Episode Reviews (6)
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Travelers was a great episode of The X-Files. It was fun to watch as this episode took place back in time during Mulder's Father's era. The story was good and had some interesting elements to it. The over all visual aspect of this period piece was cool. The characters were intriguing and full of mystery and the events that occurred were entertaining. A good episode but not one of my favorites, I certainly look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!
Mulder hears a story about his father in the past.
If this episode occured anywhere else in the show, I might've been a bit more intrigued. But this episode comes right after a better than usual two parter myth-arc episode and also comes in a season where we already went into the past to get a view of Mulder before he met Scully. Not only does this completely pull us out of the narrative of the show but it also takes away one of the best parts of the show: the Mulder/Scully interaction.
This episode mostly takes place back in the 50's, when the X-Files was a name given to files that were unsolved, not cases with supernatural elements to them. Mulder, before he met Scully back in 1990, was a part of the Behavior Unit with the FBI and is intrigued by a man named Edward Skur who, before he died, muttered his name. Mulder learns that Skur as a man wanted for the mysterious murders of many people in the 50's, so he visits an old FBI agent who was responsible for going after Skur.
What we get is a mysterious episode that takes Mulder's father and plants him square in the middle of an old conspiracy that's connected with the fight to stop communism. It appears that before the government was attempting to make connections with aliens and whatnot, they were trying to stop communism from spreading, even if it meant experimenting with soldiers and inserting odd creatures into them as a means of creating a new weapon.
The episode certainly had it's fair share of thrills and had plenty of mysterious stuff going on, but it just fell flat on its face due to the fact that we were forced to follow a character we've never met and will never follow again. Mulder was in the episode, but only as an audience member to agent Dales' story. He actually was about as useful as we are to the show: an observer. The episode was just okay, but the followthrough was just lame.moreless
Better Red Than Dead
Season Five stumbles on with this throwaway story that attempts to provide more of the history of Mulder's father. Mulder phones in a brief performance while Scully is completely MIA.
It's a cut above other mediocre episodes in the series because it IS well done. The costumes and set design really do evoke the 1950s very well. The paranoia of McCarthy-era America is an appropriate and logical backdrop to the storyline. We also get to see just how the X-Files got their start with a somewhat hokey bit about filing problems.
What sinks this episode is that it's never explained what the heck is going on with the spider thingy implants or what the government hoped to accomplish with the experiments. It all seems so arbitrary and pointless.moreless
A solution to production problems
Overall, an interesting attempt to bring to light some of the history of the conspiracy and Mulder's father's involvement within it. I found a number of things to be distracting however. First, young Mulder is portrayed well by David Duchovny. It must be a challenge, as an actor, to completely wipe the wear and tear of five years of conspiracy and character-building from a canvas and approach the character as something completely new. The few shots of Mulder eagerly soaking up information, new to the FBI, just discovering the X-Files, pre-obsession and pre-ostracization, were amusing and enlightening. The rest of the episode was only mildly interesting. The premise, a gov't cover up to hide the fact that certain military men had been experimented on by grafting alien parts to their human bodies, was really tame and sort of mundane. After all that the X-Files audience has seen, especially in the fifth season, this seems like nothing new and certainly nothing exciting. This episode is worth a viewing, but only when you're in the mood for something slow and not too intense.moreless
The one with the flashback
‘Travellers’ is a very different and underrated episode. It deals with flashbacks of a man who met agent Mulder, Fox’s father.
The teaser deals with a cop going into a house, he finds a corpse that has been completely drained out. Then someone attacks him and he shoots, it dies calling out Mulder’s name.
Mulder is curious about that and goes to a man who worked on getting the dead guy. He worked together with his father. He tells about the past.
The flashbacks were well done. The man in the past caught some guy and took him away from his family. In jail it looked as if he had committed suicide but the saw him outside again. So he didn’t kill himself or wasn’t dead. when he tries to arrest him the guy attacks him and something comes out of his mouth into the detective but someone else scares him away.
The detective Bill files a report on the guy looking like he’s dead but isn’t. But then the higher detectives tell him to take back the file and lie for the greater good, because some things aren’t ready to come out yet.
They keep finding bodies that are completely drained out, then Bill meets Mulder who tells him about the government and that Edward is trying to kill the ones that implanted the thing into him and it considers Bill and his partner to be part of that as well. That’s when Bill’s partner is attacked by Edward and killed.
Edward was implanted with something that brings spiders into others and can’t help himself but to keep killing. When he goes to his wife he has no other choice than to do the same. Edward feels like he’s dead himself from the inside.
When Bill finally caught Edward, Bill takes him but he lets him loose just because maybe one day the truth about that will be found out.
Travellers was a very good attempt to focus on other characters. The flashbacks were well done and the story was well executed.
Overall, this episode is an odd divergence from the normal series format, prompted by the production schedule for the feature film.
This is a difficult episode, if only because it does not fit within the continuity of the fifth season and continues to tease the audience with the possibility of a very different Mulder, pre-X-Files. More than that, it is clearly a stop-gap solution to one of the ongoing problems with the fifth season in general: time and attention had to be devoted to the feature film, which meant cast absences at inconvenient times.
In this case, Gillian Anderson was not available, and David Duchonvy had only limited ability to jump between tasks. The result is an episode that is meant, on some level, to be a self-contained examination of Bill Mulder’s early years in the conspiracy. In that sense, it paints a picture of a man with a conscience, forced by events to allow horrible things to happen in the name of a project that eventually broke him.
There are certain elements that work very well. For instance, it makes perfect sense that the conspiracy would initially use the anti-Communism fervor of the late 1940s and 1950s as a smokescreen for its activities. The nature of the experiments is in keeping with the basic timeline of the conspiracy itself. That early in the process, according to previous episodes, the conspiracy was focusing on physical alteration and rudimentary genetic manipulation.
It’s unlikely that the creature grafted into Skur was alien in origin, given the nature of the mythology, but it was something discovered or created by the scientists of Project: Paper Clip. Why the conspiracy would think that such a modification would be useful in the battle against Purity is another question, and one that does not have a satisfactory answer.
By framing the events of this episode as a recollection, the writers attempt something that is only partially accomplished. In essence, the events of this episode are not necessarily “true”. Some elements are likely to have taken place as described, but motivations are entirely open to interpretation, since they are seen through the eyes of someone quite disillusioned by events of the past.
As such, some things may be accurate: how the X-Files were created, the use of the Red Scare to cover up conspiracy initiatives, Mulder’s involvement as a reluctant member of that conspiracy. Yet it doesn’t agree nearly enough with the established continuity, in that Bill Mulder never would have betrayed the conspiracy so early in the game. Nor would he have let something so dangerous run free simply on principle.
There’s also the small matter of Mulder’s wedding ring, once again circa 1990 (pre-Fowley), not to mention the smoking habit. Speculation would suggest, as mentioned here and there in earlier episodes, that Mulder was once a very different man. Mulder was never married, so what’s the story of the ring? Perhaps the smoking is a clue.
By 1990, Bill Mulder would have been a bitter man with little love for children that weren’t his to begin with (and he would have known that), an estranged wife, and dreams that his “son” would do everything he never had the courage to do. But clearly, Fox Mulder was not getting along with his father, possibly because of the separation. Was that ring Bill’s wedding ring, worn by Mulder as a reminder? Was the smoking a hint that Mulder was trying to be his father, a man he really didn’t know?
These questions are just a small indication of the continuity mess created by this episode. For instance, if Mulder had heard about his father’s involvement in the Skur experiments as early as 1952, then why would he be so shocked to discover the truth about his father in previous episodes? Or did Mulder not believe Dales, thinking his father incapable of such a choice? And what about the hint that Bill Mulder had a family in 1952, when that was far too early in the timeline?
Most, if not all, of the continuity issues can be attributed to the “point of view” theory, but others are too far outside the basic framework of the mythology to ignore. It almost helps to consider this entire episode as a stand-alone exercise outside of the main continuity. This approach is not as satisfying, but it does work within a particular interpretation of the series itself.
One could almost look at the series as a collection of tales about Mulder, Scully, and those helping them during a very important time in human history. Perhaps it comes from a time not far in the future, soon after Colonization is thwarted, for instance. This could simply be another apocryphal tale of Mulder’s early adventures, a retelling of a recounting. Again, this is not the most satisfying way to dismiss continuity concerns, since it is not an on-screen conceit of the series, but it does allow for more leeway.
Another drawback of the episode is the use (or lack of use) of Darrin McGavin. It’s impossible to escape the relevant history: Chris Carter was strongly influenced by his memories of “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”, which starred Darrin McGavin, and so this was like coming full circle. (That has taken a much more well-publicized turn in 2005 with the arrival of ‘Night Stalker”, a new incarnation created by “X-Files” alumni Frank Spotnitz.) Surely there was a better use of the actor and his character!
The fact remains that many of these concerns are related to the expectations created by the continuity of the series as a whole. They don’t necessarily pertain to the episode as a stand-alone concept. While it doesn’t make sense for Skur to murmur the name “Mulder” so many years after his “escape”, just about everything else is an interesting idea with a neatly stylized execution. There are some intriguing moments throughout that work very well on their own. It’s simply the intersection with continuity that becomes an issue.
In the end, “Travelers” is an episode that was created to serve the purposes of limited cast availability, and while there were still some interesting elements that came out of that need, it wasn’t something that was necessary to the season arc or the development of the series as a whole. It highlights the central flaw of the series itself: the loose structure of the series, with little to no conception of an overall scope, made it far too easy to contradict details that the audience was compelled to consider.