Friday, December 24, 2010

X-Files--"Colony"

“Colony” is a pivotal episode of firsts. We meet Mulder’s parents and a woman claiming to be his abducted sister Samantha. More importantly to the overall mythology, we meet the Alien Bounty Hunter. All the trimmings are here--the shape shifting, the Lrge needle to the neck as his weapon of choice, and poisonous green blood. The episode is also the first to imply the aliens’ intention is to colonize Earth.

In spite of “Colony” sounding like an X-Phile’s nirvana, I do have a nitpick. The teaser shows the aftermath of the story. Mulder has been taken to a medical research facility to be treated for severe hypothermia when Scully bursts in, ordering the doctors to stop the usual treatment of submersion in warm water. She claims Mulder has been infected by an alien parasite and only the cold is keeping him alive. After the opening credits, the story begins two weeks prior. Beginning at the end is a narrative technique that is often irksome for me. Your mileage may vary, but I am firmly in the just Tell the Freaking Story school of thought.

But that is a minor nitpick. The story is engaging otherwise. A mysterious benefactor e-mails Mulder the obituaries of four men, all identical and all within the medical profession, who were killed within days of each other. Mulder’s interest is piqued when he not only cannot find any blood relation among the four, but discovers there is a fifth. He and Scully arrange for the FBI field office in New Jersey to put him under protective custody, but they are too late. All five of the men have been murdered by the alien bounty hunter.

The agents have nothing else to go on until Mulder is contacted by a CIA agent named Ambrose Chapel. He reveals the men were part of a Soviet plot to create clones to infiltrate and sabotage the healthcare resources of the United States in the event of a Soviet attack. Chapel claims the Alien Bounty Hunter is KGB agent erasing all evidence of the plot while the US government looks the other way. The scientist who created the project, Dr. Gregor, must have anonymously contacted Mulder for help because of his reputation for buying into such wild conspiracy theories. Chapel is the Alien Bounty Hunter in disguise. He kills Gregor once the agents locate him.

Mulder becomes immediately distracted when a woman claiming to be his long lost sister shows up at the family home. Treatment under hyponosis revealed repressed memories of her life before being abducted. The entire family is skeptical, but whern she reveals knowledge of the alien colonization plot, Mulder’s attention is piqued. Meanwhile, Scully, left alone in the investigation, is stalked by the Alien Bounty Hunter. The cliffhanger involves her talking on the phone with Mulder at the same time “he” shows up at her motal room door.

Yes, that does mean the scene from the teaser is the ending to the nest episode, and I think that is even more irksome because it dissipates the tension even further. Aspiring writers take note--do not reveal the overall ending to build up tension, then make us wait a week plus offering another cliffhanger in the interim. It is too much.

Nice touch: Ambrose Chapel is a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. In that film, Jimmy Stewart, who is looking for his kidnapped son, finds Ambrose Chapel on a piece of paper and mistakenly assumes it is the name of a man who can help him. Instead, it is the name of the church in which the kidnappers have taken his son. If only our heroes were better movie buffs, they would have known Chapel was not who he claimed to be.

There is tension between Mulder and his father that has not been mentioned before. When Mulder returns home, he is noticeably cool, but cordial to his father. They shake hands as a greeting. Mulders initiates, but does not appear confident his father will take his hand. He and his mother have a much warmer relationship. She even calls him Fox without incident.

I sound a bit down on “Colony” because of some structural gripes, but that is misleading. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. The early mythology episodes before the story began to meander were the best. I also like the implication that Mulder’s father must be part of something sinister because of the palpable suspicion. In the air. There is a tense feeling, even Scully scolds him for it for it here, that Mulder is ready to believe just about any weird idea that suits his vision of an evil mass conspiracy. I often forget just how on edge the character was early in the series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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