1013 Radio: Over the Rainbow

Carl Sweeney returns for another 1013 Radio, talking a classic from Season 6’s ‘The Rain King’…
overtherainbowausIn the early days of The X-Files, it was almost impossible to imagine an episode ending with ‘Over the Rainbow’ playing on the soundtrack. By Season 6, though, the series had changed considerably, and ‘The Rain King’ does indeed conclude with Judy Garland’s Oscar-winning song

The song itself is one of the most famous American songs ever recorded. ‘Over the Rainbow’ (referred to by many as ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’) was written in 1939 by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, for MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. It’s an emotional ballad, sung in the first few minutes of the film when Dorothy is daydreaming about a better place than Kansas. The song won the Oscar that year for Best Original Song, and would remain Garland’s signature tune throughout her career. It’s not, however, a natural fit for The X-Files.

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‘The Rain King’ is a sweet little episode, perhaps most memorable for a scene where Mulder dodges a flying cow.  It’s a romantic comedy, really, about not just Mulder & Scully’s investigation in the local resident apparently able to control the weather for financial gain, but about the unrequited love meteorologist, Holman Hardt feels for Sheila Fontaine. Unusually for The X-Files, there’s even a happy ending. Holman & Sheila get together, and normal weather patterns are restored to the town. There’s a short postscript, set one year later: we hear ‘Over the Rainbow’ as we see Sheila cradling her newborn baby. Your mileage may vary, but I think it’s a nice little scene. But the question remains: how did The X-Files, renowned for its scares and its chills, get to the point where it could use a Judy Garland song?

The X-Files moved production to Los Angeles between Seasons 5 & 6. The move had an immediate effect on the series. Gone was the atmospheric drizzle and mist that were such a hallmark of filming in Vancouver. LA’s warmer climate was reflected in the brighter, warmer look of the series. ‘The Beginning’ would open the season with an image of the baking desert sun. ‘Drive’ and ‘Dreamland’ would make notable use of the different types of location that the series now had at its disposal. The show as a whole now had a generally lighter feel than before, which would last until Season 8 attempted to go back-to-basics. If the series hadn’t moved to LA, ‘The Rain King’ may have ended up a very different episode in look and feel.

The move to LA, in my view, not only changed the look of the series but also broadened the types of music that could be appropriately used on the show. Mark Snow’s scores for Season 6 are more varied and more comedic than before (listen to the music that accompanies Mulder’s mirror dance in Dreamland for a particularly stark example of this), and songs which would once have felt out of place now warrant inclusion. ‘Over the Rainbow’, which is very difficult to imagine being used in the early years of the show, feels suitable when used in ‘The Rain King’.

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* ‘The Rain King’ wasn’t the first time that the series had tipped its hat to The Wizard of Oz, of course. ‘Triangle’ is heavily indebted to the film, and in ‘Fight the Future’, Mulder jokingly refers to The Lone Gunmen as “Cowardly Lion…Scarecrow…Toto” (Frohike is the one who was unfairly compared to Dorothy’s canine companion).

You can follow Carl @csweeney758 on Twitter.

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