The Host and the Chernobyl effect

Tony Black looks at the cause and effect of the Flukeman…

The very last line in ‘The Host’ is probably the most accurate in terms of understanding it – “Nature didn’t make this thing, Mulder… we did.”

Scully’s declaration follows her assumption that the Russian freighter at the beginning of the episode–and for some reason off the coast of New Jersey–perhaps created the iconic monster we know as the Flukeman in a soup of radioactive sewage, after hauling salvage from the most well known nuclear accident of the 20th century: Chernobyl.

A radioactive sign hangs on barbed wire outside a café in Pripyat.

Most people know the story of Chernobyl and how in 1986 the reactor suffered a catastrophic meltdown, realising vast amounts of radioactive fallout across the then-USSR and parts of Eastern Europe (heavily Belarus). An entire adjacent city which housed many of the plant workers, Pripyat, was evacuated and remains an unpopulated ghost town to this day. The cost in rubles was staggering, and the political fallout led to Soviet nuclear secrets being put under the spotlight and added to the ‘glasnost’ which ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. To some degree, you could argue Chernobyl helped end the Cold War, and fifty years of MAD. A perverse irony.

Yet the real cost has always been the human one. The same cost Scully theorises could have helped create the Flukeman who stalks the sewers of New Jersey.

Thirty-one people died as a direct cause of Chernobyl and thousands more–including children–have or have been predicted to die from various forms of cancer and leukemia as a result of radioactive fallout, the medical effects of which are still be investigated to this day. In the Season 10 comic sequel, ‘Hosts’–which we will review next week on the blog–writer Joe Harris takes further the idea the Flukeman came from the cod-primordial soup that surged around Chernobyl and Pripyat, adding a human tragic element to the creature’s origin, but ‘The Host’ itself only hints at the man-made involvement in the creation of a monster who isn’t, truly, monstrous at all. Like many creatures in The X-Files, it’s simply inducing a biological imperative, in this case, to reproduce.

the-host-the-x-files

From a moral standpoint, can the Flukeman, therefore, be blamed for its actions? Does it have a level of consciousness given its semi-human form? Or should it be classified more as a warped being consumed by an animalistic need to spawn and reproduce for its own survival? To draw a comparison, Eugene Victor Tooms seemed to have a level of genuine malice and control over what were biological urges which made him more monster than man, but it’s hard to apply the same derivation to the Flukeman. To even use the word ‘man’ in his name almost feels like a misappropriation; he doesn’t talk, yet he does seem to understand and compute. Therein lies the paradox.

This must ultimately take us back to the human error, and indeed human greed, behind its creation. Chernobyl shouldn’t have happened, and serves as a warning about the bloated danger of the Communist design, especially when combined with a power as dangerous as nuclear science, but equally if that Russian trawler was salvaging around an area classified as off-limits, filled with nuclear radioactive fallout, then the avarice of man here serves as a basis for the genesis of a creature like the Flukeman. Not gods, not aliens, not a grand genetic design beyond our comprehension, but rather the inhuman tragedy of a lifeform born out of circumstances that should never have been.

Without absolving the Flukeman of guilt for the crimes it committed, how can you truly punish or blame something without true context or consciousness for its actions? Herein lies the moral complexity ‘The Host’, as more of a straight horror episode, doesn’t really get into, but it’s a worthy conversation. Plus a continued cautionary tale about the awesome, destructive power of nuclear technology, not just on our world and on our politics, but even moreso on our basic humanity.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

You can find The X-Cast episode discussing ‘The Host’ on Libsyn, iTunes or your podcast app of choice.

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