The X-Files S1, E7: “Ghost in the Machine”

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I’ve been delving into the popular sci-fi series The X-Files for a while now, making many attempts and failures to engage with its first season. Now it’s summer, and I’ve been weaving in and out through the series various episodes, trying to piece the gigantic enterprise together. It may seem strange for me to go back and recap an over two decades old television show, in some ways that type of thing is what the blog was built for. Join me this week as I recap/review the seventh episode!

...and so is a kid who can write in binary!

…and so is a 2001: A Space Odyssey rip off!

Because of my uncertain work schedule, I’ve been trying to burn through these episodes when I get the chance and then post them later, which means I just reviewed the previous episode “Shadows” yesterday. Let me tell you, getting “The Jersey Devil,” “Shadows,” and “Ghost in the Machine” all in a row is just sad. They are all really basic episodes of The X-Files, and because it’s the first season they don’t really have the hang of the self-aware humor yet, so there’s not much to alleviate the disposable feel of these episodes. (Luckily, next week’s episode is one of my all-time favorites!)

The cold open shows an argument between two members of a computer company, Eurisko, arguing about its direction. Drake, the more business oriented guy, wants to make money, while Wilczek, the more technologically oriented guy, wants to innovate. Drake decides to close down the COS (Central Operating System) project, and Wilczek storms out in a huff. Drake then goes to the bathroom, and is then electrocuted when he tries to use his key card to escape. Shouldn’t have gotten in the way of innovation, Drake!

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The case comes to the attention of Mulder and Scully with Mulder’s friend/ex-partner from Violent Crimes Jerry Lamana (Wayne Duvall) comes to Mulder asking for his help. Much like Scully’s friend from the academy in “Squeeze,” Lamana is more concerned for himself and his career than wanting to see justice done (because I guess Scully and Mulder are the only good agents in the entire bureau?). He ends up stealing Mulder’s profile and claiming the work as his own to impress his superiors, but he gets his when the elevator in the Eurisko building kills him on the way to arrest Wilczek for Drake’s murder.

The idea behind this episode is that Wilczek programmed the COS to kill Drake when he wanted to shut it down, but it increasing becomes apparent that the COS is an AI killing out of self-preservation. Our old friend, Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin), not seen since the second episode, confirms as much. I’m not sure why the show chooses to bring back Deep Throat at this moment, especially when the CIA (or whatever agency it was) appeared in the last episode, and the Department of Defense’s interest in the AI doesn’t really feed in to the ongoing conspiracy arc in anyway I can tell. Still, Jerry Hardin’s presence mixes up the episode a little. The episode ends on sort of a “tragic” note, as Mulder is forced to destroy the COS in order to save lives, but also ends up destroying the only evidence that Wilczek didn’t actually murder Drake.

car_thexfilesghostinthemachine

The idea that an AI can kill to save itself is not a new one, and it’s not done here in a particularly interesting way. The most compelling part of the episode is really the end, when Mulder realizes he’s destroyed evidence and effectively put an innocent man away. It’s overall not that compelling though, and the episode uses the standard tactics to portray the murderous computer: security footage, digitized voice saying things like “file deleted,” security cameras zooming in and out without anyone controlling them, etc etc. The episode makes attempts to dig deep in developing Mulder’s character but doesn’t quite make it, and in terms of the monster of the week, gives us a thoroughly unoriginal one that isn’t portrayed in a particularly interesting way either. Also, not much for Scully to do in this episode (boooooooo!), but don’t worry, next week’s episode is a straight-up classic.

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“What are you doing, Brad?”

Long story short: 2.5/4 stars

Click here to read my review of next week’s episode: “Ice”

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