Thursday, May 5, 2011

The X-Files: Travelers (5.15)

Communism has been used as a back-drop to science fiction countless times before, most notably the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It also forms the crux of one of my favorite ever TV episodes: Angel's Have You Now or Have You Ever Been?. Travelers is this show's first real stab at that ugly part of American history, and it's an ambitious and arguably unusual attempt. Mulder barely features, Scully is understandably absent, and most of the action is driven by somebody we've never encountered before. Weirdly, it actually works, despite looking and feeling so different to anything we've been given before.

While I'm not sure the hour is the greatest use of a genre legend like Darren McGavin, there's a gorgeous visual quality to the hour, the 1950's interiors and exteriors beautifully captured, that sinister contrast of the picture perfect 1950's suburban lawns and the intense persecution in-doors pretty inspired. Great performances all round, notably the conflicted and headstrong performance from Fredric Lane.

I also enjoyed the morally grey quality given to William Mulder. I'm a little unsure of how this development will play into further depictions of his character (if it will at all), but I enjoyed that he shared similar traits with his son, that desperate need to get the truth out there and in the open. A lot of fun, too, came from that great moment where we discovered the origins of the X-files themselves.

Travelers is a dense episode which is certainly difficult to unravel. It's got high ambitions and feels somewhat dropped into the middle of season five with few ties to anything surrounding it. But, on its own, it's an impressive conspiracy episode which arguably proves that the 1950's era is far more interesting from a conspiracy standpoint than the elaborate sci-fi spectacle of setting The X-Files in the 1990's. The fear of communism was a real-life example of government hysteria and their efforts in creating conflict and terror within the masses, and it's somehow far more relevant today than anything else conspiracy-related The X-Files has given us up to this point. Maybe they should have set the whole show in the 1950's? Like a sci-fi Mad Men. I feel like I'm going off on tangents here. Eh. Fun episode. B+

Guest stars Fredric Lane (Young Arthur Dales); Garret Dillahunt (Edward Skur); Brian Leckner (Hayes Michel); David Moreland (Roy Cohn); Darren McGavin (Arthur Dales)
Writers John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz Director William A. Graham

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