X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

4X17: Tempus Fugit / 4X18: Max

Case Profile

Max Fenig, multiple abductee, convinces his girlfriend Sharon Graffia, aeronautical engineer, to steal what he thinks is a piece of alien technology, obtained by the USAF from retro-engineering UFOs. This device is divided in three sections. Max was carrying one to Mulder when his flight was intercepted by a UFO; all would have gone well if the military hadn’t taken advantage of the immobility of the UFO during the retieval operation to take down the UFO. Both UFO and airplane were taken down, resulting in 133 dead; the US Air Force silences its involvement. Under the lead of a Scott Garrett, the USAF salvages the first section again while another UFO takes the second section from Sharon. Agent Pendell is shot dead taking a bullet intended for a USAF officer coming forward with the truth. Mulder is able to retrieve the third section but his flight is also intercepted: the UFO takes the third section and Garrett with it. And it all started when M&S were celebrating Scully’s birthday.

Field Report

In loving memory of Whatshisname Pendrell, dedicated agent and loving Scully follower — an untimely death for a supporting character that could have been more. His first name was never revealed, though I like the idea that it’s ‘Danny’, the agent M&S usually call on the telephone for information.

Tempus Fugit/Max are what can be called ‘independent mythology’ episodes: their theme is indeed akin to the mytharc, with abductions, UFOs and military coverups, but it would have made little difference if they had been situated in any season. They’re not part of the continuing storyline of the Syndicate and the Purity aliens, they’re episodes in classic XF mood and paranoia, a kind of sequel to 1X09: Fallen Angel. With the cancer arc begun and quite possibly much of the mythology stories up to Fight the Future already formed in Carter and Spotnitz’s minds, there was still room for season 4’s second two-parter. No real new elements in these episodes, but they are two helluva good episodes; if there’s ever an XF movie involving ETs, this is what it should look like. A little detail that has its importance: as a result of her cancer (4X15: Memento Mori), Scully bleeds from her nose; in 4X22: Elegy as well. This kind of continuity in the X-Files is new and comforting, even though it’s perfectly normal in other series; ever since 2X05: Duane Barry, XF has been very schizophrenic between mythology and non-mythology episodes.

The military’s agenda

No Syndicate member appears here: these episodes don’t concern the Syndicate at all! We only see the actions of the military. To clear a foggy point, even if in XF it’s often spoken of government conspiracies, one shouldn’t confuse the US government and our familiar Syndicate. The Syndicate equals not the government — even if many of the Syndicate’s members are undoubtedly high-ranked members of the government in various US departments and could thus be characterized as ‘governmental’. The Syndicate follows its own agenda and secretly develops alien/human hybrids and such. The Syndicate doesn’t control the military, the government does; the Syndicate has but some partial influence on how military resources are used (3X01: The Blessing Way, 5X02: Redux for example). The US goverment, in fact the official (even if secret) position of all governments, has to follow United Nations Resolution 10.13 that dictates to shoot and kill all ETs (1X16: E.B.E., 4X07: Musings of a CSM). Of course this can be very confusing since the stances of government and Syndicate towards aliens are opposed, and at this point of the series we don’t yey know which is which; nothing is yet clear.

Like the first time we saw Max(Howard Gordon’s 1X09: Fallen Angel), we deal exclusively with the military. Throughout these episodes, Scott Garrett, this week’s menacing henchman, seems to be the head of a team of USAF military, brought on the site of the crash of Flight 549 to assist with the aftermath; he could very well be an agent of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, Fight the Future). Mulder theorizes he could have been working for some aerospace company: “along with you and your employer and the government that finances its contracts“. Given the close ties of the military (US Air Force) and the (civil) defense industry, namely aerospace developers, that is very likely. The presence of Eisenhower’s famous industrial-military complex is very much felt here. It is also the military (and its supporting industry), not the Syndicate, which uses and retro-engineers alien technology (see also 1X01: Deep Throat and 6X04/05: Dreamland I & II). The industrial applications of alien technology are immense.

Max Fenig & Sharon Graffia

After 4 years, we meet fan-favourite Max Fenig again (Fallen Angel), and he’s still as dedicated to his cause as ever, the archetype of the UFO geek living in a trailer. Once again, to the joy of the X-phile, parallels are drawn between Max and Mulder: “I think you were actually kindred spirits in some deep, strange way. […] Men with Spartan lives, simple in their creature comforts if only to allow for the complexity of their passions” (Scully). Mulder’s basement office (with no windows!) bears many similarities to Max’s scruffy trailer. Max even found a steady job using an alias, at the “Rocky Flats Environment Energy Site in Colorado where they handle and store Uranium 235 and weapons grade plutonium“, perhaps because this could be a place where he’d be close to alien technology. In Max’s trailer, “Unmarked Helicopters” by Soul Coughing is on; the song refers to the black helicopters often associated with governmental and military conspiracies, a very X-Filish song. This song was also present in the CD “Songs in the Key of X”; Carter had promised that these songs would be used in the series (not all of them made it though).

Max met Sharon Graffia while they both spent time in mental institutions; she was a multiple abductee like him (but not necessarily: there are people in mental institutions who are not alien abductees, too!). Sharon was an aeronautical engineer with “Cummins Aerospace“. Max convinced her to steal what he described as alien technology from her employer, so that they could reveal the truth to the public. So much that at one point, Scully thinks this is nothing but “industrial espionage“, but it’s not the kind she thinks. The thing she stole could be divided in 3 parts. One, Sharon kept; it was taken from her in her motel room. The second, Max wanted to take to Mulder; but Max was followed by a Dark Man (an undercover military or aerospace industry agent like Garrett) who was planning to take it back. And, mainly, he was followed by the aliens themselves, who took advantage of the accessibility of the part with it being in their kingdom, the skies, and took back what was rightfully theirs. The last part, Max had left at the Syracuse airport in a knapsack; Mulder retrieved it, but he was followed by Scott Garrett and also by the aliens, who took it too — and took Garrett with it.

The Flight 549 crash

The aliens are very privy of their technology, they try to take it back by force from the military. This is no surprise; even if the aliens have a deal with the humans in the form of the Syndicate, they understand that the Syndicate is not all-powerful. The military goes at a great length to keep what it has gained, and why not gain access to some more alien technology by taking down a UFO — complying with UNR10.13 at the same time. While the UFO was taking over Flight 549 and retrieving the second of the three parts from Max, a USAF plane was set on a collision course with the UFO. The coordinates were given to the “F-15 Eagle” by Sgts. Louis Frish and Armando Gonzales from their control tower. The military plane collided with the UFO while the retrieval operation was underway. Flight 549 had been completely shot down, like a car’s engine shuts down when a UFO passes by; the plane was under full control of the UFO. The sudden collision resulted in Flight 549 falling freely from 29,000ft and crashing. The UFO and the F-15 crashed together in Great Sacandaga Lake.

The military set up an operations headquarters there and sent in divers to pinpoint the submerged crash site. When one of the divers at Sacandaga got back with radiation burns characteristic of the device, Garrett knew that “We found it.” The whole operation was deemed justifiable despite all the deaths that ensued: the passengers of Flight 549, the Dark Man aboard Flight 549, the pilot of the F-15, the irradiated divers… As Garrett says, it is “worth sacrificing the future, the lives of millions” for a greater good.

Thus Max meets his demise. XF often suffers from an Early Death Syndrome: in these two episodes, besides Fenig, we lose Agent Pendrell, and for no special reason other than a closeup scene with Scully. The only survivor of Flight 549 seems to have been Max’s seatmate at 13D, Larold Rebhun (who is named after XF’s sound mixer!); Max was seated at 13F. By the way, many airplane companies do not include the 13th row in their planes (rows go from 12 to 14) for obvious reasons of bad luck!

The USAF’s official story, the story Frish & Gonzalez were ordered to tell the press and the investigators, was that Flight 549 just fell (Frish: “At 19:52, Flight 549 dropped from an altitude of 29,000ft. About 45 seconds later, we got an altitude reading of XXX.“). Gonzalez couldn’t live with the 134 lives he had contributed to kill and committed suicide. Frish finally broke and told everthing to Scully. After this, the USAF’s story changed to the following: Frish & Gonzalez made the mistake to point the F-15 on a route that crossed Flight 549, as a result Gonzalez committed suicide and Frish went away blaming the military to cover his mistake. Frish got to Washington with Scully; he called his girlfriend to tell her not to worry. Scully: “Did you tell her you were in D.C.?” Frish: “No.” Scully: “Then there’s someone inside.” Frish has no reason to lie. The simplest answer is that incoming calls at Frish’s girlfriend were being watched, the men who overheard Frish’s call either traced it or understood that Frish had left New York and checked outgoing passenger manifestos — Scully and Frish were on a special New York-Washington flight from Fulton County. Frish was eventually placed under “military arrest” and we heard of him no more.

Alien technology: radioactivity and missing time

Sharon Graffia obtained the alien technology from her employer, who in turn had got it from the military. This “stolen property” the fuss is all about seem to be an alien energy source (Mulder: “It’s an alien energy source, isn’t it? What is it, cold fusion? Over-unity energy?“). It’s radioactive enough to cause burns on humans when they are close to it; this seems to be true of alien technology in general: Max and Sharon have burns from the thing they stole; the military divers get serious burns from the radioactivity that leaks from the crashed UFO in the lake; Mulder, despite his short exposure, gets minor burns. Radioactivity is a good indicator of alien presence (seen in Fallen Angel as well). This radiation is what caused the interference in Mulder & Scully’s phonecall when Mulder was handling the knapsack in Syracuse airport.

As in 1X79: Pilot, a loss of nine minutes ensues a close encounter. Given that we’re certain that in Tempus Fugit/Max we were dealing with aliens, this is a way to certify than in the Pilot, what we saw were actions of the aliens, not of the Syndicate. But in Tempus Fugit/Max, there’s a gross error — as often happens in science-fiction stories that deal with time or time travel. In the Pilot, Mulder looks at his watch at 9;03, then a flash, then it’s 9:12. Here, Mulder figures out the time slip from the watches of the passengers; Flight 549 fell at 7:52 and the watches read 8:01. That’s coherent if you consider that time flows normally within the controlled area but for someone exterior to the event these 9 minutes never happened; the aliens ‘stop time’ for a lapse of 9 minutes. For those under alien control, the memory of these 9 minutes is erased from them (Mulder: “The missing nine minutes aboard Flight 549, the 9 minutes which would have been erased from the memories of the 134 passengers on board, would prove to be the final minutes of their lives.“), then a normal time flow resumes. Appropriately enough, ‘Tempus Fugit’ means the expression ‘time flies’ in latin. But in Max, Mulder realises his watch has stopped while he is calling Scully. Scully, who is exterior to the facts, can still hear him; ‘normally’, communications would have been cut and resumed after 9 minutes, and Scully wouldn’t have felt a thing. After the event, Skinner says it’s 10:56 and Mulder’s watch reads 10:47, the times are opposite to what the Pilot and Tempus Fugit established. Great Scott!

The implants issue is not touched upon here. Even though Max was tracked through his implants in Fallen Angel, here they are not necessary as it’s not Max who is sought. The UFOs are able to track directly the pieces of alien technology (Flight 549, Sharon’s room, Mulder’s flight). It’s strange to witness so much alien activity around. We see 2 UFOs, which are fully ‘manned’ with a dozen greys! We were used to a more low profile. Following 1X01: Deep Throat (UFO-derived military plane) and 3X16: Apocrypha, the UFOs keep their triangular shape. This is the first time we see one of these in action, and the first time the X-Files go so far in showing so clearly UFOs and aliens onscreen — like what was done with 2X05: Duane Barry and the (fake) greys, here’s another step in revealing the truth.

Surveillance Recodings

Tempus Fugit

[Sharon’s abduction has trashed her motel room]
Motel Manager: “She blew the door right out of the jamb. I doubt insurance will cover it.”
Mulder: “Does your policy cover the acts of extraterrestrials?”


[Scully takes Mulder back from military arrest]
Scully: “I came to talk to you.”
Mulder: “About what? The big old misunderstanding?”

Max Fenig’s videotape monologue: “Hi. Max here. But of course. This is, uh, well, quite obviously, uh, my story, since I’m telling it. Anyway… um… for those of you who know me already, this is going to be ancient history, but for the rest of you, this is… well, what can I say… the story of my life. Actually, all I ever wanted in life was to be left alone. Don’t we all? So just my luck that I’d eventually become an alien abductee. Now I’m never alone. Any minute, when I’m least expecting it… And the worst part is, no one believes you. Well, uh… almost no one. So, I’ve devoted my life to providing all you disbelievers out there with proof. Proof that there are extraterrestrial biological entities right now, as we speak, visiting our planet in alien ships for purposes of a rather troubling agenda known only to certain members of the government, uh, the F.B.I. and certain high-ranking members of the military-industrial community who have recovered some of these very craft, not that they’d ever admit to it publicly… uh… of course. Nor, nor would they, uh, admit that they have salvaged some of this alien technology and are using it in military applications. No, that would be un-American and they won’t admit it until someone conf, confronts them with irrefutable, undeniable proof. Someone like me. And, uh… I should probably mention that I should do this at great risk to my own health and safety, but, hey…When every day’s just another day you’re going to get kidnapped by, by some little grey dudes from outer space, what’s a few C.I.A. spooks to worry about?”

Mike Millar: “You’re saying that, that Flight 549 was in the grip of… sort of a UFO tractor beam?”
Mulder: “That’s the Hollywood term, but yes.”

[Mulder exposes his theory on what happened to Flight 549]
Mike Millar: “It’s a good story. Maybe you can sell it to the movies.”

Mulder: “I left a bag here.”
Clerk: “Big bag, little bag?”
Mulder: “Short bag, tall bag. I, I don’t remember. Little bag, I think.”

Scott Garrett: “A man, if he’s any man at all, knows he must be ready to sacrifice himself to that which is greater than he.”
Mulder: “I’m sure all the other passengers on this plane would appreciate dying for your noble philosophy.”
Scott Garrett: “Look out your window, Agent Mulder. You see the lights? Now, imagine if one of those lights flickered off. You’d hardly notice, would you? A dozen, two dozen lights extinguished. Is it worth sacrificing the future, the lives of millions, to keep a few lights on?”

Max’s further rant: “There are scientists in Finland right now who say that they’ve detected antigravity over the surface of a, a spinning superconducting disc…Technology that is supposedly twenty or thirty years down the road like over-unity energy, um, massless displacement current from cold fusion that we need for space travel. I know, thanks to my inside sources, that this technology, in fact, exists! I’ve seen military aircraft using it hovering right over my trailer. Why is the U.S. government keeping these facts a secret? I intend to expose these facts to the people. I mean, I’m just one man…”

[Scully on why Mulder gave her an Apollo 11 keychain for her birthday]
Scully: “I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals. That what can be imagined can be achieved. That you must dare to dream. But that there’s no substitute for perseverance and hard work, and teamwork, because no one gets there alone. And that, while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.”
Mulder: “I just thought it was a cool keychain.”

E.T.C 2004-2007

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