The X Files Revisited: 9.11 Audrey Pauley
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. Mid way through season nine and we come to the intriguing Audrey Pauley...
Audrey Pauley is the last Monica Reyes-centric episode of The X Files and plays a nice mirror to earlier season nine episode 4-D, which saw Reyes trying to save Doggett after he was critivally injured. This time, it is Reyes who is at death's door, suffering a brain dead coma after a car crash while Doggett desperately searches for a way to bring her back. It is a solid episode of The X Files and another proof that the show could have continued with Doggett and Reyes as the lead. But it also feels as if it came too soon in the show's latter run.
Of course there was no season 10 featuring Doggett and Reyes, but had there been, this would have been the perfect place to feature Audrey Pauley. The reason for this is the emotion investment in Doggett and Reyes and the suggestion that he will move the Earth to save her. I've always liked the emotional connection between these two, formed after she helped him try and find his son Luke, but the romantic angle feels very forced. Eleven episodes of working together and we already have Doggett weeping at the thought of losing her? It took Mulder and Scully years of 'will they won't they' before we saw them as potential soul mates. The writers seem all too eager to capitalise on the romantic leads angle. At least there is that foundation of their shared past, something Mulder and Scully obviously had to build from the ground up.
But there is something; that opening lingering look between them when she drops Doggett home after a drink suggests there is something; it's the first glimpse of a romantic connection I've seen despite a couple of hints previously. It is certainly something I could believe happening had the show continued with a Doggett and Reyes-season 10. It grounds Doggett's emotional journey across the episode, none more so than that brilliant scene where he weeps over his loss, Robert Patrick demonstrating a vulnerability in Doggett that we have not seen before. David Duchovny might the king of weeping, but Patrick is a worthy contender.
After she is hit by another car and hospitalised, Audrey wakes up in a dream-like world, an eerily empty hospital. Director Kim Manners makes the most of this beautifully atmospheric set; this purgatory feels like it has come right out of a horror movie and the hospital floating in the sea of energy invokes The Twilight Zone. The mystery of where Reyes is and who these two other patients are is the real crux on this X Files - if indeed it is an X Files. The one thing I have noticed this season is that Doggett and Reyes seems to stumble into or become involved in something strange or supernatural but there is very little of them going out an investigating X Files. Of my rewatch of season nine (and admittedly I have not covered every episode) only Hellbound followed the classic The X Files formula.
I do like the twist, that Reyes and the other two patients have been transported into the 'mind palace' of patient assistant Audrey Pauley. Like Robert Patrick, Tracey Ellis steals the show as the meek, illiterate young woman jumping between reality and the dream world Reyes is in. The story of the doctor injecting patients like Reyes to make them appear brain dead is the weakest aspect of the episode, though his murder of Audrey at the end is rather tragic. It is her ability to try and save them by bringing them into the dollhouse that keeps Audrey Pauley engaging. Sadly though Reyes, while the main protagonist of the episode, doesn't actually do anything to save herself, it is Audrey's last act, forcing her to jump that brings her back to life.
And of course, because she is contracted to appear in season nine, Scully hangs around the episode, reviewing Reye's case in a role any guest star doctor could have fulfilled. Her investment in the lives of Reyes and Doggett feels a little forced, particularly when it keeps her away from William in the early hours of the morning. I mean, who is looking after her son?
Audrey Pauley is a good episode of The X Files, full of atmosphere and mystery and a great guest star performance from Tracey Ellis. She, along with Robert Patrick steal the show from this Reyes-centric tale, though Annabeth Gish does try her best. It is unfortunate that Reyes doesn't really affect her story in any way. Still, I would take this over super soldiers any day...