The Revenge of Lara Croft
"First Person Shooter" Plot Summary:
Three men suit up for a virtual reality game, chanting, "Kill, kill, kill!" But once inside the game, the monitors go crazy in the control room, and one of the players is approached by a voluptuous woman in high heels. "This is my game," she tells the player, Retro. Then she shoots him.
At FPS Corporate Offices, Mulder and Scully are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and to have their FBI badges scanned before they are allowed to enter. The Lone Gunmen are there, admitting that Langly programmed the bad guys on a new video game - err, digital entertainment, as Mulder corrects Scully - but there's been a small problem that could ruin the IPO next week. "I don't know about you guys, but I'd be checking my shorts for cake," warns Mulder. Scully takes one look at Retro and says he obviously died of a gunshot, but the programmers tell her that's impossible; there are no real weapons in the VR environment. "The gun's a toy," points out Langly, yet Scully has real blood on her hands. Phoebe, the woman who worked in the control booth, says Retro's telemetry was solid, then suddenly he was dead. Scully wants to call in the police, but Ivan Martinez, the game's designer, fears a public investigation will ruin his marketability.
Phoebe shows Mulder and the Lone Gunmen the wire frame display for the game, which reveals the presence of a female character where none was supposed to exist. ""Can you texture-wrap her?" asks Mulder, impressing everyone in the room with his technical expertise. As he walks away with a printout of the fantasy figure female, Phoebe whispers, "Goddess." Scully can't believe her partner seriously believes the Lara Croft lookalike could be the murderer - "She's an immature hormonal fantasy, not real" - but the police agree to try to track down a woman fitting her description.
Meanwhile, gaming guru Darryl Musashi arrives to try the game. "The man's a sphinx," marvels Langly. Yet within minutes of entering the game, Musashi is dead, his arms and head cut off by the mysterious virtual woman. Scully autopsies Retro, but is confused about the cause of death because despite the obvious impact of a projectile through a Kevlar-type jacket, she can find no powder burns, nor chemical signature. Mulder enters to express his admiration for the technology, which Scully complains is wasted on a "stupid game [that] adds to a culture of violence." Mulder rejects Scully's accusations of "testoterone frenzy," saying the game may fill a deeply coded genetic need to work out aggression. Besides, their only suspect is a woman. "A computer animated woman," scoffs Scully. "Pictures don't kill people - guns do." Then Mulder shows her what happened to Musashi.
A phone call summons Mulder and Scully to a Los Angeles Sheriff's building, where a prostitute named Jade Blue Afterglow has been picked up for questioning because she fits the description of the killer. The policemen are all hooting when Mulder and Scully arrive; Scully is not amused, but Mulder bites his knuckles and looks like he might keel over as Ms. Afterglow uncrosses her legs Sharon Stone-style. The woman denies knowledge of the company First Person Shooter or the programmer Ivan Martinez. When Mulder asks her about killing with a sword and a flintlock pistol, she scoffs, "You must have me confused with my sister, Xena, Warrior Princess." But when shown the computer picture of the deadly woman from the program, however, she admits she was paid for a body scan. Mulder says she's free to go, then tells Scully he is feeling a great need to blast the crap out of something.
Back at the office, the Lone Gunmen are testing a software patch written by Langly when the screens go dead. "The program's running itself! This can't be happening," says Phoebe. Mulder puts on a suit and goes into the game to help his friends, alarmed to see Byers bleeding the paintball yellow signifying a hit. Spotting the mysterious murderous woman, Mulder pursues and orders her to put her sword down, but she makes herself disappear, then pops up behind him. Suddenly the game disappears, and the Lone Gunmen find themselves back on the floor - without Mulder. "Oh, no," says Phoebe.
Mulder wakes on the floor of the game, with the gun at his side and the woman's sword stuck in the wall above him. The faster-than-human woman backflips towards him and vanishes when he shoots. While Langly tries to find a kill switch to end the game, Martinez comes in to thank Scully for saving his IPO. Scully demands to know about Jade Blue Afterglow, but it's Phoebe who runs from the room in fear. Cornered, she admits that the killer goddess is her own creation, but the character was never supposed to leave her own computer. "You don't know what it's like, day in day out, choking in a haze of rampant testosterone . . .she was my goddess, the only way I could strike back as a woman." The character is now feeding off male aggression, so there may now be no way to destroy her. Martinez threatens Phoebe over the damage her program is causing, but Scully tells him it's no fair picking on a girl.
The game setting changes to the Old West as Mulder succesfully enters level two. Seeing him badly outnumbered by clones of the goddess, Scully puts on a suit and enters with a big gun. As she blasts away, Langly admires her unquenchable bloodthirst. "Scully's in the zone!" But no one has ever beaten level two, so Phoebe admits that there is a kill switch which might save them. Martinez is furious with her admission, but under pressure from the Lone Gunmen, she reveals the code to save their friends: shift-alt-bloodbath. The game stops, and Mulder and Scully wake covered in fake blood.
"We came, we saw, we conquered," says Mulder, reflecting on the hollowness of virtual victory. As he babbles about places where the laws are silent and anarchy and darkness reign, Ivan stares at the virtual killer chick on his screen, then grins.
A trite, heavy-handed allegory in which Lara Croft comes seeking vengeance against her programmers and players, this episode's saving grace was that all the characters played caricatures of themselves rather than real people. Mulder has a rather macabre sense of humor at times, but under no circumstances can I imagine him joking and defending the value of murderous video games right after witnessing a brutal slaughter like Musashi's. Phoebe was a revolting, pathetic character - it's impossible to root for a woman who has bought into the testosterone value system she claims to despise so thoroughly that she fights back with a virtual character instead of by quitting, going into business for herself or getting out of the game industry. Fortunately this is male fantasy-land, so I took Phoebe and her Goddess about as seriously as I take Voyager's holodeck episodes.
Oh, there were a few witty moments, to be sure - Jade Blue's comparison of herself to Xena, Mulder's impersonation of Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct, Scully in the zone. But the bad guys won - we're left with the impression that Martinez will steal Phoebe's fetish character and make a fortune off her, if not a killing. I hope everyone here will forgive me if I was rooting for the murderess to put Mulder out of his misery before Scully was forced to play the game and save him on the boys' pathetic terms.
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