Written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Kim Manners
In which the Rebels begin a systematic attack on Syndicate operations, seeking to expose the conspiracy and gain control, as Cancer Man contemplates his next move...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
As many X-Philes might remember, the sweeps period of February 1999 was an important moment in the history of the series. For weeks, the network and producers had been hitting the airwaves and magazine stands with promises of “Full Disclosure”. The mid-point of the sixth season would, according to the promotional materials, explain the mythology and make sense of it all.
Even then, the promise seemed unnecessary, the pomp and circumstance overwrought. After all, that was the supposed function of “Fight the Future”: putting Mulder and the conspiracy into the proper context. Unfortunately, there were other matters left to consider, mostly from the fifth season. Because “Fight the Future” had been written when the series was slated to end with the fifth season, long before the fifth season was actually made, the subsequent decision to continue the series meant that the mythology needed to be further complicated to keep the overall series moving forward.
So elements like the Rebels and the Spenders were completely outside of the context of the mythology as planned at the beginning of the third season. That story culminated in “Fight the Future”. This episode, and the second half that followed, was designed to incorporate the new elements into the mythology while remaining consistent with the film and that original concept. Of course, in the process of laying everything out and trying to tell a story on top of that, the writers exposed most of the holes in their own internal understanding of the mythology they had generated.
As with most of the mythology episodes, previous interpretations regarding the goals and policies of the conspiracy and Cancer Man pertain directly to the interpretation of the current episode. Therefore, the speculation and interpretation outlined in previous reviews are assumed to be familiar to the reader. In particular, the summary of the mythology provided and given in the review for “Fight the Future” factors into the interpretation of this episode.
In trying to make sense of this episode (especially in the context of everything that would follow), certain basic truths about “X-Files” should be kept firmly in mind. In short, everyone lies. Motivations are obscured, sources and origins are hidden, and people make assumptions based on limited and manipulated information. Just because Cancer Man sits in a chair and gives a basic explanation for the Syndicate and the Project does not, by any means, lend credibility to what he claims.
Instead, his claims should be measured against his motivations. Cancer Man wants to bring about the apparent savior of mankind through genetic selection. He used the Syndicate plans to help find the right women to accomplish that goal, and two “brothers” emerged: Fox Mulder and Jeffrey Spender. Mulder had the right genetic markers; Spender did not (hence, “paling to Fox Mulder”). Mulder was thus the child to protect, and ultimately, the one funneled towards the woman who might supply the remaining pieces of the genetic puzzle: Dana Scully.
Cancer Man does all of this out of an incomplete knowledge of events to take place in 2012. Essentially, a malevolent non-corporeal intelligence called Purity would use an artificially-evolved humanity to subsume the species and thus spread. Purity sought to ensure its rise and success by manipulating past events, fostering the conspiracy within and beyond the Syndicate operations.
The Rebels are a competing power from the same time period. They believe that the genetic alterations sponsored by Purity are to the benefit of humanity. They are driven by a cult-like desire to use the “hybrid” process to transform humanity, but prevent the subsequent “colonization” by Purity. So while the “Colonists” and the Rebels are at war, both intend for humanity to be transformed into a new, genetically engineered species.
In this episode, an important step in the process is achieved. Phase I of the Project (1947-1973) focused on artificial augmentation of the species through radiation experiments and physical alteration. This is when the basic technology of the nanotech-controlled super-soldiers emerged, as seen in the later seasons of the series. During this time, genetic information was collected to facilitate Phase II.
Phase II began in 1973 and ran right through the end of the series in 2002. Essentially, two goals were at play. The first goal was to replicate a biological analogue to the nanotech used to create the first super-soldiers. (This would eventually lead to the creation of the Rebels and the “hunters”.) The second goal, contingent on the first, was to modify the human population to give birth to children with the biological modifications “hard-wired” into their genetic code. (Emily, for example, was a failed version of this experiment.)
All of this is important because it explains why Cassandra Spender was so important in the mythology. For Purity, creating a “hybrid” (really an attempt to create an analogue to the “future savior” sought by Cancer Man) was all about preparing humanity for the next step. Studying that “hybrid” would allow the genetic engineers to work towards a child with the same properties. For the Rebels, that “hybrid” would fulfill a similar goal as the prototype for the new and stronger humanity they religiously desire. Control over the “hybrid” is important to both sides of the equation, even if the information ultimately gets to both side regardless of Cassandra’s fate.
If all of this is accepted, then where does Cancer Man fall into the equation? Why is Cassandra important to his goals? He doesn’t need the “hybrid” for his own purposes; keeping Mulder and Scully under his thumb gives him what he needs in terms of the future. But he does want to control and limit the successes of Purity and the Rebels, especially since he wants the vaccine to be developed in the meantime.
This is one of the subtle points of the mythology that is never fully addressed. Cancer Man is played as someone willing to conduct horrible tests and take immoral action to achieve his goals, but the goals are supposedly for the greater good. Why, then, would he fail to support Bill Mulder’s desire to focus on a vaccine? It makes far more sense to consider that he wanted the vaccine hidden, shielded behind the ridiculous efforts of the Syndicate and their fosterage of Purity’s conspiracy.
Much of what Cancer Man gives as an explanation for the Project in this episode is the complex and utterly false tale he has been using to control the Syndicate from the very beginning. In essence, he has used the idea of “colonizing aliens from the distant past” as a means of directing efforts, allowing them to create programs and fund aspects of the Project necessary for him to achieve his own agenda. Most of the time, when Cancer Man was encountering problems, it was related to his struggles to see the Syndicate through the most critical part of his plan.
In terms of this episode, about six months after “Fight the Future”, his plans to control information flow using Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley have been entirely successful. Mulder has been sidelined far enough that he could be manipulated more than ever before, and Scully has been pushed into the realization that she is committed to Mulder’s cause. The success with Cassandra Spender, for Cancer Man, now requires the careful manipulation of information to move the pieces into position.
Of course, since the Colonists and Rebels come from a common future, they both know that Cassandra Spender becomes a successful “hybrid” at this particular time period. This also marks the end of the need for the Syndicate, since Purity can now operate its conspiracy independently (and without interruption, apparently, as seen in later episodes). The Rebels want to strike at the conspiracy and eliminate any possible intervention. So Cancer Man knows that this is the end of the Project as it was; he must now take measures to preserve his interests.
Cancer Man’s monologue to Diana Fowley is not a matter of dispensing truth, or some summary of the mythology to date. It’s about conditioning Diana’s reaction to his requests and interpretations to come. It’s about making sure that she believes what everyone else must believe, if Cancer Man’s gambit is to work. And so Cancer Man must frame Spender’s actions within that perspective. (There’s also an aspect of this monologue that sounds like Chris Carter’s true feelings about the show!)
Spender’s purpose within Cancer Man’s plan is quickly confirmed: he was placed within that department to ensure that no further information about the conspiracy was discussed within the FBI. This would force Mulder and Scully to expose themselves and lose support. It certainly seems to work. In one of the truly bad scenes of the episode, Mulder is caught playing hooky, spouting off nonsense in some failed attempt at humor. Mulder, it seems, has given up. In fact, even given the chance to work on an X-File again, he wants nothing to do with it.
Cancer Man’s conversation with Openshaw, like nearly every conversation he has in this episode, is filled with half-truths. Meanwhile, the Rebels continue to eliminate members of the conspiracy able to replicate the process of creating Cassandra. It is a case of gaining weeks or months at best, but it does begin the process of cutting out the Syndicate as a potential threat to future operations. (Keeping in mind, of course, that the Rebels only made overt moves within the 1998-1999 timeframe; this suggests that a few surgical strikes were deemed necessary to preserve their operations in the future.)
Cassandra’s explanation of events is in complete alignment with Cancer Man’s cover story, so much so that it is quite obvious that he made sure that she “learned” this information during her most recent activity. Taking that into account, it’s no surprise that she saw “Samantha” during that abduction, since Cancer Man was the one who had access to the adult Samantha clone seen in “Redux II”. It was very likely the same clone, used to convince Cassandra of this version of the truth.
As usual, it’s hard to work out how much Krycek knows about Cancer Man’s true plans, especially at this stage of the game. Certainly his knowledge of the documents from the DAT tape (stolen in “Paper Clip”) would have given him a selective version of the truth, and he displayed some knowledge of the nature of the conflict from episode to episode. Whatever he might or might not know, it’s clearly in his best interests in this case to follow Cancer Man’s agenda and play to the “alien invasion” scenario.
The Syndicate meeting is particularly interesting because it suggests that Cancer Man knew and expected that the group would be infiltrated. He also didn’t want the Rebels to know about the vaccine, because he wanted it to remain under his control. The vaccine, from his point of view, represented a weapon for the “future savior” to use against those controlled by Purity. So when Krycek mentions the vaccine, Cancer Man quickly stops him and begins making plans to eliminate the Rebel infiltrator.
The date of Cassandra’s abduction doesn’t quite match with what was previously revealed. In “Patient X”, Cassandra was supposed to have been abducted for more than 30 years, which would trace back to a time before Samantha’s abduction. It also doesn’t match what would be revealed in “One Son”. More surprising is Mulder and Scully’s realization that the Project is still active, considering that they knew it to be true just a few months earlier. And any hint that Mulder might be surprised about his father’s association with Cancer Man is ludicrous.
Cancer Man uses the need to eliminate the Rebel infiltrator (to protect the “secret” of the vaccine) to test Spender, to determine whether or not he will be useful to his interests following the changes to come. Spender, of course, botches the job and learns, to his great dismay, that there is something to his mother’s claims and Mulder’s crusade. Krycek, of course, is there to ensure that Spender is successful, but also to reinforce that Cancer Man is the one to trust, pressing Spender to believe in Cancer Man’s preferred interpretation of events.
This is, of course, all preparation for the whirlwind to come in “One Son”. The final scene of the episode, in light of that, is a somewhat ridiculous attempt to generate a tense cliffhanger. It doesn’t work, and it would have been better to break on the revelation that Cancer Man is speaking to Diana Fowley. They could have easily held the final scene until the beginning of “One Son” without losing much time. As it stands, it makes no sense for someone to be banging on the door that long, giving Mulder time to act.
Taken without the information revealed in the final seasons, this episode might have been seen as an attempt, however flawed, to mesh the elements added to the mythology in the fifth season with the established explanations from “Fight the Future”. The results, however, don’t quite add up when the later seasons are added to the mix, which is hard to reconcile. How hard would it have been to remain consistent moving forward?
Whatever the reasons, the later seasons made the mythology a lot more complicated, and made any attempt to take Cancer Man’s explanations in this episode at face value a fool’s bargain. The inevitable result is a more complex interpretation of the episode, one that takes into account Cancer Man’s penchant for lies within lies. Seen from that perspective, this is still an episode that is relatively straightforward, setting the stage for the resolution.
SPENDER: “I just want the truth.”
MULDER: “The truth is out there, Agent Spender. Maybe you should find it for yourself.”
SPENDER: “Keeping Fox Mulder down is not a job. It’s your dirty work!”
CANCER MAN: “You pale to Fox Mulder!”
CANCER MAN: “Treachery is the inevitable result of all affairs.”
Overall, this episode is another attempt to mesh the elements of the mythology inserted in the fifth season into the explanations provided in the feature film. On a certain level, it works to frame the Syndicate’s operations from a particular point of view, but in retrospect, it requires some creative interpretation to fit within the series’ mythology. The episode is mostly devoted to setting up the second half of the story, but the plot is relatively simple as a result.
Final Rating: 7/10
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