Case Analysis

The Paranormal Grail

Review of "Super Soldiers / Threads of the Mythology" DVD Box Set, by Chris Knowles

Chris Knowles has been an ardent supporter of the Lexicon for a while and he offered up this first review of a possible series of reviews for the "Threads of the Mythology" DVD sets. Chris has a deep interest in the paranormal, metaphysical and scientific themes of the X-Files, although I am aware that his opinions might raise the hackles of some X-Philes, to each his own. Highly recommended: Please visit Chris' site.

The X-Files rose to prominence in the mid-90's and became a worldwide phenomenon. This was both a blessing and a curse to the show and its creators. The show was never meant to be a pop culture hit, because its tone was way too dark and its themes far too esoteric and challenging for the audience that attached itself to it. The teeny-boppers, Chatty Cathies and watercooler commandos who leeched onto the X-Files did so because of the prettiness of its stars and the sublime romance of Mulder and Scully. Their understanding began and ended there. Carter made the fatal mistake of cultivating this audience by encouraging the Internet culture that sprang up around the X Files, apparently not realizing how shallow and fickle that audience could be.

Unlike some of his audience, Chris Carter wasn't taking his cues from People magazine and Tiger Beat. He was drawing upon the deep and dark currents of the Conspiracy research underground, as well as from the Paranormal research community. Mulder and Sculy's romance was powerful and compelling, but it was based on the Grail quest at the center of the show. Mulder's quest was in actuality Chris Carter's quest. And his burning, restless intelligence left a huge chunk of the X-Files audience totally at sea for the final three seasons of the series. Starting with the seventh season, Carter had obviously broken through the obvious and simplistic good vs evil storyline that had anchored the show's mythology and plumbed the depths of esoteric cosmology and parascientific theory - witness the controversial episode "Closure" in the seventh season, that resolved the issue of Mulder's missing sister in a fashion that was straight from the deepest corners of parapsychological speculation.

In a way, Carter was luckier with Millennium. It's audience was much smaller, but much more intelligent and dedicated to the themes and ideas Carter and his staff were wrestling with. Carter's luck had ran out on the X-Files when the show's star, David Duchovny, tired of the relentless grind had left to pursue a movie career. His absence hurt both the show and his own career. All of his films have been catastrophic bombs, with his recent vanity project House of D grossing less than $400K.

Essentially, Fox Mulder was Chris Carter himself, and Duchovny's absence robbed the show of Carter's focus. However, Carter rallied and introduced a new character, John Doggett. Doggett was played by Robert Patrick, a prodigiously talented character actor. Patrick's acting chops leave Duchovny's in the dust, but he and the Doggett character lacked Duchovny's charisma and self-mocking humor. The teenybopper and Harlequin romance portion of the X-Files audience was horrified and never forgave Carter for continuing the show without their demigod. Rather than going back to watching General Hospital or Angel, the so-called "fans" went online and whined incessantly. Brainless journalists picked up on the screeching on usenet, and the show acquired a negative momentum that led to its demise.

Are these episodes the X-Files in their prime? Of course not. But, the prime of the X-Files was one of those magical serendipities that comes along once in a generation. But the "super solider" episodes are far superior to 99% of everything else on television. The set collects the best episodes from the 8th season ( Super Soldiers and Colonization supply all the 8th season episodes you need to see) as well as the high points of the ninth season, namely "Trust No 1" (which features Carter favorite, Terry O'Quinn, now starring on Lost) and the two-parter "Provenance/Providence" which reveals the frightening power of Mulder and Scully's child, William. The series finale, "the Truth" is uneven, but has its pleasures.

What makes this set crucial is the documentary on disc four, in which many of the issues that confounded some viewers are resolved. Co-creator Frank Spotnitz reveals that the Super Soldier program was a lie- they were simply the alien replicants introduced in "This is Not Happening". He also reveals something that smarter X-Philes had realized - that Doggett was deeply in love with Scully and that there was a love triangle between Doggett, Scully and the missing Mulder. Also, highly worthwhile are Spotnitz's comment on "Dead Alive".

If you were a true X-Phile - that is, a fan who was into the show for the paranormal and esoteric ideas that fueled Fox Mulder's (and by Fox Mulder, I mean Chris Carter) quest - this is a great investment. Every day, we are seeing Carter's prophecies bearing fruit- genetic engineering, the real-life super soldier program, Orwellian surveillance. As always, the Mythology episodes make much more sense when viewed in sequence. And Spotnitz' comments and the doc help answer some burning points of contention.