April 1, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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The X-Files “Beyond The Sea”

Scully starts to think a serial killer who claims to be psychic might be telling the truth.

So, just days after I ran One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for my students, I get this episode where Brad Dourif plays the sort of role he’s better known for than his turn as tragic Billy Bibbit.  Once again, The X-Files got a recognizable face for an episode.

Actually two if you count Don Davis here as Scully’s father.  He’s a very recognizable sort for fans of Stargate SG-1 or people like me who weren’t really fans but have seen a lot of episodes anyway because I needed something to play in the background while I did stuff on my computer.

The Case:  Psychic Serial Killer (maybe)!

The Rest:  Every so often, The X-Files would pull the old switcheroo and make Mulder and Scully effectively switch roles.  This is about halfway through the first season, so it works to do it here.  Mulder and Scully are established enough characters that the audience can know roughly what to expect from both of them.  Mulder will pull out all kinds of cockamamie theories on whatever it is the two are investigating, and he’s generally at least if not right than at least going in the right direction.  Scully is a skeptic that believes in known science and the like, a medical doctor who’s always there to suggest an alternate theory for Mulder to listen to and eventually shoot down.

But every so often, the two will switch.  Mulder will doubt and Scully will, if not believe, then at least be inclined to think something is a bit out of what known science will tell her is true.  Usually it comes down to religion:  Scully is a fairly devout Catholic while Mulder seems to be something of an atheist.  It makes for a nice change of pace where Scully’s faith will lead her to be the one who might be inclined to believe whatever unbelievable narrative the episode is presenting while Mulder, who usually will go along with just about anything, just can’t take that final step.

This time around, though, it’s not faith that does it but the death of Scully’s sea captain father.  After hosting her parents for dinner, a dinner where Bill and Dana show some affection through the use of Moby-Dick-inspired nicknames, Scully wakes up in the middle of the night to see her father sitting in a nearby chair, silently mouthing something, and then disappearing when Scully’s mother Margaret calls to let Dana known her father had just died of a heart attack.  That seems to throw Scully off her game, and Mulder even suggests she sit out the next case, one where convicted serial killer, due for execution very soon, claims he’s psychic and has knowledge of two college kids who were kidnapped by a nasty piece of work that he will share to avoid execution.  The thing is, Mulder does believe in psychic phenomena, but he checked Luther Lee Boggs (Dourif) before and decided the guy was faking it.

So, that’s the set-up.  The episode does make it look like Boggs is legit, and he’s mostly scared of the afterlife.  He’s seen his victims lining the hallway as he takes the long walk, and it doesn’t look like there’s much of anything in the next world, but Mulder doesn’t buy his act.  Scully…well, she almost does.  He does know things about her father, and his advice does allow Scully to find some clues that end up saving the college kids.  It also manages to keep her from getting injured chasing the guy, something Mulder himself can’t claim.  It’s enough that, by episode’s end, does make Mulder think maybe Boggs is on the level.

Of course, by then, Scully’s skepticism has fully kicked in again, and she’s rationalized how Boggs could have done what he did.  Why can’t Scully believe?  Mulder legitimately wants to know given everything the pair have seen.

What exactly have they seen?  This is only the thirteenth episode.  Do they have other cases between episodes I haven’t seen?  I dunno.  But just as Mulder starts to maybe accept Boggs was the real deal, now Scully can’t.  She has her reasons, and quite frankly, she figures there really can’t be a message from her father that she didn’t already know.  That’s a nice moment.

By the by, the actress playing Scully’s mom was apparently the wife of one of the show’s executive producers, so I think I know why she got to come back for more.

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