Sam Turton discusses her favourite X-File, Post-Modern Prometheus…
I have a confession to make: I love Cher.
Her music used to be played on cassette in our car when I was little and it was the first concert I ever went to in 1999 (the ‘Believe’ tour). After this, I became a bit obsessed with her and her music, in a nice way.
I also love ANYTHING gothic. I was a frustrated goth in my youth, I love gothic movies, and I adore old-fashioned ghost stories.
Imagine my excitement when Post Modern Prometheus kicks off… It’s black and white, looks like a graphic novel and has all the makings of classic gothic literature. I have many favourite episodes and I can’t choose just one, but PMP is definitely up there.
On a recent full series re-watch, I got really excited when we got to PMP; I hoped it was as good as I remembered… It was. The opening scene in the guise of a comic book is perfect and immediately sets the episode up as a ‘monster of the week’ and a light-hearted episode. The gothic atmosphere is immediately created as we see that the whole episode is going to be in B&W and shot against a moody, stormy sky. The whole thing screams classic gothic! Then, we get the image of The Great Mutato and all of a sudden, it’s Mulder and Scully meet Mary Shelley.
Obviously, there’s nothing clever in comparing this story to Frankenstein, even the subtitle of Shelley’s novel is The Modern Prometheus, plus you’ve got the spooky doctor, the weird creature, and the mob mentality of the locals. But, it is great how Carter has brought this story into the modern world with the idea of genetic experiments and the fly with legs growing out of its mouth! Oh, and can we talk about the camera work in this episode? Carter very clearly shot this one with a wide angle lens which creates those brilliant shots of characters immersed in their world and looking down the barrel of the lens; each scene looks like a cell from a graphic novel. This combined with the well-placed lightening bolts and rattling thunder, makes for perfect viewing with the lights off.
What I do love about Carter’s take on the classic Frankenstein story is the fact that the crazed mob eventually do take pity on the creature. They realise, as the old cliché reminds us, that they are the monsters, they are the animals; the swift cutting between certain characters and their animal counterparts beautifully and comically highlights this. As an audience, we are left contemplating our place in the world and our conceitedness at thinking we can play God. Unlike us, The Great Mutato is a simple creature: he loves peanut butter, he loves Cher and he loves watching The Mask as it makes him believe that someone will love him one day.
In my opinion, his love of Cher is his way of connecting to the outside world, and as a theme it makes us think of the music calms the savage beast idiom. Plus, we all see Cher as person who constantly transforms and moves with the times: is this what the Mutato wishes he could do? Through him, Carter is subverting the traditional idea of a sci-fi monster and is making us re-imagine the modern world where science plays a big part and can do things that nature cannot.
I think in this episode, Carter wants us to think about what it means to be a monster. Mutato is horrible to look at, and he effectively rapes two women in the episode, yet these two women are desperate for children and are not going to get what they want through traditional means. Mutato is providing these women with what they most desire. Does this make it any more acceptable? Also, these encounters between Mutato and the women are presented as being almost comical; the circus like cover is dropped over the house and Cher blares out of the stereo as Mutato approaches the deed.
If we didn’t know better, it’s almost as though Carter is trivialising rape and sexual exploitation. Maybe what he wants us to do is rethink the way we see conception and sex in the wake of scientific discovery. The theme of the whole episode seems to be out with nature, in with science! This is also very Shelley, who was a great lover of science and believed that a deeper understanding of the world through science was a positive thing. She was greatly influenced by the science of the day, even in her marriage to Percy Shelly who would become known as a great progressive thinker.
So, is Pollidori the real monster? The good doctor is playing god, murders his own father, and would see Mutato go the same way. Just like Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein, he is unwilling to accept the consequences of his actions and merely sees the human body as an over-sized science experiment. Of course, this whole episode also seems to be not so subtly foreshadowing Scully’s pregnancy through untraditional means and possible genetic manipulation.
All in all, PMP is a great stand-alone episode. For me, it’s a perfect example of what The X-Files is and ranks with Beyond the Sea, Pusher, and Squeeze as one of the best episodes of the whole canon! Plus, it ends with one of the greatest Mulder and Scully scenes of all time. But that’s for another blog.
What are your thoughts on the themes of PMP? Please do let me know in the comments section! As a former English teacher, I love people analysing films, books and the like in different ways. It’s like the perfect lesson! I’ve kept this blog fairly short, but I could rattle on for ages.
You can follow Sam on Twitter @yorkshireramble.