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The X-Files: Space

Case: A potential saboteur inside NASA, who’s methods appear to be unexplainable.

Destination: Houston, Texas

Until I watched it for this review, I had only seen ‘Space’ once. Namely, because it is a terrible episode. ‘Space’ suffers from that deadly one-two punch of boring and laughable. Mulder and Scully are asked to help investigate a potential saboteur at the NASA shuttle program. The kicker is that no one seems to know how the damage done to the shuttle could have been accomplished. Ultimately, it is revealed to be the work of a preposterous “space ghost” possessing a former astronaut who’s now in charge of the shuttle launch program.

Most of the episode feels like a love letter to the space program --- a salute to those who explore the New Frontier, seeking out new life and new civilization, and all that jazz. Mulder is the awestruck fanboy and is downright giddy when he gets to meet his boyhood hero, Col. Marcus Belt (“Didn’t you wanna get his autograph?”), and see an actual shuttle launch from mission control. I can only assume that Chris Carter was a huge NASA geek and wanted to use this episode to fulfill his boyhood fantasies by showing us extended sequences of shuttle launches and the back-and-forth with mission control. Unfortunately, it was pretty darn boring for an X-Files episode. All the technobabble (dutifully explained by Mulder) had me wishing the shuttle would just blow up already.

Worse, the monster-of-the-week is ridiculous. The first attack on Col. Belt in his room started out kind of creepy, but then came the “eerie scream” sound and the lunging “Mars face,” and I burst out laughing. The assorted depictions of the space ghost didn’t get any better from there. I was particularly underwhelmed by the face “possessing” Col. Belt. Absurd.

I’m vaguely offended that they dragged the Challenger disaster into the mix. Maybe if the story had been better, I wouldn’t have minded so much. But to suggest that what happened on that mission was the work of an evil space ghost hell bent on stopping further human exploration of space was insulting and, in my opinion, a disservice to the memory of the Challenger astronauts. I realize that, overall, the episode was trying to honor the space program and the heroism of astronauts, but I wish they had kept things purely fictional.


Mulder (re: seeing the shuttle launch): “I have to admit I filled one of my boyhood fantasies.”
Scully: “Yeah. It ranks right up there with getting a pony and learning how to braid my own hair.”

Mulder: “Scully, we send those men up into space to unlock the doors of the universe, and we don’t even know what’s behind them.”

Final Analysis: I can appreciate Chris Carter’s desire to honor those who serve in the space program, but ‘Space’ is an awful episode. I won’t be watching this one again.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


  1. Thanks for this review, Jess. I know it was hard to do this one. ;) You pretty much summed up what I thought about the episode. It was a great idea, but the execution was just awful.

    The X-Files is a good fit for a tribute to the space program, since both are looking for the truth that is supposedly out there. Had half the shuttle mission footage been cut, the story would have been a lot better. Had the monster actually been scary, this episode would have surely been a favorite of mine.

    Actually, this episode reminds me of a (later) movie called The Astronaut's Wife. This episode should have built suspense like that movie. The movie is decidedly average, as it lacks a real plot. But the suspense alone would have sold this episode for me, as it did the movie.

  2. You're welcome, Remco. Writing the review wasn't hard. It was re-watching the episode that was tough! :)

  3. Guess you didn't like it, Jess? Although not my among my favourites, I didn't mind it so much. I kind of liked seeing Mulder as an awestruck fan. He's usually so contemptuous of any kind of authority that it's fun to see him bowing and scraping a bit.

  4. I've been trying to watch the X-Files recently and I just keep faltering. I just…I don't know. I'm not getting the magic. I fell asleep during this episode. Twice. And I haven't really liked any of the others that much. "Ice" was my favorite so far, but (true to myself) I was too concerned about the fate of the dog to really enjoy it. If I'm this lukewarm on the show now, should I keep going or accept defeat?

    (Although wow it has been fun to see all the old 1990s technology. Beepers. Fax Machines. Dial-Up. How did people function?)

  5. Sunbunny,
    I loved it from day 1. So my advice would be to let it go... at least for now. Maybe revisit it later. What do other philes think?

  6. Sunbunny, it was very magical when it aired, and such a new style of TV (for me, at the time, at least). Those of us who watched it then love it despite its flaws because we rewatch it with the eyeballs of love. All the great and complicated TV since then might have spoiled you on this show!

    However, I would recommend that you give it one more shot, perhaps with "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," which is a great episode from Season Three.

  7. Josie - Per your rec, watched the Peter Boyle episode. Didn't love it. Think I'm done, for now, at least. :/

  8. What's wrong with me? Why do I not mind this episode? Sure, some of the effects are lame with the whole face possession thing, but that's not all I base an episode on. This one got my imagination running overtime, giving a whole new dimension to what could be out there. Man wanted to explore space but someone or something didn't want him to. Surely not the worst premise for an episode. Four or five come straight to mind in Season 1 that are worse anyway!

  9. I'm one of the very rare fans of this episode. Love the cheesiness of it, and it's actually quite creepy to me. That jump scare in the car really got me good.

  10. "All the technobabble (dutifully explained by Mulder) had me wishing the shuttle would just blow up already."

    It's too bad, because the cold open actually had me excited... I remember being seriously creeped out by that article online about the face(s) on Mars, and having the guy see the face appear again on the ceiling in bed was effective.

    It's kinda funny they had the guy lamenting about people's losing interest in space shuttle stuff, in an episode where it was just as boring. But I approve of space ghosts, I'd freak out over them too even if the execution was no good.

    I don't think it was a terrible episode, but what a waste of an expensive project.

  11. I think rewatching a TV show should be only from the beginning and no cherry picking. It is a pity that sunnybunny didn't like the X-Files. Maybe she was not watching it in the '90s or she didn't like that time either. She misses a lot. If somebody doesn't like a TV show after the 4th-5th episode the picking up a random one won't help either. World, TV and we have changed so it is normal that we don't like something we used to like in the past. I have also disappointed in some TV shows or movies recently (The Net, Nowhere Man, Time Cop, Melrose Place) but it seems I still like the X-Files. Of course its magic has faded a bit during the decades however the travel back to the '90s equalizes that. To say something about the Space too: in my opinion it wasn't the worst episode. It had some melancoly atmosphere and funny moments. And lot of runnings. Like on a leg day in the gym. :) The Conduit episode is maybe behind this one.


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