The X Files Revisited: 5.05 The Post-Modern Prometheus
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 this time, it's the black and white darkly-comic classic that is The Post-Modern Prometheus...
The X Files is known for delivery for its zany comic episodes as much as it is for its alien conspiracy arcs and monsters of the week; it's why Darin Morgan was brought back for the revival after his season two and three classics. While few writers could meet his magic, there were some undeniably comic classics during the show's run and The Post-Modern Prometheus is the first of two in season five. With its mix of Frankenstein meets The Elephant Man wrapped up in a Tim Burton-esque stylish black and white tale it is one episode that is likely to divide those that love those comedy episodes and those that don't. Personally these are some of the best episodes the show had to offer and this is another classic in a very strong season five run.
The two agents are drawn into the mystery of a woman impregnated by a strange creature. Knocked out by smoke a veterinary anesthetic fried in a skillet plan to The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore), performed by Cher while striped sheets blanket the house like a circus tent and this is a particularly bizarre case, even for Mulder and Scully. What follows is a town obsessed by the chance that their story might get them on Jerry Springer even as they hunt for the monster that has 'terrorised' everyone.
Everything is amped up to the max. Mulder and Scully's encounter with the suspicious Dr. Pollidori and his twisted animal experiments if full on B-movie horror sci-fi territory, with lightning flashing at their every word and John O'Hurley delivering a wonderful OTT performance. Hiis Dr. Frankenstein-like character quickly becomes the real monster of this tale. Naturally Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny play it straight as always and their encounter with the small town folk, their obsessions and theories makes for great comedy. Again, the black and white nature of the episode only heightens the drama further.
The eventual encounter with Mutato, the deformed man who has been impregnating women after his father failed to create him a mate, is a beautifully tragic one. Utterly alone, he has found comfort in the movie Mask, which sees Cher play the mother of a similar young man massive facial skull deformity and through her music he finds the mother figure he never had. And when his father is murdered by Dr. Pollidori and he is forced to bury him the the stable your heart can't not break for his suffering.
Everything culminates in a ridiculous but very fun attack on the farm as the townsfolk, literary armed with torches and pitchforks, rush into the barn in search of Mutato and set the whole thing alight. But it is his story as he cowers behind Mulder and Scully that warms their hearts; Pollidori is arrested for his crime, the two impregnated mothers get to go on Jerry Springer with their 'special' babies and Mulder and Scully take Mutato to a Cher concert. Okay, so it wasn't actually Cher and the singer in the episode (whose face we never see) could have been Cher or a tribute act but it doesn't matter. As she takes Mutato's hand, singing Walking in Memphis, you can feel his joy and I challenge anyone not to be moved by that.
The Post-Modern Prometheus is a great little comic gem - yes it is very OTT and surely isn't going to win over every fan but it certainly demonstrates The X Files's ability to try something different. And coming before the frankly-grim Emily two parter and a few episodes after Scully's recovery from Cancer, it is just what the show needs. And whether you like Cher or not, you're going to have Walking in Memphis stuck in your heads for days to come...