I never watched an episode of The X-Files when it originally aired. I did watch every last episode of the short-lived Alien Nation, which only recently I realized was entitled such because aliens who had landed on Earth were being alienated by humans as they all tried to co-exist. So I had my fill of sci-fi tv. Also recently, I started to get back to my geeky roots, embarking into the land of sci-fi and fantasy poetry. The X-Files had been lingering in my Netflix queue for a long time. The time was perfect for me to start watching. Then Netflix stopped streaming it, so I’m now watching on DVD.
Side note: the music for the show either is exactly or sounds exactly like a track from one of the Pure Moods CDs from the 90s.
To get a feel for what’s to come (or what already was what’s to come), this’ll be a fuller recap.
Season 1, Episode 1 has no special title. It’s simply The Pilot, which lacks any kind of intrigue. It’s quickly followed by the opening message that the following story is based on actual events. I don’t know if you’re allowed to have that on a tv show if it’s not true, so let’s say it is, and that’s a freaky way to start a show considering the next thing that happens is a girl runs through the woods in a nightgown, a light, some wind, and a male figure appear, and then, she’s dead.
The first FBI agent we meet is Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who is being brought in to assist Agent Fox Mulder on his X-Files. “Assist” here means “debunk,” and she can do so because she’s a certified doctor with a logical thought process. On the plus side, she’s a strong female doctor and FBI agent. On the negative side, she’s being used as an instrument for these higher-ups at the bureau.
Then we meet Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), who works alone in a basement among filing boxes and has decorated with photos of UFOs. He assumes she’s spying on him, and he’s already looked up her dossier including her thesis on Einstein. He’s not being professional or even really nice, but in fairness, he’s almost right about the spying.
The X-File: the dead girl in the woods has two marks on her back but the chemistry of the surrounding tissue is indefinable.
Their ensuing discussion sets up the entire series:
Mulder: Do you Believe?
Scully: Logically, no.
Mulder: When logic fails, shouldn’t we Believe?
Scully: Obviously, something was the cause of death.
This is all paraphrased, but it’s the gist of the scene and every conversation they have. He remains a Believer and she remains level-headed and resistant.
The next day, they arrive in Oregon, and on the car ride to a cemetery, Mulder asks Scully if she gets squeamish about digging up dead bodies. She says she doesn’t know because she’s never done that. She’s a doctor who does autopsies. This should make her squeamish?
No time to ponder that. The radio starts getting all “What’s the frequency Kenneth” on them, changing the stations and sounding eerie radio-wavish. Mulder’s fast on the case, stopping the car, spray painting an X on the ground and explaining nothing. Even with a partner, he works alone.
At the graveyard, the county examiner shows up angry about the investigation, but his daughter pleads with him to go home. Mulder and Scully discuss how odd it is that the young man Ray Soams, the third victim who was schizophrenic and claimed to have committed the first two murders, was found dead from exposure after only seven hours. The coffin gets raised from the ground but a strap rips, causing the coffin to roll down a hill. Inside is a shriveled corpse that makes everyone gasp, and then Mulder makes a joke about basketball.
He continues being an unaware dick in the autopsy room where he snaps pictures and exclaims about amazement as Scully, now wearing glasses, measures and weighs the corpse. She notes the corpse is not human, which seems like she’s going to Believe already. However, she thinks it might be a chimpanzee, a sick joke.
The oddest finding: a gray metallic implant in the nasal cavity. That Scully puts in a tiny glass vial and keeps by her bedside at the hotel. That’s normal.
Mulder knocks on her door and asks her to go for a run. She stays behind working. Mulder seems to have split personalities. He’s sarcastic, rude, charming, mysterious, self-righteous, jerky, and now, buddy-buddy. Maybe he worked alone in the basement for so long, he forgot how to interact with people.
The next day, they meet a doctor who is treating Billy Miles, who is in a waking coma, and Peggy, his girlfriend. Mulder, Mr. Personality, says in front of Peggy that they need to examine her. The comment causes Peggy to have a fit and throw herself on the floor, where Mulder sees the marks on her back that were found on the dead body. Ah, so this dick-ish comment was for a specific purpose.
Outside, Mulder reveals he thinks Billy and Peggy were abducted. Scully says there’s nothing to support that. See? Same conversation as before.
Later that night, Mulder and Scully go into the forest with flashlights to figure out what all the now-deceased young men and women had been doing in the forest before they died. Clearly, they don’t realize this is a really good way to wind up dead themselves. Scully puts a handful of dirt in her pocket. Mulder checks out what looks like a compass but could be a Mysterious Phenomenon Meter. Suddenly, right over the ridge, there’s a light and a male figure. Dun dun dun!
It turns out to be a guy with the county sheriff’s department who orders them out of the woods, off of private property. They do not die in the woods, and they do not get abducted.
They drive away in the rain and discuss the weird dirt Scully has in her pocket. Fantastic detective and scientist work in preserving evidence! The Mysterious Phenomenon Meter goes haywire in Mulder’s hand—and he’s looking at it while driving in the rain in a woodsy area, not cool—and then there’s a bright light flash.
The car stops. They’ve lost nine minutes! Mulder cheers because losing time is cause for celebration. Oh, that meter thing was his watch. Right by the car is the X Mulder painted on the ground before when the radio went haywire. He cheers some more, pointing out that time loss is one of the consistencies of UFO sightings. Scully doesn’t Believe. See above conversation.
As she types her report in the hotel room later, the lights go out. With no power, she decides to take a shower. What the? She decides it’s also a good time to look for the marks on herself. By candlelight. She heads over to Mulder’s room, takes off her robe, and then shows him her back.
She’s in her bra and panties. He’s standing behind her with a candle. It’s the makings of erotica. And that’s where that ends. She’s got the marks on her back.
Correction: she’s got some marks but not the marks. She has mosquito bites.
Whatever she has does not look like mosquito bites, but okay, we’ll go with that.
She’s relieved, so she hugs him. He half hugs her and asks if she’s okay. Then, Bow chicka bow wow.
No, I kid, I kid. Instead, cut to them talking about how Mulder’s sister went missing when he was young. He became an agent and then became fascinated by paranormal phenomenon and the occult that are the X-Files. He reveals that someone at a higher level of power is blocking his progress, and he calls Scully out on being part of the agenda to block him. Scully claims she’s there to solve the case. She is; she really is. She’s being used by higher-ups, but she’s also doing her job. This is what makes Scully awesome.
Then Mulder tells the story of his sister’s abduction. The alien abduction.
Meanwhile, there’s a hooded figure in the bushes outside. Then the phone rings.
Peggy O’Dell is dead,
the anonymous caller said.
(I wrote that as a poem because it rhymes and I’m a poet!)
At the crime scene, a truck driver says Peggy ran out in front of him. Peggy was confined to a wheelchair, so this running is a turn of events. Scully looks at the watch on the dead body. Then they find out that the hotel is on fire and their files and pictures are gone.
Theresa Nemman, the daughter of the medical examiner, shows up to ask them for help. They take her to a diner where she explains how she finds herself in the woods without knowing how she’s gotten there. She has the marks. Not mosquito bites, but the marks. Then she gets a nose bleed and her father shows up with Detective Miles.
Ooh, the guy who kicked them out of the woods is the father of Billy Miles, Peggy’s boyfriend who’s in the waking coma!
Scully and Mulder return to the graves of the first two victims at night in the rain to find them empty. Mulder cracks the case: Billy Miles is the killer!
Scully is skeptical because Billy is, in her words, a vegetable. Clearly, a medical term.
Mulder insists that it’s all consistent with abduction. The forest summons the victims. The marks are from an alien test that causes a genetic mutation. They are both smiling and laughing with relief at solving the case and then go off to see Billy Miles. What is going on? Did I miss why we should be happy?
They talk to Billy’s caretaker at the hospital as Scully looks at Billy’s feet. Without gloves, she inspects them. I don’t know why she needs to touch them. They are dirty, clearly from being outside. Since Billy can’t go outside, this finding is an anomaly, unless we Believe that Billy is being controlled by an alien force. They agree to take a new sample from the forest for comparison to the one she’s taken from Billy’s foot (clearly not contaminated) since the original one from her pocket (clearly not contaminated) burned up in the fire.
While taking the new sample from the woods, at night again, they hear a scream. The agents run towards it. Scully gets knocked on the head by a blunt object, causing her to fall to the ground. It’s Billy’s dad! He told her to stay out of it!
I kind of like that it’s Scully who gets hit in the head. Billy’s dad doesn’t care that she’s a woman. She’s simply someone who needs to be stopped. I’m also kind of bummed that Mulder does not get hit in the head because he’s the one who’s been being difficult, not that I condone violence, but a slight knock would be okay since it’s all fictional.
Meanwhile, Mulder runs towards the scream, but then Billy’s dad appears in front of him, too! Billy’s dad knows it’s Billy behind the murders. Billy’s dad turns away from Mulder and runs towards the scream.
There’s Billy, shirtless with pajama pants, dragging Theresa Nemman. Billy’s dad aims his gun at his own son, but Mulder leaps at him to stop.
Cut to Scully hearing a gun shot.
Cut back to Billy’s dad not shooting Billy. From at least twenty feet away, Mulder notices the marks, the tiny red dots, on Billy’s back. A bright light appears in the sky. The screen goes white as Billy holds Theresa in his arms. Then?
Theresa’s on the ground. She’s alive! It’s an abduction miracle! Billy sees his dad, and they hug it out. Mulder notices that the marks have disappeared from Billy’s back.
Scully gets to the scene in time for Mulder to tell her it was incredible. Her missing it means that she doesn’t have to Believe. “Incredible” literally means not credible, so either most or least appropriate word to use here.
At FBI Headquarters, Billy gets debriefed about the light he first saw at a graduation party in the woods. The light took him away to a testing place where he was told to take the others to them for more tests. He had something in his head that allowed him to receive orders from the light.
Hang on. Why would the marks disappear from his back? Was he two Billys? The marks were kind of like scars from testing, so he should still have them unless he got a new back when the bright light came and went.
Scully and Mulder exchange a silent uncomfortable stare.
Scully then reports to the higher-ups that she can’t substantiate the odd events that unfolded. They complain she has no physical evidence.
Oh, but she does. Scully has kept the only piece of evidence not burned up in the fire: the glass vial containing the thingie from the corpse’s nose made out of a substance unknown to humans. This piece of evidence was actually collected in an uncontaminated way. She then reports that Mulder Believes they are not alone.
After 11 PM, Mulder calls Scully to report that the case file in Oregon about Billy has gone missing. She says they can talk tomorrow.
One of the higher-ups at the FBI walks through a large dark evidence room where he stores the Alien Nose Receiver in a box that contains . . . other Alien Nose Receivers. He closes the door to reveal that the storage site is the Pentagon. Dun dun dun!
X-File Type: Alien
The Award for Better Agent: Scully. Despite the mishandling of the evidence, she’s a lot more open to all possibilities while Mulder is open to only alien abduction. Sure, he’s right, but still, she’s nicer.
Believability: Meh. That euphonious scene in the graveyard where they figure out Billy did it seemed too neat. Yes, that’s what makes it less plausible.
Mulder’s personality needs to be shaken out a bit, but overall, the Pilot Episode does exactly what a pilot should do. It intrigues and establishes what will unfold between the two agents, between the agents and other parts of the government, and between humans and what seems to be not.