The X Files Revisited: 9.04 4-D
The X Files ran for nine seasons between 1993 and 2002, spanned two movies and then came back from the dead in 2016 for a revival series of 6 episodes. In many ways, the show is as much a cultural phenomenon as it ever was and The Digital Fix has been looking back at key episodes across the show’s run starting with the pilot episode, reviewing numerous classic stories and the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. Now we're in the final stretch of our revisited as we cover the last season of the original run, the second movie and look back at 'season 10' a year on. This time we revisit season nine's 4-D, which sees The X Files tackle the concept of alternate realities for the first time...
Jumping ahead a couple of episodes from the rather frustrating season opener and here is an episode shows the potential of what a Doggett and Reyes The X Files could be. 4-D isn't a brilliant episode but it is a surprisingly good one as the series tackles the idea of parallel universes for the first time. It is surprising it took more than eight year of The X Files to attempt this classic sci-fi concept.
The episode does a good job of not jumping straight into the idea though, instead delivering an intriguing mystery as Reyes's throat is slashed during a stakeout of suspected serial murderer Erwin Lukesh (Dylan Haggerty) and Doggett is shot and critically injured in the following pursuit. Killing off a main character in any genre show like this is always a great hook; in this instance you know Doggett and Reyes aren't dead but the fun is in guessing how they survive this predicament. So when we get to Doggett turning up at Reyes' apartment with polish sausages as a housewarming gift straight after, the audience assumes this is a flashback.
Except it isn't. Reyes gets a call from Skinner saying that Doggett has been shot - and the Doggett in her apartment vanishes. The mystery deepens when the ever smarmy Deputy Director Brad Follmer takes the lead on the investigation and reveals that the bullet that hit Doggett was fired from Reyes's gun. And then Lukas comes forth as an eyewitness to the shooting; the audience knows he is the killer but to Follmer and the FBI, Reyes is prime suspect number one.
For me this was Annabeth Gish's best episode to date, a chance for her step into the spotlight and prove that Monica Reyes could be a lead character while Robert Patrick's John Doggett is incapacitated. She has gusto went confronting Lukas, a cool demeanour when she faces scrutiny from Follmer - who I dislike more and more, but perhaps that's the point - with an ability to play the Mulder role and think out of the box. It is Reyes who latches on to the idea that there is an alternate reality at play, one where Lukas can travel to to commit his murders of women, where she is dead and where this Doggett travelled to when he was shot. She doesn't quite have the gumption Mulder would have had in this situation, but she still serves the role well.
It's also nice to see her developing relationship with Doggett. The wiping of the mustard from his mouth in the early scene does feel a little bit of a forced 'will they, won't they?' moment, but the scenes in the hospital where she cares for him and they banter though his machine are very endearing. You can imagine Doggett quipping the very lines he types, dismissing her claim as pure 'Star Trek' (the home of alternate reality concepts) and joking about their predicament.
What is noticeable though, is how much established characters like Scully and Skinner are ill-served but the new dynamic of season nine. It seems as if Skinner and Follmer are vying for screen time; why it would take two assistant deputy directors to lead the investigation is a mystery. And without a William story, Scully hangs around with nothing to do. Take Gillian Anderson out and the episode would have worked just as well, proving that she should have left to have her happy ending with Mulder. There is a nice moment early on though with Reyes where she discusses the appearance of Doggett in Reyes' apartment, liking it to a visitation at his death and referring to the moment she saw her own father in season one's Beyond The Sea. If I can take one thing from Scully's role in 4-D, it is to act as a mentor experience to the new FBI agent on the X Files, sharing her own learned experiences.
The other thing that doesn't quite work is the mechanics behind the parallel universe theory. How did Doggett cross from one reality to another and how does Doggett's proposal that to kill him would bring Reyes' version back? For that matter, where is the Erwin Lukesh from the other reality when he crosses over to commit his crimes? The eventual resetting of time - which only Reyes seems to remember after she does switch off Doggett's life support is also a bit of a head scratcher too. Did time jump back too as the episode suggests? For a show based on science-fiction, it is that science that really struggles to hold up.
Dylan Haggerty does make good of his appearance as killer Lukas. The relationship with his bed-bound mother (Angela Paton) is also a little disturbed (he sleeps in the same bed as her?) and his eventual murder of to stop her talking to the FBI as brutal and tragic. He's not quite Norman Bates territory but he works very well as the bad guy in this story.
4-D had the potential to be a great episode but is a little let down by some questionable mechanics in the parallel reality concept and a waste of characters like Scully and Skinner. But as a Doggett and Reyes story is absolutely works and is the first sign that the show can work just as well as The X Files: The Next Generation. Annabeth Gish sells her solo work here in her best episodes as Reyes to date. It is certainly a huge step up on the lacklustre season opener...