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The X-Files: Season 10 - Babylon (Review)

The X-Files: Babylon

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

IT’S difficult to comprehend just what Chris Carter was thinking when he decided to write Babylon, the fifth episode in his X-Files revival.

A crude mix of war on terror, magic mushrooms and religious dissection, this took an all too real and all too sensitive issue and attempted to inject surreal/absurdist humour into it, not to mention patronising preaching. The result was objectionable on almost every .level.

When two Islamic friends walk into an art gallery and trigger suicide bombs in protest against a painting of the prophet Mohammed, one of them survives… albeit in a comatose state. Mulder and Scully are called in, apparently by two younger versions of themselves in the form of Agents Miller and Einstein.

For Scully, the case represents an opportunity to use science to give the FBI the chance to do something she couldn’t do with her recently deceased mother: communicate with someone in a coma in the hope of catching any further terrorist cells. For Mulder, meanwhile, the case marks the chance to open up the same kind of communication, albeit using magic mushrooms.

And so the stage is set for one of the worst sequences in recent TV memory [and X-Files history] as Mulder enters an alternative sub-conscious state. At first tripping his way through a hospital corridor, he then embarks on some cringe-worthy country and western dancing, brandishes some ‘shroom bling’, undergoes a torrid S&M session, before finally locating his terrorist lying Pieta-like in the arms of his mother on a rowboat overseen by a whip-wielding Cigarette Smoking Man.

There’s a brief, mumbled verbal exchange before Mulder wakes up in a hospital bed struggling to remember what he was told. He does, of course, later remember – and the exchange turns out to have included the name of the hotel the remaining terrorists are hiding out in. But not before Mulder’s accomplice, sceptical Agent Einstein, reveals she actually slipped him a placebo.

By the time the terrorists are rounded up and Miller and Einstein are done attempting to fathom their role in solving the case, it’s left to Mulder and Scully to ponder God and his grand plan.

“I saw things, though, Scully. Powerful things,” Mulder says in the epilogue. “I saw deep and unconditional love.”

“I saw things, too,” Scully replies. “I witnessed unqualified hate that appears to have no end.”

“How to reconcile the two,” counters Mulder.

It’s a big question for sure. But one best avoided by writing such as this. Carter may well claim his episode seeks to highlight the hypocrisy and absurdity surrounding a lot of religious rhetoric, while simultaneously sounding a note of caution about the power of suggestion and the importance of loving one another.

But his message got lost in the carnage created by the episode’s wildly uneven tone. The trip sequence hung like a noose around its neck, almost trivialising the seriousness of the issue itself. But the shallow philosophising smacked of naivety when it didn’t feel insulting (to even those of average intelligence or any religious persuasion). Homeland sets the current benchmark for tackling the war on terror.

And that’s not even getting started on the extremely irritating inclusion of the younger Mulder and Scully – played with none of the charisma that make the original duo so endearing.

As the penultimate episode of this mostly successful revival, Babylon was particularly disappointing. Perhaps the problem lies with Carter himself given that, thus far, the weakest entries in this mini-series have come from him.

Babylon feels like a folly that should never have been indulged.