Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'
You want an example of great television writing? Look no further than this episode. We've come to expect this sort of genius from writer Darin Morgan, but Jose Chung is remarkable even for him.
Enough lauding of Saint Darin -- let's get to it.
Chrissy Giorgia and Harold Lamb, a pair of clean-cut teenagers out on their first date, are driving along a rural highway in Klass County, Washington when bright lights and electromagnetic fields put an end to their romantic evening. Two almond-eyed, grey beings drag the teens from their car and, presumably, begin a typical alien abduction. But the grey's efforts are interrupted when harsh red light scatters across the road and an enormous claymation monster appears before them. Lord Kinbote has decided to perform his own alien abduction.
The scene shifts to Mulder's dark office in D.C. where Scully, sitting behind the desk for a change, is being interviewed by famed writer Jose Chung. Chung is hot on the trail of a new literary genre -- non-fiction science fiction -- and his first foray into this arena is the odd abduction story of Chrissy Giorgia and Harold Lamb. Mulder is noticeably absent and Scully apologizes to Chung saying Mulder doesn't want to trivialize the event by adding to a somewhat fictional account. Scully is an admirer or Chung's work, so she gladly accepts the interview.
Scully recounts the events in her scientific, "there's-no-way-in-hell-this-is-the-work-of-aliens" way. When she and Mulder first arrived in Klass County to check on Chrissy and Harold her first thought was that Chrissy was the victim of date rape, not an alien probe. Unfortunately, Chrissy's memory isn't functioning all that well and she can't remember anything about her date with Harold -- other than it ending badly. Mulder, back in his "believe anything" days, automatically calls it an abduction. Scully is not impressed.
Chrissy might not remember what happened that night, but Harold has a firm understanding (so to speak). During his first interrogation he claims they were both brought aboard an alien ship where they were prodded and poked and generally made quite uncomfortable. But when Mulder and Scully interview Harold his story changes and he says that if the police say he date raped Chrissy he must have done it. Scully thinks the case is solved but Mulder knows Harold's first story held water under a lie detector test so he asks if he'll submit to a second test with his current rape story. Harold says no and Scully quickly realizes that she and Mulder will be camping out in Klass County for an indefinite amount of time.
Mulder has Chrissy undergo hypnosis so they can find out what really happened that night. Sure enough, within minutes of going under Chrissy describes a classic abduction scenario. Little grey aliens brought she and Harold aboard the mother ship, strapped them to over-sized motherboards then used telepathy to probe their minds and steal their memories. Mulder is convinced, but Scully thinks the story is too similar to the "classic" abduction scenario.
As usual, local authorities think Mulder's alien hypothesis is a crock, so they continue to keep Harold in custody. With little to go on, Mulder asks Harold more questions but this time his story veers sharply from the typical abduction explanation.
In a flashback described by Harold, Harold and Chrissy are prisoners in an electrified cage. Chrissy is unconscious and Harold is barely aware of his surroundings. Glancing to his right he sees another electrified cage, this one housing a grey alien. Harold calls out to it, but the alien's only response is to glance up and take another pull from its cigarette. Chrissy wakes up and Harold declares that he'll bravely protect her from harm. Seconds later he's curled in a fetal position and watches as Chrissy is violently yanked from their cell. Harold looks to the grey alien for help, but it's too busy holding its head in its hands, mumbling the phrase "this is not happening...this is not happening" over and over. Before Harold can question the alien's english-speaking ability his spindly frame is yanked out of the cage by Lord Kinbote.
It's a good story, but it does little to help Harold's cause. Mulder pleads his case to Scully, but their discussion on the probing habits of aliens and teenagers is interrupted by Detective Manners. The agitated, foul-mouthed detective says the abduction was witnessed by "a blankhole."
The "blankhole" is Roky Crikenson, an electrical worker who witnessed the supposed abduction and conveniently recorded his findings in a screenplay. Crikenson arrived on the scene just as the fiery Lord Kinbote attacked the grey aliens. Crikenson tried to hide beneath his truck's dashboard, but Kinbote had other plans for ol' Roky. For some reason, Crikenson was invited to travel to Kinbote's innerspace dominion -- that's right, Lord Kinbote is an alien who lives inside the earth. According to Crikenson, this isn't the weird part. The previous night Crikenson was diligently working on his screenplay in his garage when he was visited by two mysterious men in black. The first MIB, played by wrestler Jesse Ventura, convincingly tells Crikenson that "no other object has been misidentified as a flying saucer more often than the planet Venus." When a former wrestler appears in your garage and tells you you saw Venus, you believe him. Despite a death threat from the men in black, Crikenson describes his story to Mulder and Scully. After spilling the beans, he packs up and runs out of town, never to be seen again.
Mulder is still convinced an abduction occurred, but he's running out of options. The stories from a horny teenager and an odd electrical worker coincide, but they don't carry much weight with local authorities. Desperate for evidence, he has Chrissy hypnotized again, and again her story changes.
This time she confirms Harold's story, but also adds an important, previously unknown description of a debriefing administered by Air Force personnel. An Air Force hypnotist carefully planted her previous alien abduction story into her subconscious. Obviously they wanted to hide something and Mulder wants to know what that is. Scully still thinks they're on a blanking goose chase.
Conveniently, the agents get a break when Detective Manners reports "a call from some crazy blankity blank claiming he found a real-live dead alien body." The crazy "blankity blank" is a hometown geek and hopeful alien abductee named Blaine Faulkner.
Big Blaine tells Jose Chung that he wants to be abducted by aliens so they can take him to a kinder gentler world -- a place where he can spend his days playing Dungeons & Dragons and never worry about finding a job. Blaine says he found the alien corpse while traipsing through a UFO sighting area outside town. He was hoping for a free trip aboard the mothership but instead found a lifeless grey body. Unwittingly, he alerted the local authorities, who promptly arrived with two men in black in tow. In his account, Mulder and Scully are the men in black:
"One of them was disguised as a woman, but wasn't pulling it off. Like her hair was red, but it was a little too red, you know? And the other one. The tall, lanky one. His face was so expressionless. He didn't even seem human. I think he was a mandroid."
The perspective switches back to Scully and the scene changes to a sterile room where Scully performs an autopsy on Blaine's dead alien. Her autopsy is going well until she discovers two layers of skin -- one human-like, the other synthetic. The skin gives way to a zipper, which leads to a mask and then to the very human, very dead face of Air Force Major Robert Vallee. Blaine, present for the autopsy and armed with a video camera, bolts from the room after realizing the dead being on the table is human.
Blaine's videotape is prime evidence of government coverup, so Mulder tracks Blaine down, busts into his bedroom and finds the geeky alien lover unconscious. The rooms has already been visited by the two "real" men in black and the videotape is gone.
On his way back to his motel room, Mulder drives past a naked man wandering in the middle of the road. Since he's an FBI agent and it's his job to investigate such matters, he speeds back and discovers the man to be missing Air Force Lieutenant Jack Sheaffer. Later, Sheaffer tells Mulder that he pilots top-secret UFO's and is involved in the abduction of innocent civilians. The abductions encourage UFO stories, which act as a cover for military tests (the speech is similar to the diatribes delivered by Michael Kritchgau in Gethsemane, Redux and Redux II). Unfortunately for Shaeffer and his Air Force cronies, something went wrong during the abduction of Chrissy and Howard. A real alien -- Lord Kinbote -- abducted them all. Major Vallee was killed, but Shaeffer was spared. Before Mulder can get the whole story Air Force officers take Shaeffer away.
Mulder goes back to his motel to tell Scully of this development, but when he arrives at her room he finds the two men in black waiting. Scully is hypnotized and generally worthless and Mulder is next. As they leave, the second MIB places his hand on Mulder's shoulder and looks him in the face. Mulder is shocked to see Alex Trebek staring into his eyes.
The next morning Mulder and Scully wake up in the same room (Scully in the bed, Mulder in a chair) and Scully can't remember what happened during the previous night. Mulder remembers, but the phone rings before he can adequately describe what transpired. Detective Manners tells Scully "they found your bleepin' UFO."
The agents arrive at the crash site and see military personnel clearing debris from a hillside. Amongst the charred remains is the corpse of Lieutenant Jack Shaeffer. Mulder, Scully and Detective Manners all know something is seriously amiss, but the trail has run dry and there's nothing they can do about it.
Scully's story ends and Jose Chung closes his notebook. Later, Mulder stops by Chung's office and pleads with him not to write the book. He believes that trivializing this case will inflict more damage on a field of study already suffering from a lack of respect. Mulder also suspects that Chung's publisher is part of a grand conspiracy known as the Military-Industrial-Entertainment Complex. Chung is unimpressed and continues with his novel. A few months later it's published. Scully's is well represented, but Mulder is treated as a borderline psychotic desperate to find proof of alien beings.
This is a classic episode ripe with quotable material. Darin Morgan really outdid himself with Jose Chung, interwining an intricate plot with self-deprecating humor. It's episodes like this that make television worthwhile.
Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.