In Season 4 of The X-Files
, Scully is a bit upset by her on-off terminal cancer and Mulder is supposed to shoot himself in the season finale (did anyone believe that?), but in episode after episode the characters still plod dutifully around atrocity sites tossing off wry witticisms in that bland investigative demeanour out of fashion among TV cops since Dragnet
. Perhaps the best achievement of this season is "Home", the most unpleasant horror story ever presented on prime-time US TV. It's not a comfortable show--confronted with this ghastly parade of incest, inbreeding, infanticide and mutilation, you'd think M & S would drop the jokes for once--but shows a willingness to expand the envelope. By contrast, ventures into golem, reincarnation, witchcraft and Invisible Man territory throw up run-of-the-mill body counts, spotlighting another recurrent problem. For heroes, M & S rarely do anything positive: they work out what is happening after all the killer's intended victims have been snuffed ("Kaddish"), let the monster get away ("Sanguinarium") and cause tragedies ("The Field Where I Died"). No wonder they're stuck in the FBI basement where they can do the least damage.
The series has settled enough to play variations on earlier hits: following the liver vampire, we have a melanin vampire ("Teliko") and a cancer vampire ("Leonard Betts"), and return engagements for the oily contact lens aliens and the weasely ex-Agent Krycek ("Tunguska"/"Terma"). Occasional detours into send-up or post-modernism are indulged, yielding both the season's best episode ("Small Potatoes") and its most disappointing ("Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man"). "Small Potatoes", with the mimic mutant who tries out Mulder's life and realises what a loser he is (how many other pin-up series heroes get answerphone messages from their favourite phone-sex lines?), works as a genuine sci-fi mystery--for once featuring a mutant who doesn't have to kill people to live--and as character insight. --Kim Newman
Box set containing the entire fourth season of the popular American sci-fi series. In 'Herrenvolk', Mulder attempts to save his dying mother with the assistance of an extraterrestrial healer. 'Unruhe' sees Mulder and Scully on the trail of a killer using psychic photographs. In 'Home', the agents investigate the death of a deformed infant. 'Teliko' sees Mulder and Scully attempting to trace a killer who drains the skin pigmentation from his black victims. In 'The Field Where I Died', Mulder experiences a past life regression while investigating a religious cult. 'Sanguinarium' sees Mulder and Scully on the trail of a murderous plastic surgeon, while in 'Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man', the history of Mulder and Scully's nemesis is traced back to involvement in JFK's assassination and Area 51. In 'Paper Hearts', Mulder attempts to track down the intended victims of a serial killer after several precognisant dreams. 'Tunguska' sees the discovery of a deadly virus contained within a rock. In 'Terma', Mulder joins his old foe Alex Krycek in attempting to gain proof regarding the rock organism. 'El Mundo Gira' sees Mulder and Scully attempting to track down a mythical blood-sucking creature called 'El Chupacabra'. In 'Haddish', they discover a murder which has aparently been committed by a dead man, while 'Never Again' sees Scully indulging in a dangerous affair with a tattooed stranger. In 'Leonard Betts', the body of a decapitated paramedic seemingly comes back to life, while 'Momento Mori' sees Scully attempting to come to terms with the fact that she has inoperable cancer. In 'Unrequited', Mulder and Scully find themselves unable to trace a former Vietnam vet turned murderer who has the ability to become invisible. 'Tempes Fugit' sees the agents making a startling discovery at the bottom of a lake while investigating an airline, and in 'Max', they attempt to prove that the passengers were sacrificed by the government in order to obtain alien technology. 'Synchrony' sees the duo trying to deal with a time travelling killer from the future, while in 'Small Potatoes', a spate of babies born with tails puts Mulder and Scully on the trail of a man with chameleonic abilities. In 'Zero Sum', Skinner helps the cigarette-smoking man destroy evidence in order to save Scully's life, only to find himself accused of murder. 'Elegy' sees ghostly images of female murder victims appearing as harbingers of doom, while in 'Demons', a blood-covered Mulder attempts to recall the events of the last few days when he is overcome by amnesia. Finally, in 'Gethsemane', Mulder attempts to prove that a discovery in the Canadian mountains is evidence of alien life.