Skip to main content

Then what can I say? How can I disprove lies that are stamped with an official seal?

The X-Files
1.10: Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel hits the ground running with Mulder on the ground, running around Wisconsin woods in pursuit of an alien craft before a crash-retrieval team gets to it first. As such, this is an early sign of action-Mulder that’s called into service every so often. Until a rifle butt to the face sees to his little fancy. The subsequent dynamics of the hunt for an alien are so-so, however, and the episode’s strengths revolve around the nascent mythos the show is building for itself.

Mulder: We both want the same thing, only you want it dead.

The series is again, at this early stage, resistant to the explicit confirmation of aliens, which means it instead doubles down on the hardware. Any unidentified craft might – if not a Libyan jet with a nuclear warhead – have a terrestrial origin. The Predator-esque camouflage of the alien might simply be hi-tech military gear. And Max’s scars… well, government abduction and experimentation sold as alien meddling is a popular reading of what goes on (and one 'Jose Chung’s From Outer Space' later had much fun with).

Colonel: You just made the worst mistake of your life, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: I think you just knocked out a filling.

This very literal realisation of a main arc story is underlined by Marshall Bell’s colonel, who could easily have stepped straight out of an instalment of The A-Team, hotly pursuing those Nam veterans who escaped to the Los Angeles underground. The military operation has been set up under the guise of a crashed plane carrying a toxic cargo and with it the threat of ecological disaster, so fitting very neatly into much broader conspiracy storytelling. Likewise, the Cheyenne Mountain officer being instructed to refer to the sighting as a meteor (“The meteor seems to be hanging over a small town…”) This makes for an object lesson in obfuscation of absolute facts to all but those at the very top of the hierarchal pyramid. The eco threat as a mask for the real agenda is particularly apposite, since we can readily see that nothing has changed there in the thirty years since.

This goes in tandem with Deep Throat’s very literal introduction, in which he explains the electric fence extending 15,000 miles into space, used to track and monitor “7,087 man-made objects that orbit the Earth” (yeah, right…) In common with the show’s modus operandi, Fallen Angel baits and switches with what we know; Max is clearly an abductee, and we assume, because the military is involved, they are after an alien. But there is also an intent to make the lines murky. Is Deep Throat on Mulder’s side, as we have hitherto been led to believe, and double-bluffing Section Chief McGrath (Frederick Coffin)? Or is he really hoodwinking Mulder to avoid “having him exposed to the wrong people” (Wiki interprets this as Mulder becoming a whistle blower, but it could surely mean one of several things). Whatever his motive – and we will see he is playing on Mulder’s team, albeit a dangerous and two-edged game – the rebuff of McGrath’s intention to shut down the X-Files always seemed desperately thin. But then, I never found the recurring threat to do so (and occasionally succeed) a particularly engaging one.

Where Fallen Angel is very much successful, though, is in emphasising how the show’s mythology is developing apace, and not so much in terms of the ET arc. Max is the prime example of this. A geeky member of NICAP (National Investigative Committee of Arial Phenomena) – what’s the betting he’s the sole and founder; perhaps not, if E.B.E.’s reference is indicative – he has a track on unexplained phenomena that is very much proto-Lone Gunmen, but for his own aspect of the unexplained. We’ll also see his reframing of the “caricatures” of Mulder and Scully to increasingly humorous effect as the series grows in familiarity and confidence (“the enigmatic Doctor Scully”). Mulder has his own nascent fandom (“We at NICAP have been following your career really closely”), and we learn how easy it is to keep tabs on someone (Max has been trailing Fox’s activities through travel expenses accessed via the Freedom of Information Act – if only the Act was always so forthcoming). We also learn of Fox’s extracurricular publishing under the name MF Luder (“And of course, I read your article in Omni about the Gulf Breeze sightings”).

Mulder: I didn’t think anybody was paying attention.
Deep Throat: Somebody’s always paying attention, Mr Mulder.

Mulder is revealed to take a dim view of the “latest crop circle photos from Project Argus” (which appears to be this instance of them, rather than general dismissal). Which at least suggests a degree of pouring over the minutiae. Unfortunately, that side is let down somewhat by Max plumbing for such obvious referential touchstones as JFK and Roswell; it would have been much more believable had he offered more obscure references to someone also versed in obscure references, as it makes him sound like an obsessive character written by people (Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa) who aren’t obsessive. A little like the piss-take unemployed would-be abductee in Jose Chung chanting “Roswell! Roswell!” as if it were “Attica! Attica!

There were a couple of extra-terrestrial themed episodes prior to Fallen Angel that I haven’t revisited as they are not part of the “official” mythology arc (this will also be the case later with the likes of 6.19: The Unnatural and 6.4/5:Dreamland). 1.9: Space is, obviously, an absolute stinker (a contender for the all-time worst), a muddle of Face-on-Mars lore and space shuttle guff. Dreadful as Space is, it does take the series’ less-travelled tack, of an alien presence as an energetic or spiritual force taking possession of a victim. 1.4: Conduit also favours blurring the lines between alien and psychic phenomenon, and it makes a significant early contribution to Mulder’s missing-sister narrative; there, it appears that the girl simply ran, or sped, off with some bikers, but Conduit also incorporates perhaps the season’s inexplicable highlight visual of the brother’s binary code drawings forming a picture of his sister’s face.

Mulder: You can deny all the things I've seen. All the things I've discovered. But not for much longer. Because too many others know what's happening out there. And no one. No government agency has jurisdiction over the truth.

Director Larry Shaw only worked on one other episode (1.12: Fire), and he furnishes serviceable results, although I’ve never liked the cheap-shock jump-frame effect used during the alien attack sequences. Bellis’ performance as Max deserves particular praise, a convincingly wired guy at the mercy of forces he doesn’t understand (it’s a nice touch when Mulder counters Scully’s reference to Max being delusional with “Max doesn't believe he was abducted by aliens, I believe he was”). It’s easy to see why his story was sequelised in Season Four. And while the series’ Mulder monologues could become increasingly repetitive (and at times downright laughable) his decrying of the investigative committee is an effective rallying cry to deception the world over, and will never get stale.



















Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

Our "Bullshit!" team has unearthed spectacular new evidence, which suggests, that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) Cheeseburger Film Sandwich . Apparently, that’s what the French call Amazon Women on the Moon . Except that it probably sounds a little more elegant, since they’d be saying it in French (I hope so, anyway). Given the title, it should be no surprise that it is regarded as a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie . Which, in some respects, it is. John Landis originally planned to direct the whole of Amazon Women himself, but brought in other directors due to scheduling issues. The finished film is as much of a mess as Kentucky Fried Movie , arrayed with more miss sketches than hit ones, although it’s decidedly less crude and haphazard than the earlier picture. Some have attempted to reclaim Amazon Women as a dazzling satire on TV’s takeover of our lives, but that’s stretching it. There is a fair bit of satire in there, but the filmmakers were just trying to be funny; there’s no polemic or express commentary. But even on such moderate t

Careful how much boat you’re eating.

Onward (2020) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s Bright , or thereabouts. The interesting thing – perhaps the only interesting thing – about Onward is that it’s almost indiscernible from a DreamWorks Animation effort, where once they cocked a snook at such cheap-seats fare, seeing themselves as better class of animation house altogether. Just about everything in Onward is shamelessly derivative, from the Harry Potter /fantasy genre cash-in to the use of the standard Pixar formula whereby any scenario remotely eccentric or exotic is buried beneath the banal signifiers of modern society: because anything you can imagine must be dragged down to tangible everyday reference points or kids won’t be able to assimilate it. And then there’s the choice of lead voices, in-Disney star-slaves Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

Wow. Asteroids are made of farts. Okay. I got it.

Greenland (2020) (SPOILERS) Global terror porn for overpopulation adherents as Gerard Butler and his family do their darnedest to reach the safety of a bunker in the titular country in the face of an imminent comet impact. Basically, what if 2012 were played straight? These things come to test cinemas in cycles, of course. Sean Connery struggled with a duff rug and a stack of mud in Meteor , while Deep Impact plumbed for another dread comet and Armageddon an asteroid. The former, owing to the combined forces of Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, was a – relatively – more meditative fare. The latter was directed by Michael Bay. And then there’s Roland Emmerich, who having hoisted a big freeze on us in The Day After Tomorrow then wreaked a relatively original source of devastation in the form of 2012 ’s overheating Earth’s core. Greenland , meanwhile, is pretty much what you’d expect from the director of Angel Has Fallen .

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

Well, I’ll be damned. It’s the gentleman guppy.

Waterworld (1995) (SPOILERS) The production and budgetary woes of “ Kevin’s Gate ” will forever overshadow the movie’s content (and while it may have been the most expensive movie ever to that point – adjusted for inflation, it seems only Cleopatra came close – it has since turned a profit). However, should you somehow manage to avoid the distraction of those legendary problems, the real qualitative concerns are sure to come sailing over the cognitive horizon eventually; Waterworld is just so damned derivative. It’s a seafaring Mad Max. Peter Rader, who first came up with the idea in 1986, admitted as much. David Twohy, who later came aboard, also cited Mad Max 2 ; that kind of rip-off aspect – Jaws birthing Piranha – makes it unsurprising Waterworld was once under consideration by Roger Corman (he couldn’t cost it cheaply enough). Ultimately, there’s never a sufficient sense the movie has managed to become its own thing. Which is a bummer, because it’s frequently quite good fun.