The X-Files and the Monsters of That Week: Badlaa
Season eight of The X-Files may be the strangest of its entire run.
Not only does the show have to deal with Mulder’s disappearance, there is also the introduction of Special Agent John Doggett. The show was in upheaval at this point with a lot of behind the scenes stuff affecting onscreen results. Due to the importance of Mulder, The X Files took a break from the tried and tested monster of the week formula to try a more serialized approach. As I said in last week’s article, Mulder casts a long shadow over this season, turning many episodes that should be deemed MOTW into mythology stories at the mere mention of his name. There is also the fact that the writers were actually excited to have a new character in Doggett to play with. Even with all of this change, The X Files still knew how to put together an absolute stinker. Step (or roll) forward, Badlaa.
If you were to pick The X-Files’ worst writer over the years one name springs immediately to mind: John Shiban. His episodes of the show are frequently considered some of the worst, and the explanation, at least from the research I’ve done, is that he starts off with an idea that wouldn’t get past Standards and Practices, only for Chris Carter to take over and try to make the episode more palatable. He usually fails. Tesos Dos Bichos is a prime example of this- Badlaa is far from the worst of his Monster of the Week, and I would argue that in any other season its ick factor would go in its favour and lead me to pick something a little more traditionally boring, but season eight has the momentum of the search for Mulder, meaning that anything that threatens to derail that plot is the enemy.
Via Negativa was a perfect introduction to the new status quo. Doggett’s solo run did a lot to solidify him as a character – and Badlaa tries to do the same for Scully with hilariously bad results. This could have been so interesting: Scully being pulled in two direction by her own tried-and-tested scientific approach, while also feeling that in order to solve the case, she has to fill Mulder’s role as well since Doggett certainly isn’t going to do it. Perhaps if the plot was stronger this wouldn’t feel so silly, but I can’t help but laugh at the image of Scully accidentally murdering a child with her only defence being that she thought it was an Indian cripple who crawls up people’s asses. It doesn’t work. What is even weaker is the sub-plot where two kids, one a bully the other his victim, learn the value of friendship once the Ass Genie (not my name for him but it makes me laugh on those cold winter nights) starts killing their families.
The whole thing is a mess, resembling more what falls out of my ass than a little guy crawling in. What’s worse is that these are the episodes that should strengthen the relationship between Scully and Doggett – while their bond is solid by the end of season eight, it’s episodes like Badlaa mishandling the duo’s chemistry that make it feel like the show had to skip some steps. Those who disagree with me, feel free to make the “what crawled up your ass?” joke. This is a one-time offer.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Radio Times)