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The X-Files: Sleepless

Case: An experiment, conducted on soldiers during the Vietnam War, has resulted in men who have not slept in twenty-four years.

Destination: Washington, DC; New York City; Stamford, Connecticut; North Orange, New Jersey

On a basic level, this story is a Freak of the Week episode, and a scary one at that. Preacher (Tony Todd) is truly terrifying and the idea of someone being able to project deadly hallucinations on another is the stuff of nightmares.

What I like about this episode, and what I think elevates it from a standard FotW, is the development of the characters and the introduction of two characters that we sense immediately are going to be part of the larger story.

Skinner is obviously trying to walk both sides of the line. There is part of him who understands the man working for him, but he is still too much of a company man to completely back Mulder’s theories. What he does not do, interestingly enough, is dismiss this one out of hand. Instead, he says he’ll look into it -- and, he does.

But, instead of pairing Mulder with the woman with whom he really wants to work, Skinner gives Mulder a new partner, Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea). Looking about as government employee as it is possible to do, Krycek immediately annoys Mulder with his announcement that the case is his and insisting that he be part of the investigation.

Grudgingly, Mulder begins to work with Kyrcek, but it is the scenes with Scully that really matter. The autopsy scene is brilliantly filmed. There is no doubt that Krycek is the odd man out. Scully won’t shake his hand, but she touches Mulder as she walks past him. Mulder and Scully huddle together over the body, forcing Krycek to literally hover between them so he can be part of their conversation.

Unlike Scully, however, Krycek leads Mulder to believe that he, too, is a believer. It’s a brilliant way to manipulate anyone; find his blind spot and go for it. Krycek does, and Mulder falls for it, hard. Twice, Mulder is warned that perhaps he should pause for a second and reflect on who this guy really is.

The first warning is from Mr. X. This episode is the first time that Mulder meets Mr. X (Steven Williams) face-to-face. Unlike Deep Throat, who was paternal and caring, Mr. X seems to be helping Mulder in spite of his better judgment. He has an enormous sense of self-preservation and, one suspects, would not hesitate before throwing Mulder under the metaphorical bus. He basically tells Mulder that something bigger than both of them is at work and to watch his back.

The second warning isn’t really a warning, but it is a reminder of what works. Mulder and Scully are having yet another phone conversation (their lack of interaction is one of the downfalls of this episode). Scully is jealous that Mulder is working with someone else and their conversation reminds us how good Scully is for Mulder. She keeps him grounded and she forces him to consider all sides of the issue at hand. At some level, Mulder understands all this, yet it is easy to see why he is taken in so easily by Krycek. After years of being dismissed and taunted, it would be tempting to work with someone who just accepts what you believe, no matter how spooky.

And, of course, at the end we realize that Krycek is not who he says he is. He is reporting directly to the Cigarette Smoking Man and telling him that the Mulder/Scully problem is bigger than they had originally thought. Mr. X seems to know what he’s talking about.

Other Thoughts

The first episode of The X-Files debuted twenty years ago this fall. Funnily enough, Entertainment Weekly released their annual Reunions issue this week and this show was one that was profiled. Unfortunately, I cannot link the entire article for you, but here is the start of it. Mulder and Scully still look amazing together.

George Hale, the code name that Mulder uses when he calls Scully, is apt.

In today’s world of smaller and smaller smartphones, Mulder’s brick of a cellphone makes me smile.

Hallucinations due to sleep deprivation are well documented and can be used as a torture tactic. One of my little fantasies is that I could become a being that doesn’t need sleep and, I must admit, I am one of those people who all too frequently pushes the envelope in terms of how much I get. This show never fails to remind me that I should probably give in to the impulse more often than I do.


Mulder: “There’s a mistake here. There’s been another agent assigned to the case.”
Krycek: “That would be me. Krycek, Alex Krycek.”
Echoes of “Bond, James Bond.”

Preacher: “He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”
Micah 7:18

Mr. X: “You still don’t get it, do you? Closing the X-Files, separating you and Scully was only the beginning. The truth is still out there, but it’s never been more dangerous.”

Scully: “Sounds like your new partner is working out.”
Mulder: “He’s all right. He could use a little more seasoning and some wardrobe advice, but he’s a lot more open to extreme possibilities than...”
Scully: “Than I was?”
Mulder: “Than I assumed he would be.”
Scully: “Must be nice not having someone questioning your every move, poking holes in all your theories.”
Mulder: “Oh yeah, it’s great. I’m surprised I put up with you for so long.”
My shipper heart skips a beat, every time.

Cigarette Smoking Man: “Every problem has a solution.”
Stay tuned...

Final Analysis: A good episode, more important for the characters it introduces than the story itself.

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. Welcome to the XF team, Chris! I’m glad you got an episode you like. Yea!

    I really like this one. As you note, we get the introduction of Krycek (Ratboy!) and Mr. X, and the character dynamics between Mulder and Scully are great. (Her mild jealousy always amuses me.) I think I was rather taken in by Krycek the first time I saw this one. I probably had some initial suspicions, but like with Mulder, he won me over during the course of the episode. I really didn’t see the end reveal coming. Shame on me.

    I also really like the case in this one. I find it strangely haunting and poignant. Jon Gries is great, and Tony Todd really is wonderfully terrifying. And yet, I also found him somewhat sympathetic. He was equal parts victim and villain, and his final plea couldn’t be more perfect: “I’m tired.”

    The huge cellphones in these episodes always make me smile, too.

  2. I love the cellphones. And the trench coats, which unlike the phones may come back into fashion some day...

  3. Apropo of absolutely nothing, I saw Tony Todd in person at a Star Trek convention years ago, and he was a delightful, memorable guest. He was especially great with the kids.

  4. Great review. This was a very interesting FoW (see I'm learning the lingo). I also love the cassette tapes mostly because my hip young daughter is still buying and playing them in an old boom box we have. Oh and the fashion - needs fashion advice eh?

  5. I just discovered X Files ... maybe in another 15 years I will tune into that Game of Thrones show. At any rate, this was a really good show, much stronger than the monsters of the week that made up most of Season 1. The baddie wasn't just a monster, which made him much more interesting, as did the fact that there was a logic for his mayhem. He wasn't just a random killer dude. Plus the growing conspiracy against Mulder & Scully add to the atmosphere. It was a bit lonely when they were the only 2 characters in the show, without others to play off.


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