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Top Ten X-Files Episodes April 16, 2011

Posted by vorpalkeith in television review.
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I’ve been meaning to get to this post for a long time.  I think I promised it way back when I was doing the countdowns of my favorite episodes of the various Star Trek series, and that’s longer than I care to think about.

So without further ado . . .


10 ) Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man

Attempting to humanize your villain is always a dangerous path. You run the risk of taking his teeth away and making him not a threat at all. This episode dealt with the Lone Gunmen explaining the rumored history of the famed villain, while all the while Cigarette Smoking Man listens in and watches them through a sniper scope. The viewers, and Cigarette Smoking Man himself, are given a guided tour of what may or may not be his actual life and shown how at so many places the life he wanted was just out of reach. In the end, Cigarette Smoking Man, feeling strangely affected by his own past decides not to kill our heroes . . . not today.

9 ) Redrum

The only episode of the Robert Patrick era to make it onto this list. The strength of this episode is in Joe Morton’s guest starring role as a district attorney who wake up one morning in prison, falsely accused of killing his wife – only to find that he’s living time backwards. The advantage of living backwards means that he’ll be able to save his wife, but only if he faces up to some sins of his own past.

8 ) Triangle

While investigating the history of a luxury liner that was lost in the Bermuda Triangle in the 1930s – long thought to have been destroyed by the Germans – Mulder finds himself thrust back into the past on the fateful day when the Nazis seize control of the vessel.

7 ) The Unnatural

Playing on the title of the baseball drama “The Natural” this episode – actually written and directed by David Duchovny – deals with the legend of an alien living the life of Josh Exley, a Negro League baseball player, facing both racism in the human guise he has taken, and in his true form, in his attempt to play the game he loves more than anything else. Passions are worth danger, and worth fighting for.

6 ) Terms of Endearment

Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate when a scorched infant child is discovered – one bearing horns like a devil. Bruce Campbell guest stars as the demon father, and Mulder believes that he is desperately trying to have a child, destroying the evidence only when the children are stillborn. On the contrary, Bruce Campbell’s character is destroying the demonic children, and turns out a heartbreaking performance as a broken demon who just wants a regular, human child, only to have that dreams snatched away by the other demon he has unknowingly married.

5 ) Dreamland

During surveillance near Area 51, a faulty engine on a reverse-engineered flying saucer, causes Mulder to swap bodies with a Man in Black (guest-star Michael McKean). With hilarious consequences. Mulder is now deeper inside the conspiracy than he ever hoped, only he can’t get out.

4 ) Soft Light

Tony Shaloub guest-stars as a researcher in dark matter who has been horribly twisted by an accident at his research lab. His shadow is now fatal, destroying any organic matter that happens to cross its path. Shaloub gives a wonderfully frenetic performance as a many both attempting to escape government agents who seek to exploit his discovery, and to escape himself.

3 ) The Post-Modern Prometheus

The series’ best take on the “monster with a heart of gold” theme feels very much like the Frankenstein story that the title seeks to emulate, so much so that they chose to shoot it in black and white.  Mulder and Scully come to a town to investigate a case of a woman who claims to have been impregnated by a monster which looks exactly like the one drawn in her son’s comic book, only to be drawn into a bizarre tale of the town’s dark past, a mad scientist, and Cher.

2 ) Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”

Without a doubt the funniest episode of the series, but also with bitter sweet observations about the shallowness, and loneliness of the lives that Mulder and Scully live. Charles Nelson Riley guest-stars as the eponymous Jose Chung, a novelist writing about the alien abduction of two teenagers. It is a case which Mulder and Scully also investigated. The humor comes in the Rashomon-like circumstances in which the same incidents are retold from multiple points of view, with progressively more and more ridiculous takes. Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek, yes THAT Alex Trebek, also guest-star as men in black.

What follows are some selected hilarious quotes from the episode:

Jose Chung: [discussing the written statement of one of the witnesses to a UFO abduction] I don’t know which was more disturbing, his description of the inner core reincarnated souls’ sex orgy, or the fact that the whole thing was written in screenplay format.

Jose Chung: Aren’t you nervous telling me all this? Receiving all those death threats?
Blaine: Well, hey, I didn’t spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage.

Fox Mulder: You still gonna hold the boy?
Detective Manners: You bet your blankitty-blank bleep I am!

1 ) Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose

I’ve found that so many of the very best X-Files episodes relied on the strength of the guest performance that week. Nowhere else is that as true as in the performance that Peter Boyle delivered in this episode as a man with the psychic ability to know how people died, or will die, using the gift/curse he hates one last time to try to stop a serial killer. It is at moments funny, haunting, tragic, and always bittersweet.

Honorable Mentions: “Small Potatoes”, “The Rain King”, and “Millenium”



1. Salome - April 19, 2011

I’m glad someone else enjoyed Terms of Endearment besides me. I was beginning to feel alone in that. LOL

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