Revisiting The X-Files: season 1 episode 7
Our intrepid semi-sceptics face off this week against a computer whose BSOD means curtains for others…
7. Ghost in the Machine
When a great big conglomerate boss is killed by what appears to be an elaborate booby trap, agents Mulder and Scully are called in by an old friend of Mulder’s, clearly down on his luck and in need of a good case to better his name. What at first seems to be the work of a reclusive tech-head soon transpires into something far more sinister. As the title of this episode spells out oh-so clearly, a ghost really does dwell in the machine that runs the security of the building where the man was killed. When he is pinned for the murder, the machine’s creator confesses to the crime instead of turning his genius work over to the hands of a shady government. He is later persuaded by Mulder to hand over a disk containing a virus that can destroy the machine.
Highlights include the somewhat unexpected appearance of Deep Throat (punctuated by an extremely atmospheric ambient soundtrack), and Dana being blown down an air vent. Lowlights include the moment Mulder shuts down the computer, which responds with a rather cheap and comical imitation of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “What are you doing? Whhyyy?”
One constant of The X-Files is that every episode contains Mulder and Scully. A second constant I have noticed having embarked upon the first series, is that each episode has so far proved rather formulaic. There is a mystery, Mulder believes it to be something paranormal whereas Scully maintains a clear head (and you’d think after witnessing a man who eats liver, a modern-day cavewoman and a few alien encounters, she would be less sceptical by now), and a scandal transpires. Moreover, there really is a sense of mystery and suspense lacking so far. From the very beginning of this episode, it’s clear that the machine is behind the murders, which makes the scenes where Mulder and Scully are interrogating the computer’s creator rather pointless.
The problem is, for somebody who has never seen these episodes before, I know more or less what’s going to happen from the first few scenes, which makes watching the next forty minutes feel like a chore rather than a pleasure, an uphill climb I simply have to brace myself for a get through. And, in all honesty, I didn’t want that. If you’ll excuse the pun, I wanted to believe this was every bit the great cult phenomenon it is so famous for being, and so ultimately these initial seven episodes have left me feeling very disappointed. Although not without their merits (and the relationship between Mulder and Scully really is the only thing that keeps me watching), these episodes simply have not stood the test of time. Here’s hoping for better things to come!
Check out Matt's revisit to episode 6 here.