After a two week break, The X-Files returned, for better or worse, but mostly just worse. “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” is the seventh episode of this season, written by Shannon Hamblin & Kristen Cloke and directed by Glen Morgan. If the name Kristen Cloke makes your brain itch, let me scratch that for you: she played “Melissa” on the episode “The Field Where I Died” in season four. She played a woman with multiple personality disorder who convinced Mulder he was a Civil War soldier in a previous life. If you haven’t seen it, I salute you. I still cringe from embarrassment when I think about it.
Once again The X-Files tackled the subject of technology, with mixed results. From the fairly successful episode “Ghost In The Machine” in season one and “Wetwired” in season three, to the much less effective “Kill Switch” in season five and “First Person Shooter” in season seven, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” lands closer to the latter episodes. Mulder and Scully find themselves in a futuristic world, one with robot-made sushi, Korben Dallas-style point based driver’s licenses, self-driving Ubers, and drone deliveries of Roombas. Anything and everything made, controlled and administered by robots. At first, Mulder and Scully are amused, but that soon turns to bewilderment, and then into confusion and anger. While Scully screams at the Uber robot car for driving too fast, Mulder has trouble with his own car for confusing Prince with Crosby Stills. Scully has trouble turning off her home’s security system, the stereo volume gets stuck at a high level, and her Roomba breaks down. Meanwhile, Mulder is dealing with the nightmare of perpetual hold (probably with his porn video provider). I think these situations were supposed to make us relate. After all, don’t we deal with these technological annoyances on a daily basis? Aren’t we promised a simpler life, one where technology solves our mundane problems, only to discover new problems, far more intricate ones, all in technology that is beyond our knowledge to fix? Instead of being relatable, however, I kept on wondering exactly at what point did our favorite alien-chasing, conspiracy-busting GMan and GWoman become helpless grandparents stymied by technology. This episode was like watching my Mum struggle with her iTunes settings. For 45 minutes.
Another frustrating issue with this episode was that it was neither a Mythology story nor a Monster-Of-The-Week story. It felt like an attempt to replicate the style of Black Mirror episodes, and unfortunately, that attempt was unsuccessful. Black Mirror is an updated version of The Outer Limits. And while there are some similarities between The Outer Limits and The X-Files (particularly the dark, pessimistic endings of episodes), the shows are only superficially related. The types of stories that The Outer Limits and Black Mirror tell are outside the purview of X-Files. This episode was very disconnected and made little sense to the overall arc of the season. Much like the season premiere, this episode can be written off completely. I’m really struggling to find a purpose to this story. We have three more episodes left, and I hope they’re better than this. We deserve better.
Ursula did love the handholding at the end, though. Once a shipper, always a shipper. You can chat with her here.