Tony Black looks at the eighth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Border Time’…
Written by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Kate Corcino
Edited by Jonathan Maberry
The eighth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas plays it straighter than many of the other tales in the anthology, which have in some places attempted to mix up the storytelling with X-Files which think outside the box. ‘Border Time’ is a very solid, standard kind of story which would have fitted perfectly well as a mid-season episode. Co-written by Bryan Michael Schmidt & Kate Corcino, and set roughly around the third season of the series, it balances a rather traditional investigation for Mulder & Scully as a dead young woman turns up mutilated on the US side of the Mexican border, with an attempt to get under the skin of Mulder’s obsession and lightly throw in some mytharc along the way. It’s only partially successful, unfortunately.
The main problem is that the repeated references to Samantha and Mulder’s personalizing of cases just doesn’t feel earned. He did this more than once in episodes such as ‘Oubliette’ or of course ‘Paper Hearts’, but in both cases the writing was either subtle or Samantha’s abduction directly connected to the story – here it feels like a reference point being forced, and given Schmidt & Corcino don’t tell the story from Mulder’s perspective & inner monologue, it often feels like the writer pointing and going “look, like this like Samantha, look!”. It becomes jarring after a while.
Equally not really clicking is the mytharc link to what otherwise seems to be an organized murder operation, and again the inclusion of a fan-favourite mythology character only serves to highlight how much he doesn’t fit tonally with everything that has preceded his appearance. It feels an odd & unsatisfying twist the story didn’t need, again mainly there to underline the attempts to connect to Samantha.
It’s unfortunate because ‘Border Time’ does have some good moments and character interactions, with Schmidt & Corcino getting the voices and actions of Mulder & Scully down well. They touch on the whole aspect of border patrols, illegal workers and the plight of young women being prey to abuse in the area, and supporting characters such as Lupo are well drawn as the investigation deepens – it’s purely from a narrative perspective where it goes wrong and trying to shoehorn an emotional connection to Mulder’s psychology into the story.
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