[Contains a syringe of sinister green SPOILERS!!!]
According to Chris Carter’s master plan, the fifth season of The X-Files was going to be its last, with the TV show segueing into a series of big-screen adventures, beginning with Fight the Future… which was actually being filmed concurrently with this “final” season, resulting in a shorter-than-usual episode count, a couple of M&S-free flashback stories, and several solo Scully adventures. Hurrah!
The first of these, “Christmas Carol” (ep #5.6), finds our heroine being contacted by the ghost of her dead sister, who nudges her towards the discovery of a sickly girl (played by Lauren Diewold), who turns out to be Scully’s secret surrogate daughter! As with many of the clone/alien-bounty-hunter stories, I wasn’t really sure what was going on here… or why anyone would think it’s a good idea to genetically engineer a hybrid race of humanoids who release a deadly toxic gas whenever they bleed… but it gave Gillian Anderson another chance to do some top-class acting, and I’m always grateful for that. Then, in ep #5.10 (“Chinga”), the over-worked agent decides to take a well-deserved vacation, but foolishly chooses to venture into Stephen King’s horrorverse, via a small seaside town in Maine. Apparently Anderson was reprimanded for not taking this episode seriously, but I can’t blame her because the characterisation of Scully and Mulder here is the worst I’ve seen to date… don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a properly scary story in and of itself, but it stands-out as a pretty lousy X-Files episode. While I’m kvetching, the emphasis on Scully’s family life following her cancer-scare-and-subsequent-cure meant that we got to spend an awful lot of time with her big brother Bill, who managed to be obnoxiously wrong about pretty much everything all the time. Gah! Shut up, Bill!
On a more positive note, my favourite Scully moment of this season would have to be either her virtual-reality rumble (not tumble) with a gang of sexy nurses in ep #5.11 (“Kill Switch”, co-written by cyber-punk legend William Gibson), or her weary-working-gal sitcom antics in ep #5.12 (“Bad Blood”), adorably dumping an autopsied corpse’s guts into the scales while envying his recent pizza dinner! Bless her. There’s some top-notch flirting between her and Luke Wilson in this episode too (shame he turned out to be a secret-vampire!), and I loved the ultra-sceptical scoffing she did in Mulder’s subjective version of events. Come to think about it, that may well be my fave episode to date… it’s certainly the funniest comedy episode!
Besides the fancy guest writers, there were some pretty exciting supporting-players this season, so let’s get on with the laundry list: Diana Scarwid appeared in ep #5.8 (“Kitsunegari”) as ‘Linda Bowman’, the twin-sister of returning villain ‘Robert “The Pusher” Modell’, who shares her sibling’s mind-control powers. After debuting as a non-speaking extra in a previous season, Sarah-Jane Redmond made her second X-Files appearance in ep #5.9 (“Schizogeny”) as ‘Karin Matthews’, a tormented therapist who projects her own history of abuse onto her patients, then uses her supernatural powers to execute their innocent fathers, and anyone else who gets in her way! Or maybe it’s her father’s supernatural power she uses, while possessed by his spirit? I’m not too clear on that point, sorry. By a rather spooky coincidence, this season also features separate supporting turns by three of the female stars of Ginger Snaps, two years before they worked together on that cult Canadian horror-comedy! First up was Katharine Isabelle, playing ‘Lisa Baiocchi’, one of the aforementioned therapist’s unfortunate patients… who ends up locked in a basement, along with the rotting remains of her father! Ick!
Jenny-Lynn Hutcheson appeared in ep #9.10 as ‘Polly Turner’, the petulant, possessed owner of an evil talking doll! This was Hutcheson’s third (and most prominent) X-Files appearance, before going on to appear in an episode of Millennium, and subsequently “retiring” from acting. Kristin Lehman appeared in ep #5.11 as ‘Esther Nairn’ (aka “Invisigoth”), a kicky computer hacker who is targeted for deletion by a sentient computer virus. I have to say, she’s my fave supporting character so far (despite her deplorable treatment of Scully), thanks to her strong look, impressive tech-skills and bad-ass attitude! It’s also kinda cool to see a goth-y hacker zapping people with a taser, almost a decade before ‘Lisbeth Salander’ (the eponymous “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) was born in print form. I could happily see Esther getting her own spin-off series, but if anyone tried it now they’d just be accused of plagiarising Stieg Larsson! As I said before, this episode also featured several sexy nurses, and chief among them was ‘Nurse Nancy, played by Kate Luyben … who has also had minor roles in Millennium, Harsh Realm, Shanghai Noon and True Blood. Veronica Cartwright made her debut in ep #5.13 (“Patient X”) as ‘Cassandra Spender’, a proud alien abductee and mother of the sceptical ‘Agent Spender’ (who continued to cock a snook at M&S for the remainder of the season). Besides roles in such genre classics as The Birds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Alien and Flight of the Navigator, the venerable Cartwright also appeared as Jack’s oblivious mother in an episode of Will & Grace.
Jane Perry appeared in ep #5.15 (“Travelers”) as ‘Dorothy Bahnsen’, the original custodian of the FBI’s X-Files, who originally filed the “Unsolved” cases under “U”, until she ran out of room and started shoving them into the “X” section instead! Perry appeared in the previous season as a ‘Day Care Operator’ whose big scene was relegated to the deleted section… and I really liked her character here, so it’s kind of a shame they didn’t use her for more flashback episodes. Lili Taylor appeared in ep #5.16 (“Mind’s Eye”) as ‘Marty Glenn’, a (metaphorically) spiky, sight-impaired street hustler, who shares a psychic link with a serial killer! Eep! Taylor specifically requested a role on the show, because she was such a big fan, and also an old drama school classmate of Anderson’s (DePaul University, Chicago). Despite that connection, most of her scenes are with Duchovny, but they have a great, sparky chemistry together, and Taylor even earned an Emmy nomination for her performance (before eventually landing a major role on Six Feet Under as ‘Lisa Kimmel’, Nate’s New Age-y girlfriend). Our second Snaps alumn, Emily Perkins, appeared in ep #5.17 (“All Souls”) as a set of estranged quadruplets, all born with polydactyl hands and feet, as well as various crippling health issues (and maybe wing-stubs too!). Perkins gives an typically intense performance here, and ably demonstrates her commitment to her craft… but it isn’t necessarily the best showcase for her as a walking-talking actress, since her multiple characters are all mute, and spend most of their screentime either scampering around in the dark, or frozen in a prayerful death-pose! Poor thing. Our third-and-final Snaps co-star, Mimi Rogers, debuted in ep #5.20 (erroneously titled “The End”) as ‘Special Agent Diana Fowley’, an ex-girlfriend of Mulder’s with similarly spooky interest, who ruffles Scully’s feathers. Tch!
On the manly side of things: Richard Belzer appeared in ep #5.3 (“Unusual Suspects”), as ‘Detective Munch’, in a mind-boggling Lone Gunmen-centric crossover… made all the more inexplicable by the fact that his own show, Homicide, wasn’t even on the same network! Anthony Rapp appeared in ep #5.4 (“Detour”), as a (sadly non-singing) techie, who uses an infrared-camera-doodad to track a camouflaged forest creature. John O’Hurley appeared in ep #5.3 as the “mad scientist” creator of a hideous, disfigured Cher fan named “The Great Mutato”. John Pyper-Ferguson appeared in ep #5.6/7 as a police detective helping Scully to crack the whole alien-clone-spawn case. Chad Lindberg appeared in ep #5.9 as a feckless slacker whose father is dragged into a mud-pit by murderous tree roots. Luke Wilson and Brent Butt appeared in ep #5.12, as a hunky/goofy Texan sheriff, and short-lived coroner, respectively. Chris Owens made his first appearance as ‘Jeffrey Spender’ (boo! hiss!) in ep #5.13, although he had previously appeared as the ‘Young Cigarette Smoking Man’ and also the ‘The Great Mutato’. Versatile guy! Darren McGavin appeared in ep #5.15 as ‘Agent Arthur Dales’, one of Mulder’s unwitting predecessors. And the late Daniel von Bargen appeared in ep #5.12 (“The Pine Bluff Variant”) as a prominent member of an anti-government militia, who are planning a large-scale bio-terrorism attack… with Sam Anderson as the senior U.S. Attorney attempting to cover-up their shenanigans.