Theatre of the Mind ~ Travelers
I know that many won't agree, but I truly believe that episode for episode, Season 5 was the X-Files' best. But in rewatching Season 5 again, one thing has suddenly become very clear to me. M&S spend a lot of time apart in Season 5. They go on vacation, or undercover, or home for Christmas or have a flashback that occurs before they even knew the other one existed. They talk to each other by cell phone a lot. But they don't spend much time on screen together. (Actually, maybe Season 5 was just a harbinger of things to come in Season 8.) It just makes you appreciate more every single second that they are together (and despite the separations, there have been some great MSR moments in Season 5-Redux II, Detour, PMP, etc.).
The reason for the M&S separations in Season 5 had nothing to do with good storytelling. They had to do with the fact that The X-Files was making a movie in LA, and from time to time GA or DD were needed to leave the TV Show, which was still in Vancouver, and come back to LA for reshoots, dubbing, etc. During the shooting of "Travelers," both GA and DD were needed back in LA for reshoots of the movie, and thus we have a flashback episode that many people hate, but that I think proved a wonderful way to trace the roots of the X-Files and of Special Agent Fox Mulder.
1. It's 1990! I'm sure glad they use those big numbers (just like "Unusual Suspects") so there is no confusion.
2. Eww! I know if you stay in the bath too long you shrivel up like a prune, but that's ridiculous!
3. Not the first person foaming at the mouth to whisper "Mulder." I was expecting "Rosebud."
4. You're going to ruin your trench coat letting it hang out of your car door like that.
5. It's Darren McGavin, a.k.a. "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Of course, it's very well known that "Night Stalker" was one of CC's great childhood influences.
6. How fitting that Mulder meets Arthur Dales on November 21 (11/21-Mrs. CC's birthday).
7. TWC1: Isn't he cute when he's so green and nervous and clumsy? And the return of Season 1 hair!
8. Is that a wedding ring on Agent Mulder's finger? We'll label this Gratuitous Wedding Ring Shot #1.
9. An XF is not an unsolved case; it's a case that's been designated unsolved. There's a difference.
10. I hope the dead guy in the bathtub hadn't been there since 1952. Oh, guess not.
11. "Do you think they would have found nothing unless nothing was what they wanted to find?" Please don't give this boy any more conspiracy fodder. He's still recovering from that Paranoia Juice incident from 1989.
12. Gratuitous Wedding Ring Shot #2.
13. Well, it's nice to know some things don't change. Except for the absence of computer and fish tank, Mulder's 1990 apartment is pretty much the same as his 1990 one. That's somewhat comforting.
14. "Fellow travelers" were Americans who were sympathetic to the Communist cause during the McCarthy era.
15. Gratuitous Wedding Ring Shot #3.
16. TWC2: Holy Flaming Cow! It's nice to know some other things don't change too. Sunflower seeds, gray tee-shirts, and Mulder!Glasses!! Woo-hoo!!
17. Dad. Awww.
18. Gratuitous Wedding Ring Shot #4. (And some advice: never turn away a man bearing coffee.)
19. "My father and I don't really speak." Mulder, you just keep unfolding like a flower.
20. TWC3: Cute little "sorry about that" smile when he tells Dales he wants the truth.
21. CSM = Cigarette Smoking Mulder. Coincidence? If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?
22. Agent Hayes Michel was named after the fiancÈ of Mary Astadourian, CC's executive assistant.
23. Skur hung himself but Dales sees him a few hours later. People didn't die on the XF even back in 1952.
24. Itsy bitsy spider crawled out the bad guy's mouth . . .
25. I give Dales a lot of credit if he saw that thing and the world still seemed clear the next morning. Maybe it was the booze.
26. Today's History Lesson: In 1952 Joseph McCarthy appointed Roy Cohn as the chief counsel to the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate. Cohn had been recommended by J. Edgar Hoover, who was impressed by Cohn's involvement in the prosecution of Julius & Ethel Rosenberg in 1951.
27. The American government sure likes to keep stuff from us for our own good.
28. So Agent Dales was a straight arrow who only wanted the truth. Sounds like somebody else we know.
29. The song, "Lili Marlene," was made popular during World War II by Marlene Detrich. But if you read the label on the record playing in the German doctor's house, this version is attributed to "Paula Rabwini." Paul Rabwin is, of course, an XF producer.
30. And the record was recorded on the ETAP label. I thought they only made photographic equipment.
31. How did Dales know the "come alone" coaster was meant for him?
32. It's Mulder Footwear! Not THE Mulder, but a Mulder nonetheless.
33. A little bit of continuity, as the actor who plays young Bill Mulder also played him in "Demons." FWIW, the actor who plays J. Edgar also played him in "MOACSM."
34. Agent Michel's apartment sort of has that Scully apartment layout. That would have been too spooky, huh? People getting killed in Scully's apartment before it was Scully's apartment?
35. Myrtle the Cat has a lot of personality. She deserves her own show!
36. Bill Mulder says he's risking his career and his family, but not the family we know and love. It's only 1952, and little Fox is yet only a twinkle in dear old dad's eye.
37. Papa Mulder tosses out phrases about conspiracies and letting people know the truth. It's nice to know that Fox comes by it naturally and honestly, anyway.
38. Eww! I certainly don't think this was covered in the mouth-to-mouth instructions.
39. The coroner is a throwback to "Revenge of the Nerds."
40. Mulder's impatient if he can't get lab results by the next morning. Six to eight weeks!
41. I'm surprised Agent Dales didn't put Agent Michel's nameplate in the desk drawer.
42. I think Clerk Dorothy Bahnsen would have been a great "Scully" to Dales' "Mulder." She's a big help.
43. And so we learn how the X-Files got their name. "U's are all full? Just stick 'em in the X's.
44. Ewww! That's even worse than finding one of those flukeworms wriggling around in there!
45. "Xenotransplantation." Grafting of another species into the human body. Are we getting messages that one race of aliens is similar to the Nazis?
46. That coaster from the Hoot Owl has sure come in handy.
47. Bill Mulder's in the car! Was Dales being set-up?
48. There's some fallout in the fallout shelter, all right.
49. Nice to know the FBI doesn't waste money on equipment replacement. Those sure look like the same lamps and conference table still in use today!
50. J. Edgar's paranoid rant to Arthur Dales about the Communist menace was taken almost verbatim from a speech by Senator McCarthy.
51. "Youre part of their test now too." There sure was a lot of testing going on back then. Everybody was being tested for something.
52. Which member of the Consortium do you think that was with Mr. Mulder in the car?
53. Dales outsmarts the Spider Man, no thanks to Mr. Mulder & Friend.
54. Gratuitous Wedding Ring Shot #5.
55. Interesting to note that CC had tried to get Darren McGavin to guest star on the XF since Season 2, for a while, specifically to play Mulder's father; but he had always declined until this episode.
56. Gratuitous Wedding Ring Shot #6. FWIW, there has been speculation that these "gratuitous" shots of the wedding ring were not really all that gratuitous. It's been speculated that DD was doing the "hair brushing" gesture a lot because he was aping a hand movement that Bill Davis does a lot, adding further fuel to the fire that CSM is actually Mulder's father.
57. Okay. Here's my take on the whole wedding ring thing. Yes, Mulder was probably married at one time, but I don't think it was as recent as 1990 (meaning I don't think he was married to Diana). He probably married someone while in or just out of college (no, not Phoebe!), it didn't last, and they were divorced soon thereafter. But I think that Mulder continued to wear the ring because (1) he was too insecure and sentimental to take it off and (2) it gave him an excuse to avoid emotional entanglements. Mulder was still so emotionally repressed at this point that the ring gave him an excuse to avoid serious relationships. I don't think he took it off until he was ready to open himself up to the extreme possibility of beginning to care about someone or have someone care about him again, which would have been around 1992 after he did some background checking on his soon-to-be new partner. (Which of course means that this is the MSRM in this episode-okay, I'm reaching!) Anyway, that's my story about Mulder's wedding ring, and I'm stickin' to it.
58. TWC4: Rolled-up shirtsleeves even back in 1990!
59. "You keep digging through the X-Files and they'll bury you too." I'm not sure he meant that literally, but it turned out he was right!
60. Although you could argue that it wasn't very smart to let a killer (who obviously would kill again) go free, it looks like somebody with a conscience did let Skur go. In hopes that the crimes committed against him and the others might someday be exposed, because the truth would be out there. Perhaps the truths would even be exposed by his own son. Fox may not be able to understand that now, but someday he will.
To me, "Travelers" is a very good example of how 1013 missed the boat in Season 8. I would have relished a few episodes like this during this past season. What a great opportunity to give us some of the XF history (and I'm talking further back than the in-vitro thing): what really went on between CSM and Mrs. Mulder. How did the Consortium boys get together and decide to save the world, and exactly what was Bill Mulder's role in the whole thing? Maybe it was out of place in Season
5, but I think it could have been great in Season 8. A way to keep the Mulder legacy alive until his return. I guess I just don't understand.
"You're not supposed to understand. You're supposed to follow orders."
My apologies as usual. Why do I always apologize? That's a case that's been designated unsolved.