Season 1, Episode 8
Director: David Nutter
Writer: Glen Morgan, James Wong
After a string of average-to-poor episodes, The X-Files comes roaring back with “Ice,” an episode that is perfectly timed and tuned to maximize suspense and tension. Owing much to Ridley Scott’s Alien and, most directly, John Carpenter’s The Thing, the episode traps a series of characters including Mulder and Scully in an icy, remote research facility and pits them against each other in fits of rampant paranoia. There is a killer among them, and it takes an hour of nail-biting to uncover the culprit.
The episode begins in northern Alaska where a team of researchers has apparently attacked and killed each other in a wild fit of aggression. The mysterious circumstances of their deaths warrant the attention of Mulder and Scully who travel to that same site with a new set of researchers, included among them is a young Felicity Huffman. Once on site, the team is attacked by a very angry dog who bites their pilot. After recovering from the dog bite, the pilot begins displaying tell-tale symptoms, aggression, and a strange moving lump just under his skin. The moving lump turns out to be a worm, a parasite that was apparently excavated from a nearby asteroid crash site buried thousands of feet beneath the ice shelf. The worm, when implanted in the host, causes violent aggression, resulting in the earlier deaths at the facility not to mention the mysteriously slashed throat of one of the new researchers. After an extended period of shouting, gun pointing, etc, the team discovers that Felicity Huffman’s character was the infected one and is cured by implanting another worm within her ear. Apparently the worms are so aggressive that they cannot co-exist in the same host.
There isn’t much mythology on display in this episode, although it does deal heavily with government conspiracies and alien artifacts (the parasites originated from outer space, of course). What it excels at, however, is building tension minute by minute as the surviving members of the research team lash out against each other. Even Mulder and Scully pull their weapons against each other, a betrayal of the incredible trust they’d established between them. Thematically, the episode explores the deadly nature of psycho-duality, horrible acts committed by individuals who appear ordinary and harmless on the surface (a la Tooms from “Squeeze”). The look and feel of the episode, as I’ve mentioned before, is indebted to mostly John Carpenter’s The Thing, although I do get a sense of the corridors of the Nostradamus from Alien. The episode has all of the tension but none of the gore of The Thing and even includes a nod to an infected dog that helps spread the disease in both instances.
“Ice” is brilliantly directed and, while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the earlier “Squeeze,” it will clearly end up being one of the more memorable episodes of Season One.