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The X-Files: Season 11 - Episode 7, Rm9sbG93ZXJz - Review

X-Files: Season 7, Rm9sbG93ZXJz

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE X-Files might just have delivered its best episode of Season 7 with the AI-based Rm9sbG93ZXJz.

Refreshingly devoid of the conspiracy element that has dragged down so many episodes of late, this stand-alone adventure was both knowingly humorous and frighteningly real, not least because it dealt with a potential reality that we, as a society, seem all too willing to march towards: and that’s becoming all too reliable on technology to the point of becoming subservient to it.

As the episode opened, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) were in a diner, ordering a Chinese meal. They were both using their phones and placing their order via a computer screen. There were no waiters, and no fellow diners.

When one of their dishes arrived in unexpected form, Mulder went into the kitchen to complain, only to find yet more robots preparing the dishes. Moments later, they were paying for their food but refusing to leave a tip, prompting the robots to strike back.

What followed was a gradually worsening state of affairs for Mulder and Scully as they made their way, separately, home. The cyber attacks grew ever more dangerous. Machines they depended on – from house alarms to phone call back systems – turned against them, isolating them so that they were eventually in harm’s way.

Admittedly, the final moments were laughably OTT, while the resolution – or way out for the protagonists – was easy to predict. But this in no way detracted from the overall enjoyment of the episode, or the thought-provoking nature of what it had to say about modern life.

The opening 20 minutes or so (and especially the diner-based scenes) were like an X-Files version of Wall-E for the way in which neither Mulder or Scully were allowed to use words. There was a delightful dance going on between them, as humans seemingly incapable of interacting with each other, and the machines they were so reliant on for placing an order or obtaining their news fix.

We’ve all been guilty of burying our heads into a mobile phone when there are people around us who we could just as easily talk to. And who hasn’t smirked, at times, when receiving a Facebook update of a couple of friends out to dinner with each other, who have taken the time to post a ‘real-time’ update, as well as a ‘like’ of each other’s post? The irony is abundantly clear – you’re out together; save the social media updates for later!

Worse, with so much information about ourselves being available at the touch of a button, how many steps away are we from being disabled if technology breaks down, or even takes over? We’ve also enjoyed films that present a Terminator-style ‘what if?’ scenario, and marvelled at the likes of Black Mirror in predicting an AI-led future. But – as the episode suggested in the pre-credits tease – what if AI can really learn from humans? Are we feeding it bad habits to emulate?

And going back to Wall-E, that film also went onto depict a future in which humans had become so reliant on machines that they were too out of shape to believe anything but the mis-information they were being fed… not to mention the easy lifestyle they were being [life]-supported in leading: everything at the touch of a button to make things that much easier.

Hell, we are only two steps away [if that] from being able to order the driverless car that came to pick up Scully. The nightmare scenario being depicted in Rm9sbG93ZXJz might not be that too big a stretch.

Yet while certainly thought-provoking in the ‘what kind of future are we inviting?’ kind of sense, Rm9sbG93ZXJz also deserves credit for not being heavy-handed. There was a lightness of touch to proceedings, too, fuelled by the chemistry and camaraderie that exists between Mulder and Scully and the short-hand between the actors playing them, thereby allowing the episode to play out with virtually no dialogue for long periods of the time.

Rm9sbG93ZXJz was a glorious reminder of just how good The X-Files can be, especially in stand-alone episode form. It’s why we continue to support the show even when it doesn’t always hit the heights we once consistently expected from it.

The X-Files: Season 11 airs on Channel 5 on Monday nights from 11pm.