One of my all time favorite episodes of anything is the X-Files gem Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. Its an episode that pops up in top 10 lists for X-Files, usually below such other episodes classics in Home, The Post-Modern Prometheus, and Emmy winning Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, which was penned by the Jose Chung episode writer Darin Morgan. All four episodes are masterpieces in both X-Files but also of their own genre leanings. However I put Jose Chung above the other two because it best exemplified the series and as such, stands out a bit more.
Home-a tense, dark, and rather brutal episode falls into a more Southern Gothic by way of thriller. The story about a baby’s body being found and tied to an inbred family. It has nothing to do with science fiction or the supernatural which is what the X-Files was built on. Post-Modern Prometheus, by series creator Chris Carters, is an ode to Frankenstein. A black and white episode with camp and b-film aspects, its a fun diversion for a rather serious show. Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose-guest starring the late Peter Boyle, is an incredibly haunting episode about psychics. Clyde can see how people die, all while a serial killer is targeting fortune tellers and psychics. One of the only four episodes written by Darin Morgan (whose brother worked on X-Files and co-wrote Home) and the one that earned Morgan and Boyle Emmys. A beautiful episode that I’d put #2 overall.
So I said, I’d put Jose Chung on top because it best exemplified the series. X-Files, at its core, was about aliens. Sure the mission statement was the truth about Paranormal Activity but the overarching plot was about aliens. Jose Chung deals with the heart of the series while working more like their Monster of the Week episodes. So it delves into the alien plot while leaving a lot of the main players out. It does at its heart capture a lot of what those X-Files episodes were about-truth and untruth, government cover ups, and a lack of resolve. That was always a frustrating thing about X-Files, the endings to the episodes. Mainly the ones about aliens.
This episode by director Rob Bowman and writer Darin Morgan revolves around a writer named Jose Chung working on a book about the alien abduction of two young people. The episode opens with guest star William Lucking (Piney from SoA) working on the power lines on a road where the lights are dead (the opening shot in the script is suppose to ape the opening shot in the original Star Wars) and transitions into the couple driving down the road until the car goes dead. The two are met with a bright light that stuns them. A pair of grey aliens start the kidnapping process but are interrupted by another bright light, a giant, beast, and the two talk to each other in English-unsure of whats happening. The scene spells out several things about the episode. First is that it is adding a further wrinkle to the overall Alien mythology. English speaking ETs? Another alien creature unlike the gray skinned big heads we’re use to? Another thing is that you can sense a certain humor bubbling under the surface. Most of Darin Morgans episodes had humor, one of the first writers of the series to bring that out in his incredible Humbug episode about murders in a community populated by sideshow folk.
After that cold open and the credits we meet author Jose Chung, played by Charles Nelson Reilly, as he meets up with Dana Scully to discuss this case as research for his new book. Done partially in the Rashomon Effect style where Jose Chung interviews Scully (and another witness) who goes into their account of their investigation. She recounts her own eye witness account and Mulders as told to her. From here we find where the young woman is and then the man, who is wanted for date rape. When brought in he claims alien abduction and is noted that he passed his lie detector test. Mulder and Scully come in, chat with him and then bring the woman and and follow up with a hypnotist. Mulder, as usual, believes its all true while Scully believes that they both experienced some sort of trauma from sex (consensual or assault). One of the scenes that stands out is a recounting of one of the mans experience where he talked about being in a cell next to one of the grey aliens. An alien rocking back and forth, speaking English (“This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening.”) and also pulling out a smoke. Its become an iconic image in the X-Files fandom.
Lucking pops up again, corroborating portion of the man and woman’s story and also cluing the agents in on the second alien. One that spoke with him and took him on a ride. Lucking’s character. Roky, wrote it all down and in the process got a visit from the Men In Black. He gives his manuscript to the agents and leaves town. Chung also has a copy which was given to him by his publisher. Mulder decides he wants rehypnotize the girl to look deeper into her story, which changes her testimony, and also a science fiction fanatic discovers the body which then leads to a filmed autopsy by Scully revealing that the grey skinned alien was in man in disguise. The episodes rolls on and you start to get the idea that misinformation is key. Witness’ are not credible, strong evidence and be manipulated, and that no one knows for sure what happened. It all leads up to Mulder showing up to Chungs office, asking him not to do the book. That it would just be a key piece in continued manipulation in the ongoing investigation of alien abductions.
That’s what it is all about in the end. What is real and what is not real? Ultimately you buy aliens exist in the series but you’re unsure if what anyone says about them is true or not. You buy that the government has a vested interest but you become unsure as to why. This episode gets to the heart of the series but also showcases X-Files major problem-a lack of a strong resolve to the alien episodes. Ironically this episode has one of the strongest endings of the entire series. On continuity notes-while not tied to the overall series arc some of the images and scenes are taken from the episode Duane Barry. A season two episode that, with the next episode Ascension, were major parts of the larger arc. This episode also features wrestler/actor Jesse Ventura and game show host Alex Trebeck in small but memorable roles.
X-Files, for its importance in science fiction, has a habit of being a rocky series through out. Its a series with lots of quality episodes and great performances but as you dig farther in it becomes more frustrating. The journey becomes unrewarding after a while but before then there are a number of amazing episodes. This one and the three others I mentioned. I wholeheartedly suggest checking these episodes out. They are self contained so you can watch them whenever.
I included the episode trailer but… Well… It does not really give the proper impression of the episode.