restricted access Detection and the Logic of Abduction in The X-Files
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DETECTION AND THE LOGIC OF ABDUCTION IN THE X-FILES Jerold J. Abrams and Elizabeth F. Cooke The truth is out there. —The X-Files Alien Noir Film scholars agree that classic film noir emerges most prominently in the early 1940s with The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) and The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946), and lasts until Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958), setting the basic template: a hard-boiled detective in trench coat and fedora investigates a murder, interviews suspects, encounters a dangerous and beautiful femme fatale, navigates through a labyrinth to solve a mystery, and kills the killer. From the 1940s to the 1970s, however, as society began to change, film noir did, too (becoming neo-noir). Social issues, like race and gender, start to play a much stronger role, as Foster Hirsch points out in Detours and Lost Highways: A Map ofNeo-Noir.] And so did the transition from the modern city center to postmodern suburbia, as Edward Dimendberg argues in Film Noir and the Spaces ofModernity.2 More recently, though, since the 1980s and 1990s, culture has become saturated with high technology, setting the stage for a new fusion of science fiction and noir, which Paul Sammon calls "future noir."3 We might, however, further subdivide this category into "alien noir" and "cyborg noir," where cyborg noir would include, most prominently, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982).4 Cyborg noir films are noir detective stories in which the criminal or the detective (or both), is somehow fused with cyborg technology. Alien noir, by contrast, includes those works in which human detectives investigate crimes committed by aliens and 179 180 Jerold f. Abrams and Elizabeth F. Cooke human/alien conspiracies. Here we may safely put Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998), certainly the film TheX-Files: Fight the Future (John Bowman, 1998), and The X-Files TV series (1993-2002), created by Chris Carter. The X-Files Mythology The X-Files "Mythology" refers to the central storyline running through the series (though not every episode involves this storyline). Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are detective partners who work in a division ofthe FBI known as the X-Files. This section studies cases that are filed under "X" because they fall outside the scope of the FBI's regular investigation units, most of them regarding paranormal activity. There is, however, one case (or system of cases) that underlies all the others in scope, danger, and plot. This is the mythology plot, according to which Scully and Mulder search to uncover the U.S. government's conspiracy to conceal the existence ofextraterrestrials. After the alien spaceship crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, the aliens contacted a group of world elites, The Syndicate, to negotiate a deal: assistance in alien colonization of Earth, in exchange for the elites' survival. The Syndicate will usurp world power for the aliens through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil (Martin Landau) puts it: "FEMA allows the White House to suspend constitutional government upon declaration of a national emergency" (The X-Files: Fight the Future). The emergency will be a viral holocaust, and quickly all governmental powers will be turned over to the shadow government. Virtually all human life on the planet will be wiped out, except for a select population, which will include The Syndicate and its members' families. They will, however, be reengineered as human/ alien hybrid clones, which is why Mulder's father, Bill Mulder (Robert Donat), allowed the aliens to abduct Fox Mulder's sister, Samantha Mulder (younger: Vanessa Morley; older: Megan Leitch), when she was eight and he was twelve. This work of hybrid cloning is being advanced, in part, by former Nazi scientists who came to the United States after World War II, as part of Project Paper Clip. This project, as Mulder puts it, was "our deal with the devil. The U.S. government provided safe haven for certain Nazi war criminals in exchange for their scientific knowledge" ("Paper Clip"). Only, now, rather than engineering a master race, men like Victor Klemper (Walter Gotell) are using DNA from a cryonic alien fetus to engineer a "slave race"—slaves Detection and the Logic of Abduction in The X-Files 181 to the aliens. The Syndicate purposefully keeps the work slow, to stall for as much time as they can—even though an ultimate timetable has been set. They also secretly use the alien DNA to work on a vaccine...


Subject Headings

  • Detective and mystery television programs -- United States -- History and criticism.
  • Fantasy television programs -- United States -- History and criticism.
  • Film noir -- United States -- History and criticism.
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