X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

5X13: Patient X / 5X14: The Red and the Black

Case Profile

The Red and the Black tagline: “Resist Or Serve”

Alien Rebels, who oppose the plans of the alien Colonists (or Black Oil), are at war. The Rebels trigger mass gatherings of abductees and burn them to upset the plans of the Colonists and of the Syndicate. Krycek knows this and has proof in the form of a boy from Kazakhstan. He steals the vaccine against the Black Oil developed by the Russians and offers the knowledge on the Rebels against the Syndicate’s research on the vaccine. Krycek is in league with Marita Covarrubias; when she attempts to take the boy to Mulder, their plan turns bad. She gets infected; Krycek is coerced into giving the russian vaccine to the Syndicate, which tests it successfully on Marita. Scully barely escapes being burnt in a gathering; she discovers she has more implants and goes through hypnosis. Mulder’s faith is shaken once more. Mulder & Scully meet Cassandra Spender, multiple abductee; her son Jeffrey is in the FBI; and Jeffrey’s son is none other than the Cigarette-Smoking Man, who survived his wounds. The Syndicate chooses not to form an alliance with the Rebels and deliver a captured Rebel to the Colonists — however, he is rescued by fellow Rebels.

Field Report

Field Report

In the first seasons of the series, probably when he was starting to pan out a resemblence of a mytharc, Carter was describing the X-Files as a 5-year project. During that time, he played with the concept of answering one question by delivering ten more. With this fifth season drawing to an end, answers are coming. These two episodes, another two-parter by Carter & Spotnitz, start a process of explaining almost all of the mythology, a process that continues with Fight the Future and ends with 6X11: Two Fathers & 6X12: One Son. The X-Files will never be the same again. The series mythology moves away from the mystery and the fringes of the paranormal into hardcore sci-fi territory. Many new elements are presented here: the Rebels, Cassandra Spender and her son Jeffrey. Some rumors at the time stated that the character of Bronschweig (see Fight the Future) would have been introduced in these episodes, probably as the Black Oil expert doctor that treats Marita. The exposition is so dense that in fact not enough time is spent with Mulder & Scully, a shortcoming shared with Two Fathers & One Son (Scully comes in only at the 18th minute into Patient X!). Notice how Mark Snow’s episodic music includes more and more excerpts from the soundtrack for Fight the Future!

Fact 1: Aliens are for real

At the end of 5X03: Redux, we left our agents with their beliefs shaken. Scully, with her return to religious faith, had her cancer go into remission. Mulder had had hisbeliefs on the existence of extraterrestrials shaken very badly. So badly that from one extreme he went to another. He became a proponent of Kritschgau’s theories of government cover-up of biowarfare experiments and use of aliens as misinformation. He is ready to express these new beliefs openly to a lecturers’ forum, something we never saw him do for his previous beliefs (and something that will, by the way, earn him the attention of a militia group in 5X18: The Pine Bluff Variant). Mulder’s “a conspiracy wrapped in a plot inside a government agenda” sounds very much like a famous sentence British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in a speech about Soviet Russia in the beginning of World War II: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” (the same phrase is used in Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991), which is also an influence for the X-Files). Throughout the episodes Mulder is reluctant to express the slightest theory about aliens, he pushes Deep Throat’s ‘trust no one’ to a new level. It’s from Scully that the more extreme opinions start coming (“why are you tiptoeing around the obvious fact here?“). Even Skinner ends up siding with the ‘believers’ side (“extraterrestrial phenomena is frankly the more plausible explanation“).

If you follow the dialogue, when we see the various Syndicate members in the past, not once, not one single time, have we heard them use the words ‘alien’ or ‘extraterrestrial’. They talked about UFOs in 3X16: Apocrypha, but those could have been experimental aircraft; the Well-Manicured Man used the term ‘hybrid’ to Mulder in 3X02: Paper Clip, but hybrid of what he didn’t precise, he only let Mulder fill in the gaps without correcting him. The reversal of Redux does not actually clash with established Syndicate dialogue. Here, we first hear the Syndicate use the terms “alien“, “Colonists“, “them” and “spacecraft“! Krycek’s description of the ‘war on heaven’ tops this off very well.

On a side note, the X-Files’ always escaped with telling imporobable stories by being vague and adopting a realistic, scientific approach. Hearing people talking so openly about aliens and spaceships inevitably adds a cheesiness factor… but that’s the inevitable result of bringing solid answers to the show — and one can’t help have the feeling that the end of the show should have been close at this point.

Fact 2: There are two races

1) The Colonists

The Syndicate scenes and Krycek’s visit to Mulder’s apartment do all the exposition. Krycek: “The colonization of this planet by an extraterrestrial race.” So there are “alien Colonists“, with whom the Syndicate has been cooperating, even though reluctantly. It is an uneasy cooperation, and the Syndicate are always afraid when the Colonists take matters into their own hands to take action (WMM: “to handle this ourselves, to put a stop to it… before the Colonists intervene“). As had happened in 3X24: Talitha Cumi, when the CSM didn’t want to summon the Alien Bounty Hunter to terminate Jeremiah Smith, the Syndicate tries not to call for their help. It looks like the agreement between the Syndicate and the Colonists is such that the Syndicate manages Earth before the Colonists arrive (Second Elder: “What the hell is going on? This is our own backyard!“). Obviously, the Black Oil and the Colonists are the same kind of alien.

As the CSM had said in Talitha Cumi, “the date is set“: the Elders speak of a “timetable” for the colonization. The gatherings of abductees that happen around the world are something that is predicted in this timetable. They are expected to happen in specific abduction ‘hotspots’, or “Lighthouses“: “Kazakhstan, Skyland Mountain, the site in Pennsylvania [Ruskin Dam]“, and probably Bellefleur as well (7X22: Requiem). This will happen “in the final phases before it [the final colonization] begins“; that is set “fifteen years away“. We are in 1998; this places the colonization in 2012.

2) The Rebels

Then, there are “alien Rebel[s]“, “resistance fighter[s] against the alien colonists.” The Rebels we see are “faceless” because they have sealed their mouth, eyes, nose and ears for “protection against […] infection by the black oil.” Now, there is an interesting point. We have already seen the Black Oil cross various surfaces without any problem (a pressurized diving suit in 3X15: Piper Maru, a Level 4 biohazard suit in 4X09: Tunguska): if it can cross these, then certainly it can cross skin, which we see it do anyway (the airport customs agent in Tunguska, Stevie in Fight the Future — which is post-Patient X). How is scarring a sufficient protection then? Krycek infects the boy Dmitri and scars him in an evidently similar manner so that the Black Oil doesn’t get out. Indeed, we only see the Oil coming out from facial orifices (Sanford and Krycek in Apocrypha, Dmitri here) so the scarring would prevent that. You could say that once inside the body, the Oil would have no way to get out, but once inside the Oil would be in control of the body and take off what’s restricting it, like Dmitri does. As soon as he gets the chance and has his hands untied, Dmitri, under the influence of the Oil, takes his stitches off. Dmitri is not in a coma, as the victims in 4X09: Tunguska & 4X10: Terma, because he was not administered any version of the vaccine: the Oil in him is fully potent and in control of him as in Piper Maru. So the Rebels go about faceless so as the Oil doesn’t get trapped into them. There is evidently a clash between the story and the coolness of the effect of seeing small worms of Black Oil crawling under the skin. A plot hole it seems, no matter how I wouldn’t want to admit it. Unless of course human and Rebel physiology is different, and the Oil can’t cross their skin (but again it crossed so many other substances that are supposed to be impermeable)…

The Alien Bounty Hunter attempts to kill a Rebel using the alien stiletto: a stiletto is necessary to kill a Shapeshifter (which would weigh in favor of the ABH being able to be killed only with a stiletto as well). During Scully’s hypnosis we see the Colonist ship destroying two Rebels thanks to some other technology and some funky lighting — surely a stiletto is not the only way to kill a Shapeshifter or a hybrid, setting them on fire works as well!

The origin of the Rebels: previous colonization

The race of the Rebels are humanoid and have all have the same appearance as the Alien Bounty Hunter (that is, they are played by the same actor Brian Thomson). That is not a feature of their race, other faces exist as well (see 6X12: One Son). These Rebels must be clones, in the same fashion of the Jeremiahs, Samanthas or Crawfords. The ABH evidently belongs to the same race, only he is controlled by the Black Oil. Not only metaphorically, but literally: he has no scars protecting him, and when the Syndicate expects the Colonists to strike back, it’s the ABH that appears. The ABH is the Black Oil hosted in the body of a shapeshifting alien, and he counts as much as a Colonist as any grey or in fact any being infected by the Black Oil! It so happens that we haven’t seen any black film over his eyes (or his physiology is such that the effect of the infection is not the same as on humans). Seeing the ABH, the Syndicate got the impression that that’s what would happen to humans after colonization: simply infection by the Black Oil — but the truth is different (Fight the Future). Given that there are clones, there is also the possibility that there are other ABHs than the one we have seen, or that we have been seeing different ones all along (see 8X02: Without).

But why would they be clones in the first place? The similarity with the clones of human/alien hybrids we’ve seen in the past is too striking. A theory that’s not contradicted by the facts is that the race of the Shapeshifters come from a planet colonized by the Black Oil in the past. As on Earth, clones of certain members of the population were created to use as labour force in preparation of the colonization (like the Samanthas in 4X01: Herrenvolk). After the colonization, some of these clones were infected by the Black Oil to use as a police force on the next planet to colonize, Earth, because of their resemblance to a human being — a shapeshifting humanoid goes more unnoticed than a bald short grey. Only that some of the Shapeshifters survived or escaped the Black Oil; these became the Rebels, a resistance group that strikes like a guerilla or a terrorist group on specific targets. The similarity between these ABH-like Rebels and the rebellious Jeremiah Smith(s) is striking (3X24: Talitha Cumi / 4X01: Herrenvolk), especially when one thinks that an ABH was hunting down Jeremiah for termination. Yet they are not the same.

The question why the alien/human hybrids and the Shapeshifters share so many characteristics is one of the greatest mysteries of the X-Files that will have to wait until 6X22: Biogenesis to be resolved.

We can draw another parallel between Humans and Shapeshifters: they were both created by the Black Oil aliens some million years ago, only to be colonized to reinvigorate the Black Oil race. As humans have many genes in common with the Black Oil ‘virus’ (5X20: The End, 6X01: The Beginning) because the Black Oil originally used its own material to produce Man, the Black Oil created the Shapeshifters by taking their DNA and modifying it. Only that for the Shapeshifters more Black Oil genes were used than for the creation of the humans. Genetically, Shapeshifters are closer to the Black Oil than humans are. Thus, hybridizing human and Black Oil DNA results in a being whose physiology is intermediate between human and grey: the Shapeshifter! When we look at all the episodes with the ABH, we see that a human/alien hybrid shares many things in common with a Shapeshifter (to whom the ABH biologically belongs to):

– bleeding the toxic ‘green blood’ (Gregors and Samanthas in 2X16: Colony
/ 2X17: End Game
– breathing underwater (Dr. Secare in 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask; the ABH escaping after being shot on the bridge in End Game)
– mind reading (a Gregor recognizing the ABH in Colony; and how else do the Rebels communicate with their mouths sealed other than telepathy?)
– healing oneself or others (gunshot wounds in Talitha Cumi or 5X07: Emily, Tena Mulder’s stroke in Herrenvolk)
For the more advanced hybrids like Jeremiah Smith, we must add:
– shapeshifting (which the previous hybrids seem unable to do)
The only difference between a Shapeshifter and an advanced hybrid is one last feature, that for which the whole hybrid-making business is all about:
– immunization against the Black Oil (Jeremiah and Cassandra Spender in 6X11: Two Fathers)

Despite being so close to the Black Oil genetically, the Shapeshifters aren’t immune to the virus of their creators — of course, that’s intentional on behalf of their Colonist creators, otherwise they would be able to resist the Colonists much easier. By creating hybrids, the Syndicate aims at attaining immunity against the Black Oil by mixing human with alien DNA but basically results in re-creating beings like the Shapeshifters. What a twisted way for Carter (& Spotnitz) to answer to questions they hadn’t even asked themselves when they started the hybrid storyline with The Erlenmeyer Flask and Colony! More of a reconciliation of facts than answering, actually.

A struggle for heaven and earth

Probably fleeing their home planet that is being colonized, the Rebels turn to Earth “to upset plans for occupation“; not out of solidarity with humans but out of simple revenge. Here, they turn against the abductees, the group of people the Colonists and the Syndicate set up painstakingly over 25 years, the people on whom so many resources were invested upon (experiments, medical records, implants) and that would be useful for the colonization (if they are to be gathered right before it begins, there must be a reason).

Massively exterminating them heavily sets back the preparation for the great event. Fire is a radical way to do it, to say the least. The Rebels seem to use some particular technology, they don’t just spray them with gas and set them on fire: “burned beyond recognition. The result of some kind of intense biochemical reaction, none of the UN Medics had ever seen. […] The corpses were literally carbonized from the heat.” 

Mulder establishes the fact that these were abductees by finding implants in the “cervical tissue” of their remains and by finding some in Scully’s neck. Also, Cassandra knew many of the victims at Skyland Mountain, further indication they were multiple abductees. So Scully has had “more implants” than the one that she extracted in 3X01: The Blessing Way. The fact that she hadn’t found out about them until now indicates that they’re not of the same kind as the japanese microchip implant. These didn’t beep through a metal detector and must be much harder to find. (and it’s also convenient for Carter & Spotnitz for the story…) These new implants are of extraterrestrial origin. The japanese-build chip’s design was to store data and control any malevolent growths (cancer) that would result from the experiments. These implants’ purpose is to track the abductee (“a homing mechanism“) and give him orders: “Patient believes he will be contacted or called to an undisclosed place where he will be abducted by aliens.” The abductees preceive these orders as unconscious urges, a driving force whose purpose is unclear (as in true UFOlogical fashion; see also Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)): “You’re looking for what?” “A mountain, I think.” Also, Cassandra: “You wake up at night knowing you need to be somewhere, but you don’t know where it is. Like you forgot an appointment you didn’t know you had.” Scully experiences this mysterious attraction, while drawing the stars Cassandra was attracted to as well: the constellation of Cassiopeia. This mystical moment has almost religious qualities — mere mortals trying to reach for the stars — and is in line with the underlying theme of the episodes as introduced by Mulder’s voice-over in the teaser: that of religion, with the aliens in the role of gods. This will become prominent in 6X22: Biogenesis / 7X03: The Sixth Extinction.

How are the abductees actually summoned?

Mulder offers an explanation: “A tracking system using military app satellite technology to monitor test subjects.” The Rebels would then have hijacked this terrestrial satellite and used it to send orders to the abductees’ chips. Mulder however was biased against an alien explanation. Given that these are alien implants, it’s likely the orders are transmitted by an alien craft of the Colonists, from orbit so that it can cover a greater area. The Rebels took over this ship: a battle on heaven. Looking from Earth’s surface, Cassiopeia must be the position of the ship that broadcasts (the constellation of Cassiopeia is not at the equator, thus the ship wouldn’t be on a geostationary orbit, but let’s not go into that!). Cassiopeia is also seen in the teaser of Patient X, at the end of Mulder’s voice-over: one of the stars in the Cassiopeia area is revealed to be a UFO, a ship of the Rebels arriving on Earth. This could also symbolize the origin of the Rebels, ie that the home planet of the Shapeshifters is to be found somewhere in Cassiopeia’s star systems. The mythological significance of Cassiopeia (arrogant queen, mother of Andromeda) must be irrelevant: this constellation was chosen because its “W” shape is easily recognizable and can be ‘drawn’ easily.

An alliance with the Rebels?

The Rebel craft that crashed in Wiecamp Air Force Base was taken down by the Colonists. The fact that the craft fell on an Air Force Base is no coincidence: the Colonists forced it down over that area so that the Rebels would be in the hands of the Colonists’ allies, the Syndicate. The US military captured the surviving pilot, of whom Krycek says “if he dies, so does the resistance“: that could mean that this one Rebel is very important among Rebels, perhaps their leader. That such an important member waging war on Earth is a sign of the limited numbers and resources the Rebels must have.

The Syndicate hesitates as to what to do with him. The appearance of potential allies against the Colonists is appealing for the technologically-inferior humans. But the Well-Manicured Man is the only one supporting this view (and Krycek); the other Elders are too scared of the repercussions by the Colonists. After 5X20: The End and Fight the Future, the WMM has left and the pro-collaboration Cigarette-SMoking Man has returned, which makes a very bad case for achieving an alliance.

The decision is taken, it’s not very clear how (no vote seems to have been taken; First Elder: “It [the decision]’s already been done.“), to “turn over the alien rebel” to the Colonists. Following this, the ABH infiltrates the Wiecamp Air Force Base, takes the form of ‘Quiet Willy’, a henchman for the Syndicate. Quiet Willy was the one who shot the CSM in Redux II; he must be working for the DoD and have ties to the military in some form in order to have access to the Base. The ABH gets the captured Rebel outside Wiecamp and prepares to kill him. The Rebel ship arrives just in time and a Rebel appears to save his friend. We do not see on who Muler shoots and it wouldn’t make any difference anyway since it wouldn’t do much to a Shapeshifter’s body. The Rebels rescue their captured member, taking the ABH or killing him in the process, and leaving Mulder behind to tell the story. At episodes’ end, the Syndicate has clearly set itself against the Rebels and sided once again with the Colonists. As it later discovered it might not have been the best thing to do (6X12: One Son).

The vaccine, Krycek’s plan and Covarrubias

Also, the Syndicate has been “working on a vaccine. Against the black oil.

The Colonists wouldn’t be happy to discover this, the Syndicate is most definitely secretive about this (WMM in Terma: “Six of us knew!“). Having an effective vaccine would completely change the balance of power: “it would mean that the resistance to the alien Colonists is now possible!” The Syndicate’s work has been unsuccessful up to now; without any means of resistance, the Syndicate has to continue with collaborating with the Colonists. The Russians however, thanks to their extensive testing facilities and their abundance of both Black Oil and test subjects succeeds in developing a rudimentary vaccine. It was seen in Tunguska already (injected on Mulder’s neck); since then it has been improved to actually work and kill the Black Oil, not just getting rid of most of it (following Fight the Future, as seen in 7X03: The Sixth Extinction, Mulder has remnants of Black Oil and Scully doesn’t).

Krycek, being the selfish man he is, decides to betray mother Russia. He arrives on time at the site in Kazakhstan to capture the only surviving witness of what happened: Dmitri. How he managed to be accompanied by Russian soldiers on Kazakh ground is a mystery — the government of Russia must have convinced Khazakhstan this was an emergency situation.

From Dmitri Krycek learns what the Rebels are up to. So that he can’t talk to anybody, he infects him with the Black Oil and scarficies him (“Infect the boy to ensure infection of anyone who tried to learn what he knows“); being in possession of the vaccine, he’s the only one who can disinfect him and make him available for questioning (“why infect him unless you could also cure him with a vaccine “). He arrives at New York and bargains what Dmitri knows against the Syndicate’s research on the vaccine. He wants to gather the best of knowledge of both sides on the vaccine and thus become a major player; his ambitions with each of his apparitions always up the ante!

In that aspect, Marita Covarrubias is much similar to him. Her mission at Kazakhstan with the UN Blue Helmets (the UN’s peacekeeping force) was made at the incentive of the Syndicate. But Alex and Marita know each other already: Krycek knows she’s working for the Syndicate and their whole meeting looks like a scene from a James Bond film where none of the agents really says out loud what he knows. Krycek and Covarrubias are both double agents, or more like freelance agents, who have decided to ally with each other to… well, become the rulers of the world! “They give me what I want, I’m going to rule the world.” “We’ve got them on their knees, Alex.” By the way, they’re lovers too. Marita wouldn’t normally betray Krycek, they have the same goals and their alliance might in fact go much back in time (events hinted at in the unmade season 7 episode around Krycek…). But in her deeper desire to make the truth known, and with her worries about the seriousness of the event at hand, she takes Dmitri and contacts Mulder about it. Marita ends up being infected by Dmitri and Alex is held prisoner by the WMM. The lovers’ plans of global domination turns astray for both of them.

Impressive how easily the WMM found Krycek. Obviously he didn’t follow Marita, otherwise he wouldn’t ask “where’s the boy?“. All he knew was that Krycek was “in town“, New York. The WMM then called upon the different intelligence services of the US (CIA, NSA, US Coast Guard Intelligence): services that monitor people, ships, merchandise, anything entering US soil, services that store phone conversations and run voice recognition programs — all these are true facts, the resources that go into such huge programs for surveillance of every civilian are huge (eg. Echelon). He could have made a research on his phonecall, like the CSM did on Mulder in 2X25: Anasazi, and a research on incoming flights and ships from Russia — and it mustn’t have taken him long!

The WMM forces Krycek to hand him the russian vaccine; the Syndicate, not Krycek, end up in possession of both results of vaccine research. The title of the episode, reflecting the title of Stendhal’s period novel “The Red and the Black“, refers to these two opposed substances central to the X-Files mythology: the red vaccine and the Black Oil. The vaccine is tested on Marita, but its effects are not immediate (and “it’s not a question of dosage. We’ve administered three intramuscular injections over the past twenty hours“).

The time delay between its administration and the eradication of the Black Oil forced the Syndicate’s hand to give up any plans for an alliance with the Rebels. Marita is cured at the end of the episode, as evidenced by her clear eyeball, but it’s too late to convince the Elders. As the only proponents of allying with the Rebels, the WMM and Krycek cooperate; Krycek becomes the WMM’s protégé. The WMM sends Krycek to Mulder, to enlist his help for preventing the extermination of the Rebel by the ABH, by finding and releasing the Rebel from his bonds from example. Muder failed in this mission, for which he wasn’t really prepared. Krycek doesn’t attempt to release the Rebel himself, probably because this would give the Colonists the impression that this was an action approved by the Syndicate.

Against Mulder’s expectations, Krycek didn’t come to see Mulder with bad intentions, all the contrary. Despite their heavy history, Krycek considers Mulder as a friend in arms, his opposite but his equal, his “friend“. His straightforward speech and the infamous kiss in the cheek are signs of a comradeship and respect that could have been fuller if circumstances had permitted it. Muler is all the more pensive after this frankness.

Meet the Spenders

Here we meet Cassandra Spender and her son Jeffrey, and learn upfront that the father of this torn family is the CSM himself.

So the CSM is still alive, recuperating in a hut in a remote place in snowy Quebec. After Fox Mulder refused to join sides with him (Redux II), he decides to let go of Fox and focus on his (other) son Jeffrey. He writes letters to him (a nice reference to the CSM’s hobby of typewriting from 4X07: Musings of a CSM) and hopes that they might “reconcile the differences between us“. In his letter, he talks of a Navajo myth; intersting how the CSM is into this kind of thing, especially in light of how important the Navajo tradition is to the mythology (2X25: Anasazi, 6X22: Biogenesis, 7X04: Amor Fati). “I remind myself of a Navajo story. Twin war gods come to their father, seeking magic and weapons to eliminate the monsters of the world.” This story of the Hero Twin Brothers is a very important founding myth in Navajo and American Indian mythology in general: Nayenezgani and Tohbachischin (Monster Slayer and Child of the Waters) went to their father the Sun who tested them and gave them gifts with which they hunted and killed many monsters, and cleared the way for the human peoples, whom they taught in the ways of the ceremonies. The reference to Fox and Jeffrey coming to their father the CSM in order to fight against the alien Colonists is evident, but it doesn’t all happen as the CSM wished it would.

Jeffrey sends the letter back without even reading it; evidently their reconciliation will be more difficult than daddy imagines. Skinner further tells Jeffrey that he has “a patron outside this office who thinks highly of you. […] Someone working with a high level of influence.” This of course is the CSM, working at promoting his son’s carreer. Skinner being aware of that, though he doesn’t reveal the identity of this patron to Jeffrey, is further proof that he is in contact with the CSM, and that it was him who saved him from certain death after he was shot in Redux II. Jeffrey is indeed carreer-oriented, but he also doesn’t want to be treated favourably or unfavourably, he wants to get by on his own and wants nothing to do with the reputation his mother or father might give him — this announces his inevitable clash with the CSM. He doesn’t want to follow the same path as ‘Spooky’ Mulder and he tries (unsuccessfully) to put a distance between his work, the FBI, and his mother, “appearances being what they are.” “I’d like to build a reputation here, not be given one.” Weird how all the Syndicate members’ sons seem to end up in the FBI, too…

Cassandra has been “a multiple abductee for over thirty years“; in 6X12: One Son her first abduction is placed with the agreement between the Colonists and the Syndicate in 1973, ie 25 years ago.

This is probably a typo, because Jeffrey also talks about “something that caused a lot of pain about twenty years ago.” The CSM left Cassandra and Jeffrey when Jeffrey was still young: “my dad had left his family and it drove my mom insane. Only, I was eleven years old and I didn’t know it.” Jeffrey’s childhood was in a very unstable environment. His mother was a ultiple abductee, and she passed on her suffering to her son by telling stories of her own abductions, so many times that young Jeffrey believed they had really happened to him: “She told me that story so many times that I believed it. Absolutely.” Cassandra was alone and scared (“nobody would ever believe me“) and Jeffrey was the only contact she had. Scarred by such a traumatic childhood, Jeffrey grew up to be wary and dismissive of anything paranormal, but also highly self-centred. He considers his mother a burden he has to deal with only because of his blood relationship with her. More on the background of the Spender family will be revealed in 7X11: Closure.

Cults and the mass gatherings

Jeffrey describes his mother as being part of a “ridiculous […] UFO cult [that] believed they were going to be carried to immortality in some kind of flying motherwheel.

Indeed, and in keeping with the religious undertones of these episodes, Cassandra Spender describes herself as “an apostle, here to spread the word of the dawning of a new age of supernatural enlightenment“, she sounds like the definition of those ‘enlightened’ people that preach a “feel-good message” and make up a sect believing they are the chosen ones by some alien gods. She even goes by a medico-guru alias, “Patient X“. Somebody totally ridiculous for non-believers like Jeffrey, or Mulder in these episodes. Her name is not fortuitous: Cassandra in ancient Greek mythology was the king of Troy Priam’s daughter, an oracle with the curse that nobody would believe her prophecies. The message she preaches of good-willed aliens is false as she’ll come to understand later: it was fed to her by the Colonists to prepare humans for the day the colonization will come — since this sect is made up of so many abductees. The abductee gatherings themselves feel much like the reunion of a cult or sect. Examples in the real world are many around the time these episodes were made, and surely served as inspiration: the Raëlians, who believe humans were genetically engineered by aliens; the Order of the Solar Temple, whose members committed mass suicide from 1994 to 1997 believing their souls were leaving for Sirius; the Heaven’s Gate massacre in 1997, where its followers committed suicide believing they were going to be transferred to a spaceship closely following comet Hale-Bopp, which was crossing Earth’s neighbourhood at that time; and Roky’s inner Earth cult in 3X20: Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space” ;).

In fact, the burnt abductees Mulder investigates were not members of any cult, but they were members of the “local mutual UFO networks” (MUFON, see 3X09: Nisei) and they were medically treated for their claims of alien abductions, for “major depressive disorder characterized by periods of sustained anxiety and paranoia.” The mass burnings are described in the media as “cult suicides […] bizarre“. It would seem that the only issues a believer in extraterrestrials has is either cults and being made fun of, or medical help after suffering peer pressure. A grim prospect for Mulder, who barely escapes the second category (for example 5X19: Folie à Deux)!

With the Syndicate knowing abductees are being exterminated, why would Quiet Willy take Cassandra from the hospital to the gathering point? Cassandra is physically unable to move around by herself. Quiet Willy is probably who she calls upon when she wants to go somewhere; this mustn’t be the first time he takes care of her. Quiet Willy just follows her orders, at the request of the Syndicate, for whom Cassandra is of outmost importance. So Cassandra, Quiet Willy, Scully and Dmitri all meet at the Ruskin Dam. Rebels burn people, Quiet Willy and Dmitri among them, until they are stopped by the Colonists. The Colonists abduct Cassandra but leave everybody else. This is probably because Cassandra, as the wife of the CSM, is part of the guarantee the Syndicate will cooperate with the Colonists (see One Son once again). The Colonists take her to safety until the unrest with the Rebels calms down. The survivors like Scully were badly bruised; surely a stampede followed the arrival of the Rebels, and smoke didn’t help things. Scully was under “vasogenic shock“, which is a kind of neurological shock, probably caused by her extreme stress and fear. Mulder tells Jeffrey that “your mother will be found“: Jeffrey’s quest for his mother is like Mulder’s quest for Samantha, however the two agents fail to connect further than that.

Hypnosis, memories and faith

It would seem that the implants have one more function: selectively erasing memories from the abductees (“That would explain […] why you can’t remember.“). Other cases of memory loss of a non-abductee involve manipulation of time and the time jump of 9 minutes (1X79: Pilot, 4X18: Max). These memories are then accessible only by regression hypnosis.

Both Mulder and Jeffrey believe that hypnosis is totally invalid, but they are both afraid of what it would imply: for Mulder that aliens are true and for Jeffrey that he will be ridiculed by these hypnosis tapes of himself he shows Scully. Cassandra turns to the same hypnosis expert Mulder consulted with in 1989 to remember the abduction of his sister (1X03: Conduit): Dr. Heitz Werber, whom we had already seen in the 1X79: Pilot. Mulder takes Scully to Werber, and this time things go much smoother than her experience with Dr. Pomerantz in 3X01: The Blessing Way. This is because Scully has a much more open mind about this; the fact alone that she accepts hypnosis is a leap of faith for her. In a scene that is highly intense and sensual, almost erotic, and also filled with “religious rapture“, Scully recalls everything that happened. Surely these flashbacks to the alien abduction scenes, the ethereal mood and lighting, are among the most beautiful and artistic the X-Files has ever done.

The downside of the hypnosis is that “I don’t have a clear recollection of what I hear myself saying“; access to these memories is limited to the time of the hypnosis. We’ll have to wait a bit longer for Scully to turn into a believer! Memories are also what Mulder came to distrust after his change of faith. At the end of the episodes, the rescue operation Mulder experiences in the military truck leaves him very thoughful. Up to this point, he was just an observer to the events; when he sees things he cannot explain, like a faceless rebel appearing in the truck, he reacts very violently and in denial (a big “No!“) — how else to explain his reaction? The only thing he can do is wake up from his inaction and pull the triger to something he doesn’t understand. Contrary to the Colonists, the Rebels have no reason to erase this event from Mulder’s memories and would leave Mulder remembering everything he saw so that he can expose the Colonists and the Syndicate. Everything Mulder had gathered from Scully’s hypnosis and Krycek’s visit seems to fit with the truth. He is trying to find a way to explain it all without resorting to aliens, but he can’t. He doesn’t want to trust his memories but the experience was real, felt real. Mulder denied his own memories of his sister’s abudction, but the memories is what Scully clings on to, what defines her: “without those memories, I can’t [follow you]“. If Scully trusts her memories, where does that leave Mulder? Scully: “Your memories were all that you had.” Sculy is the one that pulls Mulder back to his old faith! By 5X20: The End, Mulder’s faith in extraterrestrials is restored.

Surveillance Recodings

Patient X

Mulder’s teaser voice-over: “Before the exploration of space, of the moon and the planets, man hailed that the heavens were the home and province of powerful gods who controlled not just the vast firmament, but the earthly fate of man himself and that the pantheon of powerful, warring deities, was the cause and reason for the human condition, for the past and the future, and for which great monuments would be created on earth as in heaven. But in time man replaced these gods with new gods and new religions that provided no more certain or greater answers than those worshipped by his Greek or Roman or Egyptian ancestors. And while we’ve chosen now our monolithic and benevolent gods and found our certainties in science, believers all, we wait for a sign, a revelation. Our eyes turn skyward ready to accept the truly incredible to find our destiny written in the stars. But how do we best look to see? With new eyes or old?”

Mulder: “One more anal-probing, gyro-pyro levitating-ecoplasm alien anti-matter story, and I’m gonna take out my gun and shoot somebody.”
Scully: “Well, I guess I’m done here. You seem to have invalidated your own work. Have a nice life.”

The Red and the Black

The Cigarette Smoking Man’s letter to Jeffrey:

“Dear Son,
I hope this letter finds you well. I get reports of you from […] time. I know these letters come as a surprise. You must wonder about me. […] I remind myself of a Navajo story. Twin war gods come to their father, seeking magic and weapons to eliminate the monsters of the world. […] My hope is the same for you, and that we might reconcile the differences between us.
Your Loving Father,”

Mulder: “Your cancer, your cure, everything that’s happening to you now, it all points to that chip. The truth I’ve been searching for? The truth is in you.”
Scully: “Mulder, when I met you five years ago, you told me that your sister had been abducted… by aliens. That that event had marked you so deeply, that nothing else mattered. I didn’t believe you, but I followed you, on nothing more than your faith that the truth was out there, based not on facts, not on science, but on your memories that your sister had been taken from you. Your memories were all that you had.”
Mulder: “I don’t trust those memories now.”
Scully: “Well, whether you trust them or not, they’ve led you here. And me. But I have no memories to either trust nor distrust, and if you ask me now to follow you again, to stand behind you in what you now believe, without knowing what happened to me out there, without those memories, I can’t. I won’t.”
Mulder: “If I could give you those memories, if I could prove that I was right and that what I believed for so long was wrong…”
Scully: “Is that what you really want?”

Well-Manicured Man: “Do you see what this means? Resistance is possible. We have the weapons and the magic in hand.”

Scully: “Oh my God!” x8!

Krycek: “You must be losing it, Mulder. I could beat you with one hand.”
Mulder: “Isn’t that how you like to beat yourself?” (Krycek cocks the gun) “If those are my last words I can do better.”

Krycek: “There is a war raging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur. I’m talking planned invasion. The colonization of this planet by an extraterrestrial race. […] Kazakhstan, Skyland Mountain, the site in Pennsylvania: they’re all alien lighthouses where the colonization will begin, but where now, a battle’s being waged. A struggle for heaven and earth. Where there is one law: fight or die. And one rule: resist or serve.”

Krycek (in Russian, to Mulder): “Good luck to you, my friend.”

E.T.C 2004-2008

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