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Biogenesis (Part 1 of 3)

I liked this episode. I had a good time watching it and it dealt with many of the mythological elements I've been wondering about. But this episode gives me reservations about the seventh season. The X-files crew has backed themselves into a corner with the multitude of loose ends now dangling from the show. They're going to need more than the customary 5-6 mythology episodes next season to deal with the different characters and developments. I don't think it's an impossible task, but let's hope they choose to tackle these issues rather than toss them off.

That being said, here's what happens in the sixth season finale:

"Biogenesis" begins with a long, scientific monologue from Scully. Pictures of nature and people and things and life and growth and all the stuff you learned about in bio are flashed on the screen as Scully says something to this effect:

"Billions of years ago a very small, utterly inconsequential single-celled organism named Ubercell morphed into something. That something, in turn, morphed into something else. A whole bunch of millennia zipped by and that 'something else' finally crawled from the primordial goo and started building stuff. One thing led to another and now we have an overpopulated planet full of high-rise apartments and Starbucks. Someday we're going to be visited by the being (or beings) who started this crazy thing we call 'Life' and it'll be pretty clear that we've been misbehaving. If we're lucky our punishment will be a terminal case of extinction. If we're unlucky we'll all be turned into Bea Arthur clones. Now sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite."

In a nutshell: Life is important but we don't have a damn clue how it started.

Scully's melodramatic Chris Carter-speak fades and we see a group of men rushing around a West African beach. The men are excited about a small metallic object they've found half-submerged at the waterline. Calling their supervisor over, the scholarly man sees the object and his face instantly creases into a look that says "My god! This is something Very Important!"

The scholarly man's name is Dr. Solomon Merkmallen and he's a biology professor at the Universite Cote D'Ivorire in West Africa. With the discovery of the relic on the beach, Merkmallen now has two pieces of this mysterious "thing." Both pieces have odd markings along the surface. Merkmallen begins to place the pieces together, but his puzzle-assembling efforts are helped along when the two pieces snap together by themselves. To make things more interesting, the newly formed object flies across his office, embedding in a Bible on a bookshelf. Merkmallen is dumbstruck. He removes the artifact from the Bible and sets it on his desk. Merkmallen stares at the relic and it starts to spin in circles. The scientist slams his hand down on the misbehaving artifact and for the moment all is quiet.

Three days later Merkmallen travels to American University in Washington, D.C. to meet with Dr. Steven Sandoz, a colleague working with similar relics. Merkmallen catches up with Sandoz in a lab full of monkeys (always a bad sign) and he wastes little time showing the American professor his relic. As Merkmallen unwraps the object the monkeys start to chatter and bang on their cages. If the monkeys could speak they'd say: "It's a trap! This isn't Sandoz! He's an evil doctor who's going to bludgeon you over the head and kill you!" Alas, the simian warning isn't understood and the Sandoz imposter kills Merkmallen. Moments later the real doctor Sandoz enters the lab and finds Merkmallen doing a very good impression of a man who has been killed with a blunt object.

The next day, or maybe even the day after the next day, Skinner meets with Mulder and Scully in his stately office. The body of Dr. Solomon Merkmallen is missing, but the very big blood puddle he left behind has led investigators to deem him dead. Dr. Steven Sandoz is also missing but since he didn't leave any blood in his wake he's presumed to be living. Mulder and Scully have been assigned the case because of the extraterrestrial tie between Sandoz and Merkmallen. Both men subscribed to the theory of "panspermia." Before you jump to any conclusions about "panspermia" (stop laughing) let me explain what it is. People supporting this theory believe that life didn't originate on the Earth. The miracle of creation began somewhere else, possibly on a planet like Mars, which is believed to have been habitable at one point. Cosmic collisions with these life-bearing planets sent microbes into space. Eventually these microbes made the long trip to the Earth where they flourished into wonderful organisms. One thing led to another and now we've got a planet full of creatures.

Both Sandoz and Merkmallen had stated in scientific and unscientific ways that the newly discovered artifacts somehow support the pamspermia theory. Skinner hands Mulder and Scully a paper rubbing of Merkmallen's relic and Scully's eyes roll with uncontrollable skepticism. The agents move to the elevator where they engage in idle chitchat about their new case. As Mulder looks at the relic rubbing his vision blurs and his ears fill with a hollow sound. Scully is obviously talking to him, but he can't hear her. This delights Scully to no end -- everyone loves to be ignored. The elevator reaches the ground floor and Mulder's hearing returns. Scully asks Mulder why he continues to pursue these cases. In her view the demise of the Syndicate means that Mulder has "won." "What more could you possibly hope to do or to find?" Scully asks. "My sister," Mulder replies. Point Mulder!

That being said, the agents travel to American University to begin their investigation. As they arrive at the murder scene (the monkey lab) a police forensics team bags what appears to be a large, bloody bone. The agents enter the room and Mulder stares at a man standing by the monkey cages. It's the same man who impersonated Sandoz and killed Merkmallen. Scully speaks with a detective who tells her that the bone they just hauled off appears to be the murder weapon and it's likely that the prints on the big bone are from Dr. Sandoz. At the same time, Mulder has approached the man by the monkey cages to introduce himself. The man is Dr. Barnes, the head of the biology department. Barnes doesn't have many good things to say about his colleague Dr. Sandoz -- he believes that Sandoz would be capable of murder if it would further his career. Scully produces the relic rubbing and suddenly Mulder's head begins to throb with the pangs of a telepathic migraine. He rushes to the hallway but Barnes doesn't seem to notice. The angry scientist continues slandering Sandoz, telling Scully he's a "pseudoscientist."

After listening to Barnes rant, Scully meets Mulder in the hallway and checks him for a fever and subcutaneous implants at the base of the neck. Mulder sheepishly says that the relic rubbing is what's causing his headaches. Scully, of course, is highly skeptical of this conclusion.

Despite her skepticism Scully calls their old buddy Dr. Chuck Burks ("Leonard Betts") to examine the rubbing. Mulder meets Burks and Scully in the X-files office and Burks expresses his excitement over the rubbing and the effect it's having on Mulder. You almost expect him to declare the whole situation "wacky" but it never comes to that. Wackiness aside, Burks says that the writing on the artifact is Navajo, which is odd since the relic was found on the West Coast of Africa. But there's more! Burks explains the concept of the "Magic Square" (don't worry, this has relevance). According to the Magic Square story, God handed down his knowledge to Adam, and later to the saints and the wisemen, as a way of trapping and harnessing His power. The Magic Square dictates that whoever's name or "numerical correlative" matches the secrets in the Square will have heavenly wisdom. The artifact is related to the Square in a cosmic kinda way. Additionally, the Square may tap into the God Module ("The End," "The Beginning"). Those who fall into the correct regions of the magic square can have their God Module activated. Based on Mulder's recent migraines, it would seem that the Square is clearly spelling F-O-X.

It's a nice story, but Burks and Scully think it's a crock of hooey. Dr. Barnes (the murdering scientist from American University) also thinks it's a crock of hooey and he's said so in various magazines and scientific journals. Barnes has made a career of discrediting crackpot theories (such as Panspermia) and his latest target has been Dr. Sandoz. Of course, if Sandoz were able to prove his theory by producing evidence (in the form of a relic found on a beach) then Barnes would suffer a serious blow to his reputation. As we all know, a scientist's reputation is what it's all about. Sooo, with this in mind, I'm going to say that it was Dr. Barnes in the observatory with the alien relic.

Speaking of the alien relic, when Burks looks at the paper rubbing Mulder's head pounds with celestial pain. He and Scully move to the hallway while Burks looks on in awe.

In the hallway Mulder's pain clears and he tells Scully that he "knows" what happened to Dr. Merkmallen. He claims to have sensed that Barnes killed Merkmallen in the monkey lab and now he's also sensing the location of Merkmallen's body. Suddenly Mulder's face drops as hundreds of light years away the peaceful planet of Alderaan is blown to bits by the newly activated Death Star. Sorry, wrong mythology.

Mulder, using his new spidey sense, brings Scully to Dr. Sandoz's home. Mulder walks around the house, feeling pillows and looking at luggage. He discovers luggage tags that show that Sandoz has been traveling to New Mexico. Why would he be traveling to New Mexico? Moments later Scully finds the answer. Hanging on a wall is a picture of Dr. Sandoz with Albert Hosteen, the Navajo codetalker featured in the "Anasazi" story arc. Mulder believes Hosteen was helping Sandoz decipher the Navajo writing on the artifact. Scully, despite knowing Hosteen is a good and righteous man, thinks Hosteen was aiding Sandoz in his alien hoax.

The argument ends when Mulder "senses" a vile smell from a trash compactor in Sandoz's kitchen. You don't need an active god module to recognize the stench of a decomposing body. Opening the compactor, the agents find that Dr. Merkmallen has been deposited in a hefty bag. Mulder and Scully have seen some bad stuff over the years, but this is very, very nasty.

Sometime later, Mulder and Scully meet with Skinner to report that Dr. Sandoz is not the killer. Right now the pursuit of murderers pales in comparison to the artifact, which Mulder believes is authentic. For the first time in years, the evidence supports Mulder: Barnes killed Merkmallen because the artifact could discredit Barnes' work and Sandoz has gone into hiding because he possesses ultra-valuable alien artifacts. The scientific data is also starting to support the authenticity of the artifact. Scully's autopsy and lab work on Merkmallen's remains reveal Cosmic Galactic Radiation (CGR), a type of radiation only found outside our solar system. Unless Merkmallen did a lot of galactic traveling, chances are the radiation came from the alien artifact.

After telling Skinner this, Mulder's Brain Broadcast kicks in. He grips his head and looks up at his boss. "There's someone else on this case sir," he says defiantly. The voices in Mulder's head are telling him that Skinner is working behind their back -- someone else is involved. If Mulder were smart he would keep this information to himself and use it to his advantage, but no, he has to go and tell Skinner that "voices" in his head are speaking to him. Mulder will never learn.

Thankfully, Scully is there to save his butt by hauling Mulder out of the office. Once again the agents talk in the hallway (there's been a lot of that in this episode) and Mulder insists that Skinner is up to something. Scully tells Mulder that she'll try to find the artifacts while he goes home to rest his overworked god module.

At the same time, Skinner removes a surveillance videotape from a hidden camera in his office. He slides the tape across a conference table and the gloved hand of Alex Krycek nabs it. The two men share a long, unfriendly look. Krycek turns on his heel and walks out the back door, relishing in the power he has over Skinner.

Scully begins her search for the missing artifacts by traveling to New Mexico. She arrives at the Southwestern General Hospital in Gallup, New Mexico just as Albert Hosteen is being wheeled out of his room by a team of doctors and nurses. Scully walks into Hosteen's room and finds a relic rubbing on his bedside table. The back of the rubbing features a verse from Genesis, which suggests Hosteen has been successful in deciphering the code. A nurse enters and tells Scully that Hosteen is in the advanced stages of cancer. His outlook is dim.

While Scully digs up leads in New Mexico, Mulder completely ignores her recommendation to rest. The overly curious agent visits American University and breaks into the office of Dr. Barnes. As he rifles through papers and files, he hears Barnes approach in the hallway. Mulder ducks out just before Barnes enters. Barnes leaves his office and Mulder attempts to follow him, but the alien migraines kick in and Mulder collapses in a stairwell. The sound of "All the Knowledge in Existence (and then some)" is too much for him to handle.

As Mulder squirms, Alex Krycek walks up the stairs. The double-crossing, one-armed rat lover gives Mulder a passing look, then continues up toward the roof. On the dark roof, Krycek meets Dr. Barnes. "Dr. Barnes, you and I are destined to be great friends," Krycek says as he holds up Skinner's videotape. Once again, Krycek is up to something but none of us have any idea what it is.

At the hospital in New Mexico, Scully sees Dr. Steven Sandoz peeking into Hosteen's room. Sandoz tries to run but Scully corners him in a stairwell and asks him, quite nicely, for answers. Sandoz, being a good guy, agrees to spill the beans.

And spill he does. Sandoz and Scully return to Hosteen's room. As the pair stand on opposite sides of Hosteen's bed (Hosteen is lying there, unconscious) Sandoz says that the artifacts he and Merkmallen discovered contain passages from the Bible. Sandoz believes that the aliens "gave" humans the Bible. However, a recently uncovered second set of artifacts doesn't have anything to do with religion. According to Sandoz, the second group appears to contain a random set of characters. As he reveals this, one of the artifact pieces sitting on a nearby table begins to spin wildly. Scully stops the spinning relic before it launches itself into Hosteen's life support system.

Moments later, Scully calls Mulder's apartment. Diana Fowley, the wicked witch of the North, answers the phone. Mulder is bedridden but he's able to talk to his partner. Scully tells him about the deciphered passage from Genesis. Mulder subscribes to the same theory as Sandoz -- the aliens gave humans the Bible and ultimately they're responsible for the entire human genesis. Mulder carries it a step further and says that everything in the X-files can be attributed to the human family tree, which now has its roots in a mothership. Scully can't accept that. All of her training is telling her to scream "No!" The agents hang up and Mulder hands the phone to Fowley. The evil woman walks into the kitchen and places a call to someone (probably CSM). She tells this unseen person that she'll stay with Mulder to find out what's happening to his screwy mind.

The scene shifts to a nondescript boardroom where a group of seemingly important men are discussing alien colonization. CSM sits at the head of the table, calmly sucking a Morley and watching over the proceedings. Has he formed a new Syndicate?

With her world crashing down around her, Scully has no choice but to launch into another monologue. Her steady voice relays her thoughts as the scene shows Albert Hosteen being taken to a Navajo healing ceremony. Scully's monologue asks big questions: Are we born only to die? If there is a beginning, must there be an end? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

They're all good questions, but thankfully she stops asking them long enough for the scene to continue. Sandoz invites Scully into the healing ceremony, but she deems it improper. Before Sandoz can protest, Skinner calls Scully to tell her that Mulder has been admitted to the hospital.

Scully works her traveling magic and crisscrosses the country in record time. She meets Skinner at the Georgetown Memorial Hospital, scolding him for not telling her that Mulder was admitted into the psychiatric ward. Skinner is obviously concerned. "I don't know what to do Dana," he says. Anytime someone calls Scully "Dana" you know bad things are afoot.

Skinner brings Scully to an observation room in the psych unit. Fowley is already in the room, watching Mulder via a surveillance camera. Mulder is dressed in a hospital gown and he's obviously off his rocker. He screams and mumbles and flails about his padded cell like a crack addict mired in withdrawal. A doctor tells Scully that Mulder's brain activity is unlike anything he's ever seen. The mixture of barbiturates he's been given should have put Mulder in a drug coma, but it's pretty apparent that he's nowhere near sleepytime.

Continuing with the hallway motif, Fowley questions Scully and Skinner outside the observation room. Scully obviously hates this woman, and with good reason. The Foul Lady paints herself as a savior, claiming that Mulder called her and she rescued him from a stairwell. Now that she's firmly planted the knife in Scully's back Fowley turns it a little deeper when she says that Mulder told her she was the only one who would believe his theory about the artifact. Skinner, standing behind Scully, tells Fowley that Scully has already proven the artifact to be a hoax. Scully looks up at her boss. "I never sent you that report," she says with hate in her eyes. Scully calls both Fowley and Skinner liars then walks off.

Scully rushes to the X-files office -- if Skinner knew about the artifact hoax then there must be a bug or a camera hidden in the office. Scully searches everywhere and finally notices the smoke detector. As she looks up at the detector, a video camera catches her image. Before she can fully discover the device, the phone rings.

The caller is Sandoz and it would appear that the Navajo healing ceremony has stimulated his mind. He tells Scully that the second set of artifacts contains more than random characters. The characters are coordinates for the human genome -- the entire human makeup is contained on the artifacts. As he tells Scully this, a man approaches from the darkness and fires a bullet into Sandoz's body, killing him instantly. Alex Krycek strikes again.

Thirty-six hours later, Scully arrives on the West African beach where the first artifact was discovered at the beginning of the show. A man guides Scully to the tidal shallows where the object was uncovered. Scully reaches out and brushes foam and sand from a large piece of metal. The metal is inscribed with the same Navajo characters. Scully takes a step back as she realizes that the metal piece is connected to something much, much bigger. The camera pans up. Looking down from an aerial view it's clear that Scully is standing on top of an enormous alien ship -- a ship that looks similar to the large craft seen at the end of "Fight the Future." If Scully was looking for "proof undeniable" I think she just found it.

Note: This review originally appeared at It's reprinted here for archival purposes.

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