The X-Files: Synchrony

Case: A creepy old man is freezing people to death with something that, as far as anyone knows, does not yet exist.

Destination: MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Scully: “And, if your sister is your aunt and your mother marries your uncle, you’d be your own grandpa!”

That quote makes about as much sense as this episode does.

The idea of time travel is awesome, so much so that it is fairly standard fare for genre shows. Given the sheer creative power of the writers room at this time, an episode that dealt with it should have been among the best of the season, if not the entire series. It is not. It is merely there.

It goes without saying that the most intriguing concept around time travel is the ability to change what comes after. If any of us could see the evil that will transpire fifty years from now, what would we do today to ensure that it doesn’t happen? And, because every action has a myriad of consequences, could stopping that particular evil create a domino effect that allows a greater evil to exist?

All of these concepts have been well explored in popular culture. It was explored here, just not well. The freezing compound allows people to travel back and forth across the time divide, but what is never fully explained is why this is so bad that Jason would come back to stop it ever happening. What exactly he was trying to stop is a mystery.

Similarly, the compound itself confuses me. Why Jason, Lucas, and Lisa were developing it in the first place eludes me and exactly how it works is never well thought out. The idea that a frozen body must be put into a cooling agent so that it won’t burst into flames is weird.

My biggest problem with this episode is that it doesn’t fit into the overall mythology at all. The government is portrayed as being very nearly omniscient. Wouldn’t those protecting The Truth have traveled back in time to make the secret even stronger? The chances are slim that the Mulder and Scully partnership would have ever existed. I would argue because Mulder would never live beyond his youth.

This whole muddle is around characters I find it difficult to care about. We don’t know them well enough and we don’t get to know them well enough.

It’s not all bad. There are some good moments, the story is well paced and can be exciting, especially the first time through the episode. The end is nicely ambiguous, which normally annoys me, but works for this story.

The highlight is the new relationship between Mulder and Scully. I love their banter, the way they interact with each other now, and the way they listen to each other on a whole new level. Their coming together over Scully’s illness continues to improve their relationship on nearly every level. I mean, seriously, how great is it that he quotes her senior paper back to her?

Other Thoughts

-- Synchrony: simultaneous action, development, or occurrence.

-- The entire writing staff was involved in one way or another with this episode. Like most things done by committee, it shows.

-- Fun little continuity problem that I found on the internet: Lisa is headed downtown on the 4221 bus; she gets off of the 4170 bus.


Mulder: “He goes on to tell a pretty convincing narrative and to give a rather detailed description of the old man.”
Scully: “What was he wearing? A long black robe and carrying a scythe?”
Mulder: “Well, not when campus security picked him up.”

Scully: “If he’d lie for you, what makes you think he wouldn’t lie to you?”

Final Analysis: A messy episode that missed the mark on so many levels, yet is worth a watch for the ongoing improvement in the Mulder/Scully dynamic.

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.


Juliette said...

I kind of like the idea of seeing a typical time travel story from another perspective - instead of following the hero as he goes back in time to try to prevent a disaster, we follow the people in the 'past' seeing nonsenical events unfold (though thinking about it, I guess that's just The Terminator?). But it's a bit of a muddle. I think sometimes, when the show tried to do some classic genre stories, they were a bit ham-strung by the need to frame it around an FBI investigation of a possible murder, which means they have to squeeze in some mysterious dead bodies where they don't really fit the story.

Heather said...

Great review and yes, this episode really stuck out as having multiple troublesome elements, especially the script. At this point in the reviewing process, it's become second hand to identify the problematic episodes either for disparate story or time/budget constraints etc. Makes me appreciate the ones that are remarkable since their 'magesty' becomes that much more profound given that they're on the same roster as episodes like this one.

drnanamom said...

Thanks for the review Chris. It is hard to deal with the clunkers but I guess you can't hit the mark all the time and when a series is good these episodes are just experienced as part of a string of stories. I know that I loved every episode when I watched it the first time but it is interesting and fun to watch them again, so much later and see where the work shone and where it was just mailed in.

RobinHudMtl said...

Anyone noticed, when old Jason tries to warn Lucas and young Jason about the bus accident, how both Jasons look similar in that shot where they stand one behind the other with their heads tipped and angled the same way? Clever shot, but then I know immediately who the old man was.