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The X-Files: Terma

Case: Still the mysterious Case of the Black Oil and the Russian Gulag

Destination: Somewhere near Tunguska, Russia; Washington DC; various other places.

"What is the question?"

You're probably wondering if I have any more idea what's going on here than I did in Part 1. I'm embarrassed to report that the answer is no, not really. Mulder got infected with the Black Oil in the climax to the previous episode, is that going to have any effect on him? Presumably the vaccine the Russians were testing on him is working. And the locals have come up with a rather extreme method of avoiding capture and medical experimentation that Mulder somehow persuades them not to carry out on him.

There's lots of things to like here, despite my utter incomprehension concerning the plot. Gulags! Horses in gulags! Very badly guarded gulags that you can escape by knocking out one dude and hi-jacking a truck! Mysterious geologists whispering through the walls! Krycek! References to Well-Manicured Man's sex life! Helpful Russians! Use of the phrase 'sonofabitch' in Russian! The scene in which Scully refuses to answer the question about where Mulder is and Mulder walks in and asks "What is the question?" is great.

Most importantly, of course, this is the episode in which Krycek gets his arm cut off by a group of well-meaning Russians, an incident he will vaguely blame on Mulder despite the fact that all Mulder did was dump him in the woods after Krycek betrayed him. They don't use anaesthetic either. Ouch.

Ultimately, as in most of the alien conspiracy arc episodes, we end up with Mulder and Scully becoming increasingly frustrated as the Cigarette Smoking Man oversees the destruction of all evidence that might back up Mulder's claims and the rest of the FBI looks at them like they've gone mad. The trouble is, we've seen this story several times already and at this point, it's getting old.

Other Thoughts

 - Some sweet Mulder/Scully moments here as her face lights up when he walks in to the inquiry (partly because now she can get out of jail) and then they hug.

 - Instead of 'The Truth Is Out There', this episode's tag says 'E Pur Si Muove'. This means 'and yet it still moves' in Italian and was supposedly whispered by Galileo after he was forced to recant his claim that the Earth moves around the Sun. So, perhaps the US government will pardon Mulder and acknowledge he was right after all in about 400 years?


Mulder: Why is this so hard to believe?

Final Analysis: I'm so confused. Two out four amputations without anaesthetic.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.


  1. Again, thanks for the review. I agree that it is difficult to follow this arc but the episode is still fun. The cutting off of the whole arm seems a bit extreme. Couldn't they just cut out the small pox scar? It was interesting that they didn't subtitle any of the Russian in the netflix version which somehow made it a more authentic experience for me. That is, just like Mulder, I had trouble understanding what was going on and deciding if Krycek was a traitor. How convenient that the prisoner next door and the delivery man's wife could speak English.

  2. Cutting off a whole arm definitely seems a bit extreme to me! I quite like watching things without subtitles, though usually when I speak a bit of the language - I think I'd have been even more lost without them here!

  3. Although I don't love this episode, it does have one of my favorite Mulder and Scully moments ever -- when he tells her he can put both arms around her. She doesn't bat a lash. She's getting used to the odd things he says.

    I watch this series on Amazon Prime which, thankfully, provides the subtitles. I speak maybe three words of Russian so would be completely stumped without them.

    Loved the review, Juliette. I kept shaking my head in agreement.


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