The X-Files (1997) – Unrequited, and Tempus Fugit

Howard Gordon and series creator Chris Carter pen the teleplay for this episode from a story developed by Gordon to show that even in the late 90s the horror and worry over Vietnam POWs was still with us and haunting American society.

With an original airdate of 23 February, 1997, Mulder (David Duchovny), Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) find themselves assigned to a protection detail that Mulder believes may be to muddy the waters of the investigation that will spring up around it.

It seems high ranking military officers are winding up murdered, at close range, but no one has been able to identify or even see a suspect. Evidence leads them to a far right anti-government extremist group which offers up a possible suspect, Nathaniel Teager (Peter LaCroix), a recently rescued POW – something that shouldn’t be possible because these same high ranking officials that are turning up dead are also the same people saying that there are no more POWs being held in Vietnam – a conflict that Skinner served in, though it doesn’t seem to have an overt effect on his character this episode.

It’s an act of vengeance, and Teager has a unique ability that can help him.

The story serves as an analogy to the way that vets have been and continue to be ignored by those that sent them overseas to fight. Yes, some come home, yes, some are treated okay, but there are so many, especially from the Vietnam war, that were ignored, forgotten, invisible.

The analogy isn’t too heavy handed, and the episode is very enjoyable, even as the trio try to figure out what is going on, who the next target is, and how they can save him, and stop Teager.

Tempus Fugit, first airing on 16 March, 1997, was written by Carter and Frank Spotnitz launches a two-parter that features a couple of callbacks and plunges Mulder and Scully into more murky waters, those surrounding the topic of UFOs and alien abduction.

In the opening sequence we are given three pieces of information, somehow Max Fenig (Scott Bellis – last seen in Fallen Angel) has been returned and is on a commercial airline, there is someone aboard that is planning on killing him, and the plane goes down due to some strange event, which may include a UFO.

Mulder and Scully are contacted and become involved in the sombre process of investigating the plane’s crash site, with Mulder often causing friction with the recovery lead, Mark Millar (Joe Spano), over his theories of what may have happened. Millar believes Mulder is diminishing the efforts of the crash team as well as those who died, but soon, some of the evidence doesn’t jibe.

They recover a victim who appears to be suffering from radiation burns, there’s a missing nine minutes (remember the last time that happened?), and there’s a cover up happening. While Millar slowly opens up to some of Mulder’s suspicions and has a strange encounter, Mulder follows evidence that suggests a second crash site, and on a night dive, encounters a terrifying reveal before the episodes closes with a troubling ‘To Be Continued.’

It was great to see Max back, even briefly, in this episode, and that the series knows how to take its time and build a mystery and threat. I remember the first time the underwater reveal happened and it freaked me out as much as Mulder.

I’ll find out what it means next week, as I continue my search because the truth is out there…

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