X-Files Flashback: ‘Biogenesis’

Season 6, Episode 22
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

The X-Files completes its sixth season, arguably its last good season in many Internet circles, with lofty goals. “Biogenesis” deals with the relatively minor topic of the origin of the human race. I suppose it’s natural that the series, which has often taken on lofty topics like this before, would eventually evolve to stop considering the presence of alien life and make the leap to deciphering how aliens would have interacted with humans millions of years ago. Given this season finale is the first in a 3-episode series arc, it’s difficult (as I’ve mentioned before) to judge it on its own. But, effectively, I like what I see partially because it’s a prime example of gonzo-bananas television.

We begin with a Stanley Kubrick / Terrence Malick-esqe story of life’s origins on Earth as narrated by Dana Scully. The main story begins in Africa’s Ivory Coast with the discovery of small fragments of a larger tablet containing mysterious inscriptions. A local professor examines the piece with a similar artifact when the two pieces immediately fuse together and then fly across the room, impaling a Bible in the process. The professor then travels to the United States to meet someone who has another piece of the same artifact, but the individual turns out to be an imposter and murders the professor. Enter Mulder and Scully who are provided an inscription / rubbing of the combined artifact. Through the episode, Mulder becomes increasingly bothered by a high-pitched squeal whenever he is close to the artifact. The remainder of the episode becomes something of an X-Files greatest hits with code breaker Albert Hosteen, Diana Fowley, Alex Krycek, and the Cigarette Smoking Man all making appearances. In the end, Mulder has gone insane (likely due to his attempts to follow the plot), and Scully journeys to the Ivory Coast where she discovers the source of the mysterious artifacts – a giant spaceship buried in the sand.

Does this episode make sense? Probably not. Motivations are never fully realized or explained in detail, and actions seem to happen because they’re cool, not because they fit logically within the plot. However, given the “Biogenesis” placement as the first of three episodes, it’s very likely that the subsequent episodes will make more sense. Or not. We’re headed into more unknown territory here where many rabid and very vocal X-Files fans claim the quality of the series takes a significant dive. However that will prove, it’s exciting to see a new mythology start after the previous one so suddenly (I say suddenly as if it hadn’t dragged on for six years) wrapped itself up.

In “Biogenesis,” Carter seems to have his eyes set on telling a story of a much broader scale – the origin of human life. Stanley Kubrick inferred it in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott most recently essayed the topic in his Alien prequel Prometheus (to significantly lesser results). Whatever Carter’s success with the topic, it at least pushes the series forward into new ways rather than revisit the tired previous mythology.

To be continued…

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