X-Files Flashback: ‘731’

731

Season 3, Episode 10
Director: Rob Bownman
Writer: Frank Spotnitz

The X-Files‘s “731” picks up roughly where we left off as the second part of an unfortunate mythology 2-parter. The beginning is the more compelling component of the episode as we continue to explore recent themes of human experimentation and mass genocide. It’s not long, though, before we’re back ridin’ that train with Fox Mulder and we’re further degrading the character of Dana Scully.

The opening shows the aforementioned human experiments loaded onto a truck and carried out in the middle of nowhere. A few manage to escape, and one hideously deformed individual watches from the woods as the remaining subjects are lined up in front of a massive pit and machined gunned to death, Nazi style. This scene plays into Scully’s investigations as she is ultimately led to the same warehouse a short while later. There, she finds surviving members who tell her the site was a quarantine area for those suffering from high communicable diseases – or so they’ve been told. One slightly disfigured person shows her the pit full of dead bodies that, from my vantage point, look more like Communion-level aliens than lepers. But that’s just me. Soon, a helicopter approaches, and Scully is kidnapped by armed men. Her companion is presumably killed, and she receives an explanation from an unknown man roughly stating the same thing – it’s a leper colony. Uh huh.

Meanwhile, Mulder gains access into the train on which he jumped and manages to locate the Japanese scientist thought to be heavily involved in all the experiments Mulder and Scully have been tracking since the discovery of the alien autopsy tape. However, before Mulder can corner him, the scientist is brutally murdered by a mysterious agent on board the train. Over a very slow course of events, Mulder manages to gain entry into the mysterious train car and sees a humanoid or alien locked in a secret room. Just before opening the door, the murdering agent sneaks up on him and tries to kill Mulder. Thanks to the train conductor’s assistance, Mulder gets the upper hand but discovers the car is a giant bomb, triggered by their entry. Calling through a mutual acquaintance (don’t ask), Scully warns Mulder of the bomb just a little too late but reveals to him she knows the truth – the evil Japanese doctor has been conducting unauthorized experiments on people and, somehow, that explains her “abduction.” Mulder eventually gets out of the train car thanks to the convenient assistance of X, and the whole thing blows sky high. At the end, Mulder and Scully share a tense moment as they clearly stand on opposite sides of belief.

I’ve clearly stated my objections to these mythology 2-parters, and they still stand here. The vast conspiracies and unwieldy plot twists are too much to follow or even believe. The chief sin that “731” commits is the dumbing down of Dana Scully. After the first season finale where she comes face to face with an alien fetus and near irrefutable proof that the government has been working on human / alien hybrids, she is now easily assuaged that the whole affair was just the machinations of the Japanese doctor. Yes, let’s just forget everything you’ve seen and witnessed first hand. Let’s just forget that Scully is a medical doctor who would clearly be able to tell the difference between people suffering from leprosy and alien bodies. Let’s ignore the fact that the government shouldn’t just fills pits full of people suffering from random diseases. Let’s just believe what yet another white man in a trench coat who you’ve never met before and have zero reason to trust says. Yeah, that’s Dana Scully of Season Three X-Files – dumbed down by Chris Carter.

That’s the biggest crime of all.

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