For those who don’t know, I’m a massive fan of The X-Files (the original series more so than the recent revival).
I’ve always found the names of the episodes interesting. In the first few seasons they were fairly literal, related to characters (Deep Throat), settings (Space) or events (Gender Bender). I guess that had a lot to do with being cautious in the early days. Plus they almost always referenced the title in the episode itself, and probably didn’t want to make that too challenging!
But in later seasons they get more interesting. Here are three of my favourites.
The Post-modern Prometheus (Season 5)
The most obvious connection here is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was subtitled The Modern Prometheus. I guess bringing the story of a monster made by science into the modern day (complete with a Cher soundtrack) makes it postmodern. Dr Pollidori is also a reference to John William Polidori, Shelley’s contemporary.
In Greek mythology, prometheus refers to a demigod (someone who is part human and part god). He created man from clay, then stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity, setting off evolution and civilisation. In a similar way The Great Mutato could be seen as an attempt to drag the backwards characters into the modern age. Like Frankenstein’s monster, his existence ultimately forces the townspeople to consider their judgement of others and what it is to be human (while also pointing to evolutionary advances such as miracle births).
But perhaps there’s a bitter undertone to that. Some critics view this episode as a dream sequence that isn’t real, due to the fairytale elements and the bookending of the story with the opening and closing of a comic (which may be Izzy’s comic book that we see in the episode). So civilisation is perhaps not ready to progress, or is incapable of this maturity.
When Victor Frankenstein asks himself ‘whence does the principle of life proceed?’, and when there’s as a gratifying summer to his toils creates a hideous phantasm of a man, he prefigures the postmodern prometheus, the genetic engineer, whose power to reanimate matter, life, genes into us, is only as limited as his imagination is.
– Fox Mulder, The Post-modern Prometheus
I noticed that ‘post-modern’ is hyphenated here, unlike in most dictionaries. I’m guessing it’s to make it easier to read. I’m not going to call Carter out on it.
Fun fact: before he made the episode, Chris Carter discovered Matt Groening had already created a character called The Great Mutato (different pronunciation) for a comic book entry of The Simpsons. He got in touch and Groening agreed to let him use the name.
Chinga (Season 5)
Co-written by Stephen King, this episode has always been interesting to me because the title was changed from Chinga to Bunghoney.
It’s fairly well-known among X-philes that the broadcasting standards people got into a tizzy because ‘chinga’ means ‘fuck’ in Spanish (unbeknownst to King or Carter) and is used in all sorts of profane variations – so it was changed to Bunghoney outside of the US. Which, from all my research, doesn’t really mean much either (the closest I can get is ‘bunghole’). I guess they just wanted a nonsensical title that sounds a bit crude.
In terms of why it was called Chinga in the first place, apparently it was the name of Polly’s doll in King’s original script. I’m not convinced by this because a) there’s no source given for this claim in the few places I’ve seen it and b) ‘Chinga’ is never mentioned in the episode itself. Maybe one day I’ll ask Chris Carter myself.
One conclusion I have drawn is that, personally, I think I actually prefer the name Bunghoney.
Monday (Season 6)
This is one of my favourite episodes. Apparently they wrote it under pressure, which I think actually pays off. The pace is perfect.
Apparently Monday was inspired by a Twilight Zone episode, Shadow Play, and not Groundhog Day as many fans surmise (*raises hand*). The events are also filled with much more hopelessness. At the end of Groundhog Day Phil Connors gets the girl and everything is hunky-dory again – but for Pam in The X-Files her fate is much sadder.
Monday has for a long time been associated with melancholy and depression, being the first day of a typical working week when everyone goes back to the daily grind. So it makes sense that an episode about a day endlessly repeating itself is named after it. It was originally titled Moebius (from ‘moebius strip’; a scientific concept of a continuous loop). Monday also sounds a bit like ‘mundane’, which it is for Pam in the sense that she is the only character aware of the repeating day. Or in contrast, in the sense of the bureau’s tedious, boring Monday morning meeting.
Monday as a working day could also be a reference to the writers’ work, re-scripting an episode of The X-Files over and over until they’re happy with it (what, you mean that’s not fun?!) and this in turn repeats itself every week.
How appropriate that I’m finishing this blog post on a Sunday night. Let’s hope my waterbed-I-didn’t-know-I-had won’t spring a leak tomorrow.