The X-Files (1998) – Dreamland II, and How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

The body swap two parter with guest star Michael McKean comes to a conclusion this week with Dreamland II. Written by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, and Frank Spotnitz this episode was first broadcast on 6 December, 1998.

With Mulder (David Duchovny) still stuck in Fletcher’s (McKean) body, and Fletcher in his, Scully (Gillian Anderson) finally begins to believe the truth of the situation. And while she pulls in the Lone Gunmen to help sort out a solution, Mulder finds himself discovering that the people in Area 51 don’t know much more of the truth about aliens than he does, and that the accident that caused his body swap, as well as other problems popping up in Nevada, may not be reversible.

But time is a bit of an elastic, and it may snap back into place. But not before Fletcher realises how much he does love his wife, makes over Mulder’s apartment, and finally gives the man a bedroom, and that things aren’t always better on the other side of the fence.

The two episodes make a great whole, are filled with fantastic character beats, great dialogue (McKean is always a joy to watch, and letting him play with Anderson and Duchovny is inspired), and also makes a commentary on how the government could keep these things a secret, because no one is told more than they need to know.

There are some great effects, nods to classic ufology and Area 51 lore, and a happy ending for everyone in the episode.

The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas features another pair of exemplary guest stars, both of who are professed fans of the series, Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner. Written and directed by series creator, Chris Carter, the story features a gothic looking house, a ghost story, and two spirits (played by Tomlin and Asner) who are determined to show Mulder, who apparently has nothing better to do on Christmas Eve, and Scully, who should be seeing family, but came out to see what Mulder was working on, how lonely the holiday can be, and what it can drive people to.

In this case, for the ghosts, it was a murder/suicide, something they plan to inflict on the two agents as they push them emotionally, and pull out some familiar and not so familiar ghost story tropes to make their point; the bodies under the floorboards, the glimpsed appearances, the wounds, and the one room that Mulder and Scully seem unable to get out of, no matter what door they go through.

It’s spooky, and peels back some layers of the characters, not just for the viewers but for the characters themselves, so that they can see themselves and their continually growing relationship in a new way.

It’s a perfect holiday gift for X-files fans, because obviously we didn’t want a standard retelling of A Christmas Carol, or It’s A Wonderful Life, but ghost stories and the holiday season have a long history together, and this episode of The X-Files fits in quite nicely.

Next week the slightly eccentric run of episodes continues with a guest appearance by cult favourite, Bruce Campbell! The Truth is Out There!

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