The X-Files A-Z: K is for KILLERS

Baz Greenland continues the alphabetical breakdown of The X-Files by looking at the many killers the FBI has faced over the years…

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The X-Files is a world populated by some of the most memorable killers ever seen on television. Hannibal might have delivered a chilling adaptation for the modern TV age, Criminal Minds might have seen the FBI profiling the darkest aspects of humanity and crime dramas from CSI to Castle might have delivered some memorable serial killers, but they are all influenced heavily by The X-Files, which gave audiences some of the worst monsters from the small screen.

Some of these were literal monsters, like Eugene Victor Tooms with his need to kill his victims for their livers but there were also some very human monsters too; people driven by the need to kill. And then there are those characters driven to murder, traitors and villains like Alex Krycek, who killed without impunity, either at the behest of the shadowy masters of their own nefarious schemes. I could write ten articles about all the many killers audiences have witnessed over ten seasons and two movies, but here are some of the most memorable ones…

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Eugene Victor Tooms: No killer ever quite got under our skin than this monster, with his ability to squeeze through the tightest spaces, up through the toilet or down the chimney and when he caught you he would rip out and devour your liver. A terrifying killer indeed…

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Luther Lee Boggs: We never saw Brad Dourif’s character kill on screen, as he was already behind bars when the season one episode ‘Beyond the Sea’ began. But with his psychic connection to a new case and the death of Scully’s father and an utterly chilling performance, this was one killer that certainly got under the audience’s skin.

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Donald Addie Pfaster: This death fetish was one of the creepiest killers ever seen on the show. Nick Chinlund’s deeply unsettling performance and the horrifying subject of necrophilia made Pfaster one of the most memorable killers in the show’s history, so much so that they brought him back again five years later.

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Alex Krycek: Mulder’s former partner was a traitor working for the Cigarette Smoking Man, who not only enabled Scully’s abduction, but also had a hand in her sister’s murder, killed Mulder’s father William, tortured Skinner and killed without hesitation, making him one of the most dangerous recurring characters in the show’s history.

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Robert Patrick Modell: Imagine if Derren Brown decided to become a serial killer. That’s what you would get in Modell, a man with the ability to suggest his victims deaths without physically killing them. Aside from the tense Russian roulette scene in ‘Pusher’, which put the lives of Mulder and Scully at stake, his best kill has to be suggesting FBI Agent Burst have a fatal heart attack while on the phone. Another killer so great, they brought him back once more.

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John Lee Roche: Perhaps the most understated killer on this list and the most disturbing, this very human monster kidnapped and murdered children, keeping trophies of cloth hearts cut out of his victim’s clothing. The possibility that he murdered Samantha made ‘Paper Hearts’ one of the most chilling episodes of season four.

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Detective Van Allen: While The X-Files still had plenty of great stories to tell in its later years, there were few killers as memorable as those on the lost above. But Van Allen from season nine’s ‘Hellbound’ might be the most interesting, a reincarnated soul of a skinned victim from the 19th Century, and his modern acts saw him skin the reincarnated killers alive in an act of revenge. The discovery of the skinned victim strung up and still alive might be one of the most horrifying moments the show ever did.

The list of The X-Files killers goes on and on. Who were your most memorable ones?

You can follow Baz at @BazgGreenland on Twitter or follow his Facebook page www.facebook.com/BazGreenlandWriter

Baz has spent 18 months working his way through The X Files, revisited classic episodes and reviewing them at http://www.Thedigitalfix.com

Next time… L is for LUUUUUUURVE…

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The X-Files A-Z – E is for EUGENE VICTOR TOOMS

Kelechi Ehenulo continues our alphabetical breakdown of The X-Files by looking at arguably the most famous ‘monster of the week’…

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If there’s one thing that helped define The X-Files as a cult phenomenon, it was its ability to mix up its core themes. Expanding beyond the mythology allowed the show to become flexible and appeal to a wider audience. This knack took its shape in what is commonly known as MOTW or ‘Monster of the Week’ – one off (or sequel), genre-crossing episodes exploring the weird and the strange in our world.

One character started and defined that era of storytelling. His name was Eugene Victor Tooms.

Long before Millennium, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or Criminal Minds, Eugene Victor Tooms operated as your classic serial killer. He followed a strict and unrelenting pattern. He randomly stalked and murdered his victims. He collected items belonging to the victim, a symbolic trophy of his targets. And finally, it’s always five victims before he disappears. There’s an added twist, though… he’s a mutant and has the dangerous ability to squeeze himself through tight spots. Now he probably won’t be accepted in Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but his modus operandi certainly explains Eugene’s nature.

Eugene’s desires are wild and animalistic. His genetic make-up acts as an uncontrollable and obsessive compulsion. He’s a calculating individual, not afraid of playing the victim whilst providing enough clever, monosyllabic answers to get by. Working the streets as an animal catcher means he can do his job with little or no disturbance. Whilst he watches the world with a quiet voyeurism, to everyone, he’s invisible, hiding in plain sight. When the perfect target is selected, his eyes turn yellow and the world fades to grey. His colourized target stands out from the crowd. He overwhelms his victim with brutal violence, ripping and consuming their liver with his bare hands. Eugene is not Hannibal Lecter. There’s no fine dining decadence with his liver consumption. It acts as food sustenance so when he’s finished, he can hibernate for the next thirty years in his newspaper and bile nest. In other words, given his unique abilities, Eugene Victor Tooms is a predatory survivor.

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In ‘Squeeze’ and ‘Tooms’, The X-Files tapped into the world of criminal psychology and profiling that we may not have been aware of. Mulder and Scully utilise every investigative and technological tools to uncover Eugene’s methodology. It’s unsettling and dark, especially as there’s limited information on Toom’s background.

He’s nature’s greatest anomaly. It’s never really revealed on how he became this way. Why does 66 Exeter Street hold so much value to him? It’s not like he was exposed to toxic waste materials linking back to Chernobyl just like the Flukeman. It’s not like he was a science experiment gone wrong, creating this monster. Did he have biological parents with the same ability? Who knows? He just exists, appearing, disappearing and re-appearing like a convenient myth. He makes time the real enemy. Despite having psychiatric care, his drive, his compulsion and his biological nature always won… and that’s scary. However, the psychosis of Eugene Victor Tooms goes deeper which strikes at the heart at what we value dear.

We see our homes as sanctuaries, a place where we can relax and unwind from the troubles of the world. Now we may not be living in the era where “I don’t lock my doors” doesn’t seem true anymore but the security of our homes is paramount. Whether we just lock our doors and windows or secure it like Fort Knox with panic rooms, let’s be honest to ourselves – how often do you think about that vent, that letterbox, that fireplace or even the toilet? That’s Eugene’s lasting legacy. His genetic and contortionist mutation that allows him to squeeze through small areas, breaks all the rules about home security by abusing our naivety. It results in an uncomfortable and unnerving feeling that not even your own home is safe. One way or another, Tooms will get you.

Despite the horrors of this case, Eugene Victor Tooms provided a positive impact on Mulder and Scully. The ‘Squeeze‘ / ‘Tooms two-parter gave us the first real insight into their partnership. Despite the mockery and the casual digs at Mulder from other agents, it’s Scully who becomes Mulder’s champion and supporter. His theories may be “out there” but she respects the work that Mulder does. She respects the journey, putting aside career opportunities and defying her personal friendship with Tom Colton (wouldn’t it be great to see him back again?)

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As for Eugene himself, his character sets the benchmark and blueprint for the series. Without Eugene, we wouldn’t have Donnie Pfaster, Virgil Incanto or Robert Patrick Modell – dark complex killers with an uncontrollable need to fulfil their deepest desires. So next time when you’re thinking about home improvements and there’s something strange in your neighborhood, it might be worth super gluing your letterbox. You may not get any mail for a while but, hopefully, it will stop Eugene squeezing through for a visit.

You can follow Kelechi @geekminduk.

Next week… F is for F… B… I…

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: Who is the best Monster of the Week?

For our next roundtable chat based on a key X-Files question… who is the best Monster of the Week?

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TONY: “I honestly can’t see past Robert Patrick Modell aka Pusher. I’m biased as it’s my favourite episode of the show but he was such an incredible bad guy, played to perfection by Robert Wisden. Less of an outward monster and more a twisted psychological antagonist, he’s the Moriarty to Mulder’s Sherlock. Forget his anaemic return in ‘Kitsunegari’, he remains one of the best one-off villains our agents ever faced.”

CARL: “I find it difficult to look past Eugene Victor Tooms. ‘Squeeze’ did a great job of establishing what The X-Files could do when the case didn’t concern aliens/UFOs. It works so well even though the concept could easily have been ridiculous if executed poorly. Tooms is probably the monster who got the best sequel episode too. There are a few monsters on the show with faint similarities to Tooms (Virgil Incanto, Samuel Eboah, Leonard Betts), but none as effective.”

BAZ: “I second Tooms. The original and the best. But if I was to pick a second, it has to be the Flukeman. Visually, there was no monster as terrifying or gruesome as this creature. Its ability to infect a host with that nasty sucker bite, leading to someone vomiting up a worm and dying… it plays on all our fears of uncleanliness, infection, the idea that what was lurking in our toilet could come and kill us. Pure nastiness and good successor to Tooms in memorable monsters.”

CARL: “I think Big Blue from ‘Quagmire’ deserves a shout-out too, as the only monster to stay completely undetected!”

SAM: “I’ve got to go for Luther Lee Boggs. That’s one of my favourite episodes anyway, and Brad Dourif is incredible! Otherwise, I second Tony re Pusher. Brilliant episode! Great Mulder and Scully moment too.”

SARAH: “Seeing as how ‘Quagmire’ is my all-time favorite episode, I’m going to have to agree with Carl. I’d also like to add that Fear itself is another great monster. It shows up in many different forms throughout the show, whether it’s tangible as in “X-Cops,” or as mass hysteria in “War of the Coprophages.” In a more metaphorical sense, fear of loss and/or failure is what drives Mulder through many episodes.”

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know your choices in the comments below or on social media!

The Host and the Chernobyl effect

Tony Black looks at the cause and effect of the Flukeman…

The very last line in ‘The Host’ is probably the most accurate in terms of understanding it – “Nature didn’t make this thing, Mulder… we did.”

Scully’s declaration follows her assumption that the Russian freighter at the beginning of the episode–and for some reason off the coast of New Jersey–perhaps created the iconic monster we know as the Flukeman in a soup of radioactive sewage, after hauling salvage from the most well known nuclear accident of the 20th century: Chernobyl.

A radioactive sign hangs on barbed wire outside a café in Pripyat.

Most people know the story of Chernobyl and how in 1986 the reactor suffered a catastrophic meltdown, realising vast amounts of radioactive fallout across the then-USSR and parts of Eastern Europe (heavily Belarus). An entire adjacent city which housed many of the plant workers, Pripyat, was evacuated and remains an unpopulated ghost town to this day. The cost in rubles was staggering, and the political fallout led to Soviet nuclear secrets being put under the spotlight and added to the ‘glasnost’ which ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. To some degree, you could argue Chernobyl helped end the Cold War, and fifty years of MAD. A perverse irony.

Yet the real cost has always been the human one. The same cost Scully theorises could have helped create the Flukeman who stalks the sewers of New Jersey.

Thirty-one people died as a direct cause of Chernobyl and thousands more–including children–have or have been predicted to die from various forms of cancer and leukemia as a result of radioactive fallout, the medical effects of which are still be investigated to this day. In the Season 10 comic sequel, ‘Hosts’–which we will review next week on the blog–writer Joe Harris takes further the idea the Flukeman came from the cod-primordial soup that surged around Chernobyl and Pripyat, adding a human tragic element to the creature’s origin, but ‘The Host’ itself only hints at the man-made involvement in the creation of a monster who isn’t, truly, monstrous at all. Like many creatures in The X-Files, it’s simply inducing a biological imperative, in this case, to reproduce.

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From a moral standpoint, can the Flukeman, therefore, be blamed for its actions? Does it have a level of consciousness given its semi-human form? Or should it be classified more as a warped being consumed by an animalistic need to spawn and reproduce for its own survival? To draw a comparison, Eugene Victor Tooms seemed to have a level of genuine malice and control over what were biological urges which made him more monster than man, but it’s hard to apply the same derivation to the Flukeman. To even use the word ‘man’ in his name almost feels like a misappropriation; he doesn’t talk, yet he does seem to understand and compute. Therein lies the paradox.

This must ultimately take us back to the human error, and indeed human greed, behind its creation. Chernobyl shouldn’t have happened, and serves as a warning about the bloated danger of the Communist design, especially when combined with a power as dangerous as nuclear science, but equally if that Russian trawler was salvaging around an area classified as off-limits, filled with nuclear radioactive fallout, then the avarice of man here serves as a basis for the genesis of a creature like the Flukeman. Not gods, not aliens, not a grand genetic design beyond our comprehension, but rather the inhuman tragedy of a lifeform born out of circumstances that should never have been.

Without absolving the Flukeman of guilt for the crimes it committed, how can you truly punish or blame something without true context or consciousness for its actions? Herein lies the moral complexity ‘The Host’, as more of a straight horror episode, doesn’t really get into, but it’s a worthy conversation. Plus a continued cautionary tale about the awesome, destructive power of nuclear technology, not just on our world and on our politics, but even moreso on our basic humanity.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

You can find The X-Cast episode discussing ‘The Host’ on Libsyn, iTunes or your podcast app of choice.