The X-Files: 731

Case: While Mulder is trapped on a train defusing a bomb, Scully continues to gather information about her chip.

Destination: Perkey, West Virginia; near Murray Station, Iowa

Ever since The Odyssey, some of the greatest stories written have the heroes/heroines on a quest. Searching for a sacred object, searching for answers, or searching for the truth, what matters is the search. Once the Grail has been found, the story is over.

For writers of a television series, once the quest is over, so is the show. It is important, therefore, that the mythology of a show continue to move forward while never quite reaching the end. At least until the show has been cancelled.

Mulder and Scully are both on a quest. Mulder is desperate to discover the conspiracy behind his sister’s abduction and his father’s murder. Scully is desperate to discover what has happened to her and what that chip in her brain does. Both are compelling quests and both are ones I want to see more of. I would prefer, however, that these quests occur together rather than simultaneously.

The strength of this series, finally, is not the quest mythology nor is it the various monsters we meet along the way. It is in the relationship that forms between Mulder and Scully. His yin to her yang was a dynamic that has yet to be replicated. Which is why this episode is not as strong as it might have been. They spend too much time apart on their individual searches.

Mulder’s search for the truth is obsessive. Convinced that an alien conspiracy is at the heart of everything that has happened to him, he is unwilling to listen to other explanations. The tension rises as we the audience get clues that he is closer to the truth than many others and even, to a degree, Mulder himself knows.

Whatever was happening on that train, and we are still unsure, it was creepy and horrible. The government, or whomever it is behind the truth, is willing to destroy everything rather than let the secret out. The most telling moment, however, is X saving Mulder’s life.

If the government truly believed Mulder was a threat, TPTB would most likely let him die. Instead, he is saved which leads me to believe that Scully is on the right track. They want Mulder to keep searching and to keep jumping to the wrong conclusion. He is helping them succeed in the cover-up.

Scully’s search for the truth is less obsessive, but equally important to her. As the odd elderly gentleman provides some answers for her, she appears relieved that she was experimented on by humans, not aliens. I know that relieved is an odd word, especially considering what we see in this episode, but the scientist in Scully is much more comfortable with an explanation that does not require such a leap of faith.

Mulder and Scully remain apart through the entire episode, only coming together at the end to bicker. Scully is trying to convince Mulder of what she now believes to be the truth; Mulder is unwilling to let go of his pet belief. It is a reversion back to the beginning of their relationship.

Other Thoughts

The Hansen’s Disease Research Facility is almost too much to look at. The images of the death squads and the mass graves are too reminiscent of the Nazi concentration camps.

The title of this episode refers to Unit 731, a Japanese army unit that performed experiments on Chinese civilians during World War II.

The shot of Mulder looking through the peephole at the alien is exceptional. The only problem is that the eye we see is green; David Duchovny has those beautiful brown eyes.

Iowa doesn’t have mountains, does it?

Mulder’s home phone number is 555-0199. Scully has no compunction about rooting around in her partner’s desk drawers.


Scully: “Well done, Agent Pendrell. Keep up the good work.”
Pendrell: ”Hey, thanks. Keep it up yourself.” Scully throws him an odd look and walks away. “‘Keep it up yourself?’ What a doof.”

Elderly Gentleman: “The ruler of the world is no longer the country with the greatest soldiers, but the greatest scientists.”

Scully: “What I’m saying, Mulder, is that there is no such thing as alien abduction. It is just a smoke screen happily created by our government to cover up the biggest lie of all.”

Scully: “Don’t you see, Mulder? You’re doing their work for them. You’re chasing aliens that aren’t there, helping them to create a story to cover the shameful truth. And what they can’t cover, they apologize for. Apology has become policy.”

Mulder: “I want an apology for the truth.”

Final Analysis: A very good episode that expanded the show’s mythology while resetting the relationship between Mulder and Scully.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

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