Case Profile

Dr. Orgel and Skinner are infected with a nanotechnology that is remotely controlled; Orgel is killed by it and Skinner almost. Orgel and Skinner were digging evidence against a Senate Resolution that would have provided medical technology to third world countries. Tunisian diplomats and Krycek are behind the plot, coercing Senator Matheson to accept this funding bill. The bill is rejected, but Krycek still can control Skinner's nanotechnology.

Field Report

This mysterious episode, written by Shiban, plays with the Skinner character in the vein of 3X21: Avatar and 4X21: Zero Sum. There is a tense and urgent atmosphere, like in 2X22: F. Emasculata; here, the relentless passage of time is shown with timestamps counting down minutes. The tie with the mythology only makes itself clear in the final scene with the revelation of Krycek, but in fact it permeates the whole episode. The nanotechnology and the new means of pressure over Skinner, however, won't be touched upon again -- something too frequent with the X-Files unfortunately.

Senate Resolution 819

The US budget is debated on and voted in Congress; the House of Representatives and the Senate both develop budget resolutions. Senate Resolution (S.R.) number 819 was "a funding bill" that had not passed yet in the budget for the next fiscal year. It would "provide money and supplies to the World Health Organization, medical technology to third world countries", a most noble enterprise on behalf of a developed world country -- often accused to provide its technology and medical supplies at unaccessible prices to those who need it most.

Such a provision must come with a price and a detailed set of directives as to how the money would be distributed through the WHO. The WHO,
since 1948, is an agency of the United Nations Organization that coordinates international public health aid efforts, with contributions coming from its member states. When exchange of goods comes into play, and thus trade, the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, 1948 on), now integrated into  the World Trade Organization (WTO, 1995 on), apply. Apparently S.R.819 would have been in "a gross violation of export laws involving new technology". One way it could do that is by not providing the same treatment to all potential buyers: preferential treatment of a player is sanctioned by the WTO. Here, we see "Alexander Lazreg [...] the cultural attache with the Tunisian mission here in D.C." and other Tunisian diplomats ("He's got diplomatic papers") at work in favour of S.R.819. Obviously, once passed, S.R.819 would have been used to export the technology used on Skinner to Tunisia.

Skinner "was doing a security check on a Senate bill". This, we are told, is "routine procedure" on behalf of the FBI, an audit on behalf of an independent body that would keep the Senate in check for partiality or litigation: "This bill was going to vote in the Senate. All it was waiting on was Skinner's review and an analysis by Dr. Kenneth Orgel." Kenneth Orgel, according to Scully, was "A physicist. Very well known, as far as physicists go", and also "an advisor to a Senate subcommittee on ethics and new technology."

Senate subcommittee hearings involving experts on the concerned field are held in order to provide the Senators the appropriate background for voting (such a Congressional hearing on human cloning is seen in 5X03: Redux II). Skinner's investigation was showing "
violation of trade laws involving sensitive technology" while Dr. Orgel was discovering how dangerous the technology that was going to be exported could be if it fell in the wrong hands. "Orgel came to the FBI to tell Skinner" but both Orgel and Skinner are silenced by being 'infected' with the mysterious technology. Senator Matheson, who had helped Mulder in the past in his quest for the truth (2X01: Little Green Men, 3X09: Nisei), is deeply compromised, tipped behind the scenes to make the bill pass and in contact with Krycek ("You shouldn't have called me"). At first, Matheson waves Mulder off, hiding his fear that his involvement might see the light of (public) day. Krycek has Orgel suffer and die in front of Matheson's eyes so as to scare him. "I am a victim here." Matheson tries to persuade Mulder not to pursue this further. In the end, "S.R. 819 was withdrawn by committee late last night." Too many deaths connected to the resolution prevented export of this technology.

The nanotechnology

The thing that is inserted in Skinner's bloodsream is described as "pure carbon"; nanotechnology, because of its miniaturized nature, doesn't have to be made out of steel or silicon; far from it. "
Nanotechnology. Microscopic, atom-sized machines." This is "technology that the world believes is purely theoretical"; indeed, today only very simple things can be done with nanotechnology, but everything shows that in the future it could have applications beyond the wildest dreams of science-fiction --

along with the health threats or terrorist threats that can go along. Especially since such machines can be remotely controlled, as Krycek does.

One possible application among the thousands this nanotechnology can have is used on Orgel and Skinner: using it for "
building a heart attack". The individual 'machines' multiply and clogs the blood vessels, effectively stopping blood circulation: "It has behavior. It's creating something, a matrix stimulated by blood flow in response to movement. It's multiplying and solidifying in an orderly fashion. It's building valves or dams in the vascular system." In a perverted effect, "his blood has become a weapon against his body". Scully is at a loss as to how to treat it: "we just don't have the technology to combat it." The only thing she can do is destroy some of the nanomachines as they keep multiplying: "the best that we can do is keep lasering his arteries open. But it's only going to be a matter of time before we lose. I mean, it's building walls in his vessels faster than we can tear them down". This nanotechnology is very effective against conventional medicine.

The Tunisian connection

The presence of Tunisian diplomats with whom Krycek cooperates only points to somebody unnamed but very powerful: Conrad Strughold, who we know is located in Tunisia.
S.R.819 would have been diverted from its original philanthropic purpose into exporting this technology from the USA and giving it to the hands of Strughold, the mastermind of the Syndicate. Anyone hindering these plans was to be eliminated, as was Dr. Orgel. Normally, Skinner should have been eliminated as well, but Krycek spares him. Why? "All in good time", Krycek answers.

Krycek previously killed Lazreg, with whom he was working with, in order to save Skinner (Lazreg was about to shoot Skinner and Krycek hits him while driving). It seems Krycek is acting outside of his normal orders from the Syndicate, planning to use Skinner for his own purposes. The nanotechnology is still present in Skinner's blood, Krycek can 'tune up' its level whenever he wants (see 7X04: Amor Fati). Krycek's loyalties always lie with himself, independently of his work with the Russians or the Syndicate. Krycek is planning his career outside of the Syndicate and in this case he is acting solo (but unfortunately the episodes around this storyline in season 7 will be concelled).

We can only theorize on the reasons behind this interest for nanotechnology. Among the possible applications that nanotechnology promises to offer is as an additive completing functions the human body cannot or does imperfectly, such as the better management of trace elements (treatment against obesity) or the enhancing of body metabolism (treating ailments related to the lack of a chemical in a body, such as diabetes) or a drug-delivering method (treatment against targeted cells, such as cancer or AIDS) or as a very effective antibiotic (targetting a virus). Could the latter point to an application of the nanotechnology as a means to fight the Black Oil virus? Any viral infection could be instantly detected, contained and neutralized by a technology present in the body at all times. This is an alternative to the vaccine or to hybridization for immunity against the Black Oil! We can go further in this theory by wondering where this technology came from. It is possible it is extraterrestrial in origin, developed by reverse engineering the technology found on fallen crafts in top secret military bases, just as alien technology was salvaged for new propulsion methods (1X01: Deep Throat, 4X18: Max). The presence of this kind of 'intelligent' and near-invisible technology is hinted at by fully automated self-repairing alien ships (Fight the Future, 7X03: The Sixth Extinction, 7X22: Requiem). The irony of human scientists using alien technology to fight back an alien virus is fitting. Research into this means of resistance would have been cut short by the events in 6X12: One Son. Interesting theories that won't be explored later on.

Surveillance Recodings
Skinner (voice-over): "Every minute of every day we choose. Who we are. Who we forgive. Who we defend and protect. To choose a side or to walk the line. To play the middle. To straddle the fence between what is and what should be. This was the course I chose. Trying to find the delicate balance of interests that can never exist. Choosing by not choosing. Defending a center which cannot hold. So death chose for me."

Skinner: "I'm in your hands. I think I owe you an apology, Scully. You and Mulder."
Scully: "Sir?"
Skinner: "I've been lying here thinking. Your quest... it should have been mine."
Scully: "What do you mean?"
Skinner: "If I die now, I die in vain. I have nothing to show for myself. My life..."
Scully: "Sir, you know that's not true."
Skinner: "It is. I can see now that... I always played it safe. I wouldn't take sides. Wouldn't let you and Mulder... pull me in."
Scully: "You've been our ally more times than I can say."
Skinner: "Not the kind of ally that I could have been."

E.T.C 2004-2008