Tony Black looks at the tenth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Stryzga’…
Written by Lauren A. Forry
Edited by Jonathan Maberry
So far in The X-Files: Secret Agendas we’ve had a range of stories that attempt to get under the skin of Mulder & Scully, while both weaving in mytharc elements and more often than not, deliberate connections to X-Files events of the past. ‘Stryzga’, from writer Lauren A. Forry, is the first one to truly get the mixture right for my money, and for all of these tales–most of which have been great thus far–this one feels like an X-File of old we might see on TV the most.
Set during the first season of the show, it takes place just after the bleak ending of ‘Darkness Falls’ where, you’ll remember, Mulder & Scully only just got out of woods alive (literally). Forry intentionally chooses to play on that fact as she weaves a story that sends the duo back into the woods, in a way that feels worthy and un-intrusive.
You have a solid gribbly in the mix for this story too, as the titular Stryzga is a Slavic monster of legend which appears to have killed a Polish national in a former nature reserve, and Mulder delivers one of his classic projector lectures to Scully whilst throughout the story projecting his own concern about whether she should be back on field duty so soon, after she came off the tree bug attack in ‘Darkness Falls’ in a much worse way than he; it didn’t necessarily need any focus, as we took them both being fine for granted come the next episode, but Forry plays this beat naturally enough for it to *be* natural and provide a central level of depth to their burgeoning partnership which gives the story ever so slightly more weight.
Beyond that, it’s a damn fine monster of the week story, essentially, with a few twists and turns along the way in terms of questioning man’s abhorrent treatment of nature and some creepy secrets involving children and bizarre radiation tests. Crucially, Scully always provides a scientific explanation or attempt at one when Mulder is off theorising about two hearted monsters with double teeth, in precisely the way the show would do. It builds to a relatively swift but satisfying conclusion that ends on a comic beat but with the door still open.
It’s among the more traditional stories in this anthology but that really works to its benefit – with fine writing from Lauren A. Forry, who nails characterisation as well as story, it’s not the most out there or inventive of the volume but it could well be among my favorites.
You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black