The X-Files: Nisei

Case: A videotape of an alien autopsy sends Mulder and Scully looking for answers to some of the big questions.

Destination: Washington, D.C.; Allentown, Pennsylvania; West Virginia

The X-Files had an underlying mythology that was compelling. At least in the beginning. As the show continued, Chris Carter became so enamored of his story that he forgot the most basic tenet of telling a tale — eventually, the arc must end and the story must be resolved. This episode is when the mythology began to go off the rails (I had to do it).

Don’t misunderstand me. I love this episode and I believe that there is a lot to admire in both the writing and the acting. Because it is the first of two parts, much of this episode is setting up the next. As a result, I am willing to go along for the ride (sorry, the puns are just there to be taken). It’s a good ride.

The fundamental issue of the entire series is how much the government knows about the existence of aliens and what it will do to stop that information from becoming public. The mythology episodes work because both Mulder and Scully have been directly affected and both want answers. Because we care so much about these two, we want to know what happened to Samantha and we want to know what happened to Scully.

This was the episode that ramped up the tension about Scully. Happening upon the women of MUFON, all of whom seem to recognize her, Scully begins to have flashes of memories. The problem, of course, is that Scully doesn’t trust these memories. Being a scientist, she will not allow herself to believe anything she can’t quantify.

The fact is that Scully doesn’t want to believe. If she allows herself to buy into what these women are telling her, than she must accept two facts; one, that she was abducted, and two, that she is going to die as a result of that experience. No one can blame her for running from what many of us, at least on some level, know to be the truth.

Scully is completely unnerved by her experience and runs home to the one man who will be willing to listen to her. Mulder is also concerned about what Scully tells him. A telling moment in just how much he cares about her is during the scene in his office. As Scully tells him about what she learned in Allentown, the first thing Mulder asks her is if she is all right. Her well being is more important to him than the story she is telling.

While Scully is dealing with her own issues, Mulder is determined to discover how real the videotape is. Much of the dramatic tension in this episode is that we as the viewers know that the tape is real and that the autopsy was, in fact, performed on an alien. They exist. Thanks to the cold open, we also know that the government will stop at nothing to ensure that this secret does not get out.

Mulder is a man on a mission and, like so many before him, becomes an action hero as he searches for it. He kicks Sakurai’s ass; he dives off a ship to escape capture; he jumps onto a moving train. Like other action figures, Mulder is stymied in his search for the truth by men in authority — Skinner, X, Senator Matheson. What is becoming clear is that at least some of these men are actively manipulating Mulder, preying on his willingness to believe just about anything.

This episode is the first of a two parter, so much of it is set up. It is very good set up, and left me eager to watch the next.

Other Thoughts

Not only did the Fox network run the alien autopsy, it was the home of The X-Files.

I love the Lone Gunmen and am always happy when they turn up.

While this story takes place in the US, there are several instances in this episode that reveal that it was, in fact, shot in Vancouver. All the railway cars show Canadian names and a Canadian Railroad Crossing sign is clearly visible in one scene.

Another real continuity error that jumped out at me this time happens while Mulder is chasing Sakurai. During some shots, it is raining. In others, it is not.


Scully: “What are you watching?”
Mulder: “Something that just came in the mail.”
Scully: “That’s not your usual brand of entertainment. What is it?”
Mulder: “According to the magazine ad I answered, it is an alien autopsy. Guaranteed authentic.”
Scully: “You spent money for this?”
Mulder: “$29.95 plus shipping.”
Scully: “Mulder, this is even hokier than the one they aired on the Fox network.”

Senator Matheson: “Secrets are the only real currency we deal in.”

Mulder: “Scully, after all you’ve seen. After all you’ve told me you’ve seen — the tunnel filled with medical files, the beings moving past you, the implant in your neck, why do you refuse to believe?”
Scully: “Believing’s the easy part, Mulder. I just need more than you. I need proof.”
Mulder: “You think that believing is easy?”

Final Analysis: A very good first half that changes the game for the viewers and for both 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.

1 comment:

drnanamom said...

I also liked this episode but found some of the Mulder running around being an action hero a bit annoying. The episode was a bit Mulder looks cool running and jumping on things - story - more of Mulder looking cool and jumping on things - story - etc, etc. I enjoy David Duchovny as much as the next person but the running, hiding and jumping behind things was a bit much, especially considering the elite forces that somehow didn't spot him no matter how terrible the hiding place. That being said, great episode and a great review.