One of the coolest things about The X-Files coming back for only a few episodes is getting to revisit the old episodes written by returning writers. Creator Chris Carter was a given, but who else would get to? Well, I wrote about Darin Morgan‘s return last week, and this week it’s all about Darin’s big brother Glen and his original writing partner James Wong. The elder Morgan is serving as executive producer on the new series as well. Both Morgan and Wong get their own episode this year to write and direct, with Wong’s as the second episode and Morgan’s airing tonight.
In the early days of The X-Files, Glen Morgan and James Wong were a formidable writing duo as well as co-executive producers of the burgeoning series. Together they wrote six episodes of the first season, five episodes of the second season, and three episodes of the fourth season, with Morgan solo writing a fourth that year. They left The X-Files mid-season 2 in order to create and showrun their own short-lived series, Space: Above and Beyond before coming back for a bit of season 4.
Their work is categorized by crazy monsters, film homages, and some really great conspiracy episodes. But, I think their greatest accomplishments were in developing and furthering Agent Scully’s character, making her more than just the stick-in-the-mud skeptic who’s always wrong by virtue of this being a sci-fi/horror show. In general, if Scully’s right, that means nothing supernatural’s going on, but Morgan and Wong gave Scully a deep spiritual background and episodes where she gets to explore what it means to be a hard scientist who still has faith.
Morgan and Wong’s first episode for the series was 1X03, “Squeeze,” which introduced the creepy human-monster Eugene Victor Tooms (played by real-life creepy human monster, turns out, Doug Hutcheson). Tooms was decades older than he appeared and he resurfaced in order to feast on the livers of victims. He also could stretch his body into impossibly elongated positions to hide in ventilation ducts, and he made a nest for his hibernation using newspaper and bile. So…pretty gross, all things considered. Tooms proved such a popular monster that they brought him back at the end of the season in an episode called “Tooms” which also introduced Assistant Director Skinner.
After the poorly received ghost episode “Shadows,” Morgan and Wong wrote the fantastic episode “Ice” which was an homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing. It involves a remote outpost in Alaska where a group of researchers all died in an apparent murder-suicide. Mulder and Scully, along with other medical professionals and their pilot, arrive and find a dog with weird nodules on its skin and things moving underneath. The pilot is bitten and gets sick and has nodules as well. As the episode goes on, the group gets more and more paranoid about who may or may not be infected with an apparent alien virus excavated from under the ice. This episode drives a wedge between Mulder and Scully that they have to overcome and it’s damned tense. Easily one of the best first season episodes.
As I mentioned above, Wong and Morgan were big into developing Scully as a character, and the best example of that in the first season is “Beyond the Sea.” After Scully’s military father dies, she refuses to take time off work and joins Mulder on the case of a murderer on death row (played brilliantly by Brad Dourif) who claims to be a psychic who can help save potential victims of another serial killer in exchange for life in prison instead of death. His execution has already been staid a few times. Mulder thinks the guy’s a liar, but the murderer begins honing in on Scully and saying things that her father used to say, or sing songs (like “Beyond the Sea”) which her father liked. Ultimately, this episode allows Scully to be the strong one and fight her own inner demons regarding death and the afterlife.
In season one, Morgan and Wong wrote one episode that fit into the alien conspiracy – “E.B.E.” which stands for Extraterrestrial Biological Entity, a fancy term for alien. It introduced the Lone Gunmen. In season two, however, Wong and Morgan wrote the opener, “Little Green Men,” which takes Mulder to Central America to a research station after the closing of the X-Files, while Scully is back in Washington working as just a medical examiner for the Bureau. But when she’s worried about his well-being, Scully travels to Puerto Rico to find Mulder before someone or something else does. This plays into the massive conspiracy arc in the first part of season two, almost entirely written because of Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy and needed maternity leave.
After writing the teleplay for “Blood,” which I talked about in last week’s Darin Morgan article, and after helping to write the frankly terrible “3” which finds Mulder facing vampire sex fanatics while Scully’s been abducted, Morgan and Wong wrote “One Breath.” This episode sees Scully return from wherever she was taken, in a coma, clinging to life as visualized by her sitting in a boat tethered to a dock in the middle of a lake. This episode focuses on Mulder trying to get to the bottom of it. We’re introduced to her kooky (and hot) hippie-spiritualist sister who gets Mulder to talk to Scully before it’s too late, which she says leads to her sister waking up. Scully’s also visited by visions of her father from the other side.
After one more episode in season two, the uber-creepy satanic school teachers episode “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” Morgan and Wong left the show for Space: Above and Beyond. They were gone for the rest of season two and the entirety of season three, but came back in a big way in season four’s second episode, “Home.” This is easily the most infamous X-Files episode of all time. In a laughably quaint small town, a group of boys finds a dead baby buried in the baseball field. The baby has every birth defect anyone could imagine. It turns out, this is the offspring of the Peacock Family, and incredibly inbred clan living quietly in a house in the woods. The matriarch of the family is hideously deformed and missing her arms and legs. She’s kept on a rolling cart under the bed. Her son is also the father of her two younger boys. Weirdly, Mother Peacock and Scully talk a lot about motherhood and things before the episode becomes a darkly funny mixture of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Home Alone. It was only ever shown once.
They also wrote the episode “The Field Where I Died,” which showcased Morgan’s soon-to-be-wife Kristen Cloke as the wife of a cult leader who can recall her past lives. It’s got something to do with Mulder’s past life as well, but they never again explore this in the series. I don’t really care for this episode.
Morgan on his own wrote one of the best episodes of the series, though, in “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” which flashes back to thirty years of the history of The X-Files‘ resident shadowy bad guy, played by William B. Davis. As the CSM is staking out Lone Gunman Frohike, possibly to kill him for saying too much, we get to go back in time to see how the CSM became who he is, that he killed Kennedy and pinned it on Oswald, that he also shot Martin Luther King, and that he’s behind pretty much every bad thing in history. We also get to see that he tries to be a writer, submitting various short stories under the pen name Raoul Bloodworth, but that it never fully gives him the satisfaction he’s looking for. Tremendous effort to make this evil man more sympathetic, and it works better than you’d think it would.
Morgan and Wong’s final episode until this year was “Never Again,” fittingly another Scully episode. But, it’s also super weird. Sat right in between two episodes about her cancer (“Leonard Betts” and “Memento Mori”), “Never Again” has Scully take some time off from Mulder. In this episode, she thinks that her relationship with him is no a real friendship (or otherwise) because it’s all based on work, and she has nobody else. She heads to Philadelphia and meets a guy who seems perfectly nice except he has a jealous tattoo. Yes, you read that correctly. The guy lost a divorce hearing and got drunk and got a Bettie Page tattoo with the words “Never Again” written below it. The tattoo talks to him and makes him do awful things to women, especially if they seem interested in him. And, yup, you can bet Scully is one of these potential victims. Jodie Foster provided the voice of the tattoo.
And there we have it. A lot of great and essential work from Wong and Morgan early on. I really liked Wong’s episode this year, so let’s hope Morgan’s episode airing tonight, “Home Again,” fittingly, lives up to the rest.
Next week, we’ll be talking about Chris Carter’s monster-of-the-week episodes. Or the good ones anyway. He did a lot.
Image Credits: Fox Television
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!