X-Files Flashback: ‘The Sixth Extinction’

Sixth Extinction

Season 7, Episode 1
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter

We open The X-Files Season Seven (!) with Scully studiously reviewing rubbings from the recently discovered space ship. She’s every nerd’s dream: a beautiful redhead in glasses with a tight white tank top ever-so-damp from the heat of the evening. That’s largely how Scully is rendered through “The Sixth Extinction,” as if The X-Files were trying on their own brand of Baywatch lore. And maybe that’s by design because although there is certainly a great deal of activity on screen, none of it amounts to very much by the episode’s end.

As Scully reviews the rubbings, a swarm of locusts (or other flying insects) attacks her. She also sees a mysterious African man standing in her tent. The man will reappear several times through the episode. As the episode progresses, other Revelation-based events plague the area including a burning sea and the ocean of blood. Meanwhile, back in D.C., A.D. Skinner visits the deranged Mulder in the psych ward and attempts to connect with him. Mulder attacks him by attempting to strangle him but manages to pass the attack off as an attempt to relay a message written on a torn fragment of cloth: “HELP ME.” When Skinner returns, Mulder is able to write “Kritschgau” on his hand (although I do question that because Skinner’s hands aren’t THAT big). Skinner reaches out to Mulder’s old contact and convinces him to assist. Once he agrees, Kritschgau determines that Mulder’s mind is running too fast for his body to process, so he gives him a drug to slow it down, rendering Mulder lucid for a brief period. Mulder is apparently also psychic now.

Back in Africa, Scully is visited by Dr. Barnes (Michael Ensign) who is initially able to read the engravings on the space ship but becomes increasingly erratic, eventually holding her and an assisting local professor prisoner in the tent. Scully and the professor manage to escape, and Scully is once again visited by the mysterious vision of the African man who tells her she is not meant to know the whole truth. Perhaps she cannot handle the truth. She returns to the States to visit Mulder and try to bring him back to reality. At any rate, after seeing fish come back to life, Dr. Barnes decides to kill his driver with a machete to see if the energy around the alien craft would reanimate him. When it does, Barnes’s zombified driver kills him instead and presumably hops in the space ship. It is missing by the next morning.

So, what to make of all of this? I legitimately have no idea. “The Sixth Extinction” carries the look and feel of one of those pseudo-Biblical horror films of the 80s like Demi Moore’s The Seventh Sign or even Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. And that’s kind of cool, I’ll admit. A neat throw-back to a by-gone era I’m not sure anyone really misses. Yet, the story itself makes little narrative sense. Everything here feels like a “wouldn’t it be cool if?” idea. Mulder’s psychic powers. Scully’s Revelations encounters. Scully’s African man. The disappearing space ship.

Perhaps it will all be successfully resolved in the next episode, the conclusion to the 3-part series. Yet, with Scully’s presence in the States now, I suspect the focus will remain on Mulder and the attempts to restore his damaged psyche. But, until then, at least “The Sixth Extinction” is at its very core an entertaining piece of sci-fi, sufficient for 45 minutes of The X-Files but hardly, I suspect, what Carter was going after when he chose to tackle the origin of our species.

To be concluded…

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