Tony Black looks at the fourth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Transmissions’…
Written by Marsheila Rockwell & Jeffrey Mariotte.
Edited by Jonathan Maberry.
In the fourth story for The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, we change tack by coming from the perspective of an entirely different character from Mulder or Scully, in the form of Micah Goodrich, a small-town sheriff in Sulphur Springs Valley, Arizona, who finds himself very much out of his depth in ‘Transmissions’, from the writer duo of Marsheila Rockwell & Jeff Mariotte, which by degrees is one of the straightest and creepiest tales in IDW’s third anthology collection yet. It cuts right to the very heart of the basest of human set-ups: the family, at which point it burrows its way into your mind just like the strange transmissions which begin compelling family men to kill. It’s a frightening tale, all the more being from Micah’s ominous, rational viewpoint.
Set roughly during the latter half of the show’s third season, ‘Transmissions’ reminded me in places of Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, with a washed-out, sun-drenched oppression leaking out of Rockwell & Mariotte’s descriptions coupled with a shade of nihilism, principally from Micah, as he faces down a career that has beaten him psychologically, with drug cartels and senseless murder.
The story itself for at least half of the length principally just sees Mulder & Scully following Micah from The story itself for at least half of the length principally just sees Mulder & Scully following Micah from crime scene to crime scene as the family bodies pile up, but that sense of small-town oppression grows as they slowly piece together a pretty enormous potential threat. It’s the bleakness that appeals in this story, however, the drained brightness of the houses contrasted with the violent, bloody darkness of the murders that take place – shot through with a great X-Files level of weirdness with the transmissions themselves, recalling episodes such as ‘Conduit’.
With a measure of good character work, with a strong and likeable protagonist in Micah who is rounded well, and enough action and strangeness to be a dark and engaging tale while never tipping over into melodrama or not feeling like an X-File, ‘Transmissions’ may end up being one of the darker entries in the anthology – indeed it could even be a Millennium episode, which is as good in terms of praise as I can bestow.
Check back on Thursday for an exclusive interview with Marsheila Rockwell & Jeff Mariotte about their story!
You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.