Season 9, Episodes 1 and 2: “Nothing Important Happened Today” Parts 1 and 2
Episode Airdates: November 11 and November 18, 2001
This is a pilot, sort of. A pilot for a new show called Season 9 Of The X-Files, which is a bit of a cheeky title but then again, so is “Nothing Important Happened Today.” Just like a pilot would, these two episodes seek to introduce the show’s themes, characters, and ambitions. And in that respect, it’s a good pilot. We get the new characters, and the new themes, and the new ambitions. Unfortunately, it appears to be a good pilot for a lousy show.
I know: what a surprise: what a brave stance! Coming out against this season, when fans and folks have been dogpiling on Season 9 since Season 9 was Season 9. But look, I promise I’m not here to trail the bandwagon. I like it when a show reconfigures itself, I think it’s a wonderful way to get a new angle on a show’s core. You can learn a little about yourself, when a show refocuses, learn a little about your fandom. Are you a fan of Doctor Who, or are you a fan of Ten? The answer may surprise you.
These episodes expand on an idea from the Season 8 finale, something Knowle Rohrer said to Doggett about a government program to breed supersoldiers. In the finale, it seemed like a misdirect, something to distract Doggett from the possibility that Scully’s baby was part of the (an?) alien hybrid scheme. Here, hybrids aren’t mentioned at all. Supersoldiers appear to be real; Rohrer is one and so is Shannon McMahon, another old acquaintance from Doggett’s days in the Marines. They have wacky protruding spines, they can’t die, they breathe underwater, etc etc.
There are many ways that the supersoldier concept can co-exist with what we already know about aliens, and hybrids, and colonization; this is, presumably, the mandate of Season 9. The episode goes to great pains to draw those connections for us. Scully’s baby indeed seems to have some sort of freak power (to move mobiles? To cry when mobiles move?). And there’s a lab, where genetics things are happening, and ova, and tests, and the usual. It’s not a terrifically bad idea (although the episode’s suggestion that The Government Is Putting Something In Our Water to assist in the supersoldier program is a huge snooze), but it does raise the question: why should this concept co-exist with what we know? Could something be gained, stakes-wise, from cutting those final ties between the show as it was and the show as it is?
Because, honestly, what we have right here is a fat limp noodle of a season opener. The pacing is awful. You could take a walk around the block and not miss a thing—quite a feat considering that they feature a number of odd (a woman who breathes underwater, drowning another man) and gruesome (beheadings!) action sequences. There’s no suspense here, and the episode is stuffed with mind-numbing scenes in which people in wood-paneled offices snipe about who or who isn’t authorized to do something or not do something. Did you ever think that The X-Files would be a show that was so frequently about administrative politics?
If this were a spin-off, there would perhaps be a bit of freedom to it. A little less emphasis on turning Doggett into the new renegade agent, a little less emphasis on worrying about the suddenly-disappeared Mulder, a lot less emphasis in keeping Scully around. Because heaven knows I love Scully, but there’s very little to love about this version, the one who constantly looks pained and never gets the opportunity to do any investigating of her own ‘cause she’s too worried about her baby. There’s a flash of our agent, real quick in Part 2, when Doggett and Reyes bring her in to meet with McMahon. Scully doesn’t want to believe McMahon’s story, because McMahon’s story confirms that Scully’s child is in danger. It’s a new reason for forceful disbelief, and Gillian Anderson lays into the five or six lines of heel-digging. Only then it’s over, and it’s right back to looking concerned. To actually turning around and walking away the second things get difficult.
What’s really missing here are stakes for our new agents. You want us to accept Doggett and Reyes? How about give them something a little bit more to work with, a little something more than Scully’s baby. Doggett’s stakes are Mulder Lite, are arguing with his superiors and maybe or maybe not being used by them. Reyes’ stakes are meanwhile completely incomprehensible. This episode marks the introduction of AD Brad Follmer, an old flame of Reyes played by Cary Elwes using the thinnest voice he can manage. And maybe Follmer’s supposed to stir something in Reyes, maybe we’re supposed to climb on board how complicated it is when your old beau totes tries to undermine your current job sitch. But there’s a flatness to it. Doggett and Reyes are both apparently working on pride-based agendas—and what’s heroic about that?
There are other troubling signposts, too. There’s a hell of a lot of toplessness (male and female, but mostly female). There’s some questionable acting. Some questionable writing, too (“You ever hear of King George III?”). And there are lots and lots of platitudes about danger, statements about lives at stake, people making choices as though the threat was firm and present. When it’s not. When the threat is only threatened, and the present lacks suspense. With one foot in the future and one in the past, Season 9 is going to get itself torn in two.