[Contains big piles of manure… also, SPOILERS!!!]
Fight the Future was a refreshingly illuminating info-dump for viewers of The X Files, as far as the show’s shadowy “myth-arc” conspiracy was concerned, so fans can be forgiven for expecting that narrative momentum to carry through into the sixth season of the series. However, those expectations were quickly thwarted by a consecutive run of lightweight, unrelated “comedy” episodes, in which supporting characters repeatedly mistook Mulder and Scully for a romantic couple, or suggested that they should be. Spread out across the course of the season, these broader episodes might have made for welcome comic relief from the darker and more serious shit that was going down… but here they were all crammed together, into a sugary blast of wacky schtick, which got quite wearying after a while. Even worse than that, when we finally learned the name and game of “The Syndicate”, they were hastily dumped in the show’s trash can, so the restless writers could move on to newer, shinier mysteries, like bored children who’ve already broken the toys Santa brought them by Boxing Day, and were busy drafting their B-Day wish-lists for the coming year. GAH!!! The whole alien invasion/rebellion plotline would be enough to keep most other show’s going for a full year by itself, but here it’s shrugged off in the space of two episodes, like a grudging contractual obligation, so they could devote the vast majority of the season’s running time to taunting ‘shippers with the prospect of a “Mully” (“Shulder”?) hook-up. Meh.
As for our heroine, well, in ep #6.10 (“Tithonus”), we finally got an answer to the question left hanging by Clyde Bruckman’s earlier prediction that Scully would never die, as she catches on to a seemingly ageless, death-proof crime scene photographer, who confers his immortality on to the unwitting agent, after literally taking a bullet for her. Not that she’d ever acknowledge or exploit this superpower, of course… and it’s worth noting that “immortality” isn’t the same as “invulnerability”. My favourite Scully moment of this season would have to be the insanely long shot of her storming around the FBI building in ep #6.3 (“Triangle”), desperately trying to cajole or bully someone into helping save her lost-at-sea partner. Personally, I think they overdid the whole “continuous shot” gimmick in this episode… it’s the kind of showy effect that I find quite distracting, because I’m always looking for the secret cuts, rather than concentrating on the action… but I think that particular scene worked really well as a show-stopper, and Gillian Anderson gave a great performance in what must have been a pretty stressful and exhausting shoot for cast and crew alike! I also enjoyed the old-timey OSS agent she played in Mulder’s alternate-reality fever-dream… and her giddy “drunk/drugged” acting in ep #6.20 (“Three of a Kind”), stealing a supposedly serious exposition scene by pulling silly faces. Bless.
As for her nemesis, ‘Agent Fowley’ (Mimi Rogers), I really liked the idea of her and Spender being assigned to the X-Files, working as a sort of mirrorverse version of the lead characters… so it’s a shame the writers didn’t run with that concept and give us a full episode of their anti-heroic adventures. Her most memorable contribution to the season has to be ep #6.22 (“Biogenesis”), where she turns an addled, incoherent Mulder into a raging basket case, just by removing her blouse and doing sexy things to him off-screen! Boo! Hiss!
According to Wikipedia, one of the complaints levelled against this season by fans at the time was that, after moving from Vancouver to California, the show had “gone Hollywood”, and was stunt-casting too many distracting stars in supporting roles… but in retrospect it’s one of the least star-studded seasons so far!* Wendie Malick appeared in ep #6.1 (“The Beginning”) as “Assistant Director Maslin”, spokeswoman for the Office of Professional Review (OPR) which shit-canned M&S. Malick is currently starring in the sitcom Hot in Cleveland, but I’ll always think of her as ex-model-turned-boozy-magazine-editor ‘Nina Van Horn’ on Just Shoot Me!. Nora Dunn appeared in ep #6.4/5 (“Dreamland”), as ‘JoAnne Fletcher’, the dissatisfied housewife of a so-called “Man in Black”, whose marriage is thrown into turmoil when her husband swaps bodies with Mulder. Aside from minor roles in Drop Dead Gorgeous, What Planet Are You From?, Southland Tales, and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, Dunn also played The Hebrew Hammer’s mother, and appeared in an episode of Pushing Daisies with Malick as a pair of synchronised swimmers! Julia Vera also appeared in this episode as ‘Lana Chee’, an elderly Hopi woman who swaps bodies with an arrogant young “Top Gun” pilot! Her scenes were a lot of fun, so I was quite disappointed when the reality-warp-thingy corrected itself.
Lily Tomlin appeared in ep #6.6 (“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”), as ‘Lyda’, the female half of a cynical, sadistic couple of spooks, who get their kicks by coaxing young couples into killing themselves on Christmas Eve. Tomlin is a veteran actress, comedian, and writer, who’s just one Oscar shy of the full “E.G.O.T.” (Emmy. Grammy. Oscar. Tony.), and has starred in several genre comedies, including The Incredible Shrinking Woman and All of Me. Debra Christofferson appeared in ep #6.15 (“Arcadia”) as ‘Pat Verlander’, the self-appointed “welcome wagon” for a seemingly idyllic planned community, where the rules must be obeyed on pain of bloody, muddy death! Besides a cameo in an episode of American Horror Story, Christofferson also had a recurring role in Carnivàle… another supernatural series that I really need to check out at some point. Melinda Culea appeared in ep #6.16 (“Alpha”) as ‘Karin Berquist’, a reclusive canine expert with a secret crush on Mulder, who alerts him to a case involving a suspiciously wily wild dog. Culea is probably best known for playing ‘Amy Amanda Allen’ in the early seasons of The A-Team… before being written out for (allegedly) getting too uppity with the producers and pushing for more involvement in the action scenes, to the indignation of male cast members like George Peppard. I hate it when a sexist plan comes together!
On the manly side of things: Bryan Cranston appeared in ep #6.2 (“Drive”) as ‘Patrick Crump’, an anti-Semitic hick who learns that his head will explode unless he travels West as quickly as possible… for reasons that are never entirely explained. Michael McKean appeared in ep #6.4/5 as ‘Morris Fletcher’, a Man in Black who switches bodies with Mulder during a freak UFO crash. Although I enjoyed McKean’s performance a great deal, I find it slightly disappointing that it took Scully so long to figure out his ruse… I mean, she’s already encountered two shape-shifting faux-Mulders by this point, so you think she’d be able to spot the clues a little quicker. The fact he called her “Dana” should have sent up an immediate red flag… and the butt-pat should have sealed the deal long before she ever saw the waterbed and mirrored ceiling he’d installed in Mulder’s sad-bachelor-pad! That said, I loved Scully’s line in that scene: “You call me ‘baby’ one more time, you’re gonna be peeing through a catheter!” Eep! Bruce Campbell appeared in ep #6.7 (“Terms of Endearment”) as a disguised demon, desperately trying to have a normal child with a human wife… or wives, technically speaking. I’d say this was probably the most serious dramatic role I’ve ever seen Campbell play, and he really rose to the challenge… obviously I was already a fan of his, so I’m a little biased, but I think this was a great episode, with a clever twist ending. Jesse L. Martin appeared in ep #6.19 (“The Unnatural”) as a preternaturally gifted “negro” baseball player, who turned out to be an incognito alien. And John Billingsley appeared in ep #6.20 as a government agent masquerading as a conspiracy geek. Ooh, what a lot of fibbers!
* Er, no offence intended!