This week in Sci-Fi Time Capsule, we look back at an episode of X-Files that plays on a number of key tropes for the series. There will be spoilers, to say the least, but I plan to keep them below the image, so anyone who wants to check the episode out for the first time has an opportunity to bail before seeing them.
This week’s episode is “DØd Kalm”, episode 19 of X-Files’ second season..
A US Navy ship goes missing, and 18 members of the crew are rescued from a life boat by some fishermen. Only one survives long enough to be examined by Scully, and he has aged beyond recognition. Mulder correlates the disappearance with several other X-Files and determines a rough area to search. Instead of reporting this to his superiors, he sneaks off to investigate, leaving word that will reach AD Skinner a day after it’s too late to stop him. In an interesting turn for oft-skeptical Scully, she volunteers to come along out of a need to know what happened to the aged sailor. They discover the navy ship with the help of a freighter captain, and the three of them get stuck aboard a dying ship, contaminated by the same water that killed the crew. Only Scully’s medical observations allow them to be saved when help finally arrives.
Why Is This a Classic?
Mulder brushes aside comparisons to the Bermuda Triangle (too mundane a mystery for the X-Files!) and draws comparisons to the The Philadelphia Experiment, where government scientists played with space and time to try to defeat radar and may have discovered worm-holes. This is also one of the few (and first) episodes where Scully considers that Mulder’s premise has enough validity to volunteer to go along with him.
This episode also plays up the conflict between Mulder’s world-view and Scully’s. While Mulder thinks that there is some sort of time anomaly at work, Scully looks for contaminants. In this instance, it turns out that Scully is right – at least as far as they can determine.
Along with the show’s teasing of dangling answers just out of reach, the ship sinks shortly after their rescue. There are no answers. There is no evidence. There is just enough of a puzzle solved to survive and carry on.
Captain Trondheim: “Look at this corrosion. No one’s been aboard this vessel in 20, 30 years.” Plays right into Mulder’s theory, but totally wrong … maybe.
Pirate Whaler found aboard the ship: (indistinct Norwegian noises). Seriously, Netflix, Fox and whoever else is involved need to get their acts together to fix the missing subtitles. X-Files is very authentic in not portraying foreign languages in English (a la The Hunt for Red October). Many of the episodes are subtitled for Russian, French, German, Chinese, etc. when those languages are spoken.
How it Holds Up
I loved Fringe, and if nothing else it was the spiritual successor to The X-Files and the standard by which I’ll judge a “modern” show. Aside from some sub-par aging special effects, this is as good as anything Fringe put out. The plot, the atmosphere, and the acting are all top-notch. If there had never been an X-Files, you could put it on TV today and it would still be huge. The pop culture and current events references that kept it in the here and now in the 90’s would be great for establishing a 90’s setting here in the 2010’s.