Scribbler’s Saga #27 – Aliens V. Spooks

Posted: April 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I tell people who care that I’m slowly chewing my way through the X-Files on Netflix to make up for missing most of the show when it was on the air. At last pause to watch other things, Special Agent Muldur just met Deep Throat #3, the woman from the UN. It took me a while to realize that while the show is generally interesting that the writers built in a little bit of narrative illogic so subtle most viewers didn’t and don’t care (I make these observations more than ten years after the show went off the air). In a word (or two): supernatural episodes. 

The show has always been divided into two types of episodes: Core Mythology and Monster of the Week. The Core Mythology is any episode that deals with the fact that a secretive cabal of U.S. Government men discovered aliens in the wake of the Roswell crash and have subsequently made a treasonous deal with those hostile aliens to make a hybrid race in an effort to preserve their families and a small cluster of humanity as slaves. A Monster of the Week episode features anything else the writers could think up to put Scully and Muldur in jeopardy.

Having seen three full seasons plus a representative sample from later seasons, I actually like many Monster of the Week episodes better than the Core Mythology. Part of it may be as a friend put it – “the conspiracy only remains interesting as long as the writers don’t talk about it.” But, the Monster of the Week could’ve been many things: a flock of insects lying dormant in an old-growth tree that should’ve been protected from logging, or a deep-ice parasite brought up from centuries old arctic ice, an intelligent first-person shooter, or a demon hiding in a gypsy boy.

I decided I hated most of the episodes dealing with supernatural themes, not because they weren’t entertaining, but because to my mind they directly conflict with the Core Mythology episodes. In the first season, Fox Muldur participates in a Romani (Gypsy) – style exorcism. He breaks protocol and speaks to the demon when he shouldn’t. The good guys win, but the head exorcist warns Muldur – “be very careful, Young Man, Evil knows your name now.”

But, every time the writers went back to spooks they weakened the Core Mythology because I can’t see how spooks and other things that go bump in the night could share the planet with the aliens coming to enslave us all. For instance, the Romani demon booted out of the boy presumably went back to Hell plotting to return with more guys, so to speak. At what point, do the forces of Hell become aware of the aliens and the plans to steal the demons’ food source (human souls)?

The writers to my understanding never answered the Malthusian questions of the hypothetical competition between demons, vampires and ghouls on the one side and the green-blooded Roswell Grays on the other. They never wrote any episodes depicting a demon having a Mob-style sit-down summit with the aliens. Would they make a deal about spheres of influence and resource sharing? Aliens get the bodies and demons get the souls?

Would the demons go along with the genocide knowing their food source dwindles each day? Would the demons sign an accord with the aliens while plotting to crawfish at just the right moment? Would the demons suck up their ancient hatred of God and all things good and ask for help driving the aliens out to any other galaxy or nearby parallel dimension? How long would that grand coalition where Lucifer and Michael side up together last? Would the demons betray the angels to get a temporary advantage, only to come back when they needed to make nice?

We don’t know the answers to these questions because seemingly the X-Files writers never bothered to think out the consequences of their haphazard writing. They depicted Dana Scully as the scientist with the paradoxical final spiritual fallback point rooted in Protestant Theology. Her Navy officer father dies of natural causes in the second season and appears when Scully lies between life and death to tell her she can’t follow him because she’s not done with the duties of her life. Presumably, Daddy knows by virtue of being of good man sent to Heaven that the aliens are attacking and that key people like Agents Muldur and Scully will rise up like Post-Exodus Israelite Judges to save the world.

There are plenty of narratives that make use of the related concepts of hidden angels and the chosen champion: Highway to Heaven, Almost an Angel, Touched by an Angel, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural and even Constantine. So, it does make sense that God as depicted in the X-Files would treat the attacking aliens as just one more set of barbarians or Phoenicians at the gates to keep the ancient Israelites honest – “keep my covenant and I shall send prophets and judges to save you in the nick of time. Abandon me at your peril.” However, none of these shows also depicted aliens.

On Highway to Heaven, the angel Jonathan Smith interrupts the President while he watches the 1953 version of War of the Worlds to deliver an environmental message. The angel specifically scoffs at threats from outer space, but asked why the President couldn’t muster up the international anti-alien coalition depicted in the movie to fight the real threat of pollution (the episode aired long before Global Warming became a thing).

So angels might only send forth Scully, Muldur, the Winchesters, Ichabod Crane and John Constantine to do the dirty work of standing up to demons, aliens or what have you, but demons seem to like the sure thing when it comes to a major food source. It is an open question whether the barely sentient human/alien hybrids depicted in the X-Files even have souls. When you medically or genetically suppress the higher brain functions of a clone does a soul develop?

If the answer in the narrative is no, then why would the demons, vampires and other supernatural creatures fail to fight the aliens? If they don’t they lose their food and energy source. But, the X-Files writers never tried to integrate the supernatural episodes with the Core Mythology. They treated the small handful of supernatural Monsters of the Week episodes as placeholders for the Wow Factor.

In a later season after Dana Scully’s mysterious cancer, she meets a bunch of nomadic vampires who are mostly nice people now willing to kill one of their own who isn’t nice. Yet, no one thinks to try recruiting the vampires to help fight the ever-lurking alien threat. Wouldn’t having bloodsuckers at your back help in a fight?

By contrast, Supernatural has been adamant that there “are no freakin’ aliens.” In ten seasons, aliens have only showed up twice. The Norse god Loki (revealed to have started out as the disillusioned Archangel Gabriel) does up a nice alien abduction gag as part of a joke on the Winchesters. The Roswell Gray slow dances with the abductee. More recently, my favorite Greek Muse, Calliope, shows up to eat the brains and narrative of a middle school girl putting on a musical fan fiction show based on the Winchesters’ life. Calliope says “I’m not really here for her play, I mean it has aliens and robots in the second act…puh-lease! But, anything to get at the story of the Winchesters, it has everything…” So even the author and narrative eating Calliope seems to think that aliens and supernatural creatures shouldn’t necessarily coexist in the same narrative space at the same time. Good to know.

Now is there a way to have it both ways for the discerning writer who wants a literary universe fit for all stories? Maybe. I’ll tell you for sure after I write and feed my work to the maybe fifty people who read me right now. If my readers hate it, then it didn’t work. In short, one of my wizard characters will cast a spell that completes the depletion of Earth’s magic in order to save the world from zombies. Suddenly, no ghosts, no demons, no zombies, no wizards and someone will discover the equation that takes Faster-Than-Light travel from a purely theoretical frustration where no one can marshal enough energy to jump more than once to a real economically viable repeatable service. There that’s simply my best thinking on the subject.

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