Revisiting The X-Files: season 1 episode 16

News Matt Haigh
18 Nov 2008 - 07:14

There's Mulder backstory and a feel of Quincy about the latest episode in Matt's X-Files revisit...

16. Young at Heart

A serial killer with a really fucked up hand is stalking Mulder in this instalment of the X-Files, and it's not long before Scully is dragged into the mess, eventually becoming the killer's target. The unfolding story here is kind of similar to Lazarus before it, in terms of people appearing to be back from the dead, however, Young at Heart is probably marginally better.

Episode sixteen opens with a wheelchair-bound inmate who hears screams of agony during the night. Poking his head around the door, he spies a bloodied man on an operating table with a doctor looming over him. The doctor informs the inmate that the man on the table is dead, then, when the inmate sees the supposed dead man's eyes blink and kicks up a fuss, the doctor advances on him and threatens him with a knife.

A fair chunk of the episode delves a little into Mulder's past, and how his insistence on playing by the book ended up costing another man his life. When crazed killer John Barnett took a man hostage, Mulder had a clear shot of his head. However, as FBI rules state agents aren't allowed to take unnecessary risks to save a hostage (or some such hullabaloo) Mulder hesitated a shade too long, and Barnett killed his hostage and another agent. Barnett was sentenced to life in prison and, according to all accounts and sources, died there. So Mulder is understandably spooked when a spate of murders break out, each one bearing a note addressed to him. A few handwriting-analysis tests more or less prove the notes were written by Barnett - but he's supposed to be dead. The plot thickens …

The tension slowly mounts as, one by one, Mulder's nearest and dearest get picked off, the circle tightening around him, until the only person left seems to be Scully. Then, the sinister doctor from the beginning of the episode turns up and, seeing as he's dying anyway, decides to tell our agents his story.

An ambitious doctor with unorthodox methods, he was kicked out of the medical profession for his dangerous work on children with an ageing disease. One of his subjects was John Barnett, whom he successfully managed to bless with youth, but also, by some sneaky gene splicing, with the flabby, blackened hand of a salamander. Owing to the fact he's a medical miracle, the government want to keep this monster alive. However, faced with a shoot-out in a theatre, Mulder sends a bullet through Barnett's head, just after Barnett fired a shot at Scully (handily, she was wearing a bullet proof vest).

No complaints with this one, really, apart from the fact it felt more like your average episode of Quincy, and not really like an X-File. It just wasn't weird enough. Okay, so the killer has a mutant hand, and has managed to get progressively younger, but there was just that extra paranormal factor missing. Better than the previous Lazarus, for sure, but perhaps not as strong as some of the other "monster" instalments.

Check out Matt's review of the preceding episode here.


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