Mulder and Scully Get Their Ghosts Machined – A Retrospective Recap/Review of The X-Files Season 1 Episode 7: Ghost in the Machine

Hi peeps, here we are with the next recap in my series of sarcastic look backs at one of my favorite shows, The X-Files.  This episode is pretty rough to watch but, hey, it makes it all the more fun to make fun of here!  As always, please follow me or subscribe to my blog for more updates!

Recap:

Over at the Eurisko building, a heated meeting between a CEO and a technical visionary ends with Brad the tech wizard being fired over poor performance of Eurisko’s Robotic Building Manager (RBM).  Irate that its program’s shutdown is imminent, the RBM achieves its next step in evolution by becoming both murderous and obnoxious.  Murderous in that RBM murders the CEO through a remarkably poorly designed electronic door lock.  Obnoxious in that after doing anything,  RBM utters catch phrases ala Arnold Schwartzenneger.   Yes, Mulder and Scully are up against their most fearsome foe yet.

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Oh the humanity.

But who enlists our dynamic duo’s aid?  Well Mulder’s former partner, Gerry is tasked with investigating the murder, which he believes was done by something other than a Killer RBM.  But there are other machinations going on in the background.

You see Gerry is both Mulder’s former partner and a bit of a tool.  He is on the outs with the FBI for basically being an embarrassment to the institution so he needs help to get back in their good graces.  Naturally, he goes to the one person he expects will draw up a bizarre and supernatural suspect profile, thereby making him look good.  What he didn’t anticipate is that Mulder would be so bored of the proceedings that he does a generic suspect profile rather than spewing nonsense on aliens, government conspiracies, or Killer RBM.  Seeing his plan crumbling, Gerry pilfers Mulder’s legit profile and presents it as his own.

None of that actually impacts any of the proceedings in a meaningful way though making the previous paragraph mostly a waste of time.   Mulder and Scully go on listlessly about their day and interrogate Brad, the tech visionary (and prime suspect) who talks to them about the Killer RBM but under the much more consumer-friendly name of COS System.   Mulder and Scully don’t realize they are in an X-File yet so they clumsily pinpoint Brad as the killer based on some fancy equipment and Scully drawing on a computer screen.

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“Uhhh Scully, that was permanent marker.”

In the midst of all of this, Killer RBM begins making romantic overtures by cleverly sabotaging an elevator to force Scully to give her personal information over the emergency phone, providing Killer RBM with his first phone number from a chick!  Showing that it has no moral compass when it comes to dating, it then hacks into Scully’s computer and opens her files to learn more about her.  Included in these files is her field report on Brad as a potential suspect that reads like a college essay full of bad metaphors, allusions to Oedipus, and unnecessary padding. Will this AI stop at nothing?

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Mulder wishing he had made his move before the elevator did.

Showing that it has career goals along with relationship goals, Killer RBM decides to take care of Gerry when he goes to arrest Brad.  In an act of selfless sacrifice on behalf of it’s creator, Killer Robot Building Manager sabotages the elevator Gerry is in, sending him plummeting to his death.  In an act of youthful bullying, it also resorts to childishly mimicking Brad’s terrified cries for help.

Apparently, the death of Gerry acts as a triggering moment for Mulder as he finally wakes up and begins looking into the paranormal.  He meets with Deep Throat who pops up here to make sure viewers know he is still a character and to illuminate Mulder about shady defense dealings with Killer RBM and Brad’s resistance to working with the DoD.  Mulder convinces Brad to provide him with a kill code to destroy the robot once and for all, which he provides in the form of a disk.  One can only hope this disk drive was not designed by the same person who designed the locks in the Eurisko building…

Where is Scully in all of this?  Well she thinks Mulder is going crazy over Gerry’s death and sidles her way out of the proceedings.  That is, until she catches someone hacking into her computer to read the same report as before (apparently Killer RBM really loved that report).  Scully traces the hack and it goes back to the Eurisko building.  Scully is outraged…those field journals were her private sanctuary!  Rather than launch a formal investigation and investigate things in the morning, she throws on a flannel shirt, jumps in her car, and heads to the Eurisko building in the dead of the night with no plan whatsoever.  Luckily for her, as she rolls up, Mulder is already there with a flimsy plan.  She tells him what happened and he looks at the building and ominously utters “it’s the machine.”  Scully completely believes him, even though prior to her computer getting hacked, she didn’t believe for a second that a machine was behind any of this.  But ooooh noooo, Scully’s computer gets hacked and suddenly she is completely on board with a killer robot’s existence.

And so they embark into a treacherous journey to the heart of darkness in the Eurisko building.  Killer RBM throws everything he’s got at them both, which Mulder and Scully bumble into repeatedly.  They almost get impaled by a gate and electrocuted by more poorly designed doors.  Scully tries to get around the door through the air ducts and gets slooooowly sucked towards a ventilation fan.  All of this is terribly paced.

Eventually, Mulder runs into the Human Building Manager (HBM) who was in the episode earlier for approximately a minute.  Mulder lets him in on his plan.  Then, in a moment that shocks Mulder to his core, HBM double crosses him just as he gains access to Killer RBM’s mainframe.  He was with the DoD all along and….blah blah blah.  Mulder is resigned to his fate until Scully emerges from her ordeal and demands that HBM kill RBM.  HBM shows how well he knows Scully (through his one minute of interaction with her) and tries to convince her of the benefits of allowing Killer RBM to go on killing and reading her reports.  Scully will have none of it and allows Mulder to use the kill code.  Thus, Killer RBM is gone for good.

Or is it….

My Review:

Boy this episode sucks.   The X-Files is fun to talk about even when the episodes aren’t great because some of the interactions are still interesting or amusing.  This episode though…it has to get through so much exposition to set up all the plotlines revolving around the COS program, the DoD’s involvement, and the requisite cliched “I created a monster” existential crisis.  Then we have a terrible climax at the Eurisko building that is so lacking in tension or actual drama that it just feels like a ten minute waste of time.  None of this is interesting in the least because the COS system is so comically bad.  This was an episode that was overly ambitious for being so early in the show’s run.

It would have been nice to have some good character work and the episode tries here.  But in an episode that is already overloaded with nonsense, adding in a friend from Mulder’s past to add conflict just feels forced.  Gerry and Mulder’s friendship dutifully checks the required boxes (friend from the past, friend screws over protagonist, protagonist forgives friend, friend dies, protagonist wants revenge) but this all happens in about ten minutes of screen-time.  None of it actually affects the plot.  The same thing would have happened (but had more room to breathe) if Gerry wasn’t involved and this was just Mulder and Scully investigating the case.

Duchovny is phoning it in in this episode so that doesn’t help the Gerry plotline.  He just seems out of it and his line delivery (“its the machine”) is awful.  Gillian Anderson as usual is better, but her character behaves erratically this episode, possibly due to the lack of screentime to make things more natural.  Seriously, she thinks Brad is the murderer for the first third.  Then she spends the middle ten minutes worrying about Mulder’s sanity.  Then, her computer gets hacked.  AND SUDDENLY, she is all in on the “its a killer robot” bandwagon.  It just feels silly.

Really, other than one good scene (Gerry’s death in the elevator is actually very suspenseful and well done), this episode is a complete waste of time.   Shout-outs to the bad music and the hilarious scene at the end when the DoD double-crosser looks at Scully and then, they show the exact same shot again only played in reverse.  So bad.

Rating:  39 Ghosts Machined Out of 100

 

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