The X-Files A-Z – G is for GHOSTS

Paige Schector continues our alphabetical breakdown of The X-Files by looking at the history of spectres on the show…

ghosts

Mulder: “Tell me you’re not afraid.”
Scully: “All right, I’m afraid. But it’s an irrational fear.”
–How the Ghosts Stole Christmas (Season 6)

The X-Files tackles the subject of ghosts in the same out-of-the-box manner we’ve come to expect from our show. While many of the atrocities witnessed on the show can be attributed to actual beings — human or alien — there are an array of phantoms sprinkled throughout the run.

The Season 1 episode “Shadows” doesn’t top a lot of fan favorite lists. According to show lore, at this time the show had a directive for Mulder and Scully to investigate and “help people.” So our heroes do their best when inexplicable — and violent — things start happening around a secretary and Mulder determines her late boss is dealing with things on her behalf with telekinesis. We don’t see him at all, but witness the full brunt of his anger. Strangely enough, the very next episode “Ghost in the Machine” isn’t really about a ghost at all. It’s just a pesky old computer trying to take over the world.

scull500Ghosts also stand — or should it be hover? — front and center in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” from Season 6. This one stands as almost a polar opposite to “Shadows,” with sparkling guest performances from Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin as the two spirits in a haunted house trying to talk Mulder and Scully into carrying on a holiday tradition they started, some kind of variation on a murder/suicide pact.

These aren’t your average entities and they have our heroes behaving somewhat out of character. It’s kind of nice to see them off their game for the balance of this one. Scully’s definitely shaken. She’s got detailed explanations for all of it at the ready, but the ingrained cliches from 1,000 horror movies still give her pause:.

“The whole idea of a benevolent entity fits perfectly with what I’m saying. … That a spirit would materialize or return for no other purpose than to show itself is silly and ridiculous. I mean, what it really shows is how silly and ridiculous we have become in believing such things. … That we can ignore all natural laws about the corporeal body … that we witness these spirits clad in their own, shabby outfits, with the same old haircuts and hairstyles, never aging — never in search for more comfortable surroundings. It actually ends up saying more about the living than it does about the dead.” — Scully, ‘How the Ghosts Stole Christmas’

wall500Mulder, usually enthralled with evidence of the supernatural, isn’t so thrilled this time around. Maybe it’s the shots Asner’s Maurice takes at him, which probably hit a little close to home when he deems our FBI guy “a lonely man chasing para-masturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance, which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. You probably consider yourself passionate, serious, misunderstood.”

The resolution to the show’s biggest question — what happened to Mulder’s sister Samantha — happens during Season 7’s “Closure.” In an emotionally charged moment Fox sees her cavorting with many children who died far too soon. They’re still young and beautiful and seemingly unaffected the tragedies that befell them. Are they ghosts? Are they starlight? They certainly fit the textbook definition of ghosts — souls or spirits appearing to the living. It gives Mulder something he (and we) have been awaiting for the longest time. Not only does he accept her fate, but he also attempts to help the psychic aiding the investigation do the same with his own long-lost son.

“You see so much, but you refuse to see him. You refuse to let him go. But you have to let him go now, Harold. He’s protected. He’s in a better place. They’re all in a better place. We both have to let go.”  — Mulder, “Closure”

closure

Apparitions appear in episodes such as Season 1’s “Space” — an other-worldly ghost inhabiting the body of a former Gemini astronaut — and Season 2’s “Excelsis Dei,” in which a nurse is sexually attacked by an “invisible 74-year-old schizophrenic.” Later in the second season, there’s an unsettling amount of spooks seemingly caused by voodoo in “Fresh Bones” and some poltergeist activity that lures a toddler to his death in “The Calusari.” Was there human involvement or did an executed inmate make good on his threat to kill those he considered responsible in Season 3’s “The List”? Similar questions arise later in that season after Skinner is continuously victimized by an apparent succubus in “Avatar,” and then in Season

Similar questions arise later in that season after Skinner is continuously victimized by an apparent succubus in “Avatar,” and then in Season 4, when ghosts of victims form the basis of Mulder and Scully’s investigation in “Elegy.” Later, it’s Doggett’s turn to be befuddled when an abducted child returns in Season 8’s “Invocation” and a Gulf War casualty gets murderously metallic in “Salvage.”

dadCases could be made for a number of other X-Files in which there is clear and present evidence of manifested legends, but ghosts often have the biggest impact in small moments for our leads on the show — like in Season 1’s “Beyond the Sea” when Scully sees her father, apparently at the moment he has passed away, sitting in a chair. He’s moving his lips and trying to tell her something, but she can’t hear it. But she can hear her late sister, Melissa, in Season 5’s “Christmas Carol,” when a mysterious phone call eventually leads Dana to her daughter. Mulder often thinks he’s seeing spirits from the past, be they past informants or members of his family. In the Season 9 finale, the show rounded up ghosts from the great beyond — Krycek and X and the Lone Gunmen — to aid Mulder when he needed them most.

There wasn’t time for much ghostly presence in the six-episode revival (can’t quite count Mulder’s hallucinogenic Lone Gunmen dream), but here’s hoping for Season 11!

Paige co-writes the Sibling Cinema X-Files rewatch blog with her sister and you can find her on Twitter @maxtuneage.

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FAVOURITE X-FILES: Why ‘Jose Chung’ sends me into outer space

In a series of features regarding the favorite episodes of our blog writers, Paige Schector discusses why “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” will forever stand atop her list…

book

It’s obvious from the get-go that “Jose Chung ‘From Outer Space'” is not your garden variety X-Files episode. But in a way, it’s what the series has been building up to for three seasons. There’s the basic premise — aliens — and then there’s the kaleidoscope through which Darin Morgan — and then others after him, including show creator/executive producer Chris Carter — sees that premise.

The teaser sets up the plot in which two teenagers’ alien “experience,” as Jose Chung (Charles Nelson Reilly) prefers to call it, is witnessed by a third party. And then an alien fourth party shows up on the scene. The apparently eccentric writer of some repute has been documenting the stories of everyone involved — except for Mulder, skeptical yet again in a Morgan-penned script — for Chung’s upcoming non-fiction science-fiction novel. But Scully’s willing to talk with him; she’s an ardent admirer of his work.

jose“Truth is as subjective as reality.” — Jose Chung

“Still, as a storyteller, I’m fascinated how a person’s sense of consciousness can be so transformed by nothing more magical than listening to words. Mere words.” — Jose Chung

Scully backs this up when she details statements made be various participants. On the face of it, the testimonies seem contradictory by nature, but when pieced them together, they kind of form a coherent picture. Just like in the real world, everyone’s viewpoints and recollections might just be due to the fact they’re human beings remembering things the way they want them to have happened. But maybe there’s a greater conspiracy wiping their memories. Perhaps both.

There’s a lot of common ground in the tales told throughout the episode. Chung explains that many abductees often start their tales with “I know how crazy this all sounds, but…” and then at least two of his witnesses go on to use those exact words. “How the hell should I know” is uttered constantly by those without answers to what seem to be simple questions. Many threats end in “because if you do, you’re a dead man.”

roomSo it falls on director Rob Bowman to make the repeated scenarios hang together and not upend the overall story. I think he does a masterful job, particularly with characters in similar scenes. For example, when Chrissy (Sarah Sawatsky) gets questioned at different points by Mulder, a psychiatrist and possibly officials stealing her memories, the actors’ blocking mimics that of the other scenes. Which is truth and which is fiction? On some level, it might be up to the viewer to decide.

We seem to be getting Darin Morgan’s takes on some universal truths, though. Scully handles some of them — she doesn’t believe in hypnosis because people in that state are prone to confabulation and stresses of any kind can cause the physical symptoms displayed by the victim. She finds that abduction lore has become so prevalent that someone asked to imagine an experience would come up with an identical scenario. Meanwhile, Lt. Jack Schaefer (Daniel Quinn) reveals nerve gas and some low-frequency beams can be used to create the illusion of lost time. So much for Mulder’s pilot nine-minute theory.

pieWhile we’re in the midst of trying to decipher the puzzle, Morgan throws in a vast array of amusements. In one recollection of the events, Mulder ignites a fan frenzy with one single yelp. In another, he consumes an awful lot of sweet potato pie. The Stupendous Yappi (Jaap Broeker), straight out of Morgan’s Emmy-winning “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” episode, provides narration for the alien autopsy footage in a thinly veiled spoof of a show actually produced by the Fox network. There’s a Man in Black who may be game-show host Alex Trebek or just amazingly resemble him. The other Man in Black looks like Jesse Ventura while pontificating and delivering back-breakers just like the wrestler used to. And best of all (for me), Lt. Schaefer uses a fork to create Devils Tower out of mashed potatoes while telling his story to Mulder — an ode to Richard Dreyfuss’ haunted character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

From the Detective Manners’ “colorful phraseology” collection:
“You really bleeped up this case.”
“I just got a call from some crazy bleephead claiming he was an eyewitness to this alien abduction. You feel like talking to this blankhole.”
“Hey, I just got a call from some crazy blankety-blank claiming mannershe found a real live dead alien body.”
“Yeah, that’s a bleepin’ dead alien body if I ever bleeping saw one.”

X-Files director Kim Manners originally was going to play the constantly irritated detective obviously named and crafted in his honor, but his work schedule precluded him from doing it — or that’s the story they went with. But fear not because Larry Musser — in his second of four guest appearances on the show — holds up very well in his stead.

I’m not saying he isn’t delusional, I’m just suggesting that his delusional state was triggered by something he actually witnessed that night. — Mulder

I know it probably doesn’t have the sense of closure that you want, but it has more than some of our other cases. — Scully

Every character has at least one great line in this episode and most of them have mouthfuls of them.  It definitely makes for a nice pop quiz  for X-Philes . Who said it and who were they talking about? “Your scientific illiteracy makes me shudder.” “I don’t know what was most disturbing — his description of the inner-core reincarnated souls’ sex orgy or the fact that the whole thing is written in screenplay format.” “I didn’t spend all those years playing Dungeons & Dragons and not learn a little something about courage.” “You ever flown a flying saucer? Afterwards, sex seems trite.”

alienI find “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” to be the gift that keeps on giving. I still see something different in it each time I watch. And I’m forever deeming it my favorite hour of television in the universe … unless I’ve just watched “Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense” on Millennium. I’d give you my take on how that episode stands on its own in a completely different manner, but if I don’t wrap up this blog, I’m a bleepin’ dead man … er, woman.

Paige co-writes the Sibling Cinema X-Files rewatch blog with her sister. Years ago, she actively participated on X-Files message boards, serving as “keeper” of Krycek’s leather jacket and Mulder’s jeans.

INTRODUCTIONS: The Truth is in Here – (Paige Schector)

Paige Schector invites us to explore the truth as she introduces her X-Files fandom…

 david

The X-Files fit right into my proverbial wheelhouse. Growing up, my favorite film was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I would watch it over and over ago, just totally bemused by the idea of aliens coming to this  planet and being friendly. I would sketch Devils Tower all over my school notebooks and pads. In fact, I still kind of do that today.

So a series about the paranormal? Let’s just say I was all in from the get-go.

I loved the fact that not all the episodes were about the conspiracy, the mythology. A lot of my favorite episodes were stand alones (a.k.a. monster-of-the-week) stories. The first season had some truly dazzling works of art. We got an inkling of the acting powerhouse Gillian Anderson would become in “Beyond the Sea” and then saw a blueprint for Mulder and Scully simultaneously being on each others’ side while still retaining their own sensibilities in “Ice.”

Back in the day, you were a shipper or a no-romo. I was kind of neither. I didn’t mind the idea of Mulder and Scully getting together, nor did I think it was necessary to advance the plot or hold my interest. What I gravitated to were stories reminiscent of The Twilight Zone and just the bond Scully and Mulder had — that was what seemed so unique and fresh to me. To kiss or not to kiss, that wasn’t my question.

nickAnd then the second season brought my favorite character, Alex Krycek, onto the canvas. I’m not sure I knew of Ratboy’s effect on me until I met Nick Lea at the 1998 X-Files Expo in Florida. It didn’t matter that Krycek’s motivations would seemingly change from story arc to arc, I just loved how he was giving it everything he got. He was fun … and easy on the eyes as well.

Third season brought my favorite TV writer to the forefront. Darin Morgan dazzled late in Season 2 with “Humbug,” but he really hit his stride with the trifecta of “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “War of the Coprophages” and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space.” I call the latter my favorite hour of television ever — except when I’m watching the Millennium-istic  sequel “Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense.”

By this time, I was totally obsessed with the show. I was buying memorabilia on eBay and participating actively in chat rooms and message boards. Anyone else remember “keepers?” I was keeper of Krycek’s jeans and Mulder’s leather jacket. I went to the aforementioned Expo and saw ‘Fight the Future’ a handful of times in the theater.

Along the way, I was not only becoming a diehard fan of the likes of David, Gillian, Nick, Mitch Pileggi, Bill Davis, etc., but I was also starting to appreciate certain styles. I loved late great director Kim Manners’ approach before seeing in gag reels and interviews that he seemed like a real cool guy. Vince Gilligan’s quirky scripts quickly became favorites as well.

One of my treasumitchred memories revolves around the Season 6 episode “S.R. 819.” I remember where I was and what I was doing. In the years before text messaging and Twitter, my friend and I were on the phone every commercial break. “It’s Krycek! It’s Krycek!” … “I know! I know!” Television viewing ain’t like that any more.

I didn’t stop watching because David Duchovny left the show — I actually thought Robert Patrick did a fine job as a different type of character. It was when they took Krycek out at the end of Season 9 that I lost my taste for it. (Although I still believe he can and should be brought back as a Super Soldier.) I did, of course, watch the Season 9 finale. Ghost Krycek helps Mulder? Well, he never was predictable.

Since then, I’ve gone back and now I really treasure Season 9. It has some of my favorite episodes of the series run — specifically “John Doe,” “4-D”  and “Audrey Pauley.” I valued The X-Files as a concept beyond Mulder and Scully … although I don’t believe trying to reboot their relationship with Agents Einstein and Miller from Season 10 is the way to do that.

guysThe X-Files remained important to me after it went off the air. For the past five years or so, I’ve attended pop-culture conventions with my sister and started getting people from the show to sign my copy of The Complete X-Files. I call it my X-Files yearbook project. So far I’ve gotten David, Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, Darin and Glen Morgan, Robert, Nick, Mitch, Bill, Jerry Hardin, Martin Landau, Brad Dourif, Veronica Cartwright and James Remar. Before the “project” started, I also met and talked X-Files with Gillian, Robert Patrick and Tom Noonan — so obviously I hope to see them again (and others like The Lone Gunmen).

Nowadays, we keep tabs on Gillian and David at Facebook and Twitter. We all experienced Season 10 together and we can see X-Files panels that took place at different conventions on YouTube soon after. And message boards have given way to fabulous Facebook groups and blogs like that of X-Cast.

Most recently, I started writing a rewatch blog with my sister. Starting with the pilot, we do an episode a week. I serve as the resident “expert,” she’s the “amateur,” and we have a lot of fun bonding over my favorite show. And now I’m very excited about adding X-Cast to my proverbial list of credits.

Paige is a sports editor by trade and an X-Files blogger on the side. Her favorite episode is Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,’ her favorite season is Season 3 and her favorite character is Alex Krycek.