X-Files Flashback: ‘Patient X’

Patient X

Season 5, Episode 13
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

“A conspiracy wrapped in a plot inside a government agenda.”

Those words are spoken by Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) in an MIT lecture during The X-Files episode “Patient X,” and there are no better words to fully describe the on-going series mythology. As I watched Duchovny deliver these lines, it’s clear to me that his often one-note and labored performance as Mulder is not necessarily his fault. It occurred to me that he’s speaking directly from the mouth of Chris Carter. These thoughts and feelings are Carter’s thoughts and feelings. No actor alive could have delivered them reliably with feeling. They’re not so much pieces of realistic dialogue as they are massive chunks of sermonizing. Duchovny often chokes on these words.

The rest of “Patient X,” another contribution in the broad series mythology,

The opening of the episode shows a UFO crash in Kazakhstan, and two boys explore the crash site where they are captured by an apparent alien with his eyes and mouth sewed shut. The next morning, U.N. troops led by Marita Covarrubias (Laurie Holden) attempt to explore the area but are met with resistance by Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) who captures one of the boys. Later, we see the boy imprisoned in a Russian facility similar to the one in which Mulder was imprisoned last season. The boy is purposefully infected with the black oil.

Back in the States, Mulder is a member of a panel discussing alien life at MIT. Here, he makes public his recent turn in alien belief – professing alien existence is a lie invented by the government to cover up other nefarious events. At the event, Mulder meets Dr. Heitz Werber (Jim Jansen) whose patient, Cassandra Spencer (Veronica Cartwright, finally appearing in The X-Files), claims to have been abducted multiple times over 30 years. She’s overjoyed to meet Mulder and tells him stories of wars between alien races. She also claims to anticipate another abduction. Mulder rejects her, claiming he cannot help her.

Krycek abducts the infected boy whose eyes, nose and mouth are also sewed up with the intent of holding in the black oil. Krycek contacts the Syndicate and tells them he’ll exchange the boy for all of their vaccine research. Meanwhile, Mulder tells Scully of his interaction with Cassandra, and Cassandra’s story shakes Scully considering the similarities between their supposed alien abductions. Scully reaches out to Cassandra and confirms that her son has asked Scully to help protect his mother from Mulder, but Cassandra recognizes Scully as a fellow alien abductee. She also warns Cassandra not to remove the implant from the base of her neck because it causes the almost certainly fatal cancer.

At Skyland mountain, a group of alien abductees congregate and are burned alive by the same faceless aliens. At the site, Mulder and Scully argue over the intent of the massacre with Mulder taking the skeptic position, believing the government has somehow killed all of these people. The Syndicate is mystified by the event. As details of the deaths emerge, Cassandra recognizes the names of many of the victims and begs that Mulder attempt to stop the killings. Cassandra’s son walks in on their conversation and is furious that they continue to feed her seeming fantasia. Later, Scully and Mulder review x-ray information from the burn victims and determine they all contained an implanted chip.

Back where Krycek is holding the infected boy, Marita confronts him and seduces him away from the cell. When Krycek returns to his cell, the boy is gone, and the Well-Manicured Man (John Neville) remains in his place. Later, Marita calls Mulder and informs him of the crash in Kazakhstan and of the boy who sits in her car pulling out the stitches in his eyes. The black oil drips out of his eyes, presumably infecting Marita. As Mulder tries to track her down, he calls Cassandra’s hospital room but discovers Cassandra is missing. The climax of the episode takes place on a dam where all abductees, including Scully and the boy from Kazakhstan, are treated by flying saucers. Just as Scully meets Cassandra, faceless aliens appear and begin burning the abductees just as they did in Kazakhstan and on Skyland Mountain.

One of my biggest complaints about mythology episodes is how they are plotted to within an inch of their life as television art. There is no room for humor or for liberties taken with the characters. No, it’s all plot. Plot. Plot. Revelation. Plot. Plot. Plot. Cliffhanger. Carter scripts these things with a massive sledgehammer designed to knock the audience members over the head with his “conspiracy wrapped in a plot inside a government agenda.” Frankly, by the end of the arc, it’s completely exhausting to follow and process all of this detail. I fully understand that this is how Chris Carter writes, and he most likely has a great deal of information he wishes to convey. It’s just not my kind of thing. I like to venture off the beaten path as there are so many worth exploring. This one can be so boring.

There are certainly gems to be found within “Patient X” – not the least of which is the presence of Veronica Cartwright, a naturally terrifying actress who deserves more material on which to chew. Instead, she’s given the role of the nearly angelic abductee victim on a nobel crusade to solve intergalactic politics, or some such nonsense. Cartwright is absolutely fine in “Patient X,” but I wanted more kookiness from her. I also personally thought the imagery here was particularly unnerving, including the shots of the burned-out cars, the faceless aliens, and the boy with his face all showed up. That’s the kind of stuff that causes nightmares. These X-Files mythology stories could use more of that.

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