September 29, 2023

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The X-Files “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”

Scully relates a case to a writer looking to make a novel out of what happened.

This episode is something of an oddity, but that’s to be expected from a Darin Morgan script.  It’s also his last one for The X-Files until the revival seasons as Morgan had a hard time keeping up with the pace of the show’s turnaround, and quite frankly, this is a good one for him to go out on.

The Case:  Unreliable Narrators, I Guess

The Rest:  The premise is simple:  bestselling author Jose Chung is looking to turn one of Mulder and Scully’s cases into a novel.  Mulder won’t talk to him, but Scully will because she likes his work.  He also doesn’t believe in UFOs or aliens.  He just thinks this would make a good book.

As for the case, it’s a bit weird even by X-Files standards.  There’s an opening shot made to look like the opening of Star Wars, scenes that look like they were copied from a 50s cheap sci-fi movie, and a local police detective who, as Scully is relaying the story to Chung, has his language greatly cleaned up with nice euphemisms for the swear words he was otherwise using.  Mulder eats an entire pie, there’s an alien who seems to smoking, as well as two sets of aliens, one of whom may or may not have been Air Force pilots in disguise, and the other who may or may not have invited a local nut to write a screenplay of what the other alien told him (both Mulder and Chung were largely unimpressed with the story of Lord Kinbote).

There’s the Men in Black, both played by recognizable actors, one of whom was kept as a surprise for the end of the episode to the point where his name wasn’t even listed in the opening credits.  The one with more lines was played by Jesse Ventura.  The other, one whom people seem to recognize before his face finally comes into view, was Alex Trebek, and that seems to be the in-universe explanation for who he is as well as Chung asked how the game show host was a Man in Black.

Darin Morgan supposedly wanted Johnny Cash for that role.

Now, I usually find Morgan’s scripts amusing, but this one not so much.  There are some good jokes, and the case actually does make sense in the long run even as Chung and Scully both talk about how anticlimactic the ending it.  Mulder, finally, comes to see Chung at the end mostly to ask him not to write the book because it makes people who have abduction experiences look crazy.  Chung writes it anyway, with the closing narration telling the audience what might have happened to everyone, though I don’t think Scully or Mulder were probably all that flattered by the ending.

For what it’s worth, I did note one fellow, who thought Scully and Mulder were the Men in Black (and that Scully wasn’t even a woman because her hair was too red), was wearing a Space: Above and Beyond shirt, probably to honor the sci-fi show created by Darin’s brother Glen Morgan that briefly ran on the Fox Network.  And though Morgan was done with The X-Files until the revival, he did write an episode or two for another Chris Carter series, Millennium.  That one also featured a Jose Chung episode, and from what I can recall, that one did not end well for Chung.

Then again, Lance Henriksen’s Frank Black was a hell of a lot spookier than Fox “Spooky” Mulder.

Up next, Skinner is wanted for murder.