coupled with Dana Scully's theories based in scientific fact, The X-Files was sold as a completely plausible bit of science fiction even when monsters were involved.

It is also noted in the book (p.65) that actress Gillian Anderson certainly admired the Pilot of Season One and the first season in general, but really felt Season Two required more of an "emotional commitment" in episodes like Irresistible. Her performance in Irresistible echoed her belief and commitment in the role of Scully and the world of The X-Files first evidenced when she genuinely turned heads in Season One's Beyond The Sea as one of those career-defining highlights. Both the aforementioned episodes were two of her favorites.

Season Two saw Chris Carter and company really start to roll and Carter admits he naturally seemed to find the rhythms of this fantastic science fiction experiment he created called The X-Files.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10: The X-Files Season One can be found here. Season Two is arguably even more difficult to narrow down to ten of the best than Season One. Nevertheless, Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic offers his ten favorites for The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10: The X-Files: Season Two in honor of The X-Files return. The writers of each installment are noted in parenthesis.

10. The Calusari (Sara B. Charno).
9. Duane Barry/ Ascension (Chris Carter, Paul Brown).
8. Die Hand Die Verletzt (Glen Morgan, James Wong).
7. Dod Kolm (Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa).
6. Irresistible (Chris Carter).
5. Anasazi (David Duchovny, Chris Carter).
4. Colony/ End Game (David Duchovny, Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz).
3. The Host (Chris Carter).
2. Humbug (Darin Morgan).
1. One Breath (Glen Morgan, James Wong).

I was actually torn between Little Green Men and The Calusari for the ten spot. I opted to give The Calusari the edge. The atmosphere in both entries is near perfect. Still, I was incredibly impressed by the sense of horror infused in The Calusari that reminded me or paid tribute to horror classics like The Exorcist (1973) and The Amityville Horror (1979). Nevertheless, I could just as easily have included Little Green Men by Morgan and Wong with direction by the always amazing David Nutter (Millennium, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) in that spot.

Overall though, Season Two is very good capitalizing even further on the strengths established in Season One. Episodes like Firewalker and even Fearful Symmetry have their moments. There are distinct images from those entries that remain unforgettable to me from the spores bursting forth from their victims in Firewalker to the zoo animals running amok and free following alien abduction in Fearful Symmetry. There are many wonderful episodes that simply do not disappoint. It's also the season that made my daughter herself, the Girl Wonder, a bit of a believer in the series.

Jerry Hardin: On The X-Files

"In The X-Files, so much of what I do is language-driven, and thought-driven.
It pleases me that it's successful under those circumstances, in the same sense that Star Trek is.
In my opinion that again is a testimony to an interest in and a focus on language.
If you think about it, Star Trek is primarily two guys or three guys standing on the captain's deck talking to each other... It's language-oriented, and the language is often pretty dense."
-Actor Jerry Hardin, The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide To The X-Files, Brian Lowry, P.92-

Actor Jerry Hardin (The Firm, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager), a highlight as Deep Throat in The X-Files Season One, made an insightful observation and comparison regarding the writing of two pop culture classics, Star Trek and The X-Files, that was worth noting here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. Both are in excellent company when it comes to writing, direction, casting and the litany of detail work that went into making two bona fide science fiction classics.

Despite events that unfold for the character on The X-Files in S1, Ep24, The Erlenmeyer Flask, Hardin would return to appear in The X-Files, S3, Ep1, The Blessing Way and Ep24, Talitha Cumi as well as S7, Ep2, The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati. He even showed up in S4, Ep7, Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man. Hmmm...

So it's only reasonable he should enjoy a post here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The X-Files S2 Ep1: Little Green Men

"I wanted to believe but the tools had been taken away.
The X-Files had been shut down.
They closed our eyes.
Our voices had been silenced.
Our ears now deaf to the realms of extreme possibilities."
-Agent Fox Mulder-

This is not Canadian singer Corey Hart. See here.
This is David Duchovny giving you everything in his heart.

All those years ago... This is an entry I penned and never completed. I've dusted it off like an old X-File and cleaned it up. In celebratory fashion over the arrival and revival of The X-Files mini-series (2016), with the original cast no less, we pay tribute to the classic series once again with a look at the Season Two opener.

Unfortunately, this entry was written and images snapped prior to the Blu-Ray release, but The X-Files always did have an earthy, gritty Fire In The Sky-like (1993) low-tech vibe (here) particularly in the first few seasons.

Regardless of technical merits and budgetary restrictions, and the new Blu-Ray release works wonders, The X-Files (1993-2002) was always a damn smart, intriguing and artistically satisfying production that played with lighting and shadowy atmosphere and menace to great effect.

Following a solid start to The X-Files with an overarching look at its launch here we jump ahead to Season Two. Season One laid the foundation for a series steeped in extra-terrestrial-based government conspiracy. It established a uniquely dark and shadowy cinematographic approach to the series to complement its dark and shadowy conspiratorial nature. Season One is chock full of exceptional entries and Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic offered a BIG 10 selection of the season's best here.

Season Two picks up right where it left off. It's hard to argue that it's a better season than the first, but it is at least arguably as strong in quality.

The X-Files, Season Two, Episode One, Little Green Men opens with The X-Files shut down and Mulder and Scully separated and reassigned. Scully checks on Mulder's well-being covertly. Mulder is experiencing self-doubt. The two are having an influence. That Gillian Anderson/ David Duchovny dynamic first established in Season One is becoming understood. The trust and bond established in the Pilot of Season One is taken to the next level. It is developing into mutual concern. There is love, not of the sexual nature, but rather friendship.

As Chris Carter often said and noted very specifically in interview footage for the Season One extras, Mulder and Scully indeed had chemistry, energy and electricity, but it was not going to be the electricity many would often desire from their male and female leads. This was no Moonlighting (1985-1989) and shipping them into one another's arms was not part of the plan.

Carter also specifically wanted to see the gender roles reversed between Scully and Mulder and invert the male and female conventions often attributed to the respective roles.

Following the dance of the previous season between Mulder and Scully their connection is becoming more evident and in a sense necessary. As John Kenneth Muir once wrote, "Scully and Mulder were partners ... but also... competitors. They were dancers circling each other." He added, that their competing views formed something akin to "one whole person: a complete but conflicted world-view." In effect, "the characters complete one another." This becomes more apparent with each new season. Each season draws that connection closer as forces external to them move in.

Meanwhile, the series itself dances between the individual standalone stories or the more connected mytharc stories that form the whole of the show echoing the very partnership and journey of one Mulder and Scully.

Mulder expects he should have concrete evidence of things he has experienced and seen. He's not even certain of his sister's abduction. At the same time, Scully believes in Mulder and urges him not to give up what he believes. The support Scully gives Mulder is important. Despite her skepticism she in fact believes in her friend and colleague. She in fact has faith in him and she lends him strength for his own beliefs. She doesn't have to believe everything to believe in him, support him and care for him. She believes Fox is a good man with true intentions and that is enough to fortify her belief in him.

Flashbacks reveal the moment of Samantha's alien abduction, Mulder's sister, in a Close Encounters Of The Third Kind-styled (1977) homage. Interestingly, the alien abduction takes place just moments after playing a board game. This is in direct conflict with a recollection of events through regression therapy as documented in Season One, Episode 4, Conduit. Of course, creator Chris Carter wisely notes the discrepancy could be absolutely normal for someone attempting to clearly recollect events (see the book, The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide To The X-Files by Brian Lowry). Those murky events could certainly be hazy and thus inaccurate for anyone. Memory is a funny thing. The disparity in his story and his recall of events further underscores Mulder's own self-doubt in Little Green Men.

This vulnerability illustrates and magnifies the juxtaposition of traditional gender roles in The X-Files with Duchovny demonstrating feminine qualities versus Scully's more supportive, firm-handed and austere performance. This is evident here and elsewhere in The X-Files run like Conduit. Duchovny is the antithesis in many ways of the archetype associated with the male figures in crime dramas preferring to operate on intuition and feeling. Consider a more traditional male investigator role like the one filled by the FBI's Charlie Francis in Fringe. Meanwhile, Scully works more methodically with fact often associated with a male criminal profiler. At the time, The X-Files was breaking considerable ground in its approach to gender roles but with considerable subtlety.

The episode touches on the launch of the Voyager 1 from September 5, 1977. Space:1999, Y1, Ep12, Voyager's Return focused its science fiction possibilities on an unmanned probe of the same name.

A visit to Senator Richard Matheson's office keeps Mulder's hopes alive. Matheson, a politician, clearly also believes in the "extreme possibilities" symbolized by the launch of the Voyager craft and Mulder's own belief in making contact. Even Matheson (a nod to science fiction author Richard Matheson who penned the films that inspired The X-Files in The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler), believes "they may be listening" and whispers to Mulder under the cover of Bach. Matheson urges Mulder to continue his work.

Agent Walter S. Skinner assures the Cigarette Smoking Man that Scully is not aware of Mulder's whereabouts. The scene suggests Skinner is a Mulder and Scully ally. The Cigarette Smoking Man, also referred to as the Cancer Man is The X-Files' definitive version of evil and even the devil himself.

Mulder heads to the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The sequence makes for a fully immersive and transporting experience in this memorable Season Two opener.

Scully visits Mulder's residence, under surveillance by fellow agents, and makes an effort to determine his whereabouts. Accessing his computer with failed password attempts of SPOOKY and SAMANTHA. Both would be considered weak passwords by the way, but people create them every day. TRUSTNO1 does the trick. By today's standards that would also be given a low password strength disapproval. (I actually know a woman who had something like Cat1 for a password and was somehow surprised she got hacked. Really?) Scully gets a printed document and leaves.

Agents tail Scully, but she phones Mulder's home, under surveillance, with bogus air flight info and sends her tails in a different direction---St. Croix. Trust no one indeed, but brilliant. And besides they can always thank her for that destination later.

In Puerto Rico, Mulder speaks with a Spanish-speaking man who has seen aliens or little green men. The tape machine activates and despite a full-on storm, Jorge exits the station in paralyzing fear. Mulder finds him yards away frozen dead outside in a form of suspended animated fright.

Mulder records his findings for Scully.  "Deep Throat said trust no one. It's hard Scully suspecting everyone, everything. It wears you down. You even begin to doubt what you know is the truth. Before I could only trust myself. Now I can only trust you." In a sense this moment and this season opener further cements that "whole" connection between the two principals.

Mulder, working feverishly like a crazy person in claustrophobic isolation, is visited by the Little Green Men in an exciting contact scene. He awakens to Scully's arrival. The military is coming. Mulder and Scully escape with one reel to reel tap while fired upon in their getaway vehicle.

Upon his return Mulder is called on the carpet by Skinner with the Cigarette Smoking Man present. Mulder chirps back regarding his phone being tapped illegally. In a surprising move, Skinner firmly directs "get out," but not to Mulder, but rather the Cigarette Smoking Man who quietly leaves after lighting another.

Mulder notes, "I may not have the X-files Scully, but I still have my work. I'll still have you. I still have myself." As she touches Mulder's hand out of assurance, there is indeed a fortifying of the partnership dynamic here. These are two acting as one. It's quite revealing about a series that takes its time over nine seasons. It's incredibly subtle but ever so rewarding. These character studies are at the heart of The X-Files. It's the journey of these true people more than ever obtaining the truth about aliens.

Little Green Men offers a good deal of suspense and the frightening use of lighting and sound makes this a very effective, spooky riff on alien abduction. There is a gritty, eerie, otherworldly tone to The X-Files that really sets this series apart from the imitators. And once again, The X-Files achieves so much with atmosphere and mood and the power of suggestion. After all, the little green men are essentially teased on the whole. 

Little Green Men: B.
Writer: Glen Morgan/ James Wong. Director: David Nutter.

Special Agent Dana Scully Abduction Totals To Date: 1.

Special Agent Fox Mulder Abduction Totals To Date: 1.

Primary Episodes featuring traces of the mytharc Season Two:
Little Green Men/ Duane Barry/ Ascension/ One Breath/ Red Museum/ Colony/ End Game/ Anasazi.