I confess that I only half watched the X-Files when it was in first runs. I probably only caught a third of the episodes at most. But over the last two weeks I’ve been watching on Netflix, which means I don’t have to watch ads (score!) and more importantly, I’ve seen the episodes in order. Today, I had an epiphany. The X-Files is a lot like the Bible.
Stay with me on this. See if you can figure out which I’m talking about: The Bible, or X-Files.
- A rambling, seemingly unconnected series of stories which seem incredibly implausible
- Running through the whole thing are semi-coherent narratives of an immensely powerful, unseen force which occasionally manifests itself — but never in a scientifically verifiable way.
- When there is an event of such magnitude that there ought to be overwhelming physical evidence for it, there’s a convenient excuse for the complete lack of evidence.
- When we find logical inconsistencies in the story, we are encouraged to believe anyway, since the immensely powerful force knows far more than we do, and we can’t possibly imagine the complexity, subtlety, and long vision of it all.
Here’s what put me onto this line of thinking. The last episode of season 6 and the first two of season 7 bring the ongoing plot line of an impending alien apocalypse to something of a head. Mulder has unwittingly become a kind of savior by developing an immunity to the virus which the aliens planned to use against us. Cancer Man and several accomplices from the super-secret conspiracy organization capture him and take him to a hospital to perform some kind of procedure which will probably kill him, but will somehow save the world.
At the last second, Scully walks into the operating room and rescues him. (Implausible, but I suppose it’s possible.) I was pretty ok with things up to this point, but then in the next scene, Mulder is recovering happily. In his apartment.
Ok… Why in the world wouldn’t the super-secret conspiracy organization just come to his apartment, get him back, and take him back to the operating room? Seriously? They killed the FBI agent that told Scully where he was. A couple of episodes earlier, they told Skinner the precise global coordinates — in the Arctic — where Mulder had gone off in secret. They know everything.
But they just let him go back and do more X-Files for the rest of season 7.
IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!
Now… here’s the thing. Right now, somebody is dying to tell me why it actually makes sense. In fact, I’m sure this has been covered by the bulletin board fans. There’s a story that works, even if it’s incredibly implausible. And that is the primary psychological phenomenon that makes both the X-Files and the Bible work — and not just work, but work incredibly well…