[Contains baby snakes and SPOILERS!!!]
The seventh season of The X Files saw two plucky new writers joining the creative team… a couple of starry-eyed ingénues named William B. Davis and Gillian Anderson!
Davis’ episode (#7.15, “En Ami”) saw his character, ‘The Cigarette Smoking Man’, taking Scully on a cosy road-trip to meet a whistle-blower who could provide her with the much-coveted panacea for all known diseases (conveniently stored on a shiny little CD single). This was a pretty solid episode for both actors, and it was great to see them spending so much time together, but I have to admit to being disappointed that it all turned out to be a long-con in the end. Damn you, Smokey! Anderson also directed her episode (#7.17, “all things”), in which our heroine took a more internal journey, encountering a series of synchronicities surrounding an ailing acquaintance (a married professor which whom she almost had an affair in her med-student days), and opening herself up to a more Eastern flavour of spirituality. This story should have been right up my alley, considering my own beliefs and interests in this area, but I found the episode itself a bit of a drag… and I get the feeling from Anderson’s (otherwise very endearing and amusing) commentary track, that given her druthers she would rather have made a feature length indie melodrama about Scully’s complicated romantic history, with no supernatural or X-File-y elements in it at all!
Besides those two Scully-centric episodes, her standout moments this season included a fearsome throwdown with returning villain ‘Donnie Pfaster’ (ep #7.7, “Orison”)*, her hilarious background demonstration of how to run in high-heels (ep #7.19, “Hollywood A.D.”), and her gleeful giddiness over discovering an invisible man on her autopsy table (ep #7.21, “Je Souhaite”). Hee! Meanwhile, her frenemy ‘Agent Fowley’ (Mimi Rogers) met her (off-screen) demise in ep #7.2 (“The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati”), following an extended dream-sequence in which she and Mulder shacked up together in the suburbs! I’m presuming she was killed for passing on secret information to Scully, so I guess it’s an honourable way to go… but I wish they’d kept her around long enough to take over from Mulder in the eighth season! Apparently Rogers figured out she was for the chop long before she got to the end of the episode’s script, because she was featured in so many long scenes: “It occurred to me, uh-oh, this is way too good. I have too much to do. They’re going to kill me.” Bless. Farewell, Agent Fowley… we barely knew ye… but you did look smokin’ hot in that black nightie…
There were also a shedload of noteworthy female guest stars this season, so let’s get our list on! Jonelle Kennedy appeared in ep #7.1 (“The Sixth Extinction”) as ‘Dr. Amina Ngebe’, a science-lady who helped Scully investigate a downed alien spacecraft, discovered on an African beach. Besides a minor recurring role on The Mentalist, Kennedy has also had supporting roles in Dreamgirls, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. and Seinfeld. Judith Hoag appeared in ep #7.3 (“Hungry”) as ‘Dr. Mindy Rinehart’, a surprisingly dedicated and compassionate psychiatrist, called in to talk to the staff of a drive-thru burger restaurant, after a murder on the premises. Hoag is probably best known for portraying ‘April O’Neil’ in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick… but she’s also had minor roles in Armageddon, Salt, Quantum Leap, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. and Castle. Future Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer had a one-line cameo as a psychiatric nurse (named ‘Nurse Octavia’) in ep #7.4, which was intended as a crossover “finale” for Carter’s other, abruptly cancelled supernatural-detective show Millennium.
Nicki Aycox appeared in ep #7.5 (“Rush”) as ‘Chastity Raines’, the fearful highschool girlfriend of a sadistic douche who had acquired superhuman speed from an alien source. Tara Buck appeared in ep #7.7 as ‘Blueberry’, a prostitute who makes the mistake of propositioning an escaped serial-killer at a truck stop, and winds up brutally murdered in a bathtub. These days, Buck is best known (and beloved) for playing ‘Ginger’, the oft-glamoured Fangtasia waitress in True Blood. Beth Grant appeared in ep #7.9 (“Signs and Wonders”) as ‘Iris Finster’, a well-meaning church-lady, who gets killed by snakes summoned by her seemingly kindly and inclusive reverend, after sticking her nose into his dubious doings. Grant has had a minor recurring role in several Bryan Fuller shows (Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies and Mockingbird Lane), and currently appears as one of the many ill-fitting pieces in the jumbled jigsaw puzzle of jokes that is The Mindy Project. Tracy Middendorf appeared in the same episode as ‘Gracie O’Connor’, the teenage daughter of a crazy snake-handling preacher who is set up as the red herring suspect for all the serpent-related homicides. Besides minor roles in Angel, Ally McBeal, and Six Feet Under, Middendorf also appeared in Lost as one of the suspiciously foxy “Others” holed up in the underwater Looking Glass station. SPOILER: It’s not Penny’s boat!
Patience Cleveland appeared in ep #7.11 (“Closure”) as ‘Arbutus Ray’, a retired nurse who once worked at a hospital where a 14-year-old ‘Samantha Mulder’ fled to escape the tests being conducted on her at a nearby Air Force Base. The poor, long-suffering girl was then spirited away by supernatural forces, to become starlight, or some other such bullshit. Frankly I had a problem with the premise of this whole episode… partly because I was quite happy with the idea that Mulder’s sister was all grown-up and living in the suburbs, not wanting anything to do with her crazy brother (as stated in ep #5.2, “Redux II”), partly because it ripped-off an earlier, equally frustrating maybe-Samantha-got-snuffed-by-a-serial-killer story (ep #4.10, “Paper Hearts”), and partly because I don’t understand how the ghost-children can be “in the starlight”, but also stuck on earth playing stupid games over their own shallow graves! And how do these “walk-ins” choose which kids they’re going to save over the ones they’re going to let suffer and die? And why did they wait until Samantha had already been through so many traumatic tests (and was, in fact, no longer a child) before intervening? Couldn’t they get past the base’s security? Meh. Besides appearing in Seinfeld as the “Old Lady” that George infamously shoves out of his way while escaping a fire at a child’s b-day party, Cleveland is probably best known for playing ‘Roberta Sparrow’ (aka “Grandma Death”), in the time-travel mind-f*ck flick Donnie Darko.
I couldn’t help feeling sorry for María Celedonio, who appeared in ep #7.12 (“X-Cops”) as ‘Chantara Gomez’, a pink-haired prostitute who falls victim to a shape-shifting fear-monster. Despite a fairly sizeable speaking role requiring some serious emotional acting, the faux “fly-on-the-wall” reality TV gimmick meant that her face was completely blurred out for the entire performance! So harsh. Celedonio doesn’t have many other big credits on her resume, but she did co-star with Natasha Lyonne in Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby, which I’ve wanted to see for a long time now (sadly its obscurity has really driven up the price of the DVD). Krista Allen appeared in ep #7.13 (“First Person Shooter”), as ‘Jade Blue Afterglow’, a stripper whose body and likeness was scanned into a virtual reality computer game, and applied to ‘Maitreya’, an inexplicably powerful avatar with the ability to kill gamers for realsies. After kicking off her career in the soft-core erotica series Emmanuelle in Space, Allen has appeared as an irresistible vixen in several genre shows, including Smallville and Mutant X… though comedy fans might remember her best as the “Elevator Girl” Jim Carrey slobbers over in Liar Liar. Maitreya’s computer-geek creator, ‘Phoebe’, was played by Constance Zimmer… who seemed slightly miscast in the role, in the sense that she and Allen are both very pretty brunettes with (somewhat) similar features, and I thought they were the same actress in the early scenes. Maybe that was intentional? I don’t know. She does give a good performance though, so I’m not knocking her acting!
Wendy Schaal appeared in ep #7.16 (“Chimera”) as ‘Martha Crittendon’, a seemingly respectable middle-class wifey, who was one of several women having an affair with the local sheriff, behind the back of his betrothed. Schaal has had a pretty long career, with small roles in classic 80’s action shows like Knight Rider, Airwolf, and Macgyver, as well as a three-episode run on Six Feet Under, but she’s probably best known now for voicing ‘Francine Smith’ in American Dad! The late Gina Mastrogiacomo appeared in the same ep as ‘Jenny Uphouse’, Martha’s glowering, blue-collar rival for the sheriff’s affection (and sperm). Mastrogiacomo made her screen debut in a movie called Alien Space Avenger, before landing a role in Goodfellas as the main character’s mistress… but sadly this episode was the last thing she filmed before her untimely death from a heart infection, at the age of 39. Stacy Haiduk appeared in ep #7.17 as ‘Margaret “Maggie” Waterston’, the angry, angry daughter of Scully’s silver-fox college professor. Apparently Anderson’s script ran long, and they had to cut out all the exposition explaining that Maggie’s mother killed herself after the supposed affair, which would have given us more insight into her antagonism towards our heroine… as it is, she just comes off as a bit of a beeyotch. Haiduk got her big break playing ‘Lana Lang’ in the Superboy series, and went on to score recurring roles in SeaQuest DSV, Kindred: The Embraced and Brimstone… she also popped up in the current season of True Blood as a buck-naked werewolf hooker hanging out in a motel room with future-X-Files-star Robert Patrick!
Duchovny’s real-life-wife Téa Leoni appeared in ep #7.19 (“Hollywood A.D.”) as “herself”, playing a Hollywood-ised parody of Scully. I found this episode quite self-indulgent when I first watched it, back in the day… but second time around, it’s actually rather charming, with plenty laugh-out-loud lines, and some great scenes between the leads… plus a protracted homage to Plan 9 from Outer Space! Gotta love that. I used to have a big crush on Leoni back when she was starring in The Naked Truth, but I don’t see anything else on her resume (other than A League of Their Own) that I’ve really enjoyed. Kathy Griffin appeared in ep #7.20 (“Fight Club”) as a pair of identical, paternal twins named ‘Betty Templeton’ and ‘LuLu Pfeiffer’, whose lives are irrevocably intertwined, despite their mutual antagonism… and when the two of them get together, all heck breaks lose! I generally have a high-tolerance for Griffin’s acting work (which isn’t to everyone’s tastes, I know), but this episode was way, way too silly and cartoony for its own good… in terms of the writing and direction, I mean. Arlene Pileggi also appeared here as an FBI agent who bears a striking resemblance to Scully… which isn’t too surprising, consider that Pileggi first began working on the series as Anderson’s stand-in, before being promoted to a speaking role as Skinner’s secretary, ‘Arlene’, from the fifth season onwards (as well as marrying Mitch Pileggi). Finally, Paula Sorge appeared in ep #7.21 (“Je Souhaite”) as ‘Jenn’, a world-weary and cynical “jinniyah” (genie), who ends up offering Mulder the requisite three wishes. I really liked Sorge’s work in this episode, and thought she brought a lot of charm and personality to the character, so I was convinced that she must be a “someone” I recognised from somewhere else… but she hasn’t really had any other roles as prominent as this one, before or since. Shame.
On the manly side of things: Mark Pellegrino appeared in ep #7.3 as an ex-convict who becomes the prime suspect in a murder, while blackmailing the real culprit (a brain-eating monster disguise as a meek young man). Lance Henriksen appeared in ep #7.4 as ‘Frank Black’, his pre-existing character from sister-series Millennium. I never watched that show myself, but I can understand why Henriksen might have felt this episode was a pretty poor send-off, considering how little he actually gets to do in it. On the plus side, zombies! Yay! Willie Garson made his second X-Files appearance in ep #7.6 (“The Goldberg Variation”), this time playing a super-lucky schlub who wants to use his power to help a neighbour’s sickly son (played by Shia LaBeouf!). Scott Wilson appeared in ep #7.7, as a prison chaplain who uses his (supposedly) God-given time-stopping powers to free dangerous criminals, so that he can kill them himself. Mmm‘kay. Billy Drago appeared in ep #7.14 (“Theef”) as a fantastically creepy Appalachian fella, who uses witchcraft to punish the doctor who euthanised his “Jane Doe” daughter. Tobin Bell appeared in ep #7.18 (“Brand X”) as a surprisingly chipper “human guinea pig”, who exhales deadly beetle spores after being experimented on by the Morley tobacco company. Duchovny’s old chum Garry Shandling appeared in ep #7.19 as “himself”, portraying a parody version of Mulder. And finally, Eddie Kaye Thomas appeared in ep #7.22 (“Requiem”) as a curious highschool kid, who gets caught in an invisible energy field while investigating a crashed UFO. Uh-oh!
* That episode also featured a line from a Cake song (“Sheep go to Heaven, Goats go to Hell”) scrawled on the prison chapel’s walls, inspired by the fact that Anderson was a big fan of the band at the time! I love that song too, so it’s nice to know we might have something in common to talk about if we ever met at a signing or an ashram or something…