The X Files Revisited: 6.22 Biogenesis
The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the best and most significant episodes of the first 100 episodes in the season's run, from the pilot episode all the way through to the 100th episode Unusual Suspects. Now we're going to continue that run, picking key episodes from the second half of the show - and two movies – and we now reach the season six finale, which marks a turning point in the show moving forward...
"Mulder... look, after all you've done, after all you've uncovered-- a conspiracy of men doing human experiments, men who are all now dead-- you exposed their secrets. I mean, you've won. What more could you possibly hope to do or to find?"
That's the question The X Files had to ask itself as it reached the end of its sixth season, knowing that it would continue on for at least a seventh. And it is a valid question. As I mentioned in my review of the mid-season six two parter Two Fathers / One Son, the colonisation arc and the shadowy consortium storylines were effectively wrapped up and there were just a few loose threads remaining that could heav easily been resolved if this season had been the end of the show. Mulder tells Scully he needs to find his sister and but there were no other burning questions remaining on The X Files. And with the show set to continue on for another year or more, fresh ideas were needed.
While other season finales have certainly been teased what was to come, Biogenesis serves as both one long drawn out set-up and a pilot for the new ideas; that humans were descended from lifeforms not of this world. It is a neat idea but it feels like the show grasping at straws for a big story arc at the eleventh hour. Nothing gets resolved in this episode and even more frustratingly it brings back elements from earlier episodes, some years old, without any semblance of where it is all heading.
It's another episode framed by a character voice over - this time Scully's - and at this point that trope is feeling more than a little tired. Her opening words talk of the origins of life, the evolution and mass extinction events that rocked the planet Earth and the tease of a sixth extinction (the title of the subsequent season seven opening episodes). It is all rather ominous but the episode starts strong as an African Doctor, Solomon Merkmallen, studies a magnetic alien fragment discovered on the ivory coast. With its prophetic cutting through Solomon's bible and the reactions from the monkeys in the lab when he brings it to a colleague Doctor Steven Sandoz in the US, there is a sense that this is something powerful. And so naturally he is swiftly dispatched and the fragment is stolen, leading to Mulder and Scully being assigned the murder investigation by Skinner. What's more, Sandoz is missing, leaving behind a simple paper rubbing of the missing artefact, an object that soon has severe consequences for Mulder.
Giving Mulder a psychic, traumatic reaction to the artefact draws him deeper into becoming his own X File and I struggled to determine how necessary this was. Scully's experiences as a result of her abduction worked to provide some motivation to her on-going search for the truth but Mulder already had this without an artefact that unlocks some proto-alien DNA within his brain. His descent into madness adds some drama to the season finale but renders Mulder a bit player in his own show.
Not to say that Scully's story is that more fascinating either. The agents soon discover that - surprise! - the missing Sandoz has been working with Albert Hosteen (Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman), last seen way back in the season three opening story The Blessing Way / Paper Clip helping Skinner blackmail the Cigarette Smoking Man by claiming to hold the enemy's secrets among his people. Sadly, despite the great presence Westerman brought to his previous story, he doesn't get utter a single line, being reduced to bedridden with cancer. And yet the episode makes great attempts to recapture the magic of the previous story as Hosteen is taken from the hospital in a Navaho healing ritual. There is a lot of focus on this, but it bears little relevance to the overall plot.
Scully encounters Doctor Sandoz in hiding, holding a translated copy of the rubbing that so badly affected Mulder. Naturally there is a big question of what the supposed Navaho writing, discovered on the alien artefact in Africa, is fake and what is real. Scully ropes in Chuck (Bill Dow), last seen helping the agents in season four's Leonard Betts and he is soon able to dismiss the writing. But the secrets of the writing Holsteen translated reveal something far different - the secrets to the human genome - a fact Sandoz is able to reveal to Scully over the phone before he is quickly dispatched by Krycek.
Ah yes, Krycek. Nicholas Lea's recurring villain is back, forcing Skinner to give Mulder and Scully the case and lie to them, after infecting him with nanites earlier in season six's S.R. 819. The trouble is, nothing about the events taking place in this episode seem original. Krycek is back to kidnapping witnesses and killing innocent doctors and making Skinner an antagonist - even if unwilling - is a tiresome misstep for his character. Scully is soon able to call out his lies but it is also more noticeable that Skinner went through this same storyline in season four's Zero Sum.
The show even struggles to move on from the colonisation arc. The Cigarette Smoking Man is back in one brief scene being told by one of his subordinates that "final preparations for mass destruction on a scale that can only be imagined. There appears to be nothing we can do to prevent it. It becomes a question of managing the crisis. Otherwise, we are facing annihilation ourselves." But didn't the dramatic events resolving the planned colonisation only take place ten episodes earlier?
Finally we have Mulder and the return of the now tiresome Agent Diana Fowley (Mimi Rogers). She saves Mulder after he collapses and is forced to have him committed to a psychiatric unit, violent and raging in padded room. Her connection to Mulder not only feels forced and her assertions to Scully that she can help not genuine, but she also comes across as utterly uninteresting and that is a major failing in her story arc that would not improve next season.
The most intriguing part of the episode is the ending, as Scully arrives at the Ivory Coast in West Africa and discovers the submerged UFO on the coast. It is a fantastic image to end the season on.
You would probably think I hated Biogenesis, which isn't true. It is not a dull mythology episode (something that I remember later stories being guilty of). The mystery of the artefact and the impact on Mulder is intriguing, the idea of aliens spawning human life is a great one and the final shots of Scully in Africa, along with her search for the truth this episode, give audiences a glimpse of her role after Mulder eventually leaves The X Files full time. However there are also some big issues evident. Krycek, the Cigarette Smoking Man and even Skinner seem to be stuck in the same cycle, nothing progresses and most significantly, nothing really exciting actually happens. There are no epic moments to make the finale a memorable episode. After such a strong season six, it is a lacklustre way for it to end. But then, as I acknowledged in my last review, the show's best days are sadly now behind them...