The X-Files (1996) – Jose Chung’s From Outer Space, and Avatar

Darin Morgan delivers what is definitely my favourite episode of the series. This one always ends up on ‘best of’ lists. First airing on 12 April, 1996, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space takes on the alien abduction phenomena, as well as playing with the tropes and stereotypes that spring up around them, as well as those of the series itself.

Featuring an all-star cast including a fantastic appearance by Alex Trebek, Jesse Ventura, William Lucking and Charles Nelson Reilly, the episode is great television, and fantastically funny. There are repeated lines, repeated movements and image placement, and all of it combines to deliver a one of a kind episode.

Reilly plays author Jose Chung an author modelled after Truman Capote who is working on a non-fiction science fiction book, focusing his storytelling on an abduction of two young people and the subsequent investigation headed by Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), and the outlandish claims those involved in it have made.

And when things beggar disbelief, those are the moments that are confirmed as having actually happened, and that raises all kinds of questions.

I do like the idea that alien abductions are conducted by the government – masquerading as aliens, to allow for experimentation on the populace.

But what about Lord Kinbote?

I remember the first time I saw this episode, and every time I watch it I get more out of it than I did the previous time, from framing of images, to names, to the recurrence of lines, continuity within Morgan’s episodes, and playing with the subject matter in a fun way.

Avatar puts Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) front and centre when he is found in bed with a dead woman (a guest appearance by Amanda Tapping) and he refuses the aid of Mulder and Scully. First airing on 26 April, 1996 this episode was written by Howard Gordon from a story developed by Gordon and David Duchovny.

Skinner is attempting to deal with his impending divorce from Sharon Skinner (Jennifer Hetrick), and when he is blindsided by the death of Carina (Tapping), and is thought to be the prime suspect, he begins having visions of an old woman (Bethoe Shirkoff) in a red raincoat following him and attempting to talk to him.

Scully seems to think Skinner is having a sleep-disorder, she even has gone to doctors for help for it, recounting his dreams of an old woman straddling his chest… and Mulder begins to think he’s being haunted by a succubus who may be jealous of any other women who become romantically involved with the Assistant Director. Or is she trying to protect him?

This is the first episode in three seasons that Mulder and Scully aren’t the centre of the story. The actors were given a bit of a break with a lighter episode, and it let Pileggi carry a story for himself.

There’s more paranormal mysteries to come as we close in on the end of the third season of The X-Files, but the hunt will continue, because The Truth is Out There.

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