The X-Files: Soft Light

Case: Several people have disappeared leaving just scorch marks behind.

Destination: Richmond, West Virginia

This was the kind of X-Files episode that I love. A little bit of interesting science mixed with lots of Scully/Mulder banter and some government conspiracy thrown in for fun.

It also helps that the FoW was played by the excellent Tony Shalhoub. He managed to give just the right mad scientist vibe. Not the hokey B-movie type but the kind that is so wrapped up in their work that they are just a little bit off, moving to mostly off once their experiments produce deadly results. I’m not a particle physicist so I can’t comment on the validity of the science in the episode or even if it is still current. It probably isn’t essential to the plot. The point of the episode is that science can produce unpredictable and dangerous results and when it does, our governments are probably going to take control of such things and let us know very little about it.

'Soft Light' is a cautionary tale for “pure” scientists, those who push the boundaries of human knowledge just to ‘know’, without concern for consequences. For Dr. Banton such meddling in the building blocks of the universe destroyed his life and many others. This would be enough of a message for an X-Files episode, but when they move into the area of government conspiracies, we have an X-Files double-header. We also get to see more of Mr. X. He is a very different ally than Deep Throat, maybe more of a double agent. He may be interested in helping but he is also interested in staying alive. It's possible he was trying to spring Dr. Banton from the psychiatric hospital but after seeing what he could do he decided that deep in the secret bowels of government was the best place for him. At any rate it seems that Mulder is done with Mr. X.

I particularly enjoyed the banter between Mulder and Scully in this episode. Scully was trying to help one of her students break into the “old boy’s club” that describes both police forces and the FBI. They don’t often address how difficult it must be for Scully to continue to support Mulder when she is already disadvantaged by her gender. Scully sticks to her scientific mind in this episode, perhaps because of this reminder of her challenges.

Other Thoughts

Loved Scully looking at the heat register in the hotel room. She may still be relying on her scientific mind but she has seen some interesting anomalies.

That was a nice shot of Mulder and Scully’s shadows as they walk into Polarity Magnetics.

It was interesting to watch Dr. Banton, in a psychiatric hospital, tell the one guy (Mulder) who would believe him that the government was out to get him.


Scully: “Let’s just forget for a moment that there’s no scientific theory to support it.”
Mulder: “Okay.”

Mulder: “Hey Scully, can you spare a prophylactic?”

Mulder: “My newest tool in the fight against crime. $49.95 at your local hardware store.”
Scully: “Neat trick. For your birthday I’ll buy you a utility belt.”

Dr. Davey: “ if the truth might come into him.”

Scully: “Nonsensical repetitive behaviour is a common trait of mental illness.”
Mulder: “You trying to tell me something?”

Dr. Banton: “My shadow isn’t mine. It’s like a black hole. It splits molecules into component atoms. It unzips electrons from their orbits, reduces matter into pure energy.”

Mulder: “As a favour we just handed the A-bomb over to the Boy Scouts.”

Mulder: “He believes the government is out to get him.”
Mr. X : “It’s tax season. So do most Americans.”

Mulder: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you, Scully.”


ChrisB said...

This is an episode I really like as well. It is a wonderful juxtaposition of Scully's world -- the world of science -- transforming itself into Mulder's world -- the unexplainable.

There are often moments throughout the series when the gender roles are shown as a tad old fashioned. This episode is an exception. I like Scully mentoring a female student; I particularly like that Mulder was willing to help her, even before he knew it was going to be right up his alley.

Jess Lynde said...

This was a pretty decent episode, reinforcing the “this is an increasingly dangerous time for Mulder and Scully” idea, and giving us a really great final scene. I just love that haunting shot of Chester getting brain sucked (just as he feared) with that single tear rolling down his cheek. A classic X-Files ending for Vince Gilligan’s first episode!

I also like the way Chester’s name is somewhat reminiscent of comic book characters that got irradiated or exposed to dangerous chemicals and developed scary, difficult to control super powers.

So happy to see you included “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” in the quotes, Doc! That’s always been one of my favorites from the series.

Heather said...

And welcome, Vince Gilligan to the XF party!
God he really wrote the sh*t out of the Mulder&Scully relationship. Their banter (heh) in 'Soft Light' shows a level of intimacy that, IMO, was always present in his eps.
Great review, doc.